DU MAURIER (DAPHNE) Series of some two hundred autograph and typed letters signed ("Daphne"), to her close friend Foy Quiller-Couch, c.1929-1977
Lot 206
Sold for £ 15,000 (US$ 19,930) inc. premium

Lot Details
Series of some two hundred autograph and typed letters signed ("Daphne"), to her close friend Foy Quiller-Couch, a few on postcards, with one or two envelopes as well as letters addressed to Daphne du Maurier and forwarded by her to Foy Quiller-Couch, and letters by 'Boy' Browning, etc., upwards of 600 pages, some letters incomplete, dust-staining, occasional adhesive-tape repairs, tears and creases, etc., 4to and 8vo, Menabilly, Kilmarth and elsewhere, c.1929-1977 and undated


  • DAPHNE DU MAURIER'S LETTERS TO HER CLOSE FRIEND FOY, DAUGHTER OF SIR ARTHUR QUILLER-COUCH, HER CORNISH LITERARY MENTOR ("...Oh! Foy, I'm so full of kind regards for you to night and all that that silly ambiguous expression may mean. I feel like the 'meanest river that winds somewhere safe to sea' and you are the sea to me, and a hell of a lot of other things too, most things probably..."). The series includes a number of long letters written early in Daphne du Maurier's career, in which she muses on her life as a woman and author, and the similarities and dissimilarities that underpinned their friendship: "I would rather you knew that I had done things you would shiver at, and had lived erotically from time to time, than you should think I was just a silly girl with a silly smutty mind. I haven't a smutty mind, Foy, I've just done things, that's all – and the memories and re-actions work in one. That is, I think, why different generations are leagues apart, and can never get together... Oh! I'm not ashamed of my life, its civilization I'm ashamed of, because its made ugliness, and meanness, and evil-thinking, because its made people think so smuttily and narrowly instead of being natural and not thinking. Good God – animals don't think, or birds... ".

    A good many letters discuss Castle Dor, the unfinished novel by Quiller-Couch which Foy asked Daphne to complete ("...I am most touched, and moved... to follow your father of all people would be a hard task, with his perfect English..."), the series providing a running commentary both on her engagement with Q's remaining manuscript and the progress of her own continuation: "I cant tell you what interest it gives me. It is as good as digging up my glass-foundry forebears... I begin to see many of your father's difficulties with this story. The 'Troy' tales identified with many characters either dead or living, with plenty of gentle pullings-of-legs, but when you come to write a great love story taking place in the district with real place names, the writer is in the midst of trouble". The contract signed by Daphne du Maurier is included with the letters.

    Also discussed are Daphne du Maurier's second and third novels: "Oh! Foy, don't get hot about my books! They aren't written for effect I promise you. And no one will discover me in them – none of that intimate personal business. But one's got to get rid of the poisons, and the restlessness, and the nice things one's felt, and the nasty things too – and its the only way for me, its like being sick. And one cant write 'prettily', when one writes about a French Jew who sells cheese... Anyway, you needn't read that one, and Mrs Smith will just think 'What odd people Miss du Maurier knows', – she wont realize that somewhere inside me is the Jew himself. But 'I'll Never Be Young Again' is just the story of a restless boy, and no one will know how much of it is me. I'm writing all this to you because I'm not with you, and if I was with you we'd be cutting wood and not talking at all, which comes to the same thing. You know all my dull dreary mind by now". While another letter is written while her dramatisation of Rebecca was being premiered in Edinburgh: "As long as the London audience realise the thing is an honest-to-God melodrama, and not a Noel Coward comedy, it should do, but if they expect something brilliant they will be disappointed".

    Among non-literary events of her life covered by these letters, is her engagement and marriage to the future general 'Boy' Browning of Parachute and Airborne Division fame ("...It is perhaps a strange coincidence that my earliest recollections should be the sound of bugles in Albany Street barracks, the Reveillé to wake me an the Last Post to send me to sleep, that I should once more find myself in the same atmosphere... Tommy and I are going to be married. When I am not sure, probably early one morning in Lanteglos church before any one is awake, with the grave digger for witness... Your father (unwittingly!) pushed me a step further in the right direction when he spoke to me last week about the code of living, and a standard, and that marriage and children meant more in life than all the novels and successes ever written..."); the death of her father, the actor Gerald du Maurier ("...You are the greatest comfort to me always – just the knowledge of you being there. Its an appalling shock, we all thought he was getting better... I don't even want to get him flowers, he always told me how he hated the travesty of death... so I would like to go to a hill top and set free a lot of caged birds as a memorial, which was his sort of thing, but everyone would say I was mad..."); the birth of children ("...A daughter, bearing strong resemblance to Queen Victoria, has arrived to our great surprise...") and their marriages ("...the Guardsman says he would rather do six months in the Ypres Salient than go through it again..."); her husband's career ("...The Guardsman is now a Personage, he would have you know, and goes about in private trains with the Commander-in-Chief, with scarlet and gold blazing from his hat..."), misadventures and death ("...I cant plan or see ahead, and think I must somehow work through this first patch by answering all the letters..."); negotiations with the Rashleigh family to stay on at Menabilly ("...I said to them I would be prepared to let Kilmarth go, if I was given another 15 years at Menabilly from 1965-1980, with the proviso that at the end of that Time... I should be allowed to build a Dower house in the plot of my own choice. That if I were given these terms, I would undertake to pull down the north wing... I felt rather like Ho Ming, or whatever he is called, of North Vietnam, laying down conditions for a cease fire..."); the whole interspersed with often richly comic vignettes ("...This hotel is everything that the Jamaica Inn wasn't. Pile carpets, central heating, running water in rooms, private bath, etc, etc. I did not know such people as live here really existed outside French burlesques of 'the English'. Over-fed Colonels with swingeing stommachs and purple faces, then tight-lipped elderly spinsters. They all talk in whispers. Or else very loudly suddenly about their health. I suppose they are here because 'abroad' is too expensive..."). Never far from the surface of these letters, especially those written when far away on foreign postings, are her feelings for Cornwall that her friend naturally evoked: "In case you're surrounded by creatures and are feeling 'poky' and rather porpoise-shy, and want to go home, I send you in imagination the figure of little Jimmy Thomson, and the photograph of the 7 Rashleigh brothers, and Menabilly before dawn, and Lady Vyvyan's smile, and the sound of a nightjar, and the smell of honeysuckle, and all the azalias in the world – Daphne".

    Access to these letters was granted by the family to Margaret Forster, who quotes extracts in Daphne du Maurier, 1997, where she writes of their friendship: 'Foy was eight years older than Daphne and led the life of a Victorian daughter at the Haven, very much under her father's influence, which was rather repressive. But behind the dutifulness Foy was an independent spirit and Daphne quickly came to appreciate her finer points... Soon she was thinking of Foy and Clara Vyvyan [with whom Foy lived at Trelowarren] as her two closest friends... The three women were all slightly unusual, not to say eccentric, in appearance, with Daphne in her (for the times) daring red slacks, Foy in a jumble of old clothes, and the much older Clara in the inevitable beret over hair she had never cut in her life' (p. 70).
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  1. Simon Roberts
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