In this extract from the memoir of her father, Gerald: A Portrait (1934), Daphne du Maurier resurrects the actor-manager Gerald du Maurier and places him in Whitby in 1917. This port town of North Yorkshire had been a favourite holiday retreat of Gerald’s father, the cartoonist and writer, George du Maurier. In the 1880s and 1890s George and his wife Emma frequented Whitby with their five children, the youngest of whom was Gerald. But by 1917, Gerald’s only brother, Guy, a soldier, had been killed in the First World War; his sisters Beatrix (Trixie) and Sylvia (whose sons inspired J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan) as well as his parents, were all dead and only one sister, May, remained. Daphne’s account of her father’s life is certainly a portrait — as much a creation as a reflection of a person. It is both actual and imaginative: Gerald did visit Whitby in 1917 but Daphne inhabits her father’s mind to create a Whitby of ghostly forms and shadows: George du Maurier singing in the fish-market while walking his dog, Chang, and Emma at the window of a house on St Hilda’s Terrace, one of the houses which the family rented for those Whitby late Augusts and Septembers. The ghosts of holidays past appear and dissipate and the ‘cobbled streets’ of Whitby haunt as the gulls cry and the sea is ‘wind-blown and cold’.
Wynne, C. (2016). The Du Mauriers and Stoker: Gothic transformations of Whitby and Cornwall. In C. Wynne (Ed.), Bram Stoker and the Gothic: Formations to transformations (185-206). London: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137465047_13