Daphne du Maurier and Her Sisters

From The Telegraph:

Shakespeare_main_2495276b‘There never were sisters who wished so ardently to eat cake and have it,” wrote Angela, the eldest of Gerald du Maurier’s three daughters. Her siblings were Daphne and Jeanne. They grew up in a literary and theatrical background in London, being reminded that they were special. Their grandfather was the Punch cartoonist and novelist George du Maurier who promoted in his fiction the idea of “dreaming true”, whereby with imagination and sheer will you can make things happen. The girls’ father – who passed on this philosophy to his children – was an actor/producer and thundering homophobe, to whom all three were in thrall, almost as fatally as they were to the play in which the narcissistic Gerald achieved his fame, as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

According to Jane Dunn in this compelling biography of the du Maurier sisters, J M Barrie’s play, with its dream of child rebellion against the grown-up world, “set the template for their lives”. Barrie himself would come and watch them perform it in their nursery. He had taken the inspiration of Peter Pan from their sensitive cousin Michael Llewelyn Davies, who later drowned in the arms of his best friend in a pool outside Oxford. Fertilised in the three sisters’ minds early on were the themes of death, forbidden love and incest. Plus a growing realisation of their father’s disappointment that they were not his longed-for boys. “Sisters, they should have been brothers. They would have made splendid boys,” wrote Noël Welch, the cool and fastidious lesbian poet who became Jeanne’s partner.

More here.

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