Arrival in Cornwall
Daphne grew up in London as part of a rich and well-known family. Her father was the actor Sir Gerald du Maurier, and her grandfather George had been a famous writer and cartoonist. When she was 19, Daphne’s parents bought a house in Bodinnick, near Fowey.
She found that she was much happier in Cornwall than the city, and her parents chose to let her stay. While exploring Fowey, she came across an old boat called Jane Slade. Fascinated by its history, she wrote her first Cornish novel, The Loving Spirit.
Daphne went on to write many novels set in Cornwall, such as Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek. She was also a member of the Cornish political party Mebyon Kernow.
Not long after coming to Cornwall, Daphne fell in love with a manor house called Menabilly. Hidden among trees and left empty, it seemed like a magical place: she called it her ‘house of secrets’. After many years, its owners, the Rashleigh family, agreed to rent the house to Daphne. It was at Menabilly that she wrote many of her novels.
Daphne du Maurier, The Rebecca Notebook...slowly, softly, with no one there to see, the house whispers her secrets, and the secrets turn to stories.
Writing about Cornwall
Daphne enjoyed writing about Cornwall and its history. To do this, she carried out careful research and looked at documents dating back hundreds of years. Her book The King’s General was inspired by the history of Menabilly during the 1600s. In particular, she was interested in the story that the body of a Civil War soldier had once been found bricked up in the walls of the house.
Many of Daphne’s novels and short stories were later made into films, some by the famous director Alfred Hitchcock.
In 1967, Daphne wrote a book called Vanishing Cornwall. In it, she explored ‘the spirit and history of Cornwall’, picking out the local stories she found most interesting. She also wrote about her concerns for Cornwall’s future and the effect of tourism. Around the same time, she joined the Cornish political party Mebyon Kernow. It was her belief that Cornwall couldn’t rely on tourism for its future and should develop a strong industry once again.
Daphne du Maurier, Vanishing CornwallIf successive governments continue to ignore Cornwall’s demand for assistance and investment in an industrial revival we may see another rebellion yet
Today, Daphne has become part of the history of Fowey. Local bookshops sell her works and each year a festival takes place dedicated to writing and music.