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Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier (1907–89) was edgy; throughout her life, she teetered on the edge between what was conventionally accepted within the tight-knit circles of the London elite and what was not. Although she was an introvert who preferred isolation, her name skyrocketed into the literary canon due to her hugely successful, suspenseful, and haunting Gothic tales, including Jamaica Inn (1936) and Rebecca (1938).

Daphne du Maurier is a key 20th-century novelist and writer. She published almost forty works over her lifetime, a number of which remain well-known and well-loved today.

Daphne du Maurier: biography

Let's take a look at Daphne du Maurier's life from the beginning to the end.

Growing up

On 13 May 1907, Daphne du Maurier was born in London, England, to Sir Gerald du Maurier and Muriel du Maurier (Beaumont). She grew up with two sisters in a wealthy and established family. The du Maurier family name was notable for its long line of successful creatives, and, although her parents' names may not be widely-familiar today, they were well known for their acting careers at the time.

Daphne's family was part of elite literary, artistic, and theatrical circles. Daphne's grandfather, George du Maurier, wrote the hugely popular gothic novel Trilby (1894). Her uncle edited The Bystander (1903–40) magazine, in which some of Daphne's short stories, poems, and essays were published. The family also had close ties with J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, or, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (1904).

Daphne stood out as an introvert in the du Maurier family. She was an avid reader from early childhood and read an array of books by authors including the Brontë sisters and Robert Louis Stevenson.1 Her love of writing was inspired by the books she read, the imaginative games she played with her sister, and the encouragement from her governess.

During her early life, Daphne spent extensive periods of time in Cornwall and France. In 1925, du Maurier attended finishing school near Paris in France.

Did you know? Daphne du Maurier had romantic relationships with both men and women during her life, including with Madamoiselle Yvon Fernande, her teacher at the finishing school in France.

Adulthood

A year later, in 1926, the du Mauriers bought a holiday home called Ferryside in Cornwall. If Daphne became financially independent, her parents said, she'd be able to stay there alone. Daphne was motivated to secure this independence, and she succeeded. In 1931, Daphne published her first novel, The Loving Spirit.

After reading The Loving Spirit, the army officer Frederick ('Boy') Browning came to Cornwall to find out more about its author. He and Daphne's relationship quickly developed; Daphne proposed to Boy, and they were married just months after their first meeting. They went on to have three children together, but enjoying motherhood did not come easily to Daphne.

Daphne published Jamaica Inn a couple of years after the death of her father, which would become one of her most popular novels. Daphne's family moved to Egypt after her husband was posted there. During this time, she started to write Rebecca. The novel was published to critical acclaim in 1938 after the Browning's return to Hampshire.

Daphne du Maurier: books

Over Daphne du Maurier's lifetime, she published nearly 40 books, including both fiction and non-fiction short stories, plays, novels, and essays.

Du Maurier's non-fiction works include a biography of her father, Gerald: A Portrait (1934), which she wrote after his death, and Vanishing Cornwall (1967), a reflection on the place she loved most.

Her short story collections included The Birds and Other Stories (1952), Breaking Point (1959), and The Apple Tree (1963). The latter two collections were written during a dark 'breaking point' period in du Maurier's life, reflected in the unnerving, psychological tones of many of her short stories.

Du Maurier was also a playwright. As well as adapting Rebecca for the stage, she wrote two other original plays titled The Years Between (1945) and September Tide (1948).

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier: summary

Inspired by du Maurier's own stay at the Jamaica Inn in Cornwall, the 1936 novel Jamaica Inn tells the story of Mary Yellan, who, according to her mother's dying wish, moves to stay at the inn with her aunt and uncle. However, her stay there quickly becomes a chilling experience. Sinister things are happening there, and her abusive uncle is a part of them.

Daphne du Maurier: facts

Daphne du Maurier remains as fascinating as the characters she wrote about in her novels. Let's take a look at some more facts about her that reflect this.

  • Daphne du Maurier's father had always wanted a son, which motivated du Maurier to create an alter ego for herself – a boy called Eric Avon. This was not merely down to her father's influence, however. Many of du Maurier's books had male narrators, and she once expressed that she had always wished that she had been born a boy.
  • Daphne du Maurier faced multiple accusations of plagiarism over her career. An American author, Edwina Macdonald, claimed that du Maurier had copied a book of hers called Blind Windows (1927) when writing Rebecca. A lawsuit was started; however, the claim was never proven.
  • Many of Daphne du Maurier's short stories and novels were adapted into plays and films. Most notably, Alfred Hitchcock directed the films Jamaica Inn (1939), Rebecca (1940), and The Birds (1963) based on du Maurier's works of the same titles. Although du Maurier liked the adaptation of Rebecca, she was unhappy with Hitchcock's interpretation of 'The Birds' (1952) and Jamaica Inn as she felt they were not true to the original stories.

Daphne du Maurier - Key takeaways

  • Daphne du Maurier (1907–89) is a famous 20th-century writer.
  • During her life, Daphne du Maurier published nearly 40 works of fiction and non-fiction, including short stories, plays, essays, and novels.
  • She spent a lot of time in Cornwall and was fascinated by a house called Menabilly there, which inspired many locations in her work and where she would live later in life.
  • Some of her most famous works include Jamaica Inn (1936) and Rebecca (1938).
  • Daphne du Maurier wrote in the Gothic genre as her novels often explored themes surrounding 'the unknown' such as death, the supernatural, and psychological horror.

1 Margaret Forster. Daphne du Maurier. Chatto & Windus Ltd. 1993.

Frequently Asked Questions about Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier (1907–89) is a famous 20th-century Gothic writer. 

Daphne du Maurier lived in London, France, Egypt, and Cornwall over the course of her life. She settled down in a house called Menabilly in Cornwall which inspired the location of her novel Rebecca (1938).

In 1969, Daphne du Maurier was awarded a DBE (Dame Commander in the Order of the British Empire) for her contributions to English literature.

Over Daphne du Maurier's lifetime, she published nearly 40 books, including both fiction and non-fiction short stories, plays, novels, and essays. Her most famous works include the novels Jamaica Inn (1936) and Rebecca (1938).

Rebecca is a reflection on the powers of female jealousy and follows the haunting influence of a dead wife on her widowed husband, his new wife, and their house.

Final Daphne Du Maurier Quiz

Question

When was Daphne du Maurier born?

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Answer

1907.

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Which of the following best describes Daphne du Maurier's childhood?

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Answer

A poor and difficult childhood.

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How many children did Daphne du Maurier have?


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Three.

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Why did Daphne du Maurier attempt to look more masculine when she was growing up?


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Answer

Her father always wanted a son and she also felt she should have been born a boy.

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Which of the following is not a novel written by Daphne du Maurier?

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Answer

Rebecca

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What was the name of the house that Daphne du Maurier discovered in Cornwall?


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Answer

Menabilly.

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When did Daphne du Maurier die?


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1989.

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True or false: Alfred Hitchcock directed multiple films that were based on Daphne du Maurier’s novels.


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True

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 Fill in the blank: Daphne du Maurier wrote nearly _____ works in her time.


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Daphne du Maurier wrote nearly 40 works in her time.


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What was Daphne Du Maurier awarded in 1969?


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Answer

A DBE.

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What was Daphne du Maurier awarded a DBE for?


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Answer

Her contributions to literature.

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Which novel is considered Daphne du Maurier’s most famous one?


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Answer

Rebecca.

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Which is not a common theme in Daphne du Maurier’s writing?

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Mystery

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Who did Daphne du Maurier marry?


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Frederick ('Boy') Browning.

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How old was Daphne du Maurier when she died?


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81.

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When was Rebecca published?

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1938.

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Who is the narrator in Rebecca?

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The narrator remains unnamed throughout the novel.

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Who does the narrator marry?


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Maxim de Winter.

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What is the name of the estate that Maxim de Winter takes the protagonist to?


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Manderley.

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What genre is the novel?

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Gothic.

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Who is the housekeeper that torments the protagonist?

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Mrs Danvers.

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How did Rebecca actually die?

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Maxim killed her after she lied and said she was pregnant with someone else's child.

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What does Mrs Danvers try to persuade the protagonist to do?


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Commit suicide.

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What happens to Manderley at the end of the novel?


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It is burnt down.

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Which of the following is not a theme in the novel?

  1. Jealousy

  2. Memory

  3. Winter

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C, Winter.

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What is revealed about Rebecca very near the end of the novel?


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That she was not pregnant and was dying of cancer.

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How was Rebecca thought to have died at the start of the novel?


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It was said that she drowned.

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What is the name of Rebecca’s cousin with who she had an affair with?


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Jack Favell.

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True or false: the protagonist was horrified when Maxim told her he killed Rebecca.


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False, she was actually relieved that he still loved her.

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Which of the following relates to the structure of the novel?

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Chronological order

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What illegal activity is Joss Merlyn engaged in?

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Smuggling and wrecking. 

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 What illegal activity is Jem Merlyn engaged in?


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Horse-theft.

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 What genre does Jamaica Inn (1936) belong to?


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Crime fiction.

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Who was the leader of the wrecking and smuggling operation?

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 Francis Davey.

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Why does Joss Merlyn drink to excess?


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To try to forget the faces of his victims.

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How did Joss's band wreck the ships?


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With lights to imitate lighthouse signals. 

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Who killed Joss and Patience Merlyn?


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Vicar Francis Davey.

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How is Aunt Patience complicit in her husband's crimes?

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Her silence.

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What heroic action does Jem take?


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He rescues Mary from Vicar Francis Davy. 

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 Which of the following best describes the overall atmosphere of the novel?


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Third person narrative which appears to belong to Mary Yellan. 

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Which best describes the Helford community?


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 Friendly and honest.

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What aspect of Francis Davey's appearance is focused on?


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His albinism.

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What is Squire Bassat's role in maintaining law and order?


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He is a magistrate.

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How old is Mary Yellan?


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23

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How did Jamaica Inn get its name?

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Two members of a local landowning family became Governors of Jamaica.

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The novel has characteristics of which of the following genres?

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The Gothic novel.

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Jamaica Inn is based on a true story.


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False.

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Jamaica Inn is a real place that the author stayed at.


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True.

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Which of the following have sprung from the author's imagination?


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Answer

The characters. 

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Which of the following settings has characteristics of Gothic architecture?


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Answer

 Jamaica Inn.

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