Daphne du Maurier's Mary Anne: Rewriting the Regency Romance as Feminist History
Abstract

abstract:

This article rereads Daphne du Maurier's Regency novel Mary Anne (1954) as feminist history, using recent theoretical work on women's historical fiction as well as archival research into the du Maurier papers at Exeter University. The novel is based on the life and writings of du Maurier's own great-great-grandmother, a courtesan whose affair with the Duke of York in the early 1800s had seriously destabilized the British government. Mary Anne reworks the popular genre of Regency romance into an ironic and often witty critique of royalist and patriarchal assumptions – a bold manoeuvre in 1950s Britain. Simultaneously, it rewrites its author's family history as a matrilineal literary romance, enabling du Maurier to reposition herself in relation to her formidably creative father and grandfather. Generally overshadowed by du Maurier's Gothic thrillers, Mary Anne (over fifty years after its initial publication) deserves recognition as one of her most adventurous and feminist works.


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