(1907 - 1989)
“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”

Daphne du Maurier started life with many advantages, being born into a well-off, artistic family, who placed few financial or parental restrictions on her. Growing up in London, her father’s work as an actor-manager frequently brought writers such as J.M. Barrie to the house.  This, combined with a voracious appetite for reading, particularly of authors such as the Bronte sisters, Robert Louis Stevenson and early gothic horror stories, encouraged her to start writing, and the influence of her early reading can clearly be seen in her own stories. Famously her family had fallen in love with Cornwall and by 1927 the du Mauriers had bought a holiday home in Bodinnick, and it was here that she started to write when she was still only 22.  Following the success of her first novel, The Loving Spirit in 1931, Du Maurier started work on an adventure story which was to follow in the footsteps of Treasure Island and Wuthering Heights.  The tale was one of smugglers, thieves, ship wreckers and murderers, set in the wild and untamed landscape of Cornwall, and the book’s title was based on an actual hostelry in which she had spent the night.  Jamaica Inn was published by Gollancz in 1936 to popular acclaim, and in the first three months after publication it sold more copies than her first three books had sold altogether.  Cornwall was also to feature heavily in du Maurier’s most famous novel, Rebecca, which she started writing in 1937 whilst living in Egypt with her husband.  It begins with one of the most famous of opening lines – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, and once more the influence of her early reading can be seen in the characterization of a flawed and detached hero, a mad woman in the attic and a resolution arrived at by a house burning down. Over the following 40 years she went on to write further novels and some of the best short stories of the supernatural genre, including The Birds and Don’t Look Now.  Many of her novels and short stories were filmed and she became one of Britain’s most famous authors. However she viewed success as 'a very personal thing, like saying one's prayers or making love' and the more famous her books, and the films they engendered, made her, the further from the limelight she wished to retreat.  In 1969 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to literature – however it was only at the pleading of her children that she went to receive the honour, and even then she slipped out the back way to avoid the press.  


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