Victorian Literature George Du Maurier
by
Verity Jane Hunt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0024

Introduction

George Du Maurier (b. 1834–d. 1896), the celebrated Victorian cartoonist and novelist, is the author of Trilby (1894), the famous best seller widely considered to have changed the face of the late 19th-century publishing industry. He also wrote Peter Ibbetson (1891) and The Martian (published posthumously in 1897). He was the father of the acclaimed actor-manager Sir Gerald Du Maurier and grandfather of the popular novelist Dame Daphne Du Maurier. George Du Maurier is perhaps best known as the social cartoonist for Punch (a position he took in 1864 on the death of John Leech). His pictures of fashionable society, many set in drawing rooms and London clubs, satirize the fashions and manners of the Victorian social elite. They feature well-known characters including the vulgar nouveau-riche Sir Gorgius Midas and the ruthless social climber Mrs. Ponsonby de Tonkyns. Du Maurier also famously parodied the Pre-Raphaelites (1860s) and the aesthetic movement (1880s) in the pages of Punch. His satirization of the aesthetes brought forth the renowned characters Mrs. Cimabue Brown, a soulful aesthete, and her protégés, the Wildean types Maudle and Postlethwaite. Beyond Punch, Du Maurier’s artwork was featured in several other influential publications, including Once a Week and The Cornhill Magazine. He illustrated books by the great authors of his day, Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James, to name but a few.

General Overviews

The most authoritative, exhaustive study of Du Maurier to date is Ormond 1969. It combines scholarly biography and critical discussion of the artistic and literary works. James 1897 and Kelly 1983 provide a useful critical overview of both the pictures and novels. Whiteley 1948 offers an excellent, concise introduction to Du Maurier’s art. The best electronic introductory resource to Du Maurier can be found on The Victorian Web. Anstey 1934 offers a useful brief review of Du Maurier’s career on the staff of Punch. Vickers 1997 offers a handy reference tool as a starting point for further research on George and Daphne Du Maurier.

  • Anstey, F. “George Du Maurier Centenary Number.” Supplement to Punch, 7 March 1934.

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    A personalized sketch of the later part of Du Maurier’s career at Punch. Supplement also reproduces some of Du Maurier’s best-known cartoons for the publication, including his earliest, featuring himself and Whistler entering a photographer’s studio (1860).

  • James, Henry. “George Du Maurier.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1897, 594–609.

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    James’s tribute to his friend. Describes Du Maurier’s character and temperament, reviews his career as illustrator and novelist, and describes the personal effect of his late fame.

  • Kelly, Richard. George Du Maurier. Twayne’s English Authors 355. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

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    A comprehensive guide. Includes an outline of Du Maurier’s life and work as an artist, followed by critical and analytical discussions of the three novels. Also offers a useful chronology of the life and an annotated select bibliography.

  • Ormond, Leonée. George Du Maurier. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

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    The most authoritative and exhaustive study of Du Maurier’s life and work to date. A wealth of information.

  • Vickers, Stanley. The Du Maurier Companion. Edited by Diana King. Fowey, UK: Fowey Rare Books, 1997.

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    Offers a brief family history, family tree, and lists of Daphne and George Du Maurier’s primary works with plot synopses.

  • The Victorian Web. George Du Maurier, Illustrator and Novelist (1843–1896): An Overview

    E-mail Citation »

    The best overview on the web; includes extensive biographical material and reproduces both primary and secondary materials related to Du Maurier.

  • Whiteley, Derek Pepys. George Du Maurier: His Life and Work. English Masters of Black-and-White. London: Art and Technics, 1948.

    E-mail Citation »

    A very useful general introduction. Provides a concise but detailed biography, plus in-depth account of his career as an illustrator. Offers a complete list of books illustrated by Du Maurier and reproduces a number of his illustrations from a variety of sources.

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