George du Maurier

Last updated

George du Maurier
George du Maurier.jpg
BornGeorge Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier
(1834-03-06)6 March 1834
Paris, France
Died8 October 1896(1896-10-08) (aged 62)
Hampstead, England
Occupation Cartoonist, illustrator, novelist
Emma Wightwick
(m. 1863)
Children5, including Guy, Sylvia, and Gerald
"Now then, Mossoo, your Form is of the Manliest Beauty, and you are altogether a most attractive Object; but you've stood there long enough. So jump in and have done with it!"

Cartoon by du Maurier from Punch Punch - Masculine beauty retouched1.png
"Now then, Mossoo, your Form is of the Manliest Beauty, and you are altogether a most attractive Object; but you've stood there long enough. So jump in and have done with it!"

Cartoon by du Maurier from Punch

George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier (6 March 1834 – 8 October 1896) was a Franco-British cartoonist and writer known for work in Punch and a Gothic novel Trilby , featuring the character Svengali. His son was the actor Sir Gerald du Maurier. The writers Angela du Maurier and Dame Daphne du Maurier and the artist Jeanne du Maurier were all granddaughters of George. He was also father of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and grandfather of the five boys who inspired J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan .


Early life

George du Maurier was born in Paris, France, son of Louis-Mathurin Busson du Maurier and wife Ellen Clarke, daughter of the Regency courtesan Mary Anne Clarke. He was brought up to believe his aristocratic grandparents had fled from France during the Revolution, leaving vast estates behind, to live in England as émigrés. In fact, du Maurier's grandfather, Robert-Mathurin Busson, was a tradesman who left Paris, France, in 1789 to avoid charges of fraud and later changed the family name to the grander-sounding du Maurier. [1]

Du Maurier studied art in Paris, France, in the studio of Charles Gleyre, [2] and moved to Antwerp, Belgium, where he lost the vision in his left eye. He consulted an oculist in Düsseldorf, Rhineland, Prussia, German Confederation. He was reportedly studying chemistry at University College, London, in 1851. [3] He is recorded in the 1861 England Census as a lodger at 85 Newman St in Marylebone. [4]

He met Emma Wightwick in 1853 and married her a decade later, on 3 January 1863, at St Marylebone, Westminster. [5] [6] Moving frequently over the course of their marriage, the couple first settled in Hampstead in 1869, initially at Gang Moor near the Whitestone Pond for three years, before moving to 27 Church Row and later at New Grove House in 1881. [7] [8] [9] In 1891, the family is recorded as residing at 2 Porchester Rd in Paddington. [10] They had five children: Beatrix (known as Trixy), Guy, Sylvia, Marie Louise (known as May) and Gerald. [11]


George du Maurier's former home at 91 Great Russell Street, London 91 Great Russell Street, London.jpg
George du Maurier's former home at 91 Great Russell Street, London


Du Maurier became a member of staff at the British satirical magazine Punch in 1865, drawing two cartoons a week. His commonest targets were the affected manners of Victorian society, the bourgeoisie and members of Britain's growing middle class in particular. His most enduring cartoon, True Humility (1895), popularised the expressions "good in parts" and "a curate's egg". In it, a bishop addresses a humble curate, whom he has invited to breakfast: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones." The curate replies, "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you – parts of it are excellent!" [12] The gag was not original to du Maurier, however, as it had appeared in a similar cartoon a few months earlier in Judy , a less widely read competitor to Punch. [13] In an earlier (1884) cartoon, du Maurier coined the expression "bedside manner", with which he satirised medical care. [14] Another of his notable cartoons depicted a fanciful videophone conversation in 1879, using a device he called "Edison's telephonoscope". [15]

While producing black-and-white drawings for Punch, du Maurier created illustrations for several other popular periodicals: Harper's , The Graphic , The Illustrated Times, The Cornhill Magazine , and the religious periodical Good Words . [16] Furthermore, he did illustrations for the serialisation of Charles Warren Adams's The Notting Hill Mystery , which is often seen as the first detective story of novel length to have appeared in English. [17] Among several other novels he illustrated was Misunderstood by Florence Montgomery in 1873. [18]


George du Maurier in the middle of his career George Du Maurier.jpg
George du Maurier in the middle of his career

His deteriorating eyesight caused du Maurier to reduce his involvement with Punch in 1891 and settle in Hampstead, where he wrote three novels. His first, Peter Ibbetson (1891), was a modest success at the time and later adapted for stage and screen, most notably in a 1935 film, and as an opera. [19]

His second novel, Trilby , published in 1894, fitted into the gothic horror genre that was undergoing a revival. Hugely popular, it tells of a poor artist's model, Trilby O'Ferrall, transformed into a diva under the spell of an evil musical genius, Svengali. Soap, songs, dances, toothpaste, and even the city of Trilby, Florida, were named after her, as was the variety of soft felt hat with an indented crown worn in the London stage dramatisation of the novel. The plot inspired Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel Phantom of the Opera and innumerable works derived from it. [20] Du Maurier eventually came to dislike the persistent attention the novel was given.

The third novel was a long, largely autobiographical work entitled The Martian , published posthumously in 1898.[ citation needed ]

Death and legacy

Du Maurier died on 8 October 1898 and was buried in St John-at-Hampstead churchyard in Hampstead. [21] The success of his writings and illustrations allowed du Maurier to leave a then staggering amount of £47,555 in his will. [22]

Du Maurier was a close friend of Henry James, the novelist; their relationship was fictionalised in David Lodge's Author, Author (2004). [23]

"A Legend of Camelot"
Illustration by du Maurier for Punch, 17 March 1866, parodying Pre-Raphaelitism A Legend of Camelot - George du Maurier - Project Gutenberg eText 14392.jpg
"A Legend of Camelot"
Illustration by du Maurier for Punch, 17 March 1866, parodying Pre-Raphaelitism


Film adaptations

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Trilby</i> (novel) 1895 novel by George du Maurier

Trilby is a novel by George du Maurier and one of the most popular novels of its time. Published serially in Harper's Monthly from January to August 1894, it was published in book form on 8 September 1895 and sold 200,000 copies in the United States alone. Trilby is set in the 1850s in an idyllic bohemian Paris. Though Trilby features the stories of two English artists and a Scottish artist, one of the most memorable characters is Svengali, a rogue, masterful musician and hypnotist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Svengali</span> Fictional character from the 1894 novel Trilby by George du Maurier

Svengali is a character in the novel Trilby which was first published in 1894 by George du Maurier. Svengali is an Ashkenazic Jewish man who seduces, dominates and exploits Trilby, a young half-Irish girl, and makes her into a famous singer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerald du Maurier</span> British actor (1873–1934)

Sir Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier was an English actor and manager. He was the son of author George du Maurier and his wife, Emma Wightwick, and the brother of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. In 1903, he married the actress Muriel Beaumont, with whom he had three daughters: writers Angela du Maurier (1904–2002) and Daphne du Maurier (1907–1989), and painter Jeanne du Maurier (1911–1997). His popularity was due to his subtle and naturalistic acting: a "delicately realistic style of acting that sought to suggest rather than to state the deeper emotions". His Times obituary said of his career: "His parentage assured him of engagements in the best of company to begin with; but it was his own talent that took advantage of them."

Annie Sophie Cory was a British author of popular, racy, exotic New Woman novels under the pseudonyms Victoria Cross(e), Vivian Cory and V.C. Griffin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Barr (writer)</span>

Robert Barr was a Scottish-Canadian short story writer and novelist who also worked as a newspaper and magazine editor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coulson Kernahan</span> English novelist

Coulson Kernahan was an English novelist.

Evelyn Ward Everett-Green was an English novelist who started with improving, pious stories for children, moved on to historical fiction for older girls, and then turned to adult romantic fiction. She wrote about 350 books, more than 200 of them under her own name, and others using the pseudonyms H. F. E., Cecil Adair, E. Ward and Evelyn Dare.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catherine Louisa Pirkis</span> Writer of early female detective stories

Catherine Louisa Pirkis was a British author of detective fiction. Throughout her career as a writer, Pirkis would sometimes write under the name of "C.L. Pirkis", as to avoid gender association.

Deborah Alcock was a late-Victorian author of historical fiction focused on religious, evangelical themes.

Dorothea Primrose Campbell was a poet, novelist and teacher from the Shetland islands of Scotland. She wrote a novel, Harley Radington: A Tale (1821), and had poems and short fiction printed in London periodicals. Campbell continued to write in the face of family trauma, poverty, and ethnic and gender discrimination. Her melodic, whimsical poetry and her works of fiction are seen as revealing works that cover historical and societal barriers which Campbell herself was facing.

Mordaunt Hall was the first regularly assigned motion picture critic for The New York Times, working from October 1924 to September 1934.

Harriet Anne Scott, Lady Scott (1816–1894), was a British novelist, born in India, and of Scottish descent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Muriel Beaumont</span> English stage actress (1876–1957)

Muriel Beaumont, Lady du Maurier was an English stage actress from 1898 until retiring in 1910. She was the wife of the actor and manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and mother of the writers Angela du Maurier and Daphne du Maurier and artist Jeanne du Maurier.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angela du Maurier</span> British actress and novelist (1904–2002)

Angela Busson du Maurier was an English actress and novelist who also wrote two volumes of autobiography, It's Only the Sister (1951) and Old Maids Remember (1965). Her sister was the novelist Daphne du Maurier, and her grandfather was George du Maurier, a writer and cartoonist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Gales</span> English painter

Henry Gales (1834–1897) was an English painter, most well known for his portrait of the 1867 Derby Cabinet.

Emilia Marryat was an author of English children's books. The third daughter of the author Captain Frederick Marryat and his wife, Catherine, she followed her father's example by infusing her adventure novels with moral lessons. Occasionally, she published under her married name, Emilia Marryat Norris.

Florence Henniker was a British poet and novelist.

<i>Trilby</i> (play) Play by Paul M. Potter

Trilby is a stage play by Paul M. Potter based on the 1894 novel Trilby by George du Maurier. In the play, a young Irish woman, Trilby O'Ferrall, falls under the control of Svengali, who uses hypnosis to make her abandon her fiancé and become a singer.

Isa Knox was a Scottish poet, novelist, editor, and writer. She was secretary to the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, and one of the first staff members of the English Woman's Journal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Annie E. Ridley</span>

Annie E. Ridley (1839–1923) was a Victorian novelist who wrote books regarding women's education and a science book for children. Not only was Ridley an author, but she was the governor of the Camden School for Girls in London for twenty-four years. She was successful enough to own her own house. Ridley was also involved with the Headmistresses' Association and the Teacher's Guild. Ridley worked with Frances Mary Buss, a pioneer of women's education, and Ridley went on to inspire people like Ellice Hopkins.


  1. "George Du Maurier, Illustrator and Novelist".
  2. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Du Maurier, George Louis Palmella Busson". Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  3. London, England: Oxford University Press; Volume: Vol 22; Page: 370. Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1–22 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors. Stephen, Sir Leslie, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922. Volumes 1–22. London, England: Oxford University Press, 1921–1922. Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922, Oxford University Press, London, England.
  4. Class: RG 9; Piece: 66; Folio: 57; Page: 37; GSU roll: 542567. 1861 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1861. Data imaged from The National Archives, London, England.
  5. "George du Maurier, Illustrator and Novelist".
  6. London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P89/mry1/235. London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Church of England Parish Registers. London Metropolitan Archives, London.
  7. "A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington. British History Online". Victoria County History. 1989. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  8. Class: RG10; Piece: 192; Folio: 4; Page: 2; GSU roll: 823312. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1871. Data imaged from the National Archives, London, England.
  9. Mary Cathcart Borer (1976), Hampstead and Highgate: The story of two hilltop villages. London: W. H. Allen & Co., p. 169. ISBN   0491018274
  10. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Class: RG12; Piece: 15; Folio: 174; Page: 3. 1891 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1891.
  11. Class: RG11; Piece: 166; Folio: 99; Page: 19; GSU roll: 1341036. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1881. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1881.
  12. Egan, Kieran (2004). Getting It Wrong from the Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. Yale University Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN   9780300105100.
  13. "The Curate's Egg: Parts of It Are Excellent". Quote Investigator. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  14. Benham, W. Gurney. A Book of Quotations, Proverbs and Household Words: A Collection of Quotations from British and American Authors, Ancient and Modern. J. B. Lippincott, 1907, p. 458.
  15. Roberts, Ivy (2017). "'Edison's Telephonoscope': the visual telephone and the satire of electric light mania". Early Popular Visual Culture. 15 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1080/17460654.2016.1232656. ISSN   1746-0654. S2CID   191910615.
  16. Souter, Nick and Tessa (2012). The Illustration Handbook: A guide to the world's greatest illustrators. Oceana. p. 32. ISBN   9781845734732.
  17. The original edition illustrated is available at the Internet Archive: Section 1 Retrieved 1 February 2013. Once a Week, Vol. 7, p. 617, 29 November 1862 and at weekly intervals.
  18. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, eds. Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy (London: Batsford, 1990), p. 752.
  19. Flieger, Verlyn (2001). A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien's Road to Faërie. Kent: Kent State University Press. pp. 30–35. ISBN   9780873386999.
  20. Nancy, Glazener (24 March 2011). "The novel in postbellum print culture". The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Edited by Leonard Cassuto. Cambridge University Press. p. 337. ISBN   9781316184431.
  21. UK and Ireland, Find A Grave Index, 1300s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Find A Grave. Find A Grave.
  22. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England.
  23. Harrison, Sophie, "'Author, Author': The Portrait of a Layabout" The New York Times, October 10, 2004.

Further reading