Fonds RBSC-ARC-1832 - George du Maurier fonds

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George du Maurier fonds

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  • Graphic material
  • Textual record

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Physical description

16.5 cm of graphic materials and textual records.

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Biographical history

George du Maurier (full name George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier) born March 6, 1834 was a French-English illustrator and novelist. He was born in Paris to Louis-Mathurin Busson du Maurier and Ellen Clarke; he grew up believing his grandfather, Robert-Mathurin Busson, fled France during the Revolution, but in reality he fled due to fraud charges. His grandfather, arriving in England, changed the family name to du Maurier to sound more sophisticated. He met his wife, Emma Wightwick in 1853 and married her ten years later, on January 3, 1863 in an Anglican London church. He and Emma would have five children together, Beatrix (known as Trixy), Guy, Sylvia, Marie Louise (known as May) and Gerald; their children would became actors, army officers, playwrights, and authors as well. His daughter, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, is the mother of the five boys who inspired the writing of Peter Pan. His granddaughter, Daphne du Maurier, is also a very successful novelist and playwright.

Du Maurier originally studied chemistry, like his father, and in 1851 he studied and worked at Berbeck Chemical Laboratory, University College, London. Chemistry was a short-lived aspiration, as was opera singing, inspired by his father, which would also prove temporary as he did not have the vocal range. Depressed and unsure what to do with his life, he moved to Paris in 1856, shortly after his father’s death, to attend the workshop of the painter Charles Gleyre. He would continue his artistic studies in Antwerp, Malines, and Düsseldorf. During this time, he unexpectedly lost vision in his left eye due to a detached retina. In 1860, he returned to London to work as a magazine illustrator for Once A Week and his first cartoon for Punch was published. This would begin his long and prosperous career as a cartoonist and illustrator. He received constant commissions from Once A Week and by 1865 he joined the permanent staff at Punch, and remained a cartoonist and illustrator there until his death. Common themes in his cartoons included: Victorian society, fashion, and etiquette; social commentary on Britain’s middle class and high society; the bourgeoisie; and the tensions of “Beautymania” and the “New Woman” in the 19th century.

Due to his deteriorating eyesight in his right eye in 1891, he was unable to continue producing cartoons and illustrations at Punch of the quality and quantity he usually drew. Instead, he wrote three novels and made his own accompanying illustrations for those books. The novels are: Peter Ibbetson Volumes I and II (1891), Trilby (1894), and The Martian (1897). His novels have gone on to be adapted into operas, silent and “talkie” films, TV shows, music, and spin-offs. Out of these novels, Trilby received the most widespread commercial success and fan following. The fonds received copies of these books along with two novels not written by du Maurier: "Pictures of Life & Character, From the Collection of Mr. Punch" by John Leech and "Americans" by Charles Dana Gibson. These books were catalogued and available separately by the UBC library.

Du Maurier died on October 8, 1896 of heart failure in Oxford Square. He was buried in a Hampstead cemetery, and his memorial plaque is inscribed with the last two lines of Trilby, his own translation of a couplet from Léon Monté-Naken's "Peu de Chose": "A Little trust that when we die / We reap our sowing. And so — good bye!" He left a sizeable £47,555 in his will, which accounting for inflation, would have been worth around £6.5 million in 2020.

Custodial history

The donor wishes to remain anonymous. The donor's parents started collecting in the mid 1970s as they enjoyed reading the venerable "Punch" magazine, where du Maurier's cartoons often appeared. They expanded the collection over the next 10-20 years. The donor took possession when their parents moved from their house, and wanted to keep the collection intact until their mother passed away in 2020.

Scope and content

The fonds reflects George du Maurier’s life and career as an illustrator and writer. Graphic materials include 66 hand drawn illustrations and cartoons for Punch or Once A Week magazines as well as for books he authored himself. These graphic works were drawn primarily with black and brown ink or with graphite from 1856 through to his death in 1896. Also included with his graphic works is a print from the 1896 edition of Vanity Fair magazine. Records relating to personal correspondence written by or for du Maurier are also included in the fonds. First editions of "The Martian", "Trilby", and "Peter Ibbetson Volumes I and II" by du Maurier, as well as "Pictures of Life and Character" by John Leech and "Americans" drawn by C.D. Gibson, were also donated with the fonds that are now catalogued and available in the UBC library.

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"The Martian", "Trilby", and "Peter Ibbetson Volumes I and II" by du Maurier, as well as "Pictures of Life and Character" by John Leech and "Americans" drawn by C.D. Gibson, were also donated and can be found within the UBC library catalogue.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion: Fonds arranged and described by Allison Gale in December 2021-February 2022. Items indexed by Catherine Hall in January 2022.

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