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A novelist and illustrator, he became best known for his work for the British magazine Punch, of which he was a staff member for over 30 years. He is the creator of such figures as Mrs. Cimabue Brown (a Philistine), Jellaby Postwaite (a poet), Maudle (based on Oscar Wilde), Prigsby (a sycophant), Grigsby (an ordinary man trying to emulate the aesthetic movement's fashions), and of parodies of the nouveaux riches and patrons of the arts, Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns and Sir Gorgius Midas. His first major work for Punch, submitted in 1866, was a series entitled A Legend of Camelot, satirizing the aethetic movement's leading figures Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Baudelaire, Gabriel Pater, and others, and their "Cult of Beauty."Born George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier in Paris, France, he was the grandson of a Frenchman who had fled to England , and the son of Louis and Ellen, daughter of Mary-Anne Clarke, an Englishwoman who had been exiled by British society to France. He was also the grandfather of writer and novelist Daphne Du Maurier.
Soon after his birth the family moved to Brussels, where his father Louis assumed the position of scientific advisor to the Portuguese embassy. The family was back in France between 1842 and 1846, but when George failed Latin, he went to study chemistry at the University College in London at age 17, accompanied by the whole family.
His father died in 1856, and shortly after his funeral the family left for Paris, where George wanted to study art. He attended the atelier of painter Charles Gleyre, where he became friends with James Whistler, Thomas Armstrong, and Edward Poynter. He continued his studies in Antwerp, Malines, and Düsseldorf, returning to London in 1860, where he subsequently looked for employment as a magazine illustrator. In the fall, Once A Week agreed to publish his illustrations for the story "Faristan and Fatima," and then Mark Lemon agreed to publish his first cartoon for Punch. He received more and more commissions and was beginning to make a name for himself as a cartoonist. In 1863, Du Maurier married the heiress Emma Wightwick and was appointed to the staff of Punch two years later. Their neighbors and friends included such notables as fairy tale artist Kate Greenaway, the novelist Sir Walter Besant, novelist George Eliot, and others. Du Maurier was a member of the Rabelais Club with other notables such as novelists Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Bret Harte, Oliver Wendell Holmes, artists Lawrence Alma Tadema and John Millais.
Du Maurier illustrated Thomas Hardy's serialised "The Hand of Ethelberta" for the Cornhill Magazine (July, 1875, through May, 1876), as well as W. M. Thackeray's Henry Esmond (1869), Foxe's Book of Martyrs and eight works by Elizabeth Gaskell: Sylvia's Lovers(1863); Cranford (1864); Lizzie Leigh, The Grey Woman, and Cousin Phillis (one volume, 1865); Wives and Daughters (1866); North and South (1867); and A Dark Night's Work(1867). Other notable works that Du Maurier illustrated include M. E. Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (1866: one picture for the "yellow back" edition's cover), Wilkie Collins's Poor Miss Finch, The Moonstone, The New Magdalen, and The Frozen Deep (1875: one plate each), His illustrations appeared in a number of other London literary magazines from 1860 until his death: The Illustrated London News in 1860, Once a Week (1860-1867), Good Words (1861 and 1872), the Illustrated Times in 1862, London Society (1862-1868), The Sunday Magazine (1864), The Leisure Hour (1864-1865), Harper's Magazine (1880-1897), and the English Illustrated Magazine (1884 and 1887).
He wrote and illustrated three novels: Peter Ibbetson (1892: 86 illustrations), the best-seller Trilby (1894: 120 illustrations; selected plates), and The Martian (1898: 48 illustrations). In 1894 Trilby had become the number one bestseller in England and America. Trilby boots, shoes, silver scarf pins, and parodies flooded the market, and several movie versions were created.
Du Maurier died in London in 1897 at the age of sixty two, while working on The Martian. He is buried in Hampstead Cemetery, the memorial panel bearing his own translation of a a couplet from Léon Monté-Naken's "Peu de Chose": "A Little trust that when we die / We reap our sowing. And so — good bye!"
Goldsbury, Dennis. "Du Maurier, George." Victorian Britain, An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell. New York: Garland, 1988. Pp. 230-231.
Kelly, Richard. George Du Maurier. Boston: Twayne, 1983.
Ormond, Leonée. George Du Maurier. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.