Daphne du Maurier Daphne du Maurier

Please see disclaimer

An article by Gerald du Maurier

 

We think of Daphne du Maurierís father Gerald primarily as a successful actor manager, particularly from the golden era at the beginning of the 20th century but right through until the early 1930s.   While he can never be considered to have been a writer with the skill of his father George or his daughter, he did also adapt plays and wrote the novel/play The Dancers with his friend Viola Tree.  He also wrote a number of introductions to books including the Everymanís Library edition of his fatherís novel Trilby. It has now come to light that he also wrote at least one article for The Bystander magazine, at the time when his brother-in-law was its editor.   The article was discovered by Collin Langley, who has kindly suggested we include it here for others to enjoy.  Collin has also included his comments on the article.

    

 

The Bystander, December 23, 1903                                                                                        

A FRIEND OF MINE By GERALD DU MAURIER 

George Lackaday always made a point of walking home from the City when the
evening, or, rather, the afternoon, was fine, so that if he left the office at four-thirty, and did
not halt too frequently by the way, it was very little after five of the grandfather's clock in
the hall of his flat in Pall Mall when Simpson removed his coat and hat
, and questioned
him as to whether he would prefer tea and a muffin, a brandy and soda, or a glass of
sherry and a biscuit
.

If George did not walk to his home, it would possibly be to a club, where he would
wrestle with his overcoat unaided, and of his own accord have to order the necessary
something without the medium of a servant's discreet but sympathetic suggestion
.

A club had for George on occasions serious drawbacks, such as would compel him,
if mentally fatigued, to seek the quiet of his own rooms. He might, for instance, have to go
through the ceremony of nodding to one or two acquaintances whose wandering eyes
might chance to meet his own; or, more unnerving still, find himself obliged to exchange a
few commonplace remarks with mere lounging idlers, to whom sleep at
that time of the
day or the silent perusal of the illustrated papers we
re unknown or, at any rate, untried
quantities. If, however, fortune smiled upon him and the fates were propitious, a gentle
sound of well-studied, deep breathing, a faint waft of warm shoe leather, a glass half
emptied, and a cigarette end reposing, unheeded but smouldering, in one of the
undulations of his double-breasted waistcoat, the casual onlooker would be convinced that
at about a quarter before six o'clock, George Lackaday was indulging in forty winks.
Punctually on the third beat of six, George, like Napoleon, or anyone else, would awaken,
as a rule
, to the full possession of his faculties.

He did not at once spring to his feet - one of which would occasionally oversleep
itself, like a giant refreshed. This made him giddy.

On the contrary, he would remain in a relaxed position, scratching his comely head
until such time as the searcher after that week's
Truth should discover that it was not, after
all
, lying hidden at the bottom of a well.

Should it be a friend of long standing who was thus rudely let loose upon him, a few
remarks, admirably well chosen and vulnerable to no possible repartee, would escape him.

A mere acquaintance would be met with the puzzled stare of a man struggling to
remember someone whom he had long ago wished to forget, but if a total stranger were
the offender
, "sooner earth go round the sun, and the straight girth of time inswathe the
fullness or eternity, than language paint the infinite of"
-George Lackaday's facial
expression.

Sometimes, however, partly to amuse himself, partly to pass the time, George, with
wonderful ingenuity, would apologise at great length - say, for as long as a quarter of an
hour, but with such convincing tact and charm of manner that the stranger, however sharp-
witted he might be, would, on reaching home, tell his wife how he had tha
t day met a man
whose polished courtesy and princely bearing would a century earlier have won for their
possessor a place among the kings of the world.

The stranger in this case would probably, it is true, be a small householder of indifferent education; a veterinary surgeon at Kilburn perhaps, or the keeper of private baths at Putney.

So George, at any rate, would class them to himself. It is at one of these moments
that we find ourselves entering into George Lackaday's glorious existence.

The large smoking room of the Hanover Club was empty, save for two occupants.

George Lackaday, asleep, was one, Colonel Mac something or other, awake, terribly awake,
was the other. It was six o'clock. The Colonel having been told that there was an article in
that month's Army and Navy Outlook's advocating the alteration in size and shape of
shoulder-straps at that time being worn by non-commissioned Militia officers, very naturally
wished to give the article a careful perusal
.

So anxious was he, indeed, that he had been to every room in the building twice
over, and was even then engaged in inditing a peremptory note to the secretary, complaining
of the gross mismanagement of the paper and magazine department
. He had got as far as
"Dear Sir," and was on the point of dotting the "i," when his attention was arrested and held
by the sound of the sleeping of his fellow-member.

The Colonel, listening with intense interest, was trying to think when and in what
country he had heard the tune before, and on what instrument it had been played, when a
slight change in George's position revealed the red and blue cover of the long-sought-for
periodical.

"D..n it!" muttered the old man, "he's been sitting on it all this time."

With a cough that would have awakened the dead Pharaohs, the Colonel walked -
 as noisily as the carpet would allow - over to the fireplace, near to which George's
armchair was placed. He next proceeded to poke the fire, and having dropped the tongs
and coaxed the coal-scuttle to do impossibilities, he turned round and faced his victim.
George, in the meantime, having been watching the Colonel's gymnastics, through his
half-closed lids, had seized the opportunity, knowing what was coming, to remove the
journal on which he had been sitting, to a safe place, under a heap of papers on a table
just within his reach-all this, of course, whilst the Colonel, whose back was turned to him,
was busy with the fire-irons-and then resumed his slumbers.

On the Colonel coughing a second, third, and fourth time like a Maxim gun, he
yawned elaborately, blinked and finally opened both eyes wide, like a baby at sunrise.

It was for the Army to open the campaign. "I beg your pardon, sir,Ē thundered the
Colonel, "but are you trying to hatch that paper into weekly numbers?"

"I make it about five minutes past six," said George politely, looking at his watch,
"but I'm not sure that my watch isn't fast
. I put it right yesterday by the post-office clock in
Throgmorton Street; but one of the clerks told me, as I was sending off a telegram to-day,
that it had been put back this morning, but he didn't say how much."

"Sir," choked the Colonel, "I did not ask you what time it was."

"Why not?" asked George, with the greatest surprise. "Time is like a fashionable
host that - ah, but you know the rest
."

"No; and I'm d..d if I want to!" shrieked the exasperated Colonel. "What I want is
the Army and Navy Outlook, and you've been sitting on it ever since I've been in the club."

"Heaven forbid!" cried George in a tone of shocked patriotism. "No Englishman
living has greater confidence in the stability and solidity of the country's guardians than I, and I maintain -"

"Heavens above!" screamed the Colonel."1 don't want your opinions, I want the
paper."

"Granted," said George, with a knowing smile; "but what political economist would
agree with you?" Tell me that
. What?" and George rose from his seat, and awaited the
Colonel's answer with an air of the keenest enthusiasm.

Alas for the poor old soldier, the chair was empty. He turned red, he turned white,
he coughed no longer like the artillery at practice, but apologetically.

"Sir," he said, "I beg you ten thousand pardons. I have made a foolish mistake. I
thought you were sitting upon a paper I was anxious to see. I was wrong. I am sorry."

"Not at all, sir," replied George, feeling positively put to the blush; "it is I who ought
to apologise. It is true I was not a sentry asleep on duty; still, I feel as if I deserved to be
shot
. Waiter!"

 

 

A Friend of Mine by Gerald du Maurier

A practical joker and accomplished mimic, Gerald du Maurier also had a ribald sense
of humour. Everything and everyone could be mocked and not to enjoy this sport was
to have no sense of humour. However, published evidence of his work is rare so
discovering the above story in an early edition of The Bystander, was an unexpected
delight; at the time I
was browsing British Library's archives for articles by Mrs
Emily Beaumont, Daphne du Maurier's 'Little Granny'.

A Friend of Mine was written when Gerald was 30. This short tale set in a
gentleman's club, is Gerald's voice just as I imagined, upper middle-class Victorian
style similar to his father George, overly long sentences, punctuated with classical
references, phrases of the time and a wicked sense of humour
. 'Sooner earth go round
the sun .
.. than language paint the infinite of - George Lackaday's facial expression'
and 'Time is like a fashionable host ..
.' respectively borrowed from Tennyson's Love
Lieth Deep
and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, unusual but common quotes of
Gerald's time.

But my favourite lines are the humour of Gerald's closing dialogue that mask his
guilty admission for a trick played on Colonel Mac', an irascible fellow member of
the Hanover Club. Having extracted a fulsome apology for suggesting he was sitting
on the magazine the Colonel wanted, George responds, "Not at all, sir" ... feeling
positively put to the blush; it is I who ought to apologise. It is true I was not a sentry
asleep on duty; still, I feel as if I deserved to be shot. Waiter!"

Notes:

1 Gerald adapted for the stage some of Edgar Wallace's novels, notably The Ringer (1929). His only
known published work, The Dancers (1923), was a book and Broadway play co-written with Viola
Tree and poems dedicated to his daughters e.g. p
.13 Margaret Forster's biography: Daphne du Maurier
(1994), Arrow Books.

2 Gerald's club was The Garrick situated in the heart of London's Theatreland. I wonder if this story is
autobiographical?

3 Margaret Forster mentions Gerald du Maurier's sense of humour on p.9 of her biography of Daphne.

4 The Bystander was a weekly magazine that covered the lighter side of life, society, sport, art, theatre,
books etc.; Amusing, Informative but Not Instructive, was the banner headline. 1t was edited by brother-
in-law William Comyns Beaumont. Gerald
's article appeared in the third edition on December 23
1903, six months after his marriage to Muriel Beaumont.

Daphne's first short story: And Now To God The Father was published in The Bystander by her 'Uncle
Willie
' Beaumont' May 15 1929.

5 My four-part paper, But the laughter lingers ... Daphne du Maurier A Sense of Humour Celebrated, is
held in the Du Maurier family archives of Exeter University.

© Collin Langley

 

 

 

 

 

<< Back

Last updated 19th September 2017           Website by WesternWeb Ltd