Daphne Du Maurier Biography & Facts
Dame Daphne du Maurier, (; 13 May 1907 – 19 April 1989), also known as Lady Browning after her husband was knighted in 1946, was an English novelist, biographer and playwright. Her parents were actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and his wife, actress Muriel Beaumont. Her grandfather was George du Maurier, a writer and cartoonist.
Although du Maurier is classed as a romantic novelist, her stories have been described as "moody and resonant" with overtones of the paranormal. Her bestselling works were not at first taken seriously by critics, but they have since earned an enduring reputation for narrative craft. Many have been successfully adapted into films, including the novels Rebecca, Frenchman's Creek, My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn, and the short stories "The Birds" and "Don't Look Now". Du Maurier spent much of her life in Cornwall, where most of her works are set. As her fame increased, she became more reclusive.
Daphne du Maurier was born at 24 Cumberland Terrace, Regent's Park, London, the middle of three daughters of prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel Beaumont. Her paternal grandfather was author and Punch cartoonist George du Maurier, who created the character of Svengali in the 1894 novel Trilby. Her paternal uncle Guy du Maurier was a playwright. Her mother was a paternal niece of journalist, author, and lecturer Comyns Beaumont. Her elder sister, Angela du Maurier, became an actress and later also a writer, and her younger sister Jeanne was a painter. She was also a cousin of the Llewelyn Davies boys, who served as J. M. Barrie's inspiration for the characters in the play Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up.As a young child, du Maurier met many prominent theatre actors, thanks to the celebrity of her father. On meeting Tallulah Bankhead, du Maurier was quoted as saying that Bankhead was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen.Du Maurier spent her childhood at Cannon Hall, Hampstead, the family's London residence, and summers at their home in Fowey, Cornwall, where they also lived during the war years.
Du Maurier married Major (later Lieutenant-General) Frederick "Boy" Browning in 1932. They had three children:
Tessa (b. 1933), who married Major Peter de Zulueta. After they divorced, she married David Montgomery, 2nd Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, in 1970.
Flavia (b. 1937), who married Captain Alastair Tower. After they divorced, she married General Sir Peter Leng.
Christian (b. 1940), a photographer and filmmaker. He married Olive White (Miss Ireland 1961).Biographers have noted that du Maurier's marriage was at times somewhat chilly and that she could be aloof and distant to her children, especially the girls, when immersed in her writing. Her husband died in 1965 and soon after Daphne moved to Kilmarth, near Par, Cornwall, which became the setting for The House on the Strand.
Du Maurier has often been painted as a frostily private recluse who rarely mixed in society or gave interviews. An exception to this came after the release of the film A Bridge Too Far, in which her late husband was portrayed in a less-than-flattering light. Incensed, she wrote to the national newspapers, decrying what she considered unforgivable treatment. Once out of the public spotlight, however, many remembered her as a warm and immensely funny person who was a welcoming hostess to guests at Menabilly, the house which she had leased for many years (from the Rashleigh family) in Cornwall.
She appeared as a castaway in the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs broadcast on 3 September 1977. Her chosen book was The Collected Works of Jane Austen, and her luxury was whiskey and ginger ale.Du Maurier was an early member of Mebyon Kernow, a Cornish nationalist party.
Personal names, titles and honours
She was known as Daphne du Maurier from 1907 to 1932, when she married Frederick Browning. Still writing as Daphne du Maurier during her marriage, she was also known as Lady Browning after her husband was knighted in 1946. When she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1969, she was titled Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning, DBE, but she never used the title.
According to her biographer Margaret Forster, she told no one about the honour, so that even her children learned of it only from the newspapers. "She thought of pleading illness for the investiture, until her children insisted it would be a great day for the older grandchildren. So she went through with it, though she slipped out quietly afterwards to avoid the attention of the press."
After du Maurier's death in 1989, some writers speculated about her alleged relationships with a number of women, including the actress Gertrude Lawrence and Ellen Doubleday, the wife of her U.S. publisher Nelson Doubleday. Du Maurier stated in her memoirs that her father had wanted a son; being a tomboy, she wished to have been born a boy.
The Daphne du Maurier Companion, edited by Helen Taylor, includes Taylor's claims that du Maurier confessed to her in 1965 that she had had an incestuous relationship with her father and that he had been a violent alcoholic.In correspondence that her family released to biographer Margaret Forster, du Maurier explained to a trusted few people her own unique slant on her sexuality: her personality comprised two distinct people – the loving wife and mother (the side she showed to the world); and the lover (a "decidedly male energy") hidden from virtually everyone and the power behind her artistic creativity. According to Forster's biography, du Maurier believed the "male energy" propelled her writing. Forster wrote that du Maurier's denial of her bisexuality unveiled a "homophobic" fear of her true nature.The children of both du Maurier and Lawrence have objected strongly to the stories about their mothers' alleged intimate relationship. Two years after Lawrence died, a biography of her authored by her widower, Richard Aldrich, went into detail about a friendship between her and du Maurier that had begun in 1948 when Lawrence had accepted the lead role in du Maurier's new play September Tide. Aldrich said that Lawrence had toured Britain in the play in 1948 and continued with it in London's West End theatre district through 1949, and that later du Maurier visited them at their home in the United States. Aldrich made no mention of a possible same-sex relationship.
Du Maurier died from heart failure in her sleep on 19 April 1989, aged 81, at her home in Par, Cornwall, which had been the setting for many of her books. Her body was cremated in private and without a memorial service (at the author's request) and her ashes scattered off the cliffs around Kilmarth and Menabilly, Cornwall.
Novels, short stories, and biographies
Her family connections helped her establish her literary career, and she published some of her early work in her great uncle Comyns.... Discover the Daphne Du Maurier popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Daphne Du Maurier books.