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‘Adieu Sagesse’, or Troubled Identities in Du Maurier's Fiction

Rule Britannia, Brexit and Cornish Identity

Rule Britannia, Brexit & identité cornouaillaise
Ella Westland

Résumés

Cet article replace Rule Britannia dans son contexte politique, géographique et biographique alors que le dernier roman de Daphne du Maurier trouve désormais de nouvelles résonnances dans les discours sur le Brexit à la suite du référendum de 2016. Alors que Vanishing Cornwall (1967) et The House on the Strand (1969) étaient tournés vers le passé au cours d’une décennie où l'industrie touristique en plein essor exploitait les représentations historiques de la péninsule, Rule Britannia (1972) représente un infléchissement nouveau dans la relation que du Maurier entretient avec la Cornouailles contemporaine. La décision de faire entrer la Grande-Bretagne dans le marché commun européen et la montée du nationalisme celte eurent une incidence majeure sur le roman. Il en fut de même, sur le plan autobiographique, de son déménagement de Menabilly à Kilmarth, ainsi que de sa relation personnelle avec les Cornouaillais ou avec son pays d’adoption, alors qu’elle était sur le point de cesser d’écrire des œuvres de fiction.

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1Rule Britannia (1972) was created at the confluence of two currents in Daphne Du Maurier’s life: her personal experience and her political environment. Where the currents mingled, Cornish identity emerged as the theme that could draw together pressing concerns affecting both her own future and the evolution of Cornwall. Although all fiction is inevitably shaped to a greater or lesser extent by biographical and contextual forces, Du Maurier’s work has generally deflected scrutiny on the latter count; her last novel, however, demands an interpretative approach that draws on both elements. Written at a late turning point in her life, the book shared a setting with her famed Cornish fiction, but dismayed her publishers and many of her readers by its jarring contrast to its predecessors in topic and tone. Rather than conjuring up the past, Daphne was using political issues of the day as touch papers for her plot; instead of exploring mysterious scenery and the darker recesses of the psyche, she presented a contemporary Cornish landscape and a cast verging on caricature. Rule Britannia’s experimental moulding of serious concerns in the form of hammed-up fiction has repelled serious analysis, but the novel deserves a more attentive reading than it has generally received, both for its intriguing treatment of wide-ranging national issues – not least Britain’s shifting relationships with Europe, the US, and its own Celtic peripheries – and for its unmistakable projection of the author herself into her ageing heroine, an eccentric incomer ready to throw in her lot with the Cornish people.

2The following pages trace the trajectory that led to the writing of Rule Britannia, a crazy novel in which the Cornish, armed with clay mining explosives, resist an American take-over of the UK that threatens to reduce the country to a theme park. This paper begins by examining Du Maurier’s renewed focus on Cornwall in later life, as she worked on Vanishing Cornwall and The House on the Strand – books that strengthened her understanding of the region’s identity and revealed her concern about the intrusion of tourism; it then draws attention to Du Maurier’s exposure to the wider historical forces that influenced her plot, from the Second World War to Britain’s entry into the European Common Market, throwing into relief her underrated awareness of contemporary issues. The article considers in some detail the growth of Celtic nationalism and Cornwall’s specific sense of ‘difference’, crucial contexts for the novel’s gestation; it discusses Du Maurier’s renewed respect for the Cornish people and highlights the significance of her move from the shelter of Menabilly to Kilmarth, where she overlooked the harbour that served the local clay industry. As an incomer who increasingly felt the need to ally herself with Cornish interests, she clearly identified with Rule Britannia’s feisty protagonist, Mad, who takes the side of the native rebels; she also needed to hold on to Mad’s irrepressible creative spirit as she faced the last years of her own life on the Cornish cliffs.

Vanishing Cornwall and The House on the Strand

  • 1 Margaret Forster, Daphne Du Maurier, London: Chatto & Windus, 1993, 351.

3In the late 1960s, reacting to major changes in her own life, Du Maurier turned back to Cornwall in her writing: Rule Britannia is the last of three books representing her adopted land in different genres. After the death of her husband Tommy in 1965, she was suffering a double bereavement. She had been coming to terms with the impending loss of Menabilly, the secluded house within walking distance of Fowey that she had leased for a quarter of a century, and contemplating their future life together at Kilmarth, the nearby dower house also owned by the Rashleigh family, which sits above Polkerris beach on the Par side of the headland. But she now found herself facing a different future as a widow in her new home. Knowing that she would be unable to immerse herself in writing a novel, Daphne chose this moment to confront Cornwall in a non-fiction work, accepting a proposal from her American publisher, Doubleday, on condition that her son Kits was the photographer.1 Vanishing Cornwall (1967) drew on images associated with the Cornish Revival movement which have been linked to the post-war expansion of tourism. Bernard Deacon cites Vanishing Cornwall, bracketed with Denys Val Baker’s tellingly titled The Timeless Land (1973), in making the case that:

  • 2 Bernard Deacon, “And Shall Trelawny Die? The Cornish Identity,” in Philip Payton (ed.), Cornwall Si (...)

Tourism and the associated outpouring of guide book literature on Cornwall […] created new differences and new myths often revolving around aspects of the landscape and a sense of “mystery.” (“And Shall Trelawny Die?” 206 2)

  • 3 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall [1967], London: Virago, 2007, 8.
  • 4 Christian Browning, Introduction. Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne Du Maurier, London: Virago, 2007, v- (...)
  • 5 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 1993, 360.
  • 6 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 171.

4In her early fiction Du Maurier cast her spell over her complicit upcountry readers by deploying cultural representations of Cornwall as an alluring “Other”. Vanishing Cornwall still bears traces of the Helford river’s enchantment in Frenchman’s Creek and the pagan scenes on Bodmin Moor in Jamaica Inn: the prologue ends, “The beauty and the mystery beckon still,”3 and early editions bear the subtitle The Spirit and History of an Ancient Land. But according to her son, Daphne “loathed” Doubleday’s provisional title of Romantic Cornwall, and successfully resisted the original concept of a fashionable coffee-table book, predicting that the format would turn her publication into “a tourist guide to encourage visitors.”4 She voiced no objection to discerning tourists who appreciated Cornwall in a similar way to herself, but she was reluctant to offer any further inducement to the type of holiday-maker she despised, those causing unsympathetic disruption during high season. Her editors’ determined attempts to cut “anti-tourism stuff” from the text5 failed to neutralise her caustic views on the summer invasion, when “coves and beaches covered with ice-cream cartons, cigarette-packets, corn-plasters and contraceptives daunt the intending swimmer, and the sound of radio, speed-boat and barking dogs pollutes the air.”6

  • 7 Ibid., 140.
  • 8 Ibid., 185.

5She was naive to suppose that an illustrated book by a celebrity would not play into the commodification of Cornwall that she derided, and on one level she understood this; on revisiting Jamaica Inn during her research, she had taken some of the blame for its touristification on herself: “As the author I am flattered, but as a one-time wanderer dismayed.”7 But as she had intended, Vanishing Cornwall is more than a tribute to the “beauty and the mystery” that might lure the unwanted visitor to the Celtic periphery. Although the book harks back to legend and evocative past times, conjuring up the phantoms of smugglers while unaccountably omitting Cornwall’s naval significance, her heavy-duty historical research also produced informative chapters on fishermen, tinners and clay-workers. As her title indicates, she worried that the place she loved was indeed “vanishing”, and in a glimpse of her last novel, when the Americans plan to use Britain as a nationwide tourist experience, she asks urgently: “What does the future hold for Cornwall? Will it indeed become the playground of all England […]?”8 But rather than turning her away, the Vanishing Cornwall project played a part in the process of bringing her closer to the Cornish people. Until that point, she had been deeply immersed in the Fowey area but only patchily familiar with other parts of the region. She was now growing increasingly conscious not only of the different strands that made up the history and geography of the peninsula but also of “Cornwall” as an entity. It was no coincidence that, in the 1960s, Cornwall’s sense of itself as an entity was changing too.

  • 9 This was not simply Du Maurier’s jaundiced perception. See Mitchell on “The 1960s Population Turnar (...)
  • 10 Daphne Du Maurier, The House on the Strand [1969], London: Virago, 2003, 2.
  • 11 Ibid., 89.
  • 12 Ibid., 41.
  • 13 Ibid., 2.
  • 14 Ibid., 173.
  • 15 Ibid., 90.

6Two years after the appearance of Vanishing Cornwall, Du Maurier published The House on the Strand (1969), her time travel book. Having moved her narrator, Dick Young, into her own home at Kilmarth, she could hardly have resisted some degree of identification with him. She would certainly have understood Dick’s addiction to his drug-fuelled escapes into another dimension under the tutelage of his professorial friend Magnus. Though as potently “brewed” in Daphne’s imagination as her greatest novels, much to the delight of her editors and readership, The House on the Strand expresses dread of her creativity drying up, of no longer being able to time travel, of saying farewell to the Magnus (or magus) whose sorcery enabled her to fly. And it restates her ever-present fear of losing her personal Cornwall, the lovely places around her, in a period when the population was visibly increasing and the landscape marketed for commercial gain.9 Within a short distance of Kilmarth Dick is faced by tourist bathing-huts “lined like dentures in an open mouth”,10 new bungalows with caravans in their driveways,11 the “straggling shops of Par”12 and the “sprawling tentacles of St Austell enveloping the countryside beyond the bay.”13 Even the nearby land worked by locals has been degraded: a farm building is a temporary “corrugated tin shed”14 and a local quarry is now “a tip for useless junk.”15 Revolted by a place past its sell-by date, Dick Young transports himself to a medieval world, more vivid than his tawdry present. He is also escaping an era when the New World is blatantly in the ascendant: Dick’s American wife is named Vita, as if she represents the life force of the future, while the Old World that Dick tries to cling to is fading. Like her “Young” narrator, Daphne may also have begun to feel that she had been born too late. American influence, soon to be embodied in the marines of Rule Britannia knocking on the door of her heroine’s cliff-top home, is already permeating to the extreme headlands of Britain’s far periphery.

7But Daphne is not Dick, and The House on the Strand cannot be read as advocating a retreat into an imagined “romantic Cornwall.” Dick, incapacitated, may be unable to face the future, but Daphne is determined to carry on. Following The House on the Strand – the transitional novel in her move – she did manage to settle in reasonably contentedly at Kilmarth, producing a collection of short stories (Not After Midnight), and apparently coming to terms with her more exposed location. As 1972 opened, she was fired up by her new project. Rather than being brewed in the Kilmarth basement or fuelled by fury about ugly beach huts, Rule Britannia was far more open to local economic and cultural realities, demanding that her readers take a closer look at the “real Cornwall.”

Historical Moments: European War to European Community

  • 16 Alan Kent, The Literature of Cornwall: Continuity, Identity, Difference 1000-2000, Redcliffe P, 200 (...)
  • 17 Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik, Daphne Du Maurier: Writing, Identity and the Gothic Imagination, Basi (...)
  • 18 Gina Wisker, “Dangerous Borders: Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca: Shaking the Foundations of the Romanc (...)

8It was a challenge that many have been reluctant to accept, not only because the book fails to take the reader back to Manderley again – or into the haunting Cornwall of Frenchman’s Creek and My Cousin Rachel – but also because it blemishes a treasured picture of the author. Du Maurier fans and even some of her biographers have been captivated by the idea of Daphne as a solitary dreamer, removed from contemporary life. Daphne herself was partly responsible for this myth through the enticing trail she laid in her autobiographical writing, from the early essay “House of Secrets” to the personal passages of Vanishing Cornwall. Tatiana de Rosnay, in her recent biography, has willingly followed her down that path. But there has been growing resistance from academics to the wishful thinking that has skewed readings of her life and her work. As far back as 2000, Alan Kent urged Du Maurier readers to move away from the “kind of ‘cult-of-personality’ criticism, which fails to recognize the historical moments of the texts’ creation”,16 a shift that was already under way through the adoption of Du Maurier into the developing field of Cornish studies. Feminist critics have long been particularly sensitive to “cultural moment” in their readings, seeing the social construction of identity as a vital component of her fiction.17 Gina Wisker, locating Rebecca in the years preceding the Second World War, went on to argue further against a “curiously widespread misreading of Daphne du Maurier” which saw her as “unable to face the realities of the build up to, eruption and aftermath of war around her”, insisting that an apolitical reading “sells the historical engagement of her works short.”18 As such feminist readers have appreciated, a biographical approach can lead to a deeper understanding of Du Maurier’s fiction when working in tandem with broader contextual analysis.

  • 19 Oriel Malet, Foreword. Letters from Menabilly, London: Orion, 1994, xiii.
  • 20 For example, recent acquisitions by the University of Exeter Archives, and the Rowley’s sale catalo (...)

9Daphne herself was more exposed to local and political affairs than is often assumed. Although there is a good deal of truth in the belief that she was a private person who craved solitude for her writing, her privileged Hampstead upbringing, her intimate knowledge of France, her role as an army officer’s wife, her visits to the States, and her husband’s post-war connections with the Royal Family were hardly calculated to cut her off from current events. As her friend Oriel Malet pointed out on the publication of Letters from Menabilly, her correspondence should “surely dispel the myth that she was ever a recluse.”19 The greater availability of Du Maurier’s letters, more of which can now be read in full rather than through the filter of her biographers,20 is having a noticeable influence on her current critics. And nowhere is the need for contextualisation plainer than in a reassessment of her last novel, which could hardly have been more topical.

  • 21 Daphne Du Maurier, Letters from Menabilly: Portrait of a Friendship [1993], London: Orion, 1994, 19 (...)
  • 22 Flavia Leng, Daphne Du Maurier: a Daughter’s Memoir, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 1994, 102. (...)
  • 23 Angela Du Maurier, It’s Only the Sister [1951], Truro: Truran, 2003, 242.
  • 24 Flavia Leng, op. cit., 67. See also Du Maurier’s letters to Tod, 26 Sept. 1943 and Easter Monday [1 (...)

10The idea of exploring collaboration and resistance in an occupied land had been in the back of Du Maurier’s mind for a long time. It was a strand in The Scapegoat (1957), set in France after the Second World War, but the location for its further development was as yet unspecified when she mentioned the idea to Oriel Malet in 1965.21 In deciding on the South West, Daphne appears to have been prompted by recollections of the war, when Cornwall had been under serious threat of invasion from Germany. Rule Britannia was plainly influenced by her own experience of passing German bombers and wired-off beaches. A land-mine clearance exercise smashed three of Menabilly’s windows; a soldier was blown up in her woods, and his horribly wounded colleague brought into her home.22 Her sister Angela wrote of the arrival of the American marines before D-Day: “It was late in ’43 when at last Fowey was well and properly invaded. By America.”23 Her daughter Flavia remembered the “curious Yanks” who would “swarm” around Menabilly in search of their mother’s autograph, causing her to hide on the roof and “peep down on the invaders below.”24 Here we can find the origins of key incidents in Rule Britannia. But a compelling sequence of events, both political and personal, led to the book being set not in the past but in the imagined future of a 1970s-style Brexit.

  • 25 For example, Ali Smith, Autumn (Hamish Hamilton, 2016) and Jonathan Coe, Middle England (Viking, 2 (...)
  • 26 Quoted in Tatiana De Rosnay, Manderley Forever: The Life of Daphne du Maurier [2015], translated by (...)

11The headline story that provided Daphne with the mainspring of her new plot was the UK’s imminent entry into the European Community (known as the Common Market), which Parliament had endorsed in October 1971 despite bitter opposition from many politicians. Rule Britannia fast-forwards a few years to imagine the chaotic aftermath of Britain’s sudden withdrawal from Europe following a referendum later in the decade. In post-2016 British bookshops, “Brexlit” briefly proved to be an irresistible presence,25 but writers including John le Carré and Ian McEwan, furious about the recent referendum result, have been pre-empted by nearly fifty years by Rule Britannia. Daphne understandably found it strange that there were readers both in the UK and the US who did not appear to realise that her novel was “FOR Great Britain’s entry into Europe.”26 With her own French heritage, it would be astonishing to assume that she thought otherwise (or voted for Brexit – if indeed she did vote – when a referendum was actually called confirming Britain’s membership of the European Community in 1975). In her novel, Brexit proves catastrophic, resulting in a period of price hikes and acute unemployment until growing economic turmoil brings in the United States.

12As Rule Britannia’s readers well knew, Britain had been keen to maintain strong links with its wartime ally. Fostering Britain’s “special relationship” with the States during the Vietnam era had been a concern of Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the sixties, and visits to London by newly-elected President Richard Nixon during 1969 and 1970 were highly publicised. In the novel, however, American marines arrive not as D-Day saviours or international friends, but as the dominant partner in a so-called alliance which is in effect a take-over. Playing its demeaning role in USUK, Britain is being pressured into becoming a huge theme park: the incarnation of Daphne’s disgust at mass tourism, and her shrewd reaction to the effect of American soft power on the United Kingdom. Du Maurier’s fictional “what if” magnified her sense of American cultural and diplomatic influence over Britain into a military threat, and brought it into conflict with another rising power much closer to home: Celtic nationalism.

Celtic Nationalism and Cornish Difference

  • 27 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 377-378; Du Maurier, Letters, 220-221.
  • 28 Rowley’s sale catalogue, 4 October 1976: “If a bye-law is passed, forbidding the dog-owners of Cor (...)
  • 29 Daphne Du Maurier, BBC, 31 August 1971, accessed via BBC i-player; from 48 mins.

13At the extreme end of Celtic protests was the IRA. In 1970, after her arrival at Kilmarth, Du Maurier had written “A Border-line Case”, a story about an IRA bombing based on an army friend of Tommy’s with later IRA links, who died in 196927 – yet another reminder of how far from the mark it is to think of Daphne as cut off from political life. Although she presented here a rather romanticised view of IRA violence, and even jokingly threatened to use pseudo-IRA tactics in a letter to her local Council about a proposed bye-law to keep dogs off beaches,28 it is unlikely that she ever underestimated the seriousness of the IRA’s campaign. A striking illustration of the impossibility of shutting out such current events appears in a televised BBC interview broadcast in 1971. Towards the end of Wilfred De’Ath’s fifty-minute programme, filmed in and around Kilmarth, the uninviting “Private” sign on her gate is fully visible as the crew leaves the premises, followed by a final scene of Daphne alone, putting up her feet and turning on the television. What we immediately hear is the opening of the nine o’clock news on BBC One, starting with a headline about the IRA.29 Once you let TV into your living room as Daphne had taken to doing, disquieting world news is right there, in your life, every day, no matter how removed from society you may appear to be.

14As 1972 got under way, grim news of the conflict in Northern Ireland overshadowed the political story of Britain’s imminent entry into Europe. On 22 January, the British army closed off the beach at Magilligan Strand, County Derry, where an anti-internment protest was being held, before going in with rubber bullets and CS gas. Daphne wrote to Maureen Baker-Munton:

  • 30 Rowley’s sale catalogue, 27 January 1972.

I am in full spate with the book, and it goes well. I doubt if it will hit the headlines […] but I personally think its [sic] so funny that when […] [your husband] reads it his piles will burst anew […]. No need to tell you thst [sic] I had scarcely started writing about helicopters overhead and roped off beaches than the Drumbeat scare began! Am I psychic I ask myself?30

15Only three days after this letter was written, the British army killed thirteen protesters on what became known as Bloody Sunday. These Ulster confrontations provided a martial accompaniment to Rule Britannia’s unfolding plot, a case on the doorstep of an occupying force cracking down on a civilian population that could be readily deployed, almost in real time, in fiction.

16Welsh nationalism had also proved newsworthy throughout the 1960s. Members of the Free Wales Army were jailed following a trial in 1969, the same year that another Welsh group, M.A.C, managed to blow up two of their own supporters on the eve of the investiture of the Prince of Wales. (M.A.C.’s name, pronounced “Mac”, chimes rather neatly with the name of Daphne’s heroine, Mad.) In Rule Britannia, the ostensible role of Mr Willis, the odd Welshman nicknamed Taffy who lives in the woods, is to bring the Celtic groups together. He maintains that:

  • 31 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia [1972], Virago, 2004, 299.

[…] Welsh nationalism and Scots nationalism have been irritants in certain governmental circles for many years now, we all know that, but the Cornish are, shall I say, more secretive behind the usual open front. They are strong underground, very strong indeed. But with mining stock that’s natural, isn’t it?31

17Hunched over his radio, his intelligence network (if it exists at all) seriously flawed, Willis seems more like a figure left over from continental resistance movements of the 1930s and 1940s than a credible conspirator. He has saved Terry and hidden the gelignite, but has he really tapped into a vibrant and dangerous Cornish movement? Even Mad, ready to go along with the intrigue and broadcast over the airwaves at Taffy’s request, is not prepared to say.

  • 32 Bernard Deacon, “And Shall Trelawny Die?,” op. cit., 209.

18Although the clandestine force behind the novel’s unexplained detonations was only a figment of Daphne’s imagination, it was certainly true that Cornish people’s sense of difference from the rest of Britain had grown more pronounced in the 1960s, giving more sense of a Celtic connection. The development of tourism and widespread immigration into Cornwall, far from weakening ethnic identity, had actually strengthened it; Bernard Deacon convincingly argues the case that a “renewed sense of ‘difference’ was heightened by a reaction to social change rather than submerged by it.”32 And the social and demographic changes that were bringing local people to a more conscious sense of their own Cornishness were having the same effect on Daphne.

  • 33 Bernard Deacon, Garry Tregidga & Dick Cole, Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism, Cardiff: Ashley (...)
  • 34 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 187-188.

19This trend was marked by the improving fortunes of Mebyon Kernow, an organisation set up in the 1950s to promote Cornish culture and celebrate Cornish “difference”, which was growing more politically active; in the following decade, MK began to field candidates in local elections, and in 1970 put up its first parliamentary candidate (Deacon et al. 44-58).33 In Vanishing Cornwall, Daphne observed that Cornish people “are in the main indifferent to mushroom growth and change”, which they associate with economic gain; by contrast, “That stalwart band of Cornish nationalists, Mebyon Kernow, would go to the other extreme and put the people into black kilts, speaking the old Cornish language, with a Parliament west of Tamar.” She argued that instead they should seek ways of “preserving Cornish individuality and independence, keeping the coast and countryside unspoilt, with people fully employed.”34 MK responded by inviting Daphne to join the party. She wrote to Oriel Malet with amusement:

  • 35 Letter to Oriel Malet, 10 November 1967, 212.

I have been made a Member of the Nationalist Party of Cornwall, called Mebyon Kernow (Sons of Cornwall) and given a badge to wear, and a thing to stick in my car, and I can hardly wait to go and blow up a bridge, like your Welsh Nationalists!35

20And some months later she reported:

  • 36 3 February 1969, 225. The editor of MK’s party magazine, Cornish Nation, at this time was Derek To (...)

I’m having rather fun with the Cornish Nationalists, Mebyon Kernow. I wrote the article for their paper, and am all in with the editor, and now it seems that M.K. are vaguely in league with the Welsh Nationalists, and the Breton ones too […].36

  • 37 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 440 note 8.

21MK was not the only party vying for Cornish votes. The 1960s saw a parallel rise of the Liberals in Cornwall, who were becoming a potent political force under the influence of young David Penhaligon, an immensely popular local politician with a strong Cornish accent. Penhaligon was adopted as the Liberal Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for the Truro constituency in 1971, committed to fighting hard to give Cornwall more weight at Westminster. Daphne’s long-time friend Arthur Quiller-Couch was an active supporter of the Liberals; her local Member of Parliament between 1964 and 1970, Peter Bessell, with whom she had a brief correspondence about Rhodesia,37 was both a Liberal and a member of MK. With her personal connections and the Cornish media’s regular coverage of local politics, Daphne would have been well aware of these developments, and her involvement with Mebyon Kernow shows that her views were far from neutral.

  • 38 For similar comments, see Joanie Willett, Rebecca Tidy, Garry Tregidga & Philip Passmore, “Why did (...)
  • 39 See for example, The Telegraph, 22 June 2014, <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-came (...)
  • 40 Goodhart contends that, although the Remain/Leave divide does not map “straightforwardly” onto his (...)
  • 41 The vote in Cornwall was based on competing assumptions, and on this occasion Mebyon Kernow backed (...)

22If the Cornish did not flock to MK in large numbers, and showed little enthusiasm on the question of Cornish independence, that is not to say that they did not have a growing sense of Cornwall’s separateness from the rest of England and their distance from what we currently call the “metropolitan élite.” The sentiment to which Penhaligon appealed was memorably articulated in the words of an elderly lady I was canvassing before an election a few years ago on her doorstep in the Clay Country: “They up there don’t care about we”38 and has recently been reinforced annually in the press by the dismay expressed by Westminster politicians unable to find a decent mobile phone signal on their summer holidays.39 Such continuing anti-London attitudes have undoubtedly been a factor in the recent rise of UKIP, who successfully put six councillors onto Cornwall Council in 2013, and in the majority of voters in Cornwall who opted for Brexit in the referendum of 2016 (56.5%). A recent analysis of the split in the country as a whole marked by the Remain/Leave divide has been compared to opposing groups of Anywheres and Somewheres: Anywheres are happy to be mobile throughout their lives, whereas Somewheres can hardly conceive of leaving the community where they were born.40 That model certainly fits Daphne’s perspective. One of her strongest early impressions of the Cornish was their feeling of belonging, which tied the four generations of the Coombe family in The Loving Spirit to “Plyn” (Polruan), and made Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn homesick for the Helford. Although her own sympathies would surely have remained with those voters who believed that Cornwall would have a better future within the European Union, she would certainly have understood the gut reaction expressed by the Leavers in the 2016 referendum.41

The Cornish People and the Clay Country

  • 42 Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, 176-177.
  • 43 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 181; Flavia Leng, op. cit., 89, 105-106.

23From her early experience of Cornwall, Daphne began to appreciate the distance and difference of Fowey from London, and began to adopt the view from the periphery. She came to detest patronising attitudes to the Cornish, epitomised in Rule Britannia by Emma’s father, a merchant banker, who talks of “the hoi polloi of your precious peninsula” and maintains that “once you cross the Tamar you might as well be in Tibet”42 – sentiments that do not come across as exaggeration once you have listened to public schoolboys en route to their summer holiday in Rock referring to locals as “peasants.” Daphne herself was undeniably class conscious, keeping her children out of Tywardreath School when the family arrived at Menabilly and showing annoyance at their determination to sneak out and play with the local “honks.”43 She was in the privileged position of bringing paid help into the house – cooks, housekeepers, and the cleaners she sometimes referred to as “minions” – and references to local staff in her letters can be less than flattering. Characters playing these roles in her work are rarely depicted memorably: Mrs. Tucket, the daily woman in September Tide, a play set at Ferryside, is presumably Cornish, though she is used mainly as a comic foil to the yachtees and artists in the drama, and on the page the dialect does not come across. But these instances are far from painting the full picture, and Daphne clearly knew and liked local people of many different backgrounds.

  • 44 Helen Doe, Jane Slade of Polruan, Truro: Truran, 2002, 99-105.
  • 45 Daphne Du Maurier, Myself When Young [first published as Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer], L (...)
  • 46 Flavia Leng, op. cit., 54.
  • 47 Forster’s note on George Hunkin (Margaret Forster, op. cit., 431 note 2) shows some confusion. Dap (...)
  • 48 Daphne Du Maurier, Letters, op. cit., 202.

24Daphne saw a good deal of the Cornish writer Arthur Quiller-Couch, Commodore of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club, and his daughter Foy, from the 1920s onwards. She came to know some of the local gentry, including Angela’s friend Anne Treffry at Place House in Fowey, and became great friends with Clara Vyvyan of Trelowarren on the Lizard Peninsula. Some of the first local people she met were from the Slade boatbuilding family in Polruan, the inspiration for the Coombes in The Loving Spirit; it was Harry Adams (married to the granddaughter of Jane Slade) who became the Du Maurier family’s boatman, taught Daphne to fish and sail, and gave her access to the family letters and the ship’s figurehead that formed the basis of the novel. Daphne stayed in touch with the family, always spoke of them warmly, and in 1943, was able to buy and save one of the Slade boatyards.44 She was also regularly in contact with the Bodinnick boatbuilder George Hunkin and his wife Adeline, who had brought about her first meeting with Tommy and attended her wedding;45 their son Charlie took on the management of the Brownings’ boatyard in Polruan. Daphne’s young daughters enjoyed spending the occasional day at the Hunkins’ home during the war, when Adeline’s sister (the Brownings’ cook, Mrs. Hancock, known as ‘Hanks’) was living there,46 and later George used to call on Thursday afternoons for tea with Daphne at Menabilly.47 On her move to Kilmarth, Daphne’s relationship with Esther Rowe, a young Cornish woman who ended up being her housekeeper for thirty-one years, grew closer when Esther moved next door. She continued to show her ready admiration for Cornishmen involved in traditional trades like boatbuilding, fishing and farming: on first meeting her tenant farmer at Kilmarth Daphne liked him immediately, describing him as “the real old-fashioned Cornish type.”48

  • 49 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, op. cit., 148.
  • 50 Ibid., 58.
  • 51 Ibid, 54.
  • 52 Ibid., 50.
  • 53 Local people may read the novel differently. Cornishman Bert Biscoe was unconvinced by my argument (...)

25Daphne’s sympathy with the Cornish does not, however, translate into convincing characters in her later novels. Bit parts in The House on the Strand include the daily woman, Mrs. Collins from Polkerris, and dependable Tom, “a stalwart fellow with a ready smile”, whose yacht, mackerel lines, and motor-boat converted from an old lifeboat, conflate the commendable Cornish types of sailor, fisherman and life-saver.49 Even in Rule Britannia, despite its Cornish theme, local people can be read as affectionate caricatures rather than serious attempts to engage with regional representation. But then that, I would argue, is the nature of this larger-than-life fiction. The local doctor is called Bevil, a tribute to the Royalist hero of the Civil War, Bevil Grenville; the fishmonger is named Tom “Bate”, and comes out with dialect lines like “Go to it, me old ’andsome”;50 the farmer Jack Trembath is “a big man with powerful shoulders, who used to wrestle for Cornwall against Brittany in his younger days.”51 Their common traits are dependableness and practical abilities, loyalty to Cornwall and bravery in the face of an invasion that threatens their way of life. Only the publican goes over to the enemy, selling his birthright for a quick buck from the marines. The most despicable sentiments among the working classes come from the Bristol-born ham-slicer in the supermarket – hardly surprising, since he hails from the wrong side of the Tamar.52 This supporting cast is consciously constructed from stereotypes: in Rule Britannia it is not three-dimensional Cornish characters at stake, but the Cornish spirit.53

  • 54 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 356.
  • 55 See Daphne du Maurier, BBC, 31 August 1971, accessed via BBC i-player; from 10 mins.

26Similarly, the plot’s engagement with local clay industry is more symbolic than naturalistic. Although clay-workers are not represented among the dramatis personae, they presumably provide the explosives that blow up the warship and drive away the American fleet in the book’s final pages. It is a striking dénouement that can plausibly be attributed to Daphne’s move to Kilmarth, which gave her, physically and mentally, a new orientation. Although she had moved only a mile from Menabilly as the crow flies, the Clay Country around St Austell was tangibly closer, meaning that she now had to incorporate local industry into her daily experience of Cornwall. She was living nearer to the village of Par (the novel’s “Poldrea”), and having taken up driving again, she would have encountered more local people than before on her regular shopping trips, inevitably meeting families involved in the local clay industry.54 More powerfully, the impact of Par Harbour on her personal landscape would have struck her nearly every day, when any walk from her new home onto the cliffs above Polkerris gave her a close-up view of the cargo ships and the recently rebuilt clay drying sheds across the water, a strikingly different scene from the more picturesque coastal vistas she adored.55 In an essay on “A Winter’s Afternoon, Kilmarth”, written in 1970, she embraces her view of Par’s working harbour:

  • 56 Daphne Du Maurier, “A Winter’s Afternoon, Kilmarth” [1970], The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories (...)

The port is jammed with shipping. Every berth seems full. Derricks appear to intertwine, crisscrossed at every angle, and now that the wind has shifted a few points west it brings the welcome sound of industry, power plants at work, engines whining, men hammering, chimneys pouring out great plumes of smoke, white and curling like the sea. Pollution? Nonsense, the sight is glorious! […] The white waste from the clay, regretted by some, scatters a filmy dust upon the working sheds, and the bay itself has all the froth and dazzle of a milk churn spilt into a turbulent pool. Tourists may seek the golden sands of holiday brochures if they like, but to swim in such a sea is ecstasy – I have tried it, and I know!56

  • 57 In her 1978 foreword to Philip Varcoe’s booklet, China Clay, Daphne describes her parents’ initial (...)
  • 58 Daphne Du Maurier, The Loving Spirit, London: Heinemann, 1931, 197.

27Living in the Fowey area, it was impossible to ignore the Clay Country, the strange pyramids of spoil visible on the horizon on your route into St Austell, the white “Cornish Alps” asserting their spectacular presence as you drove inland. In The Loving Spirit, Daphne had noted the ships exporting clay from the port on the Fowey river, vessels which the Du Mauriers had watched as they passed Ferryside;57 Castle Dor briefly surveyed the “ugly villages” and the “great white clay peaks themselves, turning the moorland landscape into an unlikely range of mountains.”58 Daphne paid closer attention to the atmospheric landscape of her local industry in research for Vanishing Cornwall, claiming that:

  • 59 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 145.

These clay-heaps, with their attendant lakes and disused quarries, have the same grandeur as tin mines in decay but in a wilder and more magical sense, for they are […] mountains formed out of the rocky soil itself […].59

  • 60 Ibid., 146.
  • 61 Trower, 203.
  • 62 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 148.

28She also acknowledged that “The clayman, like the tinner, is an individual with his own traditions”,60 a way of life that outsiders cannot fully comprehend. Shelley Trower, discussing representations of the Clay Country by writers and film-makers, points to their typical adoption of an outsider’s response to its environmental destructiveness or weird beauty; in her analysis of Vanishing Cornwall, however, she acknowledges that Du Maurier at one point “recognises a crucial difference […] between the perspective of the clay-worker and the visitor”61 in her observation: “[…] the clay-worker will continue to blast and excavate, the wanderer to stare in fascination upon this strange white world of pyramid and pool”.62 On coming to live on the cliff opposite Par Harbour, Daphne would find that this distance between wanderer and worker was to shrink, with immediate consequences for her imaginative world.

  • 63 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, 82, op. cit., 269.
  • 64 Ibid., 114.
  • 65 Alan Kent, “A Sustainable Literature? Ecocriticism, Environment and a New Eden in Cornwall’s China- (...)

29In Rule Britannia, readers never enter the Clay Country, but we know that Terry’s friends working at the pits can get hold of gelignite while the dockers at “Poldrea” Harbour have access to the American ships.63 Nanpean, mentioned as the location of an explosion and one of the few unchanged place names in Rule Britannia, is situated in the heart of the clay area.64 This industry has reshaped Du Maurier’s concept of Cornwall, not in the sense of supplying a new landscape or local characters, but through her recognition of another dimension in the Cornish economy. Here is a class of skilled men to match the maritime boat-builders, the sea-going fishermen and the rural farmers who had previously impressed her. Alan Kent, the Cornish academic whose first novel was entitled Clay, in considering writers from the clay area, has proposed that “the Cornish imagination tends to embrace the ‘anti-pastoral’ for telling it like it is”, resisting romantic Revivalist modes for a harsher industrial realism.65 In acknowledgement of her new-found relationship with her adopted homeland, Daphne can be seen as turning almost instinctively towards this grittier literary tradition.

The Incomer in League with the Locals

  • 66 Bernard Deacon, A Concise History of Cornwall, Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2007, 185. See also Kent, who (...)
  • 67 Rachel Moseley, Picturing Cornwall: Landscape, Region and the Moving Image, Exeter: U of Exeter P, (...)
  • 68 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 171.
  • 69 Ibid., 187. In correspondence from Kilmarth she discourages fans contemplating a move to Cornwall, (...)

30Du Maurier, particularly in the later phase of her career, has been grouped with those “outsiders who synthesized their own personal identity with Cornwall.”66 The Cornish themselves like to make an issue of identity, generally falling back on a definition where “local” means (at least) second generation. But notions of insideness and outsideness will of course always be contested. In her recent book on visual representations of Cornwall, Rachel Moseley has adopted a “view from the bridge” as a way of avoiding “any essentially different view of knowledge of place based on some idea of an ethnically authentic Cornishness”; her use of the term “insider” indicates not ethnicity or established habitation but, more loosely, “a connectedness to place which comes through significant and meaningful experience of it over both time and space.”67 This goes some way towards understanding Du Maurier’s use of Cornwall in earlier novels, but connection with a place is not necessarily the same as connection with a people, an important distinction at this later point in Daphne’s life. And Moseley’s insider is not necessarily the same as a settled incomer, someone like Daphne whose origins were elsewhere – in her case, among the “metropolitan élite” – but who lived for decades in the same part of Cornwall. The closest she came to defining her own relationship with her Cornish-bred neighbours was in Vanishing Cornwall, where she included herself in a single category of “elderly natives by birth or by adoption.”68 Sharply distinguishing herself from those “more recent newcomers” who threaten disruptive change, she is one of “the people who came to settle and put down roots.”69 What she had discovered was the significance above all of an incomer’s allegiance, shifting over time, which overcame any other annoyance with contemporary Cornwall. The most marked shift of all appears to have taken place in the course of Daphne’s move to Kilmarth with her creation of Mad, an indomitable old woman in league with the locals.

  • 70 Daphne Du Maurier, “A Winter’s Afternoon, Kilmarth,” op. cit., 285.
  • 71 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, op. cit., 12.
  • 72 Alison Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars, Oxon: Rout (...)
  • 73 Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik, op. cit., 185.

31Initially intended as a tribute to the actress Gladys Cooper, a long-time friend of the Du Maurier family, 79-year-old Mad became a batty incarnation of Daphne herself. This theatrical character, revelling in disruption and resistance to authority, may have seemed to the novel’s first readers unrecognisable as the respectable Lady Browning. But Daphne had always felt herself to be a rebel in spirit, a theme that runs convincingly throughout Margaret Forster’s biography. In “A Winter’s Afternoon, Kilmarth”, she had depicted herself on the cliffs in her new incarnation very much in the guise of her future heroine, down to her description of herself in a dog-walking outfit with radical Russian overtones: “Dressed like Tolstoy in his declining years, fur cap with ear flaps, padded jerkin and rubber boots to the knee”;70 Mad’s costume, described two years later, is further exaggerated, sartorially and politically, as “a combination of Robin Hood and the uniform worn by the late lamented Mao Tse-Tung.”71 Did Daphne fantasise about an eccentric old age as a final escape from the dilemma foregrounded by feminist critics, as twentieth-century women looked for “ways out of the blind alleys into which flights from respectable womanhood seemed to lead”72 and tried to negotiate “the precarious state of the aged woman in Western society”?73 Intriguingly, Tolstoy, Robin Hood and Chairman Mao are all, of course, men.

  • 74 Angela Du Maurier, It’s Only the Sister, op. cit., 15, 76-86.
  • 75 Ella Westland, “Introduction,” Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier, London: Virago, 2004, viii-ix.

32Even as a child in the nursery Daphne had identified boyishly with the diminutive outlaw Peter Pan, while her sister Angela was content to play the part of J.M. Barrie’s domesticated Wendy; Gladys Cooper, the younger Daphne’s alter ego, took the role of Peter when Angela later acted Wendy on stage.74 In Rule Britannia, the troop of Lost Boys brandishing bows and arrows, mothered by the Wendy-like character of Emma, turn the older Daphne’s alter ego, Mad, into another incarnation of Peter Pan, now a mischievous boy in an ageing body.75 The main action of the book shows Mad allying herself not with Cornish women but with the men who play traditional roles – with fisherman Tom Bate at the Town Hall meeting, with farmer Jack Trembath and Dr Bevil Summers in Operation Dung-Cart, with the Celtic rebel Willis in the woods and, through her adopted son Terry, with the clay-workers. And it also shows her exercising as much bloody-mindedness as the locals, determined to keep a piece of the action for herself.

Conclusion

  • 76 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, op. cit., 307.

33During her move from Menabilly, Daphne must have felt at her most vulnerable; despite her triumphant production of The House on the Strand, this haunting book nevertheless revealed her anxiety about fomenting more fiction. But on turning to face the clay works, she had found the inspiration for one more novel. By harnessing the Cornish spirit of self-reliance, their determination to pull through and resist oppression, she had summoned the energy to carry on writing. She must have been wondering, though: would Cornwall in the 1970s keep her spirit going through what had effectively become her retirement at Kilmarth? Could she come to terms with the new Cornwall rather than hanging onto the past? One explanation for Rule Britannia’s extravagant bravura may be the huge effort required to mask her fears. She desperately wanted to keep the get-out-of-jail card that was her creative spirit, expressed in Mad’s dying belief that we are all mountebanks and players to the end.76

34In fact she never published another novel, but at least she still had Cornwall, which was as vital to her as it had been since her discovery of Ferryside nearly half a century before. During the Menabilly years, she had perhaps felt more of a connection to the place than the people; on her move to Kilmarth, she had come full circle, reverting to the respect for the Cornish that had imbued her first book, The Loving Spirit. She could never forgive the post-war defacement of a much-loved land, but she must have felt, on completing Rule Britannia, that if anything could sustain her to the end, it would be Cornwall – not only the place where she had put down deep roots, but also its rebellious people.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

BROWNING Christian, “Introduction”, Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne Du Maurier, London: Virago, 2007, v-viii.

DEACON Bernard, “And Shall Trelawny Die? The Cornish Identity”, in Philip Payton (ed.), Cornwall since the War: The Contemporary History of a European Region, Truro: Institute of Cornish Studies/Dyllansow Truran, 1993, 200-223.

DEACON Bernard, A Concise History of Cornwall, Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2007.

DEACON Bernard, Garry TREGIDGA & Dick COLE, Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism, Cardiff: Ashley Drake, 2003.

DE ROSNAY Tatiana, Manderley Forever: The Life of Daphne du Maurier [2015], transl. Sam Taylor, Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2017.

DOE Helen, Jane Slade of Polruan, Truro: Truran, 2002.

DU MAURIER Angela, It’s Only the Sister [1951], Truro: Truran, 2003.

DU MAURIER Daphne, “A Border-line Case”, Not After Midnight, London: Gollancz, 1971, 109-171.

DU MAURIER Daphne, “Foreword”, in Philip Varcoe, China Clay: The Early Years, St. Austell: Francis Antony [1978], 3-5.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Frenchman’s Creek, London: Gollancz, 1941.

DU MAURIER Daphne, “House of Secrets” [1946], The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980, 33-41.

DU MAURIER Daphne, The House on the Strand [1969], London: Virago, 2003.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Jamaica Inn, London: Gollancz, 1936.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Letters from Menabilly: Portrait of a Friendship [1993], ed. Oriel Malet, London: Orion, 1994.

DU MAURIER Daphne, The Loving Spirit, London: Heinemann, 1931.

DU MAURIER Daphne, My Cousin Rachel, London: Gollancz, 1951.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Myself When Young [first published as Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer], London: Gollancz, 1977.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Rebecca, London: Gollancz, 1938.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Rule Britannia [1972], London: Virago, 2004.

DU MAURIER Daphne, The Scapegoat, London: Gollancz, 1957.

DU MAURIER Daphne, September Tide, London: Gollancz, 1949.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Vanishing Cornwall [1967], London: Virago, 2007.

DU MAURIER Daphne, “A Winter’s Afternoon, Kilmarth” [1970], The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980, 284-294.

DU MAURIER Daphne & Sir Arthur QUILLER-COUCH, Castle Dor [1962], London: Arrow, 1994.

FORSTER Margaret, Daphne Du Maurier, London: Chatto & Windus, 1993.

GOODHART David, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, London: Hurst, 2017.

HORNER Avril & Sue ZLOSNIK, Daphne Du Maurier: Writing, Identity and the Gothic Imagination, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998.

KENT Alan, Clay, Launceston: Amigo Books, 1991.

KENT Alan, The Literature of Cornwall: Continuity, Identity, Difference: 1000-2000, Bristol: Redcliffe P, 2000.

KENT Alan, “A Sustainable Literature? Ecocriticism, Environment and a New Eden in Cornwall’s China-Clay Mining Region”, Cornish Studies, Second Series, vol. 17, 2009, 51-79.

LENG Flavia, Daphne Du Maurier: a Daughter’s Memoir, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 1994.

LIGHT Alison, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars, Oxon: Routledge, 1991.

MALET Oriel, “Foreword”, Letters from Menabilly, London: Orion, 1994, xiii.

MITCHELL Peter, “The Demographic Revolution”, in Philip Payton (ed.), Cornwall since the War: The Contemporary History of a European Region, Truro: Institute of Cornish Studies/Dyllansow Truran, 1993, 135-156.

MOSELEY Rachel, Picturing Cornwall: Landscape, Region and the Moving Image, Exeter: U of Exeter P, 2018.

PAYTON Philip, “Paralysis and Revival: The Reconstruction of Celtic-Catholic Cornwall 1890-1945”, in Ella Westland (ed.), Cornwall: The Cultural Construction of Place, Penzance: Patten P, 1997, 25-39.

TROWER Shelley, Rocks of Nation: The Imagination of Celtic Cornwall, Manchester: U of Manchester P, 2015.

VAL BAKER Denys, The Timeless Land: The Creative Spirit in Cornwall, Bath: Adams & Dart, 1973.

WESTLAND Ella, “Introduction”, Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier, London: Virago, 2004.

WILLETT Joanie, Rebecca TIDY, Garry TREGIDGA & Philip PASSMORE, “Why did Cornwall vote for Brexit? Assessing the Implications for EU Structural Funding Programmes”, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, vol. 37, no. 8, 2019, 1343-1360.

WILLIAMS Allan M. & Gareth SHAW, “The Age of Mass Tourism”, in Philip Payton (ed.), Cornwall since the War: The Contemporary History of a European Region, Truro: Institute of Cornish Studies/Dyllansow Truran, 1993, 84-97.

WISKER Gina, “Dangerous Borders: Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca: Shaking the Foundations of the Romance of Privilege, Partying and Place”, Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 2003, 83-97.

Haut de page

Notes

1 Margaret Forster, Daphne Du Maurier, London: Chatto & Windus, 1993, 351.

2 Bernard Deacon, “And Shall Trelawny Die? The Cornish Identity,” in Philip Payton (ed.), Cornwall Since the War: The Contemporary History of a European Region, Truro: Institute of Cornish Studies / Dyllansow Truran, 1993, 200-223, 206. Deacon’s reference to Du Maurier and Val Baker appears in footnote 33 of the same article, page 221.

3 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall [1967], London: Virago, 2007, 8.

4 Christian Browning, Introduction. Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne Du Maurier, London: Virago, 2007, v-viii, vi.

5 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 1993, 360.

6 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 171.

7 Ibid., 140.

8 Ibid., 185.

9 This was not simply Du Maurier’s jaundiced perception. See Mitchell on “The 1960s Population Turnaround” (Peter Mitchell, “The Demographic Revolution,” in Philip Payton (ed.), Cornwall Since the War: The Contemporary History of a European Region, Truro: Institute of Cornish Studies / Dyllansow Truran, 1993, 135-156, 140-142), and Williams and Shaw on the impact of tourism: “The growth of mass tourism in Cornwall brought with it the demand for cheaper holiday accommodation. This was met by chalets, caravan and camping sites […] there was a 310% increase in the number of chalets between 1954 and 1964” (Allan M. Williams and Gareth Shaw, “The Age of Mass Tourism,” in Philip Payton (ed.), op. cit., 84-97, 87).

10 Daphne Du Maurier, The House on the Strand [1969], London: Virago, 2003, 2.

11 Ibid., 89.

12 Ibid., 41.

13 Ibid., 2.

14 Ibid., 173.

15 Ibid., 90.

16 Alan Kent, The Literature of Cornwall: Continuity, Identity, Difference 1000-2000, Redcliffe P, 2000, 178.

17 Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik, Daphne Du Maurier: Writing, Identity and the Gothic Imagination, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998, 2, 186.

18 Gina Wisker, “Dangerous Borders: Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca: Shaking the Foundations of the Romance of Privilege, Partying and Place,” Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, July 2003, 83-97, 84.

19 Oriel Malet, Foreword. Letters from Menabilly, London: Orion, 1994, xiii.

20 For example, recent acquisitions by the University of Exeter Archives, and the Rowley’s sale catalogue for “The du Maurier Collection” (particularly Daphne’s regular correspondence with Maureen Baker-Munton, much of it written from Kilmarth), which was generously shared on line at rowleyfineart.com for a short period in 2019. The Papers of Sir Victor Gollancz at the University of Warwick reveal Daphne’s interest across a spectrum of political matters from apartheid to nuclear disarmament.

21 Daphne Du Maurier, Letters from Menabilly: Portrait of a Friendship [1993], London: Orion, 1994, 190-191.

22 Flavia Leng, Daphne Du Maurier: a Daughter’s Memoir, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 1994, 102. See also du Maurier’s letter to Tod [Maud Waddell], 24 Jan. 194[4], University of Exeter Archives.

23 Angela Du Maurier, It’s Only the Sister [1951], Truro: Truran, 2003, 242.

24 Flavia Leng, op. cit., 67. See also Du Maurier’s letters to Tod, 26 Sept. 1943 and Easter Monday [1944], University of Exeter Archives.

25 For example, Ali Smith, Autumn (Hamish Hamilton, 2016) and Jonathan Coe, Middle England (Viking, 2018). Ian McEwan, who took 1980s Britain out of Europe in Machines Like Me (Jonathan Cape, 2019), followed up with his satirical post-referendum novella The Cockroach (Vintage, 2019). A key character in John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field (Viking, 2019) fulminates against the referendum; even Julian Barnes, publishing a biography on a completely different subject, The Man in the Red Coat (Jonathan Cape, 2019), has been unable to resist adding an author’s note on the country’s deluded departure from the European Union.

26 Quoted in Tatiana De Rosnay, Manderley Forever: The Life of Daphne du Maurier [2015], translated by Sam Taylor, Allen & Unwin, 2017, 288.

27 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 377-378; Du Maurier, Letters, 220-221.

28 Rowley’s sale catalogue, 4 October 1976: “If a bye-law is passed, forbidding the dog-owners of Cornwall to walk in the above places, I will personally guarantee to organise a campaign next season beside which the activities of the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland will seem like a curate’s tea-party.” The IRA connection shockingly surfaced again in 1979, when news came through to Daphne and her son on a picnic at Chapel Point that the distinguished war-time commander Lord Mountbatten, whom she had known through her husband, had been blown up on his fishing boat in County Sligo.

29 Daphne Du Maurier, BBC, 31 August 1971, accessed via BBC i-player; from 48 mins.

30 Rowley’s sale catalogue, 27 January 1972.

31 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia [1972], Virago, 2004, 299.

32 Bernard Deacon, “And Shall Trelawny Die?,” op. cit., 209.

33 Bernard Deacon, Garry Tregidga & Dick Cole, Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism, Cardiff: Ashley Drake, 2003, 44-58.

34 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 187-188.

35 Letter to Oriel Malet, 10 November 1967, 212.

36 3 February 1969, 225. The editor of MK’s party magazine, Cornish Nation, at this time was Derek Tozer (Deacon et al., Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism, 58 note 30). Possibly taking her cue from Du Maurier’s earlier letter, Forster (Daphne Du Maurier, 372) confusingly uses capital letters to refer to MK as the Cornish Nationalist Party; a breakaway party under this name was founded in 1975 – not to be confused with the Cornish National Party, founded in 1969 (Deacon et al. Mebyon Kernow and Cornish Nationalism, 56, 65-66).

37 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 440 note 8.

38 For similar comments, see Joanie Willett, Rebecca Tidy, Garry Tregidga & Philip Passmore, “Why did Cornwall vote for Brexit? Assessing the Implications for EU Structural Funding Programmes,” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, vol. 37, no. 8, 2019, 1343-1360, 1354.

39 See for example, The Telegraph, 22 June 2014, <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/10918171/David-Camerons-holiday-phone-signal-is-so-bad-he-calls-world-leaders-from-the-top-of-a-Cornwall-hill.html>, accessed on 20 May 2019.

40 Goodhart contends that, although the Remain/Leave divide does not map “straightforwardly” onto his Anywhere/Somewhere groupings, “the values, attitudes, preferences and intuitions of most Leave voters match up with a large part of the Somewhere world view” (David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, London: Hurst, 2017, 26).

41 The vote in Cornwall was based on competing assumptions, and on this occasion Mebyon Kernow backed Remain. In 1975, MK had supported the other side, while the newly formed Cornish Nationalist Party had upheld the idea of a stronger Cornwall in a united Europe; overall, though, regionalism did not have a significant impact on the 1975 referendum debate, and MK’s position on this issue does not appear to have made deep inroads into Daphne’s thinking. Rule Britannia was to her a clear statement of support for Britain’s place in Europe, a position that is implied in the novel by the repercussions of withdrawal, rather than explicitly raised.

42 Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, 176-177.

43 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 181; Flavia Leng, op. cit., 89, 105-106.

44 Helen Doe, Jane Slade of Polruan, Truro: Truran, 2002, 99-105.

45 Daphne Du Maurier, Myself When Young [first published as Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer], London: Gollancz, 1977, 154-157.

46 Flavia Leng, op. cit., 54.

47 Forster’s note on George Hunkin (Margaret Forster, op. cit., 431 note 2) shows some confusion. Daphne, in her own name, bought the Slade boatyard below East Street in Polruan, not George’s boatyard at Bodinnick, and sold it in the mid-1960s. George’s tea-time visits to Menabilly are recalled by Christian Browning.

48 Daphne Du Maurier, Letters, op. cit., 202.

49 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, op. cit., 148.

50 Ibid., 58.

51 Ibid, 54.

52 Ibid., 50.

53 Local people may read the novel differently. Cornishman Bert Biscoe was unconvinced by my argument on stereotyping, when we shared a platform at Fowey Festival in May 2019, pointing out that in the case of Jack Trembath, there were still wrestling matches with Brittany in the 1960s. It is also worth noting that traditional occupations like fishing and mining continue to hold symbolic potency in Cornwall. A persuasive motif of the pre-2016 referendum debate was the effect of European restrictions on fishing rights, even though the industry makes a relatively small contribution to the Cornish economy.

54 Margaret Forster, op. cit., 356.

55 See Daphne du Maurier, BBC, 31 August 1971, accessed via BBC i-player; from 10 mins.

56 Daphne Du Maurier, “A Winter’s Afternoon, Kilmarth” [1970], The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980, 284-294, 288.

57 In her 1978 foreword to Philip Varcoe’s booklet, China Clay, Daphne describes her parents’ initial concerns about Ferryside’s proximity to the noisy loading port at Fowey, and records her own ‘admiration for all that the china clay industry had done for Cornwall and Cornish men and women’ (3).

58 Daphne Du Maurier, The Loving Spirit, London: Heinemann, 1931, 197.

59 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 145.

60 Ibid., 146.

61 Trower, 203.

62 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 148.

63 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, 82, op. cit., 269.

64 Ibid., 114.

65 Alan Kent, “A Sustainable Literature? Ecocriticism, Environment and a New Eden in Cornwall’s China-Clay Mining Region,” Cornish Studies, Second Series, vol. 17, 2009, 51-79, 60.

66 Bernard Deacon, A Concise History of Cornwall, Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2007, 185. See also Kent, who notes earlier evidence of more active engagement with Cornish culture in Daphne’s contribution to Castle Dor and identifies a further “shift in du Maurier’s consciousness, and assimilation into the wider Cornish Revival” in later life. Alan Kent, The Literature of Cornwall: Continuity, Identity, Difference: 1000-2000, Bristol: Redcliffe P, 2000, 183-184.

67 Rachel Moseley, Picturing Cornwall: Landscape, Region and the Moving Image, Exeter: U of Exeter P, 2018, 5-7.

68 Daphne Du Maurier, Vanishing Cornwall, op. cit., 171.

69 Ibid., 187. In correspondence from Kilmarth she discourages fans contemplating a move to Cornwall, warning them of the degradation brought about by tourism, while insisting that her own “deep” roots could not allow her to live anywhere else. See, for example, Du Maurier’s letter to Mrs Warmby, 6 August 1975, University of Exeter Archives.

70 Daphne Du Maurier, “A Winter’s Afternoon, Kilmarth,” op. cit., 285.

71 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, op. cit., 12.

72 Alison Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars, Oxon: Routledge, 1991, 181.

73 Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik, op. cit., 185.

74 Angela Du Maurier, It’s Only the Sister, op. cit., 15, 76-86.

75 Ella Westland, “Introduction,” Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier, London: Virago, 2004, viii-ix.

76 Daphne Du Maurier, Rule Britannia, op. cit., 307.

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Ella Westland, « Rule Britannia, Brexit and Cornish Identity »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. 19-n°52 | 2021, mis en ligne le 29 novembre 2021, consulté le 06 décembre 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/13794 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/lisa.13794

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Ella Westland

When Ella Westland moved to Cornwall in 1989, on taking up a lectureship at the University of Exeter, she continued to publish on feminist issues and Victorian fiction. Intrigued by different representations of Cornwall, she edited a collection on Cornwall: The Cultural Construction of Place (1997) in collaboration with the University’s Institute of Cornish Studies. An enthusiast for du Maurier’s work, Ella became a founder of the annual Daphne du Maurier Festival (now Fowey Festival) and the organiser of two associated conferences. She has published Reading Daphne: A Guide to the Writing of Daphne Du Maurier (2007), contributed to Virago’s Daphne Du Maurier Companion (2007), and written the introduction to the Virago edition of Rule Britannia (2004).

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