du Maurier, (Dame) Daphne
du MAURIER, (Dame) Daphne
Nationality: English. Born: London, 13 May 1907; daughter of the actor manager Sir Gerald du Maurier; granddaughter of George du Maurier. Education: Educated privately and in Paris. Family: Married lieutenant-general Sir Frederick Browning in 1932 (died 1965); two daughters and one son. Career: Writer. Awards: Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award, 1977. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature, 1952. D.B.E. (Dame Commander, Order of the British Empire), 1969. Died: 19 April 1989.
Happy Christmas (story). 1940.
Come Wind, Come Weather. 1940.
Nothing Hurts for Long, and Escort. 1943.
Consider the Lilies (story). 1943.
Spring Picture (story). 1944.
Leading Lady (story). 1945.
London and Paris. 1945.
The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Some Stories. 1952; as/span> Kiss Me Again, Stranger: A Collection of Eight Stories, Long and Short, 1953; as The Birds and Other Stories, 1968.
Early Stories. 1954.
The Breaking Point: Eight Stories. 1959; as The Blue Lenses and Other Stories, 1970.
The Treasury of du Maurier Stories. 1960.
The Lover and Other Stories. 1961.
Not after Midnight and Other Stories. 1971; as Don't Look Now, 1971.
Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories. 1976.
The Rendezvous and Other Stories. 1980.
Classics of the Macabre. 1987.
The Loving Spirit. 1931.
I'll Never Be Young Again. 1932.
The Progress of Julius. 1933.
Jamaica Inn. 1936.
Frenchman's Creek. 1941.
Hungry Hill. 1943.
The King's General. 1946.
The Parasites. 1949.
My Cousin Rachel. 1951.
Mary Anne. 1954.
The Scapegoat. 1957.
Castle Dor (completion of novel by Arthur Quiller-Couch). 1962.
The Glass-Blowers. 1963.
The Flight of the Falcon. 1965.
The House on the Strand. 1969.
Rule Britannia. 1972.
Rebecca, from her own novel (produced 1940). 1940.
The Years Between (produced 1944). 1945.
September Tide (produced 1948). 1949.
Hungry Hill, with Terence Young and Francis Crowdry, 1947.
The Breakthrough, 1976.
Gerald: A Portrait (on Gerald du Maurier). 1934.
The du Mauriers. 1937.
The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë. 1960.
Vanishing Cornwall, photographs of Christian Browning. 1967.
Golden Lads: Sir Francis Bacon, Anthony Bacon and Their Friends. 1975.
The Winding Stair: Francis Bacon, His Rise and Fall. 1976.
Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer (autobiography). 1977; as Myself When Young, 1977.
The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories (includes stories). 1980.
Enchanted Cornwall: Her Pictorial Memoir, edited by Piers Dudgeon. 1989.
Letters from Menabilly: Portrait of a Friendship. 1993.
Editor, The Young George du Maurier: A Selection of His Letters 1860-1867. 1951.
Editor, Best Stories, by Phyllis Bottome. 1963.*
The du Maurier Companion by Stanley Vickers, 1997.
du Maurier by Richard Kelly, 1987; The Private World of du Maurier by Martyn Shallcross, 1991; The Private World of Daphne du Maurier by Martyn Shallcross, 1993; Daphne du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller by Margaret Forster, 1993; A Synopsis of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca: For Examination Purposes by Mary Todd, 1995; Daphne du Maurier: Writing, Identity, and the Gothic Imagination by Avril Horner, 1998.* * *
Daphne du Maurier wrote most of her short fiction between 1943 and 1969, originally publishing stories in women's magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. Her tales were later collected in The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Some Stories (Kiss Me Again, Stranger: A Collection of Eight Stories, Long and Short in the United States), The Breaking Point: Eight Stories, and Not after Midnight and Other Stories (Don't Look Now in the United States). These three volumes represent her best work. In 1980 she published The Rendezvous and Other Stories consisting of pieces written decades earlier, which one critic has claimed could only be appreciated by "her most die-hard fans, with minds clouded by her past success."
Du Maurier occupies a strange space in literature, almost entirely ignored by scholars and biographers and yet popularized by Alfred Hitchcock's film versions of Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, and "The Birds," and by Nicolas Roeg's 1973 screen adaptation of "Don't Look Now" (starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland). Despite an unfavorable review of her later work by Paul Ableman noting a lack of "any evidence whatsoever of true literary ability," du Maurier in her best efforts is an entertaining and gifted storyteller whose work revolves around psychological and supernatural complications and is often laminal situated at what she calls "the breaking point," where "a link between emotion and reason is stretched to the limit of endurance, and sometimes snaps."
Du Maurier had an intense, complicated, and psychologically incestuous relationship with her father, an actor and theatrical manager in whom she noted a "definite feminine strain." She herself often yearned to be a boy and as an adolescent adopted a male persona called Eric Avon. This sexual ambiguity is evident throughout her work not only in the occasional first-person male narrator ("Kiss Me Again, Stranger," "Monte Verità") but in allusions to homosexuals, transvestites, and pedophiles. One of the most striking examples is "Ganymede," in which a classics scholar on holiday in Venice succumbs to the charms of a young boy and accidentally causes his death. The detective story "A Border-Line Case" is a study in inadvertent incest as a young actress, Shelagh Money, has an affair with a mysterious recluse whom she later discovers to be her biological father.
Children are often featured in du Maurier's stories, usually dead, exploited, or abused ("The Alibi," "Ganymede," "The Lordly Ones," "No Motive," "Don't Look Now"). Sometimes they possess an uncanny ability to see truth or "the other side" of a secret world inaccessible to adults. "The Pool," for example, is a story of a young girl on her annual summer visit to her grandparents. Deborah has a passionate relationship to nature, particularly to a pool that she considers "holy ground." She creeps out of bed at night, leaving behind her those who have shut out "all the meaning and all the point" and have "forgotten the secrets." In an altered state of consciousness she almost drowns, and the significance of her desperate attempts to hold on to the "magic" becomes clear in the last scene where she lies in bed with her first menstrual period, aware that "the hidden world … was out of her reach forever."
Du Maurier's work is full of hidden worlds. One of the most striking examples is the extraordinary "Don't Look Now," which involves a couple vacationing in Venice after the death of one of their children. In a Gothic setting of cathedrals, mistaken identities, murder, psychics, ghosts, and dwarves, du Maurier sets up an accidental encounter in a restaurant between John and Laura and two elderly twins, one of whom is blind and yet tells Laura she has "seen" her dead daughter, Christine, sitting at the table. At first Laura is exalted and relieved, believing instantly and completely in the vision, but then comes a second encounter in which the blind twin reports a warning: Christine sees danger for her father if her parents do not leave Venice immediately. Although John believes that the twins are merely exploiting his grief-stricken wife, he feels an inexplicable "sense of doom, of tragedy" as du Maurier explores the small coincidences and misunderstandings upon which humans' fate hangs.
John's sense that "this is the end, there is no escape, no future" is echoed throughout du Maurier's work in various forms. "The Birds," for example, which is significantly different in setting and focus from the movie, is a story about rhythm, ritual, and natural law ruptured by some incomprehensible force over which authority and logic have no power. In this sense it is similar to the not entirely successful "The Apple Tree," an allegorical tale about a tree that mysteriously takes on the personality of a man's dead wife.
Du Maurier has been criticized for sacrificing her characters to plot, and in a certain sense this is true; according to one critic, du Maurier is not so much interested in "depth of feeling" as she is in "a sequence of events that inextricably lead [her undefined characters] to a predestined, usually surprising, fate." A good example is "Kiss Me Again, Stranger," in which the narrator is drawn one night by an intense, irrational attraction to a mysterious young woman who is revealed in the next day's paper to be a serial killer. While some of du Maurier's stories, such as "The Apple Tree" and "The Blue Lenses," are constructed around rather strained conceits, many of them are psychologically binding, loosening her dependence on the supernatural and reflecting her keen and disturbing observations about human nature ("The Way of the Cross") and psychopathology ("The Alibi," "The Split Second," "No Motive").
It is no accident, perhaps, that many of du Maurier's characters are actors, ghosts, patients, or tourists—all people looking for truth, power, freedom, or comfort, and navigating a strange, dislocated space somewhere between their ordinary lives and the extraordinary.
—Deborah Kelly Kloepfer