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Daphne du Maurier

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Daphne du Maurier and Muriel Spark – two literary Dames



We have just received this interesting piece of writing from Gail Wylie who is the chair of the Muriel Spark Society. 

It provides us with a less than obvious cross-over between two of the most important women writers of the 20th - 21st century and we wanted to share it with you.

This is what Gail says:


At the end of March, 2018, a group of members from the Muriel Spark Society will visit Italy, the country Dame Muriel lived in for the last 20 years or so of her life.  One of our days will be spent in Urbino, the Le Marche hill-town, which Daphne du Maurier turned into Ruffino, the setting of her 1965 novel The Flight of the Falcon.  I have urged our group to read this in advance of our visit.

A life-long admirer of du Maurier, I loved this book when I first read it in 1965 and have wanted to see Urbino ever since.  Re-reading it recently I was struck by certain similarities to Spark (such as not only high-quality narrative but also an unease, a not entirely sympathetic narrator, a sense of distance, sharp character observations).   What also struck me was the fact that they were too often underrated as serious novelists.  This Centenary of Spark’s birth has put that wrong to some right.

I believe that Spark recognised this oversight of du Maurier and is why she gives her a mention in The Girls of Slender Means.  In that novel, written in 1963, one of her characters has written a letter to du Maurier which ‘brought a sympathetic reply…With some authors a scholarly question about the underlying meaning worked best.’

Perhaps both Spark and du Maurier had the disadvantage of their best-loved books being made into excellent films; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Rebecca.  The down-side of the fame of those movies is that the original novels have been, to some extent, side-lined with Maggie Smith as Jean Brodie and Laurence Olivier as Max de Winter becoming iconic images.  The anniversary publication of Rebecca and the centenary publications of all of Spark’s novels will surely send readers back to the unsurpassable original words of their authors.



The two Dames will be remembered by us in Urbino.  May all of their readers continue to ‘go on their way rejoicing’.

Gail Wylie
Chair, Muriel Spark Society

Thank you, Gail.

Daphne du Maurier and Muriel Spark can also be linked through their interest in the Brontė’s.  Through this website you will be very aware of Daphne du Maurier’s lifelong love of the novels and poetry of the Brontė sisters and the fact that Daphne wrote the excellent biography about their brother – The Infernal World of Branwell Brontė.  But you might not know that Muriel Spark wrote three major biographical works on the Brontės.  The first is called Emily Brontė: Her Life and Work which she wrote with Derek Stanford and published in 1953.  Daphne had her own copy of this book and used it during her research when she was writing her book about Branwell.  In 1954 Muriel published The Brontė Letters and this work was included in a more extensive compilation of essays called The Essence of the Brontės, published in 1993.   

We wish members of the Muriel Spark Society a truly memorable visit to Italy and in particular Urbino and we thank Gail for making contact with us.

Ann Willmore March 2018.

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