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George du Maurier, from the frontispiece of Trilby
"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 French-born British cartoonist and author, known for his cartoons in Punch and his novel Trilby. He was the father of actor Gerald du Maurier and grandfather of the writers Angela du Maurier and Dame Daphne du Maurier. He was also the father of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and thus grandfather of the five boys who inspired Peter Pan.

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Biography

He 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. He followed her family to London, where he married Emma in 1863.

He became a member of the staff of the satirical magazine Punch in 1865, drawing two cartoons a week. His most common targets were the affected manners of Victorian society. His most enduringly famous 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 very 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!') In an earlier (1884) cartoon, du Maurier had coined the expression 'bedside manner', which he satirized in contrast to actual medical skill. Another of du Maurier's notable cartoons was of a videophone conversation in 1879, using a device he called 'Edison's telephonoscope'.

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, was a modest success at the time and later adapted to stage and screen, most notably in the 1935 film starring Gary Cooper, and as an opera.

His second novel Trilby, was published in 1894. It fit into the gothic horror genre which was undergoing a revival during the fin de siecle, and the book was very 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 a city 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 potboiler Phantom of the Opera and the innumerable works derived from it. Although initially bemused by Trilby's success, du Maurier eventually came to despise the persistent attention given to his novel.

The third novel was a long, largely autobiographical work entitled The Martian, which was only published posthumously.

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

He was interred in Saint John's Churchyard in Hampstead parish in London.

A Legend of Camelot
Illustration by du Maurier for Punch magazine, 17 March 1866.

Bibliography

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.

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier (6 March 18348 October 1896) was a French-born British author and cartoonist.

Sourced

  • A little work, a little play
    To keep us going—and so good-day!

    A little warmth, a little light
    Of love’s bestowing—and so, good-night.

    A little fun, to match the sorrow
    Of each day’s growing—and so, good-morrow!

    A little trust that when we die
    We reap our sowing—and so—good-bye!
    • Trilby. Compare:
      Ah, brief is Life,
      Love’s short sweet way,
      With dreamings rife,
      And then—Good-day!

      And Life is vain—
      Hope’s vague delight,
      Grief’s transient pain,
      And then—Good-night.
      Montenaeken; translated by Louise Chandler Moulton as:
      PEU DE CHOSE
      La vie est vaine,
      Un peu d’amour,
      Un peu de haine,
      Et puis—Bonjour!

      La vie est brève:
      Un peu d’espoir,
      Un peu de rève
      Et puis—Bon soir!

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