Daphne du Maurier Biography

I’m writing a biography about Daphne du Maurier because I really enjoyed her novel Rebecca, which I read a few years ago.  It’s so rich with complex questions about gender, personal relationships, identity and the self.  I’m considering using this as my primary text perhaps alongside another one of her works, such as The Scapegoat or My Cousin Rachel.  I’m trying to work through these other primary texts to help me decide.

Daphne du Maurier was born in 1907 in Regent’s Park, London to an actress and actor-manager, growing up surrounded by art and theater.  With their governesses, she grew up with her two sisters “bound together in a world of the imagination, stories and fantasy”, which greatly influenced her creative career (“Daphne”).  Her works often depict romantic narratives set in the wild coast of Cornwall, a place she developed an intense passion for due to years spent at their country home during family holidays (“Daphne”).  While her work is often classified as romance, she is considered “‘the mistress of suspense’” and much of her works illustrate gothic undertones (“Daphne du”).  Maurier met her husband Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Browning when he sailed to London to meet her after reading her debut novel The Loving Spirit; they were married for 33 years(“Daphne du”).  Allegedly, their marriage dealt with difficulties “because of Daphne du Maurier’s secret bisexuality however she denied this fact” (“Daphne du”).  Questions in her own sexuality could perhaps coincide with Maurier’s continuous emphasis on the identity and the self in her works.  She often wrote about marital problems and the type of psychological stress that caused.  Rebecca, written in 1938, was inspired by the marital difficulties she faced with Browning during the war as a wife of an active member of the military; much like the protagonist of Rebecca, Maurier felt jealous of her husband’s former fiancée while living there in Egypt (“Daphne”).  Additionally, she had a difficult relationship with her father, which publicly arose in her biography of him entitled Gerald: A Portrait (“Daphne”).  Daphne du Maurier’s literary talents spanned a wide variety as she wrote novels, short stories, biographies, and plays.  She had three children with Frederick Browning and died in Cornwall in 1989 at the age of 81.

“Daphne du Maurier.” British Library, https://www.bl.uk/people/daphne-du-maurier.

“Daphne du Maurier.” Famous Authors, https://www.famousauthors.org/daphne-du-maurier.

5 thoughts on “Daphne du Maurier Biography”

  1. Reading about the author of Rebecca yielded some insights for me even as I have only read a part of one of her works. I like how you look at the background of the author and the possibilities it opens up for your research. I think there is a lot that can be understood from looking at what influences a writer and how a writer influences their surroundings as well. This definitely seems to be true here, as Daphne de Maurier seems to have had a certain degree of fame during her life.

  2. Grace, I enjoyed reading your post about Daphne Du Maurier. I get excited to hear about in class your progress with Rebecca because I can tell how you love the novel. It always interests me to learn more about the author’s background and other work. I find it interesting that in your complex questions that arise from this novel for you, you mentioned identity and the self. I would like to hear more about their attributes and how they differ.

  3. Grace, thanks for such a great summary of du Maurier’s biography! It was interesting to hear about her childhood growing up in Cornwall away from a city or urban setting; I wonder if this had an impact on her ideal of the “county house” or the way she romanticizes Manderly through Rebecca. Perhaps this nostalgia is genuine (not going to assume authorial intent, though!). I didn’t know she identified as bisexual, which is very compelling to think about how she deals with sexuality, identity, and even the level of secrecy within the novel, as you metion that she went to great lengths to conceal this fact. Especially considering the affairs Rebecca had within the novel being concealed outside of Manderely and in the boat house, there is a sense of alienation or desire to be removed from the (maybe limiting or confining) space within the mansion where she had a set and gendered role. Although she was having affairs, maybe these escapes were her attempts at agency and exploration in an era of suffocating domesticity.

  4. Grace, it very intriguing to read about Daphne du Maurier’s life, particularly the fact about her sexuality. Although I have not read Rebecca, from the first two chapters we read in class and your summary of the book, it is fascinating to see the protagonist be obsessed with Rebecca, because there could possibly be undertones of romantic feelings or attraction in this jealousy and obsession. I would like to read Rebecca in the future to see if this guess could be true or relevant!

  5. The background of Maurier’s life is quite interesting. I am always fascinated by how personal experiences can be found in an author’s text. In a way, I feel like it handcuffs our ability to analyze the work without first analyzing the author’s life. her relationship with her dad is quite interesting to me as well for I wonder if it dictated her sexuality, and further, her marriage. I am excited to see how you progress with your thesis!

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