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Your Favourite Lines
We hope the example of Daphne's family will encourage you to post on this webpage your favourite lines other than the universally well-loved opening to Rebecca. Perhaps you'll be inspired to re-read her books and discover other lines with a special meaning for you.
Virago Press has published almost thirty of Daphne's books in paperback with a delightful hardback edition of Vanishing Cornwall. These have introductions by established authors, some of whom have presented at our Festival and submitted their own favourite lines below.
If you have already REGISTERED as a Member, please use the SUBMIT form to send your favourite lines to us, where they will be reviewed by Ann Willmore.
"Your Favourite Lines" is based on an original idea by Collin Langley.
'I felt rather exhausted, and wondered, rather shocked at my callous thought, why old people were sometimes such a strain. Worse than young children or puppies because one had to be polite.'
Rebecca, Ch.15. p.206, Virago (2003).
So nice to know I'm not the only one to think this way regarding old people, children, and puppies. Karen Strand-Arteaga.
They told me afterwards they had found nothing. No trace of anyone, living or dead. Maddened by anger, and I believe by fear, they had succeeded at last in breaking into those forbidden walls, dreaded and shunned through countless years - to be met by silence
Remember, I myself saw the full moon shining upon that mountain. I also, at midday, saw the sun. What I saw and heard and felt was not of this world. I think of the rock-face, with the moon upon it; I hear the chanting from the forbidden walls; I see the crevasse, cupped like a chalice between the twin peaks of the mountain; I hear the laughter; I see the bare bronzed arms outstretched to the sun
Sometimes, when travelling, I have fancied to myself, in coming upon a stranger, that there is something exceptional in the turn of a head, in the expression of an eye, that is at once compelling and strange. I want to speak, and hold such a person instantly in conversation, but - possibly it is my fancy - it is as though some instinct warns them. A momentary pause, a hesitation, and they are gone. It might be in a train, or in some crowded thoroughfare, and for one brief moment I am aware of someone with more than earthly beauty and human grace, and I want to stretch out my hand and say, swiftly, softly, 'Were you among those I saw on Monte Verita?' But there is never time...
The Birds and Other Stories, Monte Verita, p.40/43, Virago (2004).
Three short extracts from the opening few pages of Monte Verita, my favourite story. We all know how good Daphne was at openings, this is no exception. A subtle, yet potent invitation to curiosity draws the reader into a story nerve-tingling and spine-chilling from beginning to end. Daphne's writing is so strong here I'm amazed that this enigmatic and ethereal tale is not more widely known and regarded.
Monte Verita can be found in the collection of short stories The Birds and Other Stories. The collection was originally published in 1952 with the title The Apple Tree. AW.
'Haven't you any family?'
'No - they're dead.'
'You have a very lovely and unusual name.'
'My father was a lovely and unusual person.'
'Tell me about him,' he said.
I looked at him over my glass of citronade. It was not easy to explain my father and usually I never talked about him. He was my secret property. Preserved for me alone, much as Manderley was preserved for my neighbour. I had no wish to introduce him casually over a table in a Monte Carlo restaurant
'I told you at the beginning of lunch you had a lovely and unusual name,' he said. 'I shall go further, if you will forgive me, and say that it becomes you as well as it became your father '
Rebecca, Ch.4, p.25/6, Virago (2003).
Rebecca is my first Daphne du Maurier experience or is baptism perhaps a better description? Not one of fire but certainly the introduction to a memorable style of prose, full of gothic mystery not least the full name of the narrator, a detail that remains elusive throughout. By withholding the first name of the second Mrs. De Winter, the image of subservience and mysterious plotline are perpetuated. Of course I have other memories of the book especially the dress-scene where the dastardly Danvers invites a mental shriek of almost pantomime proportions, 'No, don't do it!' However, I think it's the above lines where du Maurier begins her 'name trail' that most intrigue me.
There are no more Arundells, and no more Grenvilles. These two families, the proudest and the most famous amongst Cornish gentry, became extinct in Cornwall, the name passing to other branches east of Tamar. The curious and nostalgic, desiring to wander where the Grenvilles once rode, hawked and hunted, can first drive to Kilkhampton church and look upon their sculptured monuments, then turn coastward towards Coombe, where the fine old farmhouse of Stowe Barton stands above the site of the two Grenville homes. Across the road are the foundations of the great house that John Grenville, son of Bevil, built over the remains of his father's dwelling when he was created Earl of Bath after the Restoration. This was pulled down after his death and today there is little left of terraces and gardens but the old encircling walls. The coast and high cliffs are very near, and the clean, sharp air blows upon them from the Atlantic.
Vanishing Cornwall, Ch.7, The Cornish Gentry, p.87/8, Virago (2007).
Being naturally curious, very nostalgic and wishing to wander where the Grenvilles once rode, hawked and hunted, my husband and I first followed Daphne's directions to Kilkhampton church only to find the oak door locked, barring our way to the Grenvilles' sculptured monuments inside. We asked a layman, who was leaving the grounds, as to the time of day we might find the church door unlocked, explaining that we would like to see where the Grenvilles lay. To my delight, he asked if we were descendants of the Grenvilles! After pleasantries, we turned coastward towards Coombe, where the Stowe Barton farmhouse stands above the site of the two Grenville homes.
As we stood on the same ground as the Grenvilles once did centuries ago, I remembered the words Daphne wrote about John, son of Bevil, regarding his building a great house over the remains of his father's dwelling, after he was created Earl of Bath and I wondered why John's house was demolished?
My Cousin Rachel
'Rachel,' I said, 'why did not Ambrose sign the will?'
... 'I never knew,' she said; 'we did not speak of it again. But I think when he realised that I could not, after all, have children, he lost belief in me. Some sort of faith went, though he never knew it.'
As I knelt there, with my arms about her, I thought of the letter in the pocket book beneath the granite slab, with this same accusation said in other words, and I wondered how it could be that two people who had loved could yet have such a misconception of each other and, with a common grief, grow far apart. There must be something in the nature of love between a man and a woman that drove them to torment and suspicion.
...How little she had understood of Ambrose after all. And what small knowledge he had had of her.'
My Cousin Rachel, Ch.19, p.215-216, Virago (2003).
It seems to me that these words of Philip's are pivotal - he has recognised the gulf of misunderstanding between Ambrose and Rachel. If he had only had the insight at this point to relate this discovery to his own relationship with her, perhaps the story could have had a very different end. From this passage I also recognise Daphne du Maurier's skill in presenting dialogue between her characters. Whilst direct answers seem to be given to direct questions, in fact there is no seeking confirmation by any party that what they think they've understood is what was actually meant, and the reader becomes aware how much at cross-purposes the different characters can be with one another. This shows, it seems to me, keen observation of human conversation, which can often conceal more than it reveals, and, despite apparent candour, obscure the whole truth with often tragic and sometimes fatal consequences.
Brontė Society Transactions
It is impossible, with the Brontės, as with many other writers, to say when fiction ceases and fact begins, or how often the imagination will project an imaginary image upon a living personality
Second Thoughts on Branwell Brontė, Brontė Society Transactions, Vol.23, Pt.2, p.157 (Oct 1998).
They seem to me to be very telling lines, because they say so much about Du Maurier herself, and the way in which she was inspired by other writers - including the Brontės - as well as her ability to inspire subsequent authors (including me). Her own writing is a spellbinding blend of fiction and truth, of memoir and imagination; shaping her life and those of others into stories that legions of readers feel to be true to themselves.
This extract comes from an undated essay written by Daphne du Maurier, probably at the time that the Winifred Gerin biography of Branwell Brontė was published in 1961, a year after The Infernal World of Branwell Brontė. It is believed that the inclusion of the essay in the Brontė Society Transactions in 1998 was the first time this text had been published.
Brontė Studies, previously Brontė Society Transactions, is the only journal solely dedicated to research on the Brontė Family. Published continuously since 1895 it aims to encourage further study and research on all matters relating to the Brontė Family, their background and writings, and their place in literary and cultural history. Original, peer-reviewed articles are published as well as papers delivered at conferences, notes on matters of interest, short notices reporting research activities and correspondence arising from items previously published in the journal. See www.bronte.org.uk . AW.
We can never go back, that much is certain. The past is still too close to us. The thing we have tried to forget and put behind us would stir again, and that sense of fear, of furtive unrest, struggling at length to blind unreasoning panic - now mercifully stilled, thank God - might in some manner unforeseen become a living companion, as it had been before.
Rebecca, Ch.2, p.5, Virago (2003).
I love those lines because they are so tantalising and atmospheric. But they're also very potent and troubling in a peculiarly Du Maurier-ish way - because of course the entire novel is about going back, looking back in time, and taking the reader on that dark journey.
Justine is an author and journalist. She wrote the forewords for the Virago editions of The King's General and The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte and the much acclaimed novel Daphne. AW.
The House on the Strand
Roger was my keeper, I was his. There was no past, no present, no future. Everything living is part of the whole. We are all bound, one to the other, through time and eternity, and, our senses once opened, as mine had been opened by the drug, to a new understanding of his world and mine, fusion would take place, there would be no separation, there would be no death This would be the ultimate meaning of the experiment, surely, that by moving about in time death was destroyed. This was what Magnus so far had not understood. To him, the drug released the complex brew within the brain that served up the savoured past. To me, it proved that the past was living still, that we were all participants, all witnesses. I was Roger, I was Bodrugan, I was Cain; and in being so was more truly myself.
The House on the Strand, Ch.14, p.189, Virago (2003).
The House on the Strand is the novel that got me hooked on the works of Daphne du Maurier. As a tutor of medieval literature, I can entirely empathise with Dick Young's excitement at the drug's ability to transport him back into the Middle Ages and be 'witness to events that happened centuries past, unremembered, unrecorded' (HOTS, Ch.6, p.72). What I love about the passage I have chosen, however, is the sinister overtones which creep into Dick's narration. His experience in the past has made him almost arrogant, he believes that he alone understands the drug's possibilities, more clearly even than Magnus, his mentor. At the time she was writing The House on the Strand, du Maurier had become interested in the ideas of the psychologist Carl Jung and the notion of the 'collective unconscious', a kind of ancestral memory bank of experience shared by humanity. But here there is something rather menacing about the 'fusion' which the return of the past might provoke. The unification of mankind 'through time and eternity' - Dick, Roger, the first murderer Cain - sounds like a scientific experiment gone wrong. The desire for the destruction of death recalls the threatening, uncomfortable atmosphere of other du Maurier short stories such as The Breakthrough and Don't Look Now where curiosity and the desire for knowledge of the supernatural are accompanied by danger and risk.
Dr Laura Varnam is tutor in Old and Middle English Literature at University College, Oxford.
At the 2007 Daphne du Maurier Centenary Conference in Fowey, organised by Exeter University, Laura presented a paper entitled Locating the Medieval Past: Daphne du Maurier and Literary Landscape. AW.