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Daphne du Maurier

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Dora Footman 1878 - 1974

Letters from Menabilly by Oriel Malet is a 'must read' for Daphne fans. In my view, it gives a better insight into what she was really like than any other single book. It showcases her sense of humour and introduces us to a number of supporting characters who inhabited her world between 1950 and the end of life. One of the most amusing of these is Cousin Dora. She first appears thus, in October 1966:

Oh, such a dreadful Little Way is threatened for me and Piff. Have I ever told you about an old cousin of Daddy's aged 90 who is an old Tell Him person? Well, she is getting rid of her cottage in Kent, and has found a one-roomed, ground floor flat in Tywardreath of all places, and is coming down here to live.

To translate a little – 'Little Way' refers to the writings of St Therese of Lisieux (a shared interest of Daphne and Oriel) who had discerned that her personal route to sainthood would not be through some dramatic miracle but through small daily acts of devotion and self-sacrifice. 'Piff' is Daphne's sister Angela, who lived at Ferryside. 'Tell Him' as an adjective means 'boring' in the Du Maurier language, though it was often used as a noun, meaning an interminable anecdote. Dora's chief crime in this respect was her fondness for detailing the romances of her youth with various Teutonic nobility, Austrian Dukes or one of the Princes of Liechtenstein, with whom she had danced in Vienna or Dusseldorf.

In December '66, when Dora Footman arrived to move into her flat, which was about two miles from Menabilly, Oriel Malet was staying with Daphne and so was detailed to help Dora arrange her possessions in her now reduced accommodation. Daphne was glad of the assistance – but seems to have been anxious that Oriel did not become too attached to the old lady - and would turn up unannounced to whisk her away for lunch.

Rocketing homewards down the hill from Tywardreath, Bing (Daphne) refused to be cajoled into sympathy with Dora's dreams of grandeur. "Now don't get Dora in your mind, or you'll be turning her into a sub!" she warned me crossly. [sub: meaning minor character in a novel]

Dora proved to be a 'Little Way' par excellence, requiring frequent visits and assistance during bouts of ill health. She had carers on a day-to-day basis but relied on her family for companionship. Oriel tells us that the burden fell more and more on Daphne as her sister, Angela, began to tire of Dora's endless Tell Hims. Daphne was of the view that these stories were mostly 'Gondals' – a Du Maurier word for literary invention, derived from the Bronte family's childhood fiction.

Dora comes across as an entertaining if rather curmudgeonly character – who despite her continuous complaints and endless reminiscences, was still very sharp in her mind. In February 1969, just after her 90th birthday, Dora was hospitalised with an ulcer. Writing in early March, Daphne reported:

I have to take time off to visit old Dora, who is thriving after her blood transfusions. From looking as if she were going to die any minute, she is now practically back to normal, sitting up in a chair in her room in the hospital – lipstick on her lips, and puffing at endless cigarettes! She is like Dracula, who survived the centuries by drinking blood!

Indeed, following this setback, she lived for another five years. Reading about this intriguing character, I wondered how she fitted into the Du Maurier family and whether her 'Gondals' might have some basis in fact. This is what I have found. The story begins with Dora's parents, Isabel Du Maurier and Clement Scott.

The Du Mauriers and Dusseldorf

One morning in 1857, George Du Maurier was working at his easel at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts, when suddenly and without warning, his left eye went cloudy. Ophthalmology was rather basic back then, and even if they had been able to diagnose what was probably a detached retina, little could have been done to repair the damage. George spent the next 18 months in abject terror, visiting various doctors in Belgium who alternately promised him a complete cure or the prediction that he would soon be completely blind.

In early 1859, George received a letter from his sister Isabel, who had spent Christmas with her friend Emma Wightwick, George's future wife. Emma's mother had recommended a famous German oculist, Hoffrath de Leeuwe, who practised in a village just outside Dusseldorf. George and his mother, Ellen, set off from Malines in May, thus beginning the Du Maurier family's association with Dusseldorf. Isabel, who was 20, joined them in the autumn – it was hoped she might find a husband there. This notion may have been based on George's positive view of the City as a 'party central' kind of place, where he had met a lot of interesting people, including some minor German princes. The flaw in the plan was that, in general, eligible bachelors were in Dusseldorf to enjoy the season and let their hair down. Marrying the penniless granddaughter of the infamous Mary Anne Clarke was not likely to be part of the plan. Isabel Du Maurier was attractive and popular, but this was a double-edged sword because it promoted a false hope of success. As the seasons rolled by, Isabel's looks began to fade prematurely, mostly because of decaying front teeth. All this is detailed in Daphne's 1937 family history, The Du Mauriers.

In May 1860, George had been told by the German doctor that his left eye would not recover, but that with care, his right eye should last his lifetime. He decided to go back to London to seek work – and lowered his sights from working as a fine artist to something in the commercial field. George's letters from this period, mostly to his mother in Dusseldorf, were edited by Daphne and published by Peter Davies in 1951. They reveal that Dusseldorf had captivated Isabel in just the same way that Fowey was to captivate Daphne in the 1920s. In a letter from Isabel to her friend Emma Whitewick in June 1861 (to congratulate her on her engagement to George), she states:

It would be very pleasant if Mamma and I went to live in London next winter. I hope indeed we shall do so, tho' barring the idea of being with you oftener, and seeing Kicky [George's family nickname], no place could suit me more than Dusseldorf. I was never so attached to a place. Every street, every avenue, every tree I am fond of, tho' I should be very puzzled to give a reason, not having found one yet.

Isabel had for some time pursued a man called Samuel Perrott, but her affections were not reciprocated. During her rather unsuccessful visit to London in 1864, George wrote to his mother:

I suppose there is no chance with Master Sam, who in spite of his independent means seems tied to his Mamma's apron strings. That would be the best arrangement for Isabel, and I do wish it could be brought about, since he has caught her fancy. All her sympathies besides and affections are with the Dusseldorf people, and she would be No. 1. She's a rum girl – nothing seems to interest her – and she takes a kind of pride in boring herself everywhere, except she says in Dusseldorf where she is happy all day long according to her own account.

Isabel had a firm admirer in George's great friend, Tom Armstrong. But in a letter to his mother in March 1864, George commented:

I think he [Tom] is still very nuts on Isabel, who can't bear him; I must say I am very glad she doesn't reciprocate, for he will never be in a position to marry.

It was only at the end of her life that she told Dora that she thought she should have married Tom. Her affair with Sam Perrott petered out, and by 1865, Ellen and Isabel were forced to admit defeat and return to London. The matter of marriage was becoming urgent. They were living on the annuity Ellen's mother, Mary Anne Clarke, had extracted from the Royal Family in exchange for her silence – but this would expire on Ellen's death. Isabel was approaching 30, and her future was not secure. At that time, George was only just beginning to make his way as an artist in London, and already had two children of his own to support.

Clement Scott – Theatre Critic

To the relief of all, Isabel married the journalist Clement Scott in 1868. In the next ten years, she had four surviving children, two boys and two girls. Philip was first, followed by Sybil and Eric.  At the beginning of 1878, Clement had been translating and adapting a French play by Victorien Sardou called Dora. He called the English version Diplomacy - it would later become a major hit for Gerald Du Maurier at Wyndham's in 1913. Clement and Isabel named their fourth child after the lead character in this play. Dora Isabel Scott was born on 10 December 1878'

Dora's Father, Clement Scott

Around the time that Dora was born, the family moved to Hampstead, just a short distance away from George's home at New Grove House. Consequently, they were frequent visitors. George was fond of using family members in his Punch drawings. The one below is from 1882 – although whether these are actually likenesses of Dora and Eric Scott, I do not know.

The marriage was not a success. As a critic, Clement Scott was acerbic, but apparently, as a person he was sentimental. According to Charles Hoyer Millar (who married George's eldest daughter, Beatrix), Isabel subjected him to a good deal of 'chaff'. She was apparently a sharp-tongued woman – and it seems she had left her heart in Dusseldorf and was never really happy again. It is said that Clement Scott had several mistresses. One event, in particular, may have led to trouble. As well as being the drama critic of the Daily Telegraph, Scott was also its travel writer. In August 1883, the Great Eastern Railway invited him to Cromer in Norfolk, with a view to securing publicity to improve passenger numbers. Unable to find accommodation in the town, he took a walk along the cliff path and came to a mill house in the tiny hamlet of Sidestrand, where he requested lodging and was accepted. His host was the miller's daughter, 19-year-old Louie Jermy, subsequently known as 'The Maid of the Mill' – and Scott developed an infatuation for her, returning many times. His flowery praise for the charms of the Mill and the poppy-strewn countryside, which he dubbed Poppyland, resulted in many other literary and theatre people going to stay there, including the poet Swinburne and actor Sir Henry Irving. Eventually, the area turned into something of a tourist trap which Scott regretted, but he was credited with the economic benefit that accrued and was honoured with a memorial there some years after his death.

Sometime in the mid-1880s, a separation with Isabel was arranged. Millar records that it was 'friendly' – but other sources say it created great bitterness. Either way, Isabel headed back to Dusseldorf, taking Dora with her. Happiness though did not return – you should never go back – but aside from this general rule, Isabel's health was now failing. Looking for regenerating sea air, she went to stay with her brother Gyggy in Plymouth – but continued to deteriorate. She died at St Barnabas Cottage Hospital, Saltash on 26 November 1890, just before Dora's 12th birthday. Her death certificate states the causes as 'Meningitis and Exhaustion' – but a contemporary newspaper report suggests that she had cancer.

It does not appear that Scott had much to do with his children after separating from Isabel. He may already have embarked on an affair with a considerably younger married woman called Constance Becker, eldest daughter of a London solicitor, Horatio Brandon. In 1890, Constance filed for divorce from her husband, Charles Adolphe Becker, whom she had married in September 1881, at the age of 21. At the time of the 1891 census, she was staying with Scott at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, still using her married name. Scott embarked on an around the world tour in 1892, and in 1893 Constance travelled to San Francisco, where they married in April. This seems a rather elaborate thing to do, considering that in those days a journey to the American west coast was an arduous proposition. The explanation is that Clement Scott had converted to Catholicism. According to his faith, he could not marry a divorcee. To pull this off, he needed to marry Constance in a church, but in a far-away location where no awkward questions would be asked. At the private wedding, Constance gave her maiden name of Brandon, and from then on became known as Margaret rather than Constance. In this way, the couple succeeded in airbrushing her first marriage and subsequent divorce. Biographies of Scott never mention it – and indeed many are under the false impression that Constance was American by birth, whereas in fact she was born in Putney.

During these years, Scott was the premier theatre critic in London, and it was said that he could make or break a new play with a flourish from his pen, with obvious financial consequences for the promoters. Unfortunately, as one biographical piece puts it, his criticism was neither impartial nor judicial. For example, he was highly prejudiced against the plays of Ibsen, finding them morally degenerate. There would seem to be an element of hypocrisy about this given his own behaviour. Although he was fearless in dishing it out, he was hyper-sensitive if criticised in return. In his correspondence with Henry Irving, he was often sounding off in apoplectic terms about someone who had insulted him – while Irving tried to calm him down. He would have been flourishing pistols on Hampstead Heath at dawn most weekends if such disputes had still been settled in that manner.

Dora's Education

Meanwhile, Dora had been sent to The Roman Catholic Convent School in Cecil St, Plymouth. In the holidays, she would sometimes visit her Uncle George. During one of these visits in April 1892, George was writing to his wife Emma, who was away, and commented:

"I dined alone with little Dora and she read the papers after. She is a delightful child."

Dora was living in Plymouth with her Aunt Marie, the widow of George's brother Gyggy. He had died in Torquay, just a few weeks after Isabel, in December 1890. In 1895, George suddenly became famous as the author of Trilby, which was a global sensation as a novel and on the stage. However, before he could properly enjoy this success, he died in October 1896. The following month, Dora's eldest brother Phillip, an army officer, married in Ireland. His bride was Florence Carroll, who had been educated in Dusseldorf, so this would have given Dora something to talk about with her new sister-in-law. Her other brother, Eric, had begun a career on the stage in America. Dora's sister Sybil married John Martyn, a solicitor from Devon, in the Spring of 1897.

It may have been Florence Scott's contacts that enabled Dora to go to the Dusseldorf Academy to study in 1896. Amazingly, Dora's scrapbook from this period has survived and I'm extremely grateful to Ann Willmore for lending it to me for the purposes of writing this piece. Dora gave the album to her carers in Tywardreath, and they, in turn, sold it to Ann at 'Bookends' in Fowey some years later.

While not providing many facts about her life, the album is a fascinating insight into her world at the time. Many of the entries from fellow students are addressed to 'Trilby' – so clearly it was known that she was the author's niece. Whether she bore any resemblance to the character sketched by George in the novel, or to Dorothea Baird who played Trilby in the first London stage production, is not clear. Perhaps she was fond of name-dropping her famous uncle and his blockbuster creation, just as she would later irritate Daphne by harping on about the German princes!

We do not know what subjects Dora was studying in Dusseldorf, but the Academy is famous for Art – and the plethora of sketched and portraits in the book demonstrates that many of her fellow students were artists. There is an etching by Frank Willis (1865-1932), some of whose work is in the National Portrait Gallery. There is also a cartoon signed 'W. Llewellyn' which could be Sir William Llewellyn (1858-1941) who was later President of the Royal Academy. The sketch below is one of many art-related pictures:

Dora's album puts her in Sherborne, Dorset in the summer of 1897. Below is a sketch from Charles Tate Regan – the famous zoologist who later became Director of the British Museum.

The nature of Dora's relationship with her father and stepmother at this time is not known, but soon Clement Scott's status was to change. In late 1897 he gave a most injudicious interview in which he implied that all actresses had loose morals and more or less slept their way to the top. The ensuing outrage forced him out of the Daily Telegraph, and he never really recovered from this setback. An un-named contributor in Dora's album offered this limerick:

There was a young lady called Scott
Who thought prudery awful rot
So she put up her feet
On the theatre seat
To show her disgust of the lot

In late 1897, Dora met the famous acting sisters, Irene and Violet Vanburgh, who left both messages in her album. Irene would later star in the same production of The Admiral Crichton that brought Gerald Du Maurier and Muriel Beaumont together.

Dora certainly saw her father in Feb 1898, as he wrote in her album 'God Bless thee now and ever'. Later that year, Scott wrote to Sir Henry Irving from the South of France where he was trying to recover from his fall. He thanked Irving for being among the few who had defended him, and confessed that he had done an idiotic thing, but had been 'dragged into it when he was sick and in pain'.

Later entries in Dora's album are mostly theatre-related. The quantity of these entries and the effort taken suggests they were not made at the stage door - Dora had some greater involvement. Whether this was journalistic, or she had some role in the production is hard to say. Until his death in 1904, Clement Scott remained involved in theatre criticism, although he was reduced to starting his own paper, The Free Lance, which was not a great success. Whatever the reason, Dora spent time with the company of A Greek Slave in Blackpool in August 1900 and then the company of Winnie Brooke, Widow in Birmingham in June 1904. In May 1902, there is a sketch of the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne by Tyrone Power (father of the more famous actor of that name), where he had performed as Svengali in a production of Trilby on his Australia and New Zealand tour the year before.

Dora's album is written in a mixture of English, French and German – suggesting that she was fluent in all these languages. So, it is not surprising that the 1901 census places her in the West End of London working as a language translator.  There are blank periods in the album – from summer 1898 to summer 1900 – and from Summer 1902 to 1904. In Summer 1902, there is a page in French – and one comment reads:

So, you are going to marry, Mademoiselle? A thousand compliments to you and two thousand to your fiancιe!

This is intriguing! It could be that she was already engaged to her future husband – or perhaps it refers to something else. There remains the possibility that the events she would later continuously recall happened in one of these gaps in the album. Unfortunately, so far, there is nothing I can find to support it. I would tend to give her the benefit of the doubt – even if she later exaggerated a bit. In the circumstances in which she found herself at that time, there was every reason to take a risk. Her father was disgraced, her mother and celebrity uncle were dead. What did she have to lose?


The House of Liechtenstein

The Principality of Liechtenstein dates from 1719. Although the family seat is in the capital Vaduz, the ancient seat of the family is Liechtenstein Castle near Vienna. Although derelict for many years, the family had restored it in 1884. The House of Liechtenstein is a large and complicated family, and at the time we have identified, 1898-1901, there are a lot of princes to choose from. For example:

   •    Prince Franz de Paula (1868–1929)
   •    Prince Aloys (1869–1955)
   •    Prince Johannes (1873–1959)
   •    Prince Heinrich (1877–1915)
   •    Prince Karl (1878–1955)
   •    Prince Friedrich (1871–1959)

Prince Johannes – did he dance with Dora?

Any of these could be our man – and although this makes further research too onerous, it probably makes it more likely that Dora could have met one or other of them in Dusseldorf. If she did, is it possible that an invitation to Vienna was forthcoming? Perhaps it all happened just as Dora would endlessly describe at the end of her life – but even if so, sadly it was a 'might have been', and no proposal was forthcoming.

Marriage and Motherhood

By the time of her father's death in 1904, Dora was 25. Just before he died, he was sufficiently forgiven by the London stage establishment that they put on an all-star matinee show for his benefit, as he was in ill health and short of money. This event was a success, and the net proceeds were £1,169, which was a decent sum then. Somehow, Dora managed to arrange that one-third of this sum should be paid directly to her, and the remaining two thirds to Clement Scott's widow. This suggests that Dora had good contacts in her own right with the theatre world at that time, and also that relations with her stepmother were not close. Back then, £390 was enough to buy a 3-bedroom house in Central London. This was timely for Dora, because on 1 November that year, she married Edmund Abbot Footman, the 40-year-old son of a Draper. They were married at Christ Church, Woburn Square, by Edmund's youngest brother, Horace.

Given Dora's disdain at the end of her life for what she termed 'the lower orders', it is fair to say that this was not a spectacular marriage. Edmund's father, Fred Footman, was the younger son of John Footman of Ipswich, who had built up a successful Drapery business which later became the department store, Footman and Pretty. The store was acquired by Debenhams in 1927 but continued under its original name until 1972. Fred's elder brother Henry was successful in the family business until the age of 36 when he left to study for Holy Orders. This was much regretted by his partners in the firm. However, Fred was wayward, a gambler and womaniser. When he too sought to leave the firm, his resignation was welcomed, and some sort of payoff was organised. He moved with his wife Arabella and their 9 children to Bedford in the 1870s, where he died in straightened circumstances.  Edmund was the third child and eldest son.

For the above information about the Footman family history, I am indebted to David J Footman, who wrote it up in his 1974 book, Dead Yesterday. We will return to him a little later.

Edmund Footman appears to have had a number of different jobs, including publishing, and in the 1911 census, as a salesman for piano players – a device that was placed in front of a piano and operated the keyboard using a pneumatic mechanism controlled by a perforated paper roll, advanced by foot pedals.

These were manufactured in the USA, and Edmund made several trips across the Atlantic in that period. Dora was busy at home, as in 1907 she gave birth to the couple's only child, Joan Isabelle Footman, who was born a couple of weeks before Daphne Du Maurier, her second cousin. Given that both families lived in London, one would imagine that Joan met Gerald's daughters as a child, but there is no record of it.

After 1911, there is a lack of information – but we can assume that Dora was living in London and bringing up her only daughter, while Edmund, despite his age, was in the RNVR in World War One and received a medal for long service in 1914. The next thing we know, aged 17, Joan has gone on the stage! She took her grandfather's name and was known professionally as Joan Clement Scott.

Joan's Stage Career

We first pick her up in 1924 in the Illustrated London News. The piece is about Gerald Du Maurier's new play To Have the Honour by A.A. Milne at Wyndham's. It is clear then that Dora's family connections have played a part – Gerald helped a number of other family members to start acting careers in this way. The following year, Joan travelled to Vienna to play in Max Reinhardt's production of a Midsummer Night's Dream, in German – in which she was fluent according to The Tatler. This was a very prestigious engagement, as Reinhardt's Shakespeare productions were revered.

Joan in 1925

She then appeared in Adam and Eva for which she received good notices, before landing a part in Noel Coward's new play Easy Virtue due to open on Broadway. Dora and Joan duly sailed for New York. The play was a success, running to 147 performances.

On 26 May 1926, the Western Morning News carried a piece recording their return on the Mauretania:

Miss Joan Clement Scott, granddaughter of the well-known writer, was among those who landed at Plymouth this morning with other members of the 'Easy Virtue' company, which is to be produced in London next month by Miss Jane Cowl. Mr E.A. Footman travelled to Plymouth to meet his wife and daughter.

The play duly opened at the Duke of York's theatre and ran for 124 performances, only finishing (according to Coward) because Jane Cowl had to return to America.

Later that year, Joan appeared in Shavings at the Apollo, for which she again got good notices. The Sporting Times described her as 'bright and natural'. Her performance was also well received in The Bystander.

This encouraging start to her acting career was suddenly interrupted when Joan found romance. She fell in love with her second cousin – David J. Footman – author of the family history, which I referenced earlier! Although it is perfectly acceptable to marry your second cousin, for some reason the couple (or perhaps Joan's publicity agents) wanted to obscure the fact. This was facilitated by Joan's choice of stage name. The publicity around the wedding implied that Joan was related to Clement Scott through her father, not her mother, and therefore Miss Scott was marrying Mr Footman. Her father, Edmund Footman, is referred to simply as 'the father of the bride'. The couple's answer to questions about how they had first met was that their dogs had attacked each other while walking in the park.  David Footman was at the time Vice Consul of Skopje (then in Yugoslavia, now Macedonia) so the headlines were "Actress marries Vice Consul" – it was all very glamorous, and reports of the wedding were carried in many papers.

They married in Berkshire (where David's family lived) in October 1927. What Dora thought of all this we do not know. Although Joan announced she was not giving up the stage – all the momentum in her career was lost at this point – and given the effort Dora had put in, I suspect she was not best pleased. Given the delusions of grandeur, she would exhibit later she may well have felt that another Footman, however talented and interesting, was not what she had in mind for her daughter's future.

Joan and her father kill some time before the wedding – which was held up because guests were delayed by fog.

A man of many talents

David Footman led a very interesting life – and is worth an article of his own – but here is a thumbnail sketch. Born the son of a vicar in Berkshire in 1896, and educated at Marlborough and Oxford, David served as a Captain in the First World War, in which he won a Military Cross and had the strange experience of reading his own obituary, after going missing in action in 1918. He then joined the consular service holding positions in Egypt as well as Yugoslavia, before moving into business. He worked for HMV (the gramophone company) in Vienna, followed by Glynn Mills Bank (now part of NatWest) in Belgrade. In 1935 he joined the Secret Service, and during World War Two he enjoyed Nazi' Special Wanted' status, a priority list of those to be located and arrested following the invasion of Britain. During the 30s and 40s, he found time to write thrillers and novels. The novels cover his time as a diplomat in the Balkans, and the first of these, Pig and Pepper is most amusing. During his early years in MI6, he recruited Guy Burgess. Although he received the CMG in 1950, a shadow fell upon him when Burgess defected to the Soviet Union in 1951. Some of his contemporaries later suggested that Footman was himself a Russian Agent. He 'retired' from MI6 in 1953 and joined St Anthony's College Oxford, where he became resident expert on Russian affairs and the Russian Revolution, on which subjects he wrote several more books. He died in 1983.

It is difficult to see how the marriage was supposed to work – given Joan's need to be in London. After the wedding, they headed back to Skopje, and Joan was absent from the stage for the whole of 1928.

David and Joan depart London Victoria for Skopje in October 1927

In 1929, when David went to Vienna to work for HMV, Joan returned to London to resume her career, but she was well down the cast list in The Girl in the Limousine although the production was a success. In the early 1930s, her fluent German landed her a number of parts in German language productions, but it was not until 1936 that she landed another leading role, in Emlyn Williams' Night Must Fall. She was extremely well-reviewed in this, and the production was a big hit on tour in the provinces. Joan was clearly a competent and engaging actress, and it is a shame that her promise was not fully realised. Whether her marriage to her second cousin and subsequent career break were to blame, who can say. But in 1935, she filed for divorce.


Edmund Footman died in the spring of 1929, aged 65. At the time, the family were living at 36 Oxford Terrace. Joan joined her mother there, but in 1932 they had to give the property up. At the time of the 1939 census, Dora and Joan were staying with some friends of Joan's in Amersham. Dora is listed as having private means – but whether Edmund left her sufficiently well provided for is not clear. How they spent the War years, I do not know – but in July 1948, Edmund's brother, Revd Horace Footman, who had presided at Dora's wedding, died. He left Dora and Joan about £1,000 each. While that does not sound a lot now – a cottage in Tunbridge Wells (for example) could be bought for around that sum at the time.

Dora was about to turn 70 when she received this legacy – and I do not know whereabouts in Kent her cottage was or how she spent her days there. After the War, Joan did not go back on the stage – she worked exclusively as a radio actress for the BBC. A small paragraph in 1953 reports that she was in hospital awaiting a 'serious internal operation'. She evidently recovered, but she died in 1960 aged just 53. Dora's brothers Philip and Eric died in 1932 and 1960 respectively and her sister Sybil in 1955. Joan had only one cousin – Philip's son Anthony O'Carroll Scott, born in 1899. He had retired from the army as a Major-General in 1954. He and his wife Helena were probably the only other realistic option for Dora in terms of family support in her last years.

Now well into her 80s, Dora must have felt increasingly alone as the 1960s wore on. As she considered her options - her elevated social aspirations already noted – no doubt the world-famous novelist, Lady Browning of Menabilly was the most attractive choice. Dora did not ask permission; she made her own arrangements to move and then announced it as a fait accompli.

Final Years in Tywardreath

Given that her father was pompous and quarrelsome, and her mother caustic and perennially discontented, it is perhaps not surprising that in her final years, Dora could be a tricky customer. Oriel Malet had met Dora when she first arrived, so Daphne reported on Dora's behaviour regularly in her letters over the seven years that followed, and these reports were generally negative. Perhaps part of the frustration would have been that while Daphne wanted to talk about George and Isabel, New Grove House, and Trilby – all Dora wanted to talk about was Dusseldorf and the Austrian Dukes.

Dora was the last survivor of Gerald's generation – the last who had known George personally. I think Daphne may have treasured her a bit more than she lets on, given her passion for the family, about whom she had written so much. If so, this was private, and she did not share it with Oriel.

It is plausible that like her mother before her, Dora was disappointed with her life. She had been dealt some decent cards in many ways, but it had not quite worked out. Every time things seemed to be going her way, fate had intervened. Maybe she was at her happiest during those years in Dusseldorf with her cosmopolitan group of talented friends. Her album is a tangible reminder of that time – there is joie de vivre on those pages.

She may have liked a good moan – but I am sure Dora appreciated Daphne's 'Little Way' – which was undertaken faithfully to the end. Dora died in January 1974 and was buried with her mother in Saltash.  There perhaps, distant memories of Dusseldorf are not regarded as a 'Tell Him.'

Reading List

Letters from Menabilly – Oriel Malet - Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1993: A collection of letters written by Daphne du Maurier to her friend, and fellow author Oriel Malet between 1950 and 1980 – with commentary from Oriel. The letters are informative and entertaining – a unique insight into Daphne du Maurier's life in this period. It is easily available in paperback for a few pounds. Don't miss out!

The Du Mauriers – Daphne Du Maurier – Victor Gollancz, 1937: Daphne's history of the Du Maurier family between 1810 and 1870. This is based on fact – but some interactions are imagined, and there are one or two changes to the timelines. In that sense, it's not a strictly historical work, but it's very readable – and it gives an insight into the family dynamics. Easily available in the Virago paperback edition.

The Young George du Maurier – edited by Daphne Du Maurier – Peter Davies, 1951: A collection of George Du Maurier's letters during the period 1860-67, when Isabel was in Dusseldorf. There is an introduction by Daphne. These letters are very interesting and shed light on George's character – both good and bad points! Only the original hardback edition is available – but they are not too hard to find - £10-upwards.

George Du Maurier and Others – Charles Hoyer Millar – Cassell, 1937: Millar married George's first child, Beatrix (known as Trixie). This book represents his memories of the Du Maurier family from 1879 on. As the title suggests, he concentrates on the last 17 years of George's life – after that, it gets quite sketchy and selective. Some of the book is interesting – details of the business dealings over the stage version of Trilby, for example. Rather too much of it consists of a name-dropping people who have long since passed into obscurity. Again, only the original hardback is available, and they are getting hard to find - £35 upwards.

George Du Maurier – Leonee Ormond - Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969: This is now the standard volume on George's life and work. The author received quite a lot of help from Daphne while writing it. There are many examples of his drawings. This is a high-quality book and is easy enough to find second hand, from £10 upward – a good investment to learn more about George.

The Du Mauriers (Just as they Were) – Anne Hall – Unicorn, 2018: A more recent book – very well researched, written and presented. It covers origins of the family in France through to Gerald's death in 1934. There are some corrections of historical inaccuracies in some of Daphne's books on family history. There is an interesting analysis of family history encoded into George's three novels. This should be easy enough to get, the cover price is £25, you may find a used copy for less.

Echoes of History (Poppyland 1883-1914) – David Thornton – Poppyland Publishing, 2017: Covers the Poppyland phenomenon from a Norfolk local history perspective. There are excellent chapters on both Clement Scott and Isabel Du Maurier, as well as Louie Jermy, 'The Maid of the Mill'. This is available from the publisher's website, or Amazon, for £11.50.

Pig and Pepper – David Footman – Derek Verschoyle, 1936: David Footman's novel about diplomatic shenanigans in the imaginary Balkan backwater of Tsernigrad. Being a fan of inter-war novels, I loved this. It is very amusing and confidently written. Obviously, it's no Rebecca – but if you come across it, it's fun. There was a 1990 paperback published by Robin Clark – so you can pick one up for a few pounds if you can find it.

Dead Yesterday (An Edwardian Childhood) – David Footman – White Lion Publishers 1974: As mentioned in the article, this is David Footman's family history. It's actually not that interesting unless you have a particular reason to want to know about the Footmans – which I did. A good part of it is about David's Grandfather, Henry, who was a celebrated cleric and author. One interesting thing about the book is that Edmund Footman (Dora's husband) has been excised. In what little detail he gives about the family of his Great Uncle Fred, another son, Harold, is substituted for Edmund. Even though David was 78 when he wrote Dead Yesterday, and everyone concerned was dead (even Dora) – he keeps this secret to the end. He was not in MI6 for nothing! It took me over two years to find a copy of this book – I would imagine that very few exist. Because of the obscurity, I only paid £13, but you'll be lucky to find one.

© Chris Main 2021

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