Sunday, 1 June 2008

Wellies at Port Eliot




As you might have guessed there was sunshine and showers at Port Eliot this weekend -- and the rain on Saturday was sufficiently torrential to demand wellie-wearing in the afternoon. Thanks to dovegreyreader for the photo of the 'Daphne' event in the Orangery -- there I am in my wellies with Ann Willmore from Bookends of Fowey. Ann and David packed up shop for the day and came to Port Eliot to sell copies of 'Daphne', along with other books by and about du Maurier -- which was incredibly kind of them.
Fortunately, the clouds cleared just in time for tea, so we were able to leave the (by now gently steaming, though very elegant) Orangery to eat delicious scones and cakes and sandwiches in the walled garden.
Now, I've got to unpack my bags, and cook some food for my husband and sons (abandoned in London this weekend while I was in Cornwall), and hug the dog, and load the dishwasher, and empty the washing machine, and tackle the hillock of dirty clothes that eerily sprang up in the house in my absence.
Oh, to be back in Port Eliot, amidst the Reynolds paintings and the vases of scented roses, and tea and toast by the fire. I have felt the magic, and I'm longing to escape there again...

11 comments:

the madwoman said...

*Posted this comment yesterday under "Daphne: The Truth Behind The Story" (back in March), but an cross-posting here because I am afraid that perhaps you might not regularly read comments back that far!! ... And time is of the essence!!*

Dear Ms. Picardie,

Hello. I am a PhD student in America in the process of writing an essay on your book for a course entitled "Twice-Told Tales." We didn't actually read Daphne in the course, though we did read Jane Eyre and Rebecca... Then, when I visited London over spring break, I came across your book and got the idea to incorporate it into my final paper on "historiographical metafiction." The professor loved the idea and said she is planning to include Daphne on the syllabus next year!!

Anyway, I'm in the process of finishing up the paper and just had a few questions about "the truth behind the story," as this blog post is called. (I'm so happy to have come across your blog, by the way!!). I have two questions based on some of my additional research:

1.) Regarding the Symington letters that appear in Daphne, did you actually discover these manuscripts or transcripts of them, or are they the workings of your imagination (based, of course, on the contents of du Maurier's own letters to J.A.S., which I see you have reproduced verbatim in your work)?? I am just wondering because, in the Symington biography you cite by John Smurthwaite, Margaret Forster is quoted as saying that "Symington's letters to du Maurier have not survived" (this was in 1991, however). I am very curious to know if the real letters have been hidden away somewhere all of this time!!

2.) Additionally, Smurthwaite's book has no mention of the Honresfeld manuscript or the Alfred Law collection, and I wondered, specifically, what evidence you found at the Bronte Parsonage Museum to suggest that Symington was the last person to see this precious document??

I very much enjoyed reading your novel and still cannot get it out of my head!! I would greatly appreciate your answers to these questions as well as any other insight you might have to offer into your research process, at your earliest convenience (my essay, as it happens, is due on Monday, 2 June). I do apologize if these sort of matters have been addressed elsewhere, but I did not find them on your blog or in any of the other articles or interviews about Daphne that I have come across in my own research. I understand if you are reluctant to divulge what is "truth" and what is "fiction" within your story, whose objective, after all, is to blur this boundary. Still, for the purposes of scholarship I would be very grateful for any information you would be willing to offer.

Thanks very much for your time.

J.K., graduate student, U.S.A.

oxford-reader said...

I know what you mean about having felt the magic and wanting to be back there - Oxford was far too crowded and noisy after the peace of Port Eliot!
I'll email my pictures once my father has put them on a disc for me!

Justine Picardie said...

J.K -- Sorry, I didn't see your earlier comment -- but I'm glad you posted again here. I'm so pleased you enjoyed 'Daphne', and I'm delighted to hear that your professor is planning to include it in the syllabus next year. If you let me have your email address, I'll try to answer these questions more fully. But anyway, here are some brief answers, and I hope you get them in time for your essay deadline today.
1. The Symington letters that appear in 'Daphne' are based on the real correspondence between du Maurier and J.A Symington. As you have noted, Margaret Forster is quoted as saying that Symington's letters to du Maurier have not survived." In fact, they did survive, and I discovered they were in an archive at Exeter University while I was researching the book. That was one of the most exciting moments for me during my research.
2. Smurthwaite's book has no mention of the Honresfeld manuscript or the Alfred Law collection, because he was not given access to the Symington papers at the Bronte Parsonage Museum. In fact, these were denied to all researchers -- or more precisely, hardly anyone knew that they were there, and those few scholars who did know of their existence were not allowed to see them. It was a huge stroke of good fortune that I was allowed read them, in the course of researching 'Daphne' - and again, it was one of the most thrilling moments of my research, when I realised that they contained information about the Honresfeld manuscript. I can't give you exact details of their contents -- one of the reasons I was allowed to read the Symington file at the Bronte Parsonage was because I was writing a novel, rather than academic non-fiction -- but what I can tell you is that they contain specific references to the Honresfeld manuscript, and it became clear to me, whilst reading them, that, just as I describe in 'Daphne', Symington 'borrowed' the Honresfeld manuscript from the Law collection, in order to reproduce it as a facsimile in his Shakespeare Head edition. And he appears to be the last person to have had possession of this most precious of Bronte manuscripts, as far as we know, because after he borrowed it, the notebook seems not to have been returned to the Law collection, and is lost from sight after the death of Sir Alfred Law. So, you're right in guessing that the letters had been hidden away for decades, after Symington's dismissal as curator and librarian from the Bronte Parsonage.
Hope this helps.
Good luck with the essay!

Justine Picardie said...

Becca -- glad you got home safely. If Oxford seems noisy and crowded after Port Eliot, just imagine what a madding crowd London seems to be!

the madwoman said...

Dear Ms. Picardie,

Thank you so much for your prompt and insightful answers to my questions. What a truly fascinating tale you have uncovered!!

Fortunately my essay is due tomorrow, Monday, at 5 p.m., and it's still early afternoon on Sunday in America so I have plenty of time to incorporate these things into my paper. Now I just need to figure out the proper scholarly method for citing personal communication with an author via a blog... :)

Lastly, is there some way I can post my email address so that it is not visible to all the world??

Thanks ever so much again for your help.

Best wishes,
J.K.

Justine Picardie said...

Glad you got this in time for your paper. Not sure about the email question. Do you have a gmail account?

Henri Llewelyn Davies said...

Great pictures, Justine, including the wellingtons. I've noticed men often can't stand women wearing wellingtons in the house - I had some very stylish all-purpose-all-day pink sparkly ones in the '80s, for instance, which met with opprobium.

Fabulous artistic juxtapositions in your pictures anyway, and the tea and toast etc sounds heaven for - er - autumn. I know in my (shivering) bones everyone had a great time anyway.

Gondal-girl said...

looks like a beautiful weekend Justine ( and Dovegreyreader), Wellingtons and all - if only we could have some more rain here ( and high tea too!)

have got my knickers in a twist, a new Emily Bronte book of poems a possibility...that would be an epiphany...can't wait to read 'Daphne', sitting on top of bedside pile, goodies to read when novel is cooked 160k words and sliding towards that finish line...

Justine Picardie said...

Henri -- I wish you'd been there with us at Port Eliot in your sparkly pink wellies. You'll have to come to the Port Eliot Lit Fest next year.
Gondal-girl -- good luck in the last lap of your novel. Sounds like you're nearly there.

galant said...

Whilst I missed the actual du Maurier day on Saturday, I did very much enjoy, Justine, meeting you and Catherine St Germans and DoveGreyReader (Lynne) on Friday and I'm delighted that, in spite of the weather on Saturday, you all managed to have such a great time!
Best wishes,
Margaret (Powling)

Justine Picardie said...

Margaret -- it was so nice to meet you as well. Wasn't the library lovely?