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HomeDramaTwo new Daphne Du Maurier acquisitions on the British Library

Two new Daphne Du Maurier acquisitions on the British Library

by Zoe Louca-Richards, Curator of Trendy Archives and Manuscrips (1600-1950). For extra on Daphne Du Maurier’s work and life, see our article Daphne du Maurier – The British Library ( For extra on Rebecca see our article Nightmares, mirrors and possession in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. For extra about our WW2 collections see Second World Warfare – Trendy Archives – The British Library ( Each of those letters are actually obtainable to view within the Manuscripts Studying Room. For any enquiries, please contact

Two latest acquisitions made by the British Library shed additional mild on the life and work of English writer Daphne Du Maurier. In addition to commenting on her literary works, the letters talk about her views on filmic diversifications of her novels, and comment on her household and residential life.

Black and white profile photograph of Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier © The Chichester Partnership.


Prisoner of Warfare Letter (Add MS 89461)

The primary of the 2 acquisitions (Add MS 89461), is a letter written in 1942 to “Sargent Arnold”, a Prisoner of Warfare being detained in Stalag Luft III, the German camp maybe greatest referred to as the scene of the 1945 Nice Escape.


Photograph of manuscript letter sent from Daphne du Maurier to 'Sargent Arnold'

Add MS 89461: Du Maurier letter to a Prisoner of Warfare, 1942 (f.1r &5r). Used with permission of the Du Maurier property.


The five-page letter, reads as a light-hearted dialogue between two acquaintances, maybe providing Sgt. Arnold a welcome escape from his unlucky state of affairs. Du Maurier touches on issues together with her dwelling life, studying practices, and her most up-to-date literary work, Hungry Hill (1943). She notes:

    ‘My husband is within the military, and I'm dwelling with my three babies (9-5-2) in a small     home within the West Nation […] I've a hut the place I maintain picnic issues, in a most     superb place, you must wade via bracken to get to it, after which the one stuff you see     are birds and butterflies […] I want I may describe the nation to you, however I     don’t understand how a lot I'm allowed to place in a letter’.

She continues to debate books, noting that like Arnold she doesn't ‘need to learn concerning the time wherein we live, however desire to return to the previous’, explaining her latest return to Dickens and Shakespeare.  The letter additionally touches upon the Hollywood diversifications of each Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek. Du Maurier was one of many first generations of authors to witness their novels tailored for display screen. She clearly has a constructive angle in direction of the method typically, however much less so of Hollywood itself, remarking of Frenchman’s Creek ‘will probably be executed in Hollywood I suppose, so I shall don't have any say within the matter. I’ve by no means been on the market, and haven’t the slightest want to go! The type of life I ought to detest.’

Black and white photograph of British Prisoners of War gardening at Stalag Luft

British prisoners of warfare have a tendency their backyard at Stalag Luft III. © IWM HU 20930 (

In response to Adrian Gilbert’s POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939-1945 [1], life in Stalag Luft III, and German prisoner of warfare camps typically, was comparatively “good”: good compared to different prisoner of warfare camps all through historical past that's. Overcrowding, starvation, and melancholy had been nonetheless key points in Stalag Luft III. The grim and unattractive panorama wherein the camp was located doubtless solely exacerbating its oppressiveness. Many inmates took some solace and pleasure in gardening, as could be seen within the picture above, which undoubtedly additionally helped alleviate a number of the starvation. Prisoners additionally common makeshift golf programs, and as evidenced by our letter, had been in a position to entry at the least some books. 

Du Maurier exhibits clear curiosity within the welfare and each day lifetime of Sgt. Arnold all through the letter. She closes her letter with curiosity and heat:

    ‘When you ought to get this letter, will you let me know, after which I can ship you issues from     time to time. Books, if you're allowed them. Inform me what a part of this nation you come     from, and when you have any household […] I hope you might be fairly snug and get loads     of train. It should make such a distinction in the event you could be out within the air; issues can’t appear     fairly so dangerous beneath the sky’.

Photograph of an envelope showing passage through censors

Add MS 89461. Envelope exhibiting British and German Examine marks.


The Rebecca Letter (Add MS 89460)

The second latest Du Maurier acquisition for the British Library is especially fascinating for its contribution in direction of the dialogue of her exceptional 1938 novel Rebecca. Written in 1977 it addresses probably the most pervasive factors of dialogue relating to Du Maurier’s standard gothic thriller: why does the second Mrs de Winter not have a primary title?


Photograph of typescript letter from Daphne du Maurier to a fan explaining the lack of name attribution for a character in her novel, Rebecca.

Add Ms 89460, Letter from Daphne Du Maurier to “Jocelyn”. Used with sort permission from the Du Maurier property.

Many theories have arisen over time as to why the protagonist of Rebecca stays anonymous, while the eponymous Rebecca’s title echoes all through the narrative. On this letter, addressed to “Jocelyn”, doubtless one other fan of her work, Du Maurier notes clearly that the explanation for the dearth of title was that she merely wished to see if she may write a novel with out naming its protagonist – a self-imposed literary problem. Within the course of, Du Maurier notes ‘It may’t be executed except written within the 1st individual Singular, at the least I don’t assume it might!’

Photograph of cover for first edition of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

First time readers of Rebecca could be forgiven for not recognizing that we by no means be taught the narrators maiden title. Such is the subtlety and ability of Du Maurier’s dealing with of this fascinating literary method; a testomony to her unbelievable aptitude for character growth.

It took lower than a 12 months for Du Maurier to jot down Rebecca. Beginning in mid-1937, the novel was conceived of and sketched out throughout Du Maurier’s time in Alexandria Egypt as a military spouse, and accomplished in 1938 at Greyfriars in Fleet, Hampshire, after her husband was posted again to the barracks in Aldershot. Like lots of her novels, Cornwall served as inspiration for the setting of Rebecca, particularly Menabilly, the Cornish home which Du Maurier fell in love with as a younger grownup, and would finally come to dwell in.

A number of the key themes of Rebecca – belonging, jealousy, love, marriage, dying, justice – have been linked to Du Maurier’s selection to not title the novels protagonist. Students and followers alike have additionally lengthy speculated as to how a lot the second Mrs de Winter was a mirrored image of the writer. Actually, Du Maurier’s son has famous that through the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation of the e-book, while remaining true to the narrative the second Mrs de Winter stays nameless within the script, she was nicknamed ‘Daphne’ on set. Du Maurier herself has too admitted that many components of the narrative are primarily based on details.

Maybe essentially the most compelling, and debatable thrilling, comparisons drawn between Du Maurier and the second Mrs de Winter, pertains to Du Maurier’s jealousy in direction of her husband’s ex-lover Jan Ricardo. Du Maurier wasn’t instantly acquainted with Ricardo, however knew of her via feedback of others, and letters from Ricardo that her husband had saved. The letters had been signed, with the ‘R’ of Ricardo being notably distinctive. Jan, who moved among the many glamorous elite, was described as standard, dark-haired, and enticing. The unlucky similarities between Ricardo and Rebecca didn’t cease on the publication of Rebecca. In 1944, 6 years following, Jan Ricardo dedicated suicide.

As Lucie Armitt aptly places it ‘Rebecca is a narrative of ‘the lady with no title and the lady who has nothing and is nothing however her title.’[2] No matter Du Maurier’s intentions or the parallels one would possibly draw with the authors personal life, forfeiting a reputation for the second Mrs De Winter has a number of results that cleverly improve the reader expertise. Maybe most poignantly, its coupling with the primary individual tense allows the reader to substitute herself with the narrator, the second Mrs de Winter, extra seamlessly.  The method additionally textually mimics the overwhelming, oppressive, posthumous presence that Rebecca has over the narrative, and over the second Mrs de Winter. Regardless of being our principal character, for almost all of the novel, the narrator’s total existence, and positively the one title we come to know her by, is anchored to her new husband, and his deceased first spouse. Du Maurier is just not the one author to execute this system as an instance the subsidiary nature of a girl’s existence, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one other instance.

The reason given by Du Maurier in our letter is probably not as scandalous or private as some students would possibly hope for, nevertheless it on no account lessens the ensuing impact of the second Mrs. de Winter’s anonymity.


[1] Gilbert, A. POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939-1945. Glasgow: Thistle Publishing (2014).

[2] Armitt, L. Up to date Ladies’s Fiction and the Improbable. London: Palgrave, (2000). p104.


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