'It was like choosing between All This and Heaven Too and The Moon and Sixpence. I chose The Moon and Sixpence and I only hope that it will come off because I did take so enormously to Alec Guiness. We lunched together, and supped together, and I knew he was right for my man in my book, and when he told me had spent five days in a Trappist Monastery before becoming a Catholic six months ago it absolutely tipped the scales.'
It's 1956 and Daphne du Maurier, writing to Oriel Malet, is hoping that Alec Guiness will star in the film of The Scapegoat. She has turned down an offer from MGM who want Cary Grant for the role in favour of a smaller production which will star Alec.
Later Daphne recounts an overnight stay at the home of Alec Guiness and his wife
'...he called me in the morning with my brek, which I didn't expect, and was laying [in] having had two pills because of my cold, and very greasy face and hair in pins, and I just had to brazen it out, and he will be so put off !...Their house was very new...I am sure they adore it, and it was very nice but it made me long for shabby old Mena[billy]'
In amongst my current high-risk-forty-years-on-will-I-still-love-them re-reads of My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn I have slotted in a first read of The Scapegoat and I am enjoying it immensely. I knew I would, my most discerning reading and quilting friend Doctor Ann read it last year and recommended it highly.
Here's what Daphne said to Oriel
'Listen, I really am so tremendously pleased you like The Scapegoat. I hoped you would see the psychological politics, and the religious significance, but I still think this will be seen only by the few, and that most people will read it as a semi-thriller, a chap involved with a crowd of women sort of thing.'
Daphne also tells Oriel this,
' I wrote Victor to beg him not to advertise me as Best- Selling, because nowadays it puts people off, and has almost become something to be ashamed of (though God knows why, inverted snobbery) but I'm sure he won't take any notice.'
Looking at my first edition of The Scapegoat it seems Daphne may have prevailed, though clearly Victor Gollancz liked to big things up on front covers, look at this amazing copy of Jamaica Inn which Bookhound found in the Penn Bookshop for me to add to my little collection of original du Maurier's.
Meanwhile a few more.
I'm an unashamedly new book person but there really is something deeply satisfying about reading a du Maurier in an original edition; scuffed covers, squashed flies preserved on page 57, yellowing pages lovingly thumbed to a smoothness by countless readers, spines already creaking and that indescribable smell of old paper.