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.