|Katherine Huber||Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||The English first edition was published by Gollancz in August, 1938 in London.
The American first edition was published by Doubleday Doran and Company, Inc. in September, 1938 at the Country Life Press in Garden City, NY.
[The scanned images are of the American first edition.]
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||The American first edition was published in burgundy cloth.|
|3. Image of Cover Art||A1319980202202426.jpg|
|4. Pagination||[American first edition] 233 leaves pp.  1 2-457 [italics] 458|
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||The book is neither edited nor introduced.|
|6. Illustrated?||The book contains no illustrations.|
|8. General Appearance||[American first edition] The text is easy-to-read and well-centered. The individual lines of text are well-spaced. The ink is not smudged. The typeface is serif. The book is bound in burgandy cloth. A continuous strip of metallic silver inlay containing a metallic blue design showing a couple walking towards a house is centered on the front and back cover. On the spine, the silver inlay contains the following in metallic blue print: DAPHNE | DU MAURIER | REBECCA | DOUBLEDAY | DORAN.|
|9. Image of Sample Chapter Page||A1919980202202426.jpg|
|10. Description of Paper||[American first edition] The paper is thick and sturdy. The pages are yellowed, but they are holding up extremely well and are neither brittle nor cracked.|
|11. Description of Binding||[American first edition] The book is adhesively casebound. The binding is strong; it is neither broken nor cracked and all of the pages are still bound.|
|12. Title Page Transcription||154 mm x 96 mm boxed outline | DAPHNE DU MAURIER | REBECCA | [Doubleday insignia] | MCMXXXVIII | DOUBLEDAY, DORAN | [italics] and Company, Inc. | NEW YORK|
|13. Image of Title Page||A11319980202202426.jpg|
|14. Manuscript Holdings||Daphne du Maurier's papers and manuscripts are all in private holdings.|
|15. Other||The first printing in England was for 20,000 copies. My copy of the American first edition has a picture of Daphne du Maurier with her dog along with an advertisement for Rebecca pasted on the inside of the cover. The book contains 162,000 words, and the American first edition cost $2.75. The pages are ridged. The chapters are not named. On the first page of each chapter, the page number is centered at the bottom of the page instead of being at the upper-handed corners like the other pages. On the title page, the title is printed in an outlined serif typeface.|
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||The original English publisher, Gollancz, issued at least ten editions of Rebecca. No copies of these editions were able to be obtained for description.
The original American publisher, Doubleday, has issued 30 editions as of 1993. A later edition was obtained; however, I could not tell what edition it is. The cover is burgundy except for an inch on either side of the binding and the spine which are gray. The spine also had burgundy stripes and anchor emblems. The title page is the same as the first edition except it has the new Doubleday insignia instead of the old one. The typeface is the same as the first edition (serif), and it contains the same number of pages as the first edition.
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||The English first edition had at least nine printings. The first printing was for 20,000 copies, the second for 10,000 copies, the third for 15,000 copies, and the fourth for 15,000 copies.
The American first edition had at least 10 printings. The first, second, and third printings were before publication. The fourth printing was printed on October 4, 1938, the fifth on October 7, 1938, the sixth on October 17, 1938, the eighth on November 11, 1938, and the ninth on November 18, 1938.
|5. Editions from other publishers?||1938 Blakiston Co.
1938 Book League of America
1938 J.G. Ferguson
1938 Literary Guild of America
1938 P.F. Collier & Son, Corp
1939 Ladies' Home Journal (condensed)
1940 Garden City Publishing Co.
1941 Editions for the Armed Services
1941 Sun Dial Press
1942 Triangle Books
1943 The Modern Library
1943 Pocket Books
1945 Ryeson Press
1954 International Collector's Library
1962 Penguin Books
1965 Washington Square Press
1971 Avon Books
1975 Pan Books
1980 Octopus/Heinemann (published with Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel, also by du Maurier)
1987 The Franklin Library
1991 The Folio Society
1994 Reader's Digest Association (condensed)
|6. Last date in print?||Rebecca is in print |
|7. Total copies sold?||In 1938, Doubleday sold 205,706 copies including book club editions. (source: Publisher's Weekly, Jan. 21, 1939 edition, p. 197).
In 1939, Doubleday sold 162, 300 copies. (source: Publisher's Weekly, Jan. 20, 1940 edition, p. 217)
In the time span of 1938 to 1965, 2,820,313 copies of Rebecca were sold overall (all publishers, hardback, and paperback). In the same period, 1,194,587 hardback editions were sold (all publishers) and 1, 625, 726 paperbacks (all publishers)were sold. (source: 70 Years of Bestsellers).
|8. Sales by year?||Not known|
|9. Advertising copy:||The New Runaway Best-Seller! [picture of REBECCA] With the 1st and 2nd | printings of REBECCA | sold out before publication, the | 3rd printing just delivered, and the | 4th large printing on the press, Daphne du | Maurier's brilliant new novel of an unforgettable woman is rapidly becoming the | book sensation of the year. The first reviews say of it: " . . . no seeker after a good story | should be willing to miss it . . . the writing has an intensity, a heady beauty, which is | in itself the utterance of the story's mood."--New York Herald Tribune Books. "Almost | in a class by herself, Daphne du Maurier's special forte becomes increasingly estab- | lished: the ability to tell a good story and people it with a twinkling reality." --NY | Times Book Review. "An absorbing tale." --The Saturday Review. 457 pages, $2.75
Advertising copy from The New York Times Book Review, October 9, 1938, p. 15.
|11. Other promotion?||Daphne du Maurier did several radio interviews with BBC and other stations. In August of 1938, she attended Foil's Literary Lunch with two other female writers, E. V. Lucas and Margary Allingham. Articles on du Maurier also appeared in Good Housekeeping, Ladiesí Home Journal, and House & Garden.|
|12. Performances in other media?||Movies:
-Director: Alfred Hitchcock
-Produced by: Selznick International Pictures
-Runtime: 103 minutes
-Black and White
-Starring: Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter, Joan Fontain as the second Mrs. de Winter, and Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers.
-Screenplay by: Robert E. Sherwood
-This film version was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won for Best Cinematography and for Best Picture.
-Director: Simon Langton
-Produced by: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
-Runtime: 205 minutes
-Starring: Jeremy Brett as Maxim de Winter, Joanna David as the second Mrs. de Winter, and Anna Massey as Mrs. Danvers.
-Screenplay by: Hugh Whitemore
-Director: Jim OíBrien
-Produced by: Carlton TV / Portman Productions
-Starring: Charles Dance as Maxim de Winter, Emilia Fox as the second Mrs. de Winter, Diana Rigg as Mrs. Danvers, and Faye Dunaway as Mrs. Van Hopper.
-Screenplay by: Arthur Hopcraft
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Los Angeles: Audio Renaissance Tapes, 1993.
--4 cassettes, 6 hr., Dolby processed, read by Jean Marsh
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Newport Beach: Books on Tape, 1980.
--10 cassettes, 1.5 hr each, read by Jane Bullen
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Marlborough, Wiltshire: Cover to Cover Cassettes, 1983.
--11 cassettes, 14.75 hr, read by Anna Massey
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Downsview: Listen for Pleasure, 1983.
--2 cassettes, read by Claire Bloom
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Charlotte Hall: Recorded Books, 1988.
--11 cassettes, read by Alexandra OíKarma
du Maurier. Rebecca. New York: Warner Audio Publisher, 1985.
--2 cassettes, 120 min, read by Jane Alexander.
Josephs, Wilfred. Rebecca: an opera in three acts. London: Novello. 1986.
REBECCA, directed by Orson Welles, Mercury Theater/Campbell Playhouse, December 9, 1938.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. San Francisco: Mindís Eye. 1982.
--Presented on Lux Radio Theater, 1 cassette, 1 hr, starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
Adapted by Daphne du Maurier in 1940.
Performed at Queenís Theatre (dates not found)
Starring: Owen Naves as Maxim de Winter, Celia Johnson as the 2nd Mrs. de Winter, and Margaret Rutherford as Mrs. Danvers.
du Maurier, Daphne. Hu die meng. Taibie, Taiwan: Yuan Jing, 1979.
du Maurier, Daphne. Hi Tieh Meng. Tíai-nan, Tíai-wan: Hsin shih chi chíu pan she: 1972.
du Maurier, Daphne. Hu tieh meng: Rebecca. Hsin-chich (Hong Kong): Hung Kuang she tien, 1980.
--There are 11 other editions translated into Chinese.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca: roman. Paris: A. Michel, 1939.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Paris: Club Chez Nous, 1975.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Paris: Librairie Generale Francaise, 1984.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca: la prima moglie. Milano: A. Mondadori, 1940.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka. Tokyo: Mikasa Shobo, 1939.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka: Wakaki Musume No Shuki. Tokyo: Daviddosha, 1949.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka. Tokyo: Shincosta, 1971.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka. Riga: Riya. 1992.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka: roman. Riga: Folium, 1991.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka: roman. Izhevsk: Krest, 1992.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka. Moska. Dom, 1992.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebekka: roman. Kiev: muza, 1992.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca: Roman. Hamburg: Deutsch Hausbucherei, 1940.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca: Roman. Hamburg: Wolfgang Kruger, 1946.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca: Roman. Saarbrucken: Clubder Buchfreunde, 1940.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca: Roman. Wien: E. Kaiser, 1994.
--There are eight other editions translated into German.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca, a mulher inesquecivel. Sao Paulo: Companhia Editura Nacional, 1977.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebeca. Barcelona: Plaza and Janes, 1971.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebeca. Madrid: Ediciones La Nave: 1991.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebeca. Barcelona: Orbis, 1976.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebeca. Mexico: Eiditorial Diana, 1969.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebeca, una mujer inolvidable. Mexico: Editora Latin Americana, 1965.
du Maurier, Daphne. Ribika Tehran: Nashr-i Jahnnama, 1990.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Iran: Amir Kabir Brinting Co., 1980
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca: Roman. Bucuresti: Editura Orizonturi, 1993.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebeka. Katowice: Od Nowa, 1993.
du Maurier, Daphne. Revekka: mytgustirema, Athenai: Ekdosies Dem, Darema, 1960.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebeka: romans. Bruklina: Gramatudraugs, 1972.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Leiden: AW Sijhoff, 1941.
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Tihran: Amir Kabir, 1977.
du Maurier, Daphne. Mrtva a Ziva: [Rebeka]. Liberac: Dialog, 1996.
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||Sequel:
Hill, Susan. Mrs. de Winter. New York: W. Morrow, 1993.
This sequel is available in audio book and in Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Polish.
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
| Daphne du Maurier was born on May 13, 1907 in London, England. She was the second of three daughters of Gerald du Maurier, an eminent actor and manager, and Muriel Beaumont, an actress. Her grandfather was Gerald du Maurier, the author of Trilby and other novels. Her older sister Angela was born in 1904, and her younger sister Jeanne was born in 1910. Daphne and her sisters received good educations. She first attended a day school in Oak Hill Park and later was educated by two different governesses. In 1923, she went to finishing school in Camposura, which is near Paris.
Daphne published her first book, The Loving Spirit, in 1931 when she was 24. Her first publisher was Heinemann, and her agent was Curtis Brown Ltd., specifically Michael Josephs. In 1934, she switched changed her publisher to Victor Gollancz, who also became her agent, and Norman Collins became her editor. Daphne published fifteen novels, her most famous novels being Jamaica Inn (1936), Rebecca (1938), Frenchman’s Creek (1941), The King’s General (1946), and My Cousin Rachel (1951). Her novel Rebecca was accused twice of plagiarizing other works, but Daphne was absolved both times. She also published six collections of short stories, three plays, twelve non fiction books, and four essays. In her writings, Daphne demonstrates her fascination with her family’s history. She wrote a biography about her family, The du Mauriers (1937), a biography of her father, Gerald: A Portrait (1934), and a novel based on her ancestors, The Glass Blowers (1963). A complete list of her publications is given under Supplementary Materials.
Daphne met her future husband Frederick A.M. Browning, who was then a major in the Grenadier Guards, in April of 1932. Tommy, as she referred to him, and Daphne were married on July 19, 1932 after a six week engagement. They produced three children together: Tessa (1933), Flavia (1937), and Kits (1940). Because, she had always yearned for a son, Kits was by far Daphne’s favorite of her children. While she had barely taken an interest in her daughters after their births, she spent much of her time coddling her infant son. In 1942, Daphne and her family moved in to Menabilly, a house in Cornwall that they leased and then later bought. She fashioned Manderlay, the house in Rebecca, after Menabilly.
In 1952, Daphne was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Tommy died in 1965, leaving her broken-hearted. In 1969, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Also in that year, she moved out of Menabilly to a town named Par. In 1982, Daphne suffered a mild stroke, which left her heavily depressed. She died on April 19, 1989 in her sleep in Par. She had given up on life and stopped eating about sixteen weeks before her death. Her funeral was on April 26, and her children scattered her ashes over the Cornish Cliffs. She left her personal papers with her children. Her letters to Gollancz are held in the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick, and her letters to Ellen Doubleday are held in Princeton University.
|Rebecca received mixed contemporary reviews. “Rebecca is a book temptingly easy to criticize or to praise” (Manchester Guardian). Many have compared the novel to Jane Eyre, “Rebecca is a Charlotte Bronte story minus Charlotte Bronte, but plus a number of things which the latter would not have paused for . . . [the] plot is undoubtedly the kind of thing which the three girls of Haworth Parsonage would have liked to thrash out as they paced the dining-room arm-in-arm after Papa had gone to bed” (Spectator), and also to Cinderella. For the most part, the reviews were extremely positive. Many critics predicted the novel’s success. “Rebecca may well prove to be the most popular novel of the year” (London Times). “[Rebecca] will unquestionably be popular” (Manchester Guardian). Many reviewers also found Rebecca to be captivating and a read page-turner. “I am not ashamed to say that it held me so powerfully that I grudged all interruptions until it was finished” (Manchester Guardian). “The narrative, moving backward, rises slowly to a climax. You probably won’t put the book down, as the saying goes, until you get there” (Newsweek). “Rebecca is a spellbinder: give the book 60 pages, and you’re caught” (Atlantic Monthly). “Well pitched style and realism of character lend plausibility to sensational incidents and poignancy to the tenseness of the heroine and reader. Not to be lad aside until finished” (The New Republic). The critics also love the impending sense of doom as well as the suspense that Daphne du Maurier weaves so well into the plot. “First class romance of horror and suspense . . . Miss du Maurier knows all the tricks of contrasting innocence and sincerity with duplicity and evil. In fact, for this particular type of novel, she knows all the tricks” (New Yorker). “A sense of doom built up in the first few pages strikes the reader as a tour de force, brilliant but false” (Time). Daphne du Maurier’s writing style was heavily praised. “Greater novelists might well admire Rebecca’s craftsmanship” (Time). “There is often an understandable degree of suspicion toward the author who tosses the plot about with no apparent effort, and it is evident that Daphne du Maurier is having a lovely time with these manipulations. Yet she manages emotional suspense with a hand so deft, so steady that we could be won over to a murder or two . . . Almost in a class by herself, Daphne du Maurier’s special forte becomes increasingly established: the ability to tell a good story and people it with twinkling reality” (NY Time Book Review). Even the reviewers who did not like Rebecca commended du Maurier on her writing style and story-telling ability. “The author is clearly a natural writer, although one may resent her clichés . . . one wishes that Miss du Maurier had twice the ambition, and some of out literary artists half her craftsmanship” (New Statesmen and Nation). “Many a better novelist would give his eyes to be able to tell a story as Miss du Maurier does, to make it move at such a pace and to go with such mastery from surprise to surprise” (Christian Science Monitor). As to be expected, not all reviews were positive. “Miss du Maurier writes well, but not well enough. Her plot is good, but not good enough” (Canadian Forum). Reviews that were critical of Rebecca usually cited du Maurier’s tendency to be overly melodramatic as well as her over characterization of the two antagonists of the novel. “These two people momentarily disturbed my sense of reality in reading s did also the ‘cold dank fog’ that came up from the sea on the wrong kind of day at the wrong time of year and endured just long enough to serve the author’s rather too evident purpose” (Manchester Guardian). A few reviews criticized Rebecca for lacking anything substantial. Several of these reviews, one in particular, were downright sarcastic. “I have no doubt that anyone who starts this book will not be able to put it down until he has finished it; after that, I hope that he will wake up and laugh at himself . . . It would be absurd to make a fuss about Rebecca which will be here today and gone tomorrow like the rest of publicity’s ‘masterpieces’ . . . Those who think that I have crabbed a first-rate entertainment can comfort themselves with the fact that the great Gladstone loved the work of Marie Corelli and that chaps like me killed Keats” (Christian science Monitor).
Beresford, J.D. “Two Novels for Holiday,” Manchester Guardian. Aug. 5, 1938: 5.
Booklist. Oct. 15, 1938: 65.
Books. Sept. 25, 1938: 3.
Brown, Mildred F. “A Facile Novelist,” New York Times Book Review. Sept. 25, 1938.
Davenport, Basil. “Sinister House,” Saturday Review. Sept. 24, 1938: 5.
Furguson, Otis. “Slight Cases of Marriage,” New Republic. April 8, 1940: 474.
Godfrey, Eleanor. “The Second Wife.” Canadian Forum. Oct. 1938: 218.
Mair, John. New Statesmen and Nation. Aug. 20, 1938: 292.
The New Republic. Oct. 19, 1938: 316.
New Yorker. Oct. 1, 1938: 65-66.
North American Review. Winter 1939: 406.
“No Sunnybrook Farm,” Time. Oct. 24, 1938: 70.
O’Brien, Kate. Spectator. Aug. 12, 1938: 277.
Patton, John. “Exciting Modern Gothic Tale,” New York Herald Tribune. Sept. 15, 1938: 3.
Pritchett, V.S. Christian Science Monitor. Sept. 14, 1938: 12.
“Rebecca Returns,” Newsweek. Sept. 26, 1938: 29.11
Straus, Ralph. “Miss du Maurier’s Fine Romance,” The London Times. Aug. 5, 1938.
“Survival,” Times Literary Supplement. Aug. 6, 1938: 70.
Weeks, Edward. “On the Bookshelf.” Atlantic Monthly. Dec. 1938.
|Most subsequent reviews of Rebecca deemed the novel to be Daphne du Maurier’s best novel. Many reviews of her other novels compared her later works to Rebecca, and most reviewers felt that her later books could not hold a candle to Rebecca. “But [Rule Britannia] lacks the suspense, pageantry, and romantic insight of Rebecca . . .” (Time). Many critics have commented on the familiarity of the first sentence of the novel. “And the opening words of the gothic Rebecca became one of the best loved phrases in modern English literature” (Los Angeles Times). “With those famous opening lines of Rebecca . . . she created one of the classic Gothic romances” (The New York Times). “The beginning of Rebecca seems to me to be one of the three or four best opening sentences I have read” (The Washington Post, 4/23/89). Many reviews also commented on the impact that Rebecca has had on the literary world. “Miss du Maurier has been a household word for more than 30 years and the most famous Rebecca in the world today is not from Sunnybrook Farm or the Book of Genesis but from a lonely old English mansion called Manderley” (The NY Times Book Review). “Yet five years ago when . . . it had to be decided what was meant by a romantic novel, the general consensus of opinion was that there were only two real role models: Jane Eyre and, in our own time, Rebecca . . . No other popular novel of our time has ever had quite the emotional impact of Rebecca and no other popular novelist has so triumphantly defied classification as Daphne du Maurier. She satisfied all the questionable criteria of popular fiction and yet satisfied too the exacting requirements of ‘real’ literature, something very few novelists ever do” (The Sunday Times). “In the Thirties, Miss du Maurier was a kind of poor woman’s Charlotte Bronte. Her Rebecca, whatever one’s opinions of its ultimate merits, was a ‘tour de force’” (Statesman). The more critical reviews have recognized the psychological undertones that were overlooked in the novel’s contemporary reviews. “Her novel came well disguised as best-seller material, an intriguing story of love and murder--a ‘page-turner’ in modern parlance. But examine the subtext of ‘Rebecca’ and you discover a perturbing, darker construct, part Grimm’s fairy tale, part Freudian family romance . . . To pigeonhole du Maurier as the female author of an undemanding take aimed primarily at an undiscerning female readership was convenient and lazy; relegating her to the waste bin of women’s fiction saved the critics the bother of actually having to think” (New Yorker). The more recent reviewers also recognized du Maurier’s superb writing ability. “There is realism in ‘Rebecca’; the mores and speech patterns of the class and the era du Maurier is describing, for instance, are sharply observed. The elements that give ‘Rebecca’ its force, however, owe nothing to realism; its power lies in its imagery, its symmetry, its poetry--and that poetry is intensely female. The plot of Rebecca may be as unlikely as the plot of a fairy tale, but that does not alter the novel’s mythic resonance and psychological truth” (New Yorker). When du Maurier died in 1989, her obituaries all mentioned “Rebecca” and praised the novel for its literary merit. For the most part, recent reviews of “Rebecca” have been more positive and more analytical than the contemporary reviews.
Barnes, Bart. “Novelist Daphne du Maurier, Author of ‘Rebecca,” Dies,” Washington Post. April 20, 1989: D6.
Beauman, Sally. “Rereading Rebecca,” New Yorker. Nov. 8, 1993: 127 (12).
“‘Birds,’ ‘Rebecca’ Author du Maurier Dies at 81” Atlanta Constitution. Apr. 20, 1989.
Conway, Sarah Booth Conroy. “Daphne du Maurier’s Legacy of Dreams,” Washington Post, April 23, 1989: F1, F8.
“Daphne du Maurier. Author of Rebecca,” Washington Times. April 19, 1989: B4.
Eliason, Marcus. “Daphne du Maurier, at 81; Author of ‘Rebecca’ and Other Gothic Novels” Boston Globe. April 20, 1989.
Folkart, Burt A. “Daphne du Maurier, Author of ‘Rebecca’ and ‘The Birds,’ Dies,” Los Angeles Times. April 20, 1989.
Forster, Margaret. “Queen of Menacing Romance,” The Sunday Times, London. April 23, 1989: G8.
Hall, J. W. “Yesterday’s Stories,” Choice. Feb. 1995: 938.
Harbord, Janet. “Rereading Rebecca,” Feminist Review. Summer 1996: 95.
Herrera, Philip. “Recapturing the Flag,” Time. Feb. 12, 1973: 78.
Ives, Nancy R. “Enchanted Cornwell,” Library Journal. Jan. !990: 110.
Miller, Margaret. The New York Times Book Review. Oct. 17, 1971.
Mingtang, Herbert. “Daphne du Maurier, 81, Author of Many Gothic Romances, Dies” New York Times. Apr. 20, 1989: B13
Ott, Bill. “Rebecca,” American Libraries. Mar. 1993: 280.
Raymond, John. The New Statesmen and Nation. Aug. 11, 1951.
The Times, London. April 20, 1989.
Woman’s Journal. Dec. 1994: 18.
Village Voice Literary Supplement. Dec. 1993: 32.
| Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” continues to be a success today, sixty years after its publication. In her novel, du Maurier touches her reader’s heart with her heart breaking gothic romance set in the English countryside. “Rebecca,” which was a best seller in its time, contains many different elements that make it attractive to many different people. First of all, it is a mystery with suspense so thick that it is almost palpable. In addition, romantic elements of “Rebecca” attract the female audience, who continue to be susceptible to romances. “The latest best-seller list only confirm that the sly suggestion underlying ‘Rebecca’ remains valid after 55 years: both in life and in bookstores, women continue to buy romances” (New Yorker). Many reasons contribute to the success of “Rebecca”: the efforts of the publisher, the events at the time of publication, and the many element of the story itself. “Rebecca” was an immediate success. After two weeks of its publication, Publisher’s Weekly listed it as a Candidate for the Best Seller’s List, and within a month of its publication, it became the fourth book on the Best Sellers list. In the week of November 19, 1938, “Rebecca” became the top selling novel according to “Publisher’s Weekly”, and it remained the number one book for the next three weeks. “Publisher’s Weekly” listed “Rebecca” as best selling novel for the month of November. Overall in 1938, Rebecca was the number four best-selling book of the year, and in 1939, it was the number three best-selling book of the year. Rebecca remained in “Publisher’s Weekly’s” top ten best seller’s list for a total of nine months.
There are many reasons for the success of the novel. Book clubs played a large role in its success by introducing the novel to the public. “Rebecca” was the Literary Guild selection of the month for October 1938, which gave many readers easy access to the novel (Publisher’s Weekly, 9/24/38). Doubleday, Du Maurier’s publisher, also helped with the success of the book by creating many ad campaigns in order to spark the public’s interest. “Doubleday starts a new series of small ads in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco newspapers this week, to be followed, beginning Jan. 22nd, with a big campaign giving sample high-spot scenes from the novel” (Publisher’s Weekly, 1/7/39). Doubleday allowed the public a sneak preview of the novel in hopes that it would grab their attention and persuade them to buy a copy of the book. Doubleday also created attractive displays to accompany the novel in books stores, which was another ploy to catch the reader’s attention in hopes of them becoming interested in the novel and then buying it. Doubleday also published a series of ads in both “Publisher’s Weekly” and “The New York Time’s Book Review,” which also helped make the public aware of the book.
Daphne du Maurier’s public persona did not add to the success of her book, mainly because she did her best not to create a public persona for herself. Du Maurier disliked being in the public eye; therefore, she avoided as many interviews and public appearance as possible. “She confided to [one interviewer] that she disliked entertaining or being entertained or any kind of public appearance . . .” (Cook, 141). In her rare interviews, she was reluctant to give any personal information about herself; she was an extremely private person. As a favor to her English publisher Victor Gollancz, Du Maurier attended a Foyle’s Literary Lunch, along with two other female writers. Afterwards, she swore to never attend such an event again, for she felt that “authors never should be seen or heard” (Forster, 139). However despite resistance to having a public persona, Du Maurier answered all her fan mail, as long as a self-addressed stamped envelope was enclosed, and she formed many friendships through written correspondence with fans.
Critics praise many aspects of “Rebecca”, usually beginning with Du Maurier’s writing style. Many critics note that she is a natural storyteller. “‘Rebecca’ takes a familiar situation . . . and turns it into an occasion for mystery, suspense, and violence . . . Though reviewers point out (and du Maurier agrees) that she cannot take credit for inventing this formula. Many of them believe that her personal gift for story telling places her novels a cut above most other Gothic fiction” (Contemporary Authors, Vol. 6). In “Rebecca,” Du Maurier tells her story with authority and assurance, making the characters and events seem believable, even realistic. Critics also praise the element of suspense that du Maurier weaves so gracefully throughout the novel, which grabs the reader’s attention and keeps the pages turning. In reading “Rebecca,” one becomes so interested in what happens next that one is reluctant to put the novel down. However, critics have given the most praise to “Rebecca” for its gothic elements. Many critics have identified “Rebecca” as a modern gothic classic. “The gothic romance, in any event, was for all practical purposes a dead form until Daphne du Maurier revitalized it in 1938. Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ is the first major gothic romance in the twentieth century and perhaps the finest written to this day. It contains most of the trappings of a typical gothic romance: a mysterious and haunted mansion, violence, murder, a sinister villain, sexual passion, a spectacular fire, brooding landscapes, and a version of the mad woman in the attic” (Kelly, 54). The gothic novel as a genre tends to be enormously popular. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” continue to read by many people. The gothic elements of “Rebecca” spark the reader’s imagination and keep them on edge, wondering how the novel is going to end.
Many similarities exist between “Rebecca” and Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel “Jane Eyre”. In both novels, a young orphaned girl marries a wealthy older man who has many secrets to hide. Both novels take place in a dark, disturbing mansion that a fire destroys. This comparison explains some of the success of “Rebecca,” for “Jane Eyre” has been extremely successful throughout the years. Many readers, women especially, can relate to the vulnerability of Jane and the second Mrs. DeWinter, for most women understand the pain involved in loving man who seems unattainable. Also, readers, again especially women, enjoy the romantic element of the two novels, for in both cases, the inexperienced heroine succeeds and winds up with the man of her dreams. Women enjoy that type of story because the female character, who at first is weak but transforms into a strong figure as the story progresses, prevails at the end of the story. “Rebecca” and “Jane Eyre” as well can also be compared to the popular fairy tale “Cinderella,” where the female orphan overcomes all obstacles and ends up marrying her Prince Charming. In all these stories, “Rebecca,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Cinderella”, love prevails in the end. This element speaks for the success of “Rebecca,” for most readers enjoy a good love story. “One way of reading “Rebecca” is as a love story, in which the good woman triumphs over the bad by winning a man’s love: this version which confirms cherished conventions rather than challenges them, is the one that the nameless narrator would like us to accept, and it is a reading that undoubtedly helped make “Rebecca” a best-seller” (The New Yorker).
As mentioned earlier, part of the success of “Rebecca” might be due to the ability of the women readers to identify with the narrator. In the novel, Maxim de Winter controls his wife and totally oppresses her. All the second Mrs. de Winter wants from her husband is his love and attention, but he continually shuts her out of his thoughts and feelings, treating her as a pet dog who he pets absentmindedly. During the time “Rebecca” was published, the man was still the head of the household, and woman continually fought for equal rights. Women of this time could sympathize with the second Mrs. de Winter, for they were able to share her pain due to a controlling and gruff husband. Yet, the above reasons for the success “Rebecca” do not rule out the possibility for today’s feminists liking the book. “It’s possible for a feminist to enjoy ‘Rebecca,’ not in spite of its outmoded male/female conventions but because of them; Daphne du Maurier created a scale by which modern women can measure their feelings about mating and marriage, and judge the progress our society has made toward sexual equality. Seen in this light, Maxim’s treatment of a woman he really does love is as acceptable as Huck Finn’s matter-of-fact use of the word “nigger”: not admirable but accurate: the ugly truth of a bygone age” (New York Times). Part of the reason women of today continue to enjoy “Rebecca” is that the novel highlights the advances women have made in the past sixty years.
“Rebecca” was published in 1938, at the tail end of the Great Depression and right before the declaration of World War II. “First published in 1938, at a time that is when capitalist society was experiencing one of the deepest crises in its history, Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” at first sight seems remarkable for its total lack of reference to anything that might even hint of the existence of that crisis. The simplest way for this lack of reference would be to consign the text to the category of ‘escapist fiction’, a means of relief for people whose everyday experience was dominated by the reality of the depression” (Bromely, 69). “Rebecca” is a gripping tale; it is easy to lose oneself within the pages of the novel and forget about all present-day realities. However, the novel does contain aspects with which depression victims could identify with. At the end of the novel, the de Winters lose their mansion to a fire, and they rebuild their lives in a much simpler environment. The depression victims could relate to their tragedy of losing all their possessions and having to relocate and start afresh.
“Rebecca” was a success for many reasons. In 1940, Alfred Hitchcock released a film version of the novel which won an Academy Award for best picture. “Contributing to the [the novel’s] popularity was the Hitchcock film based upon the book” (Kelly, 66). “Rebecca” has continued to be a success despite the lack of literary recognition given to du Maurier. “du Maurier is a master storyteller who knows how to manipulate female fantasies. She creates a world that is simple, romantic, usually ambiguous, adventuresome, mysterious, dangerous, erotic, picturesque, and satisfying. It is a world that contrasts sharply with the mundane realities of ordinary existence, and it is a world that does not require the reader to suffer the pains of introspection and analysis. It is, in short, a world that brings considerable pleasure to millions of readers, especially women” (Kelly, 142). “Rebecca” has been a success with popular audiences for the past sixty years, yet it has been virtually ignored by the literary world. Literary critics have dismissed it as an inconsequential romance that has no real substance. Books like “Rebecca” pose the question: is it possible to be a best seller yet still obtain literary recognition? Many literary critics have attacked du Maurier for writing for the popular audience instead of trying to create a work of literary merit. “Perhaps du Maurier wrote too much, catered to cynically to the popular taste of her audience, but she created the ‘classic gothic’ novel of the twentieth century, setting the stage for hundreds of imitators grinding out formulaic tales of ion the Harlequin Romance series and others . . . If Daphne du Maurier had written only Rebecca, she would still be one of the great shapers of popular culture and the modern imagination” (Kelly, 144).
Kelly, Richard. Daphne du Maurier. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987.
Forster Margaret. Daphne du Maurier. London: Chatto and Windus, 1993.
Bromely, Roger. “The Gentry, Bourgeois Hegemony, and Popular Fiction.” Classic
Crime and Suspense Writers. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995.
Cook, Judith. Daphne. New York: Bantom Press, 1991.
Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Vol. 6.
Beauman, Sally. “Rereading Rebecca.” The New Yorker. Nov. 8, 1993.
“Son of Best Seller Stalks the Moors.” New York Times. June 6, 1993.
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