George du Maurier

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George du Maurier
George du Maurier.jpg
Born George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier
(1834-03-06)6 March 1834
Paris, France
Died 8 October 1896(1896-10-08) (aged 62)
Hampstead, London, England
Occupation Cartoonist, illustrator, novelist
"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 his drawings in Punch and for his novel Trilby. He was the father of actor Sir Gerald du Maurier and grandfather of writers Angela du Maurier and Dame Daphne du Maurier. He was also the 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, the son of Louis-Mathurin du Maurier and Ellen Clarke, daughter of Regency courtesan Mary Anne Clarke. He was brought up to believe that his aristocratic grandparents fled France during the Revolution, leaving vast estates behind in France, to live in England as émigrés. However, du Maurier's grandfather, Robert-Mathurin Busson, was actually a tradesman who left Paris in 1789 to avoid fraud charges, and later changed the family name to du Maurier.[1]

Du Maurier studied art in Paris, and moved to Antwerp, Belgium, where he lost vision in his left eye. He consulted an oculist in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he met his future wife, Emma Wightwick. Reportedly he studied chemistry at University College, London in 1851.[2] He is recorded in the 1861 England Census as living as a lodger at 85 Newman St in Marylebone.[3] On 3 January 1863, he married Emma at St Marylebone, Westminster.[4] Moving frequently over the course of their marriage, the couple first settled in Hampstead around 1877, initially at 27 Church Row and later at New Grove House in 1881.[5][6] In 1891, the family is recorded as residing at 2 Porchester Rd in Paddington.[7] They had five children: Beatrix (known as Trixy), Guy, Sylvia, Marie Louise (known as May) and Gerald.[8]


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


He became a member of the staff of the British satirical magazine Punch in 1865, drawing two cartoons a week. His most common 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, was the origin of the expressions "good in parts" and "a curate's egg". (In the caption, a bishop addresses a curate [a humble class of clergyman]. whom he has condescended to invite 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!").[9] In an earlier (1884) cartoon, du Maurier had coined the expression "bedside manner" by which he satirized actual medical skill.[10] Another of du Maurier's notable cartoons was of a videophone conversation in 1879, using a device he called "Edison's telephonoscope."[11]

In addition to 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.[12] Furthermore, he did illustrations for the serialization of Charles Warren Adams's The Notting Hill Mystery, which is thought to be the first detective story of novel length to have appeared in English.[13] Among several other novels he illustrated was Misunderstood by Florence Montgomery in 1873.[14]


George du Maurier in the middle of his career

Owing to his deteriorating eyesight, du Maurier reduced his involvement with Punch in 1891 and settled in Hampstead, where he wrote three novels. His first, Peter Ibbetson (1891), was a modest success at the time and later adapted to stage and screen, most notably in a film, and as an opera.[15]

His second novel Trilby, was published in 1894. It fitted into the gothic horror genre which was undergoing a revival during the fin de siècle, and the book was hugely popular. The story of the poor artist's model Trilby O'Ferrall, transformed into a diva under the spell of the evil musical genius Svengali, created a sensation. Soap, songs, dances, toothpaste, and even the city of Trilby in Florida, were all named for the heroine, and the variety of soft felt hat with an indented crown that was worn in the London stage dramatization of the novel, is known to this day as a trilby. The plot inspired Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel Phantom of the Opera and the innumerable works derived from it.[16] Du Maurier eventually came to dislike the persistent attention given to his novel.

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

Death and Legacy

He died on 8 October 1898 and was buried in St John-at-Hampstead churchyard in Hampstead parish in London.[17] Due to the success of his writings and illustrations, du Maurier left the then staggering amount of ‎£47,555 in his will.[18]

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

A Legend of Camelot
Illustration by du Maurier for Punch magazine, 17 March 1866, parodying Pre-Raphaelitism


See also


  1. "George Du Maurier, Illustrator and Novelist".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 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 Projectcontributors. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Borer, Mary Cathcart. (1976) Hampstead and Highgate: The story of two hilltop villages. London: W. H. Allen, p. 169. ISBN 0491018274
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Egan, Kieran (11 July 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.CS1 maint: date and year (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 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, pg. 458.
  11. Ivy Roberts (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
  12. Souter, Nick and Tessa (2012). The Illustration Handbook: A guide to the world's greatest illustrators. Oceana. p. 32. ISBN 9781845734732.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 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.
  14. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, eds Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy (London: Batsford, 1990), p. 752.
  15. 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.CS1 maint: date and year (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 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.CS1 maint: date and year (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. UK and Ireland, Find A Grave Index, 1300s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Find A Grave. Find A Grave.
  18. 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 © Crown copyright.

Further reading

  • Richard Kelly. George du Maurier. Twayne, 1983.
  • Richard Kelly. The Art of George du Maurier. Scolar Press, 1996.
  • Leonée Ormond. George du Maurier. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1969.
  • "Du Maurier", a poem by Florence Earle Coates first published in 1898.

External links