Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Manderley is based on two distinctive houses, one a house du Maurier visited as a child, and the other, Menabilly, a house in which she herself lived for more than twenty-five years. The houses merged in the landscape of her imagination to become Manderley, which inspired one of the most famous opening lines of twentieth century literature: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” As potent as a presence, as moody as a person, Manderley has a living aura and is as much a character in the novel as any man or woman. In fact, the house figures in the sensibilities of both of Max de Winter’s wives more than any living presence by being imbued with the spirit of his first wife, Rebecca.
According to a published memoir, du Maurier visited a family friend’s home, Milton, in 1917, and her memory of that house created the seed for Manderley. Struck by Milton’s portraits of four centuries of family ancestors, du Maurier wondered if the ancestors’ presences still haunted the house–with menace. For her the past is clearly a destructive force, destroying the present, just as the past wreaks havoc on present lives in Rebecca.
*Cornwall. Historic region of southwestern England to which du Maurier felt a passionate attachment. Her sense of Cornwall’s atmosphere is integral to each of the novels she set there. Remote, distant from the rest of England, full of antiquities from prehistoric times to Arthurian legend, Cornwall infuses the imagination with history in a setting in which the ghosts of the past intrude upon the present. Dramatic things happen in such settings. For example, a shipwreck that du Maurier witnessed off the Cornish coast in 1930 became transposed as a symbol of the tragedy haunting Manderley in Rebecca. Indeed, the novel itself, originated in du Maurier’s memory of place. While she was living in Alexandria, Egypt, she became so homesick for the woods and shores of Cornwall that she was moved to write a novel about it, and that novel became Rebecca.