Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fortnightly Book, October 25

 George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier was born in Paris in 1834, but he made his career in England, where he had settled with his wife, Emma Wightwick (with whom he would end up raising a famously literary and artistic family). He started as an illustrator for Punch magazine and became one of the foremost illustrators of his day. Bad eyesight, however, forced him to retire from professional illustrating in 1891; he used his remaining few years to write a few novels. The most famous of these would be Trilby in 1894, but arguably that novel only became possible because du Maurier's first novel, Peter Ibbetson, our next fortnightly book, was moderately successful. 'Moderately successful' is as well as it did at the time, but the novel has proven unusually adaptable: a play was made in 1917, an opera in 1931, and a film in 1935, all of them quite successful. And the book itself has endured, never so flashy as Trilby, but always charming new readers.

Usually I have at least a rough idea of the content of the classics I pick up for the first time, not always right but usually in the neighborhood of right. But I have only the vaguest notion of what I'm in for with this story, so that will be interesting. I do know that the story is narrated by the titular character as memoirs written while in the lunatic asylum for having killed a relative.

I'll be reading a Heritage Press edition, which has a preface by Daphne du Maurier (George's granddaughter, who tells us that the family called him, "Kicky") and pen-and-ink illustrations by the author himself. It uses a 12-point Scotch Roman type, chosen to pair well with the line drawings.

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