Daphne du Maurier’s Cornwall
‘…for there is something of mystery about it even now, something of enchantment.’
The Cornish influence
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive…’
Perhaps one of the best known opening lines in a book, Daphne du Maurier captures what is in her own heart as she returns to her beloved home at Menabilly in Cornwall.
Born and raised in London in privileged circumstances and to a family of actors and artists, Daphne du Maurier will forever be associated with Cornwall. Cornwall fed her soul and gave her the freedom to follow her passion for writing which in turn gave her the independence she held dear.
Daphne’s childhood was immersed in literature and art and her vivid imagination encouraged. The family were always acting and had secret family words they would use, even as adults. At the peak of her fame, when ‘My Cousin Rachel’ was published, du Maurier was Britain’s highest paid woman writer. However, she also valued her independence and quiet time, preferring a reclusive lifestyle in order to produce her writing.
Ferryside & Menabilly
In a county built on history and legends, it is hardly surprising that Daphne du Maurier fell in love with it. The landscape is woven throughout her novels and rich descriptions of the sea and Cornish places add depth to her prose.
The du Maurier family holidayed in Fowey at Ferryside, Boddinick and Daphne would stay at a little cottage opposite called ‘The Nook’ to continue her writing once the rest of the family returned to London. On remote walks she would discover Menabilly, at Gribben Head, and fell in love with the dilapidated house. Owned by the Rashleigh family, it would be 17 years until she could call it home.
Now set amongst National Trust land, Menabilly was remote and gave du Maurier the solace she craved. It became her family home for 25 years and she would write from a little hut in the garden. Menabilly doubles as Rebecca’s ‘Manderley’.
Married to Sir Tommy ‘Boy’ Browning at Lanteglos Church, the couple spent their honeymoon at Frenchman’s Creek. Du Maurier’s fiction is often described as ‘romantic’ but Frenchman’s Creek is the only novel she would agree could be classed so. Her fiction often drew on her own love of reading. She was a fan of the Brontë’s and there are similarities in Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. The wilds of the Yorkshire Moors can be compared to the stark moors of Bodmin described in Jamaica Inn.
Often Du Maurier’s fiction draws on more gothic themes. The fate that awaits many characters has elements of obsessive dark romance and a displaced sense of trust. Du Maurier also loved history, tracing her own family in ‘Mary Anne’ and many of her non-fiction works.
The Loving Spirit, 1931
I’ll Never Be Young Again, 1933
The Progress of Julius, 1933
Jamaica Inn, 1936
Frenchman’s Creek, 1941
Hungry Hill 1943
The King’s General, 1946
The Parasites, 1949
My Cousin Rachel 1951
Mary Anne, 1954
The Scapegoat, 1957
The Glass-Blowers, 1963
The Flight of the Falcon, 1965
The House on the Strand, 1969
Rule Britannia, 1972
Happy Christmas, 1940
Come Wind, Come Weather, 1940
The Apple Tree, 1952
Early Stories, 1959
The Breaking Point, 1959
Castle Dor (with Sir Anthony Quiller-Couch), 1961
The Birds and Other Stories, 1963
Not After Midnight, 1971
The Rendezvous and Other Stories, 1980
Classics of the Macabre, 1987
Gerald: A Portrait, 1934
The du Mauriers, 1937
The Young George du Maurier: a selection of his letters 1860-67, 1951
The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë, 1960
Vanishing Cornwall, 1967
Golden Lads, Sir Francis Bacon, Anthony Bacon and their Friends, 1975
The Winding Stair: Francis Bacon, His Rise and Fall, 1976
Growing Pains – the Shaping of a Writer, 1977
Enchanted Cornwall, 1989
The Years Between
One of Daphne’s last novels was written from and based on her last home in Kilmarth, around 40 minutes walk from Green Acres Cottages, at Tywardreath. Tywardreath means ‘The House on the Strand’ and it is here the novel was written. With a church built on a creek and ancient kissing gate, you can easily be transported back to the 14th century.
Other places to visit include the Bocconoc Estate and Lanhydrock, both mentioned in ‘The King’s General’. Jamaica Inn can be found on the A30 at Bolventor, Bodmin Moor. The novel was inspired by a visit with a friend.