In 1895, du Maurier’s novel was adapted to a play and a hat of this style was worn in its first production in London. Londoners soon began to think of it as a rich man’s favoured hat and it got a reputation for turning up at horse races.
The original novel, was hugely influential in its day, selling over 200,000 copies in America in 1895 alone. The novel’s title character is a tone-deaf girl, who gets transformed into a a successful singer through the talents of a manipulative hypnotist, called Svengali. When Svengali has a heart attack and is unable to put Trilby into her trance, she is unable to sing at all and ridiculed, but can’t remember anything about her singing career. It is a study of fin-de-siècle culture and anti-Semitism.
Trilby inspired the Phantom of the Opera (1910). The name or term Svengali became synonymous with domineeringly powerful men. Herbert Beerbohm Tree was the first actor to play Svengali and the play continued to appear in threatres through the 1920s.
du Maurier also illustrated his novel and drew cartoons for Punch. He was the father of actor Gerald du Maurier and grandfather of the writers Angela du Maurier and Dame Daphne du Maurier. He was also the father of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and thus grandfather of the five boys who inspired Peter Pan.
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