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du Maurier, Daphne

Entry updated 22 April 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1907-1989) UK author, granddaughter of George du Maurier, famous (against her will: she thought of herself as an author of psychological studies without genre taint) for "romances" so darkly demanding that the psychic abysses they portray have reminded readers of the work of Franz Kafka. Much of her work was set in Cornwall, beginning with her first novel,The Loving Spirit (1931), a generation-spanning ghost story tinged with incest; as here, her work frequently engages with the supernatural. Other Gothic romances, like her most famous tale, Rebecca (1938), again set in Cornwall, lack any explicit element of the fantastic; whether or not a literal connection can always be adduced, in general Du Maurier conveys a hauntedness about her life and work, a sense that very deep issues of Gender tormented her personally while at the same time they freed her creatively. Her work is full of intimate, role-threatening doubles (see Doppelgangers) that at times evoke the life and work of James Tiptree Jr.

The Years Between: A Play in Two Acts (performed 1944; 1945), a Near Future World War Two drama set mostly at the point of Germany's surrender in 1945, genteelly revolves around the secret exploits of the protagonist's husband, who has organized what seems the whole of the European resistance to the Nazis, and who returns prepared to become "benefactor-cum-policeman" over Britain, which will therefore be untroubled by threats of revolutionary change; echoes of Bernard Newman's The Cavalry Went Through (1930) are probably unintended. Her completion of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's partial draft of Castle Dor (November 1961 Ladies' Home Journal; 1962) effectively embraces the legend of Tristan and Iseult which underlies the tale [for Twice Told see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Her interest in sf was clearly typical of the Mainstream Writer of SF, as confirmed by the rudimentary explanation of the Timeslip in The House on the Strand (1969), for it is Drugs that send its contemporary protagonist into medieval Cornwall, where a plague (see Pandemic) kills off most of the cast. Her worst book, and her one genuine sf novel, Rule Britannia (1972), subjects a Near-Future Cornwall to US Invasion, during which the natives rebel against the tasteless Yankees.

Among du Maurier's shorter works are The Birds (October 1952 Good Housekeeping; 1996 chap), which was included in The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Some Stories (coll 1952; vt Kiss Me Again, Stranger 1953; vt The Birds and Other Stories 1963), and made by Alfred Hitchcock into The Birds (1963); and "Don't Look Now" (in Don't Look Now, coll 1966; also included in Not After Midnight, coll 1971; vt Don't Look Now 1971), and filmed by Nicolas Roeg as Don't Look Now (1973).

Du Maurier was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1969. [JC]

Dame Daphne du Maurier

born London: 13 May 1907

died Par, Cornwall: 19 April 1989

works (selected)

  • The Loving Spirit (London: William Heinemann, 1931) [hb/]
  • The Years Between: A Play in Two Acts (London: Victor Gollancz, 1945) [play: first performed 30 November 1944 Opera House, Manchester, England: hb/nonpictorial]
  • Castle Dor (London: J M Dent and Sons, 1962) with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch [completion of 1920s draft: November 1961 Ladies' Home Journal: verso implication that a 1961 American book version exists is misleading: hb/uncredited]
  • The House on the Strand (London: Victor Gollancz, 1969) [hb/Flavia Tower]
  • Rule Britannia (London: Victor Gollancz, 1972) [hb/Keith Ritchens]

collections and stories

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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