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The literary value of letters

The other day I had dinner with a barrister friend who is extremely well read and the conversation turned to Arthur Quiller Couch, a Cambridge Professor of English and editor of the anthology of Oxford verse. Q, as he was known, was a resident of Fowey and a influence on the writing of Daphne Du Maurier. His daughter Foy was a lifelong friend of Daphne. Together they rode to Bodmin and, stuck on the moor in inclement weather, they decided to follow the direction their horses led them to safety. They ended up at Jamiaca Inn and the rest is literary: one of her best known novels.

I mentioned to my friend that on my recent trip to Pridmouth Cove, I spent time in the bookshop Bookends in Fowey. Ann Wilmore who runs the bookshop with husband David is one of the foremost authorities of Daphne du Maurier and they possess a fine collection of her memorabilia, amongst which is her correspondence with Foy. I bought a couple and one I thought would be of interest to my friend. He specialises in property law and the letter covered her concern with break classes in leases. The termination of her lease on Menabilly had a profound effect on her and she was concerned for Foy’s occupation of the Haven, the family home.  There was a further reference to Peter Bessell the Liberal MP for Bodmin who played a important  role in the Jeremy Thorpe trial. It’s all fascinating stuff and a vital tool in understanding Daphne’s complex personality .

It had me thinking that, had all this been the subject of email or text, it would be so abbreviated that there would be no such insight and modern communication is the biographer’s loss.

About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts