Life, Legend and Landscape: the Autobiographical Sub-text and Historical Background to Castle Dor by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and Daphne du Maurier


This study is not a literary criticism but a discussion of the background to Castle Dor and references in the text which reflect not only the context of the two authors' lives, motivation, and research but also local topography, Cornish history and folklore related to the legend of Tristan and Iseult, upon which the novel is based.

In her preface to the 1962 Dent edition, Foy Quiller-Couch, daughter of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch ('Q'), explains how the manuscript came into her possession on his death in 1944 and how in 1959, after re-reading it, she decided to ask her great friend Daphne du Maurier to finish the novel, in spite of Q's opinion that it would never be good enough to publish.

Daphne was dubious at first. She worried both about being able to do justice to Q's impeccable prose and that the request came at a time when she had financial problems, marital difficulties and worries about the soon-to-expire lease to Menabilly, her beloved house on the Gribbin peninsula, which belonged to Dr John Rashleigh.   

By 1958, Daphne had come to believe that her husband, Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Browning ('Tommy'), should retire from his position in Prince Philip's household, a move that would have severe consequences for her own working life:

The prospect of Tommy's retirement loomed over Daphne for the next year and caused her great agony of mind. If Tommy retired and lived at Menabilly full-time, she felt she would not be able to stand his constant presence, nor would she be able to write, but on the other hand she saw that, if he did not retire, he would push himself to the brink and there would be another, perhaps worse crisis (Forster, 1994, p.303).

Moreover, there was the problem of 'Tod', Maud Waddell, Daphne's housekeeper and former governess. The house was not big enough to hold both Tod and Tommy, and Daphne would be caught in the middle of their bickering.

The crisis with Tommy came in the summer of 1959 when, Daphne later confided to Oriel Malet, he unsuccessfully tried to shoot himself. Daphne established him at Menabilly with a nurse and wrote to Oriel on 19 July 1959:

I cannot write a long letter because at this moment part of Tommy's cure is for me to do everything I can for him, all his letters, everything, and be with him (du Maurier, 1992, p.117).

The worst over, Daphne was able to plan her own escape from the constant attendance, although her work was continually interrupted by Tommy's demands. She was already writing a biography of Branwell Brontë which necessitated trips to the British Museum and Haworth Parsonage Museum and she had an added impetus to complete the project in that Winifred Gérin, biographer of Anne Brontë, was also researching the same subject.

Daphne wrote to Oriel Malet in March 1960 that she had finished her work on what would beome The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë. She needed another project to be able to immerse herself in work and get away from Tommy as often as possible:

To become lost in a book she had first to think of one, and to think of one she had to have the right atmosphere – while she felt so anxious and unsettled no ideas would come to her (Forster, 1994, p. 305).

Foy Quiller-Couch had already provided her with a solution: finishing Castle Dor.

Castle Dor 

Castle Dor is based on the legend of Tristan and Iseult, but set in Cornwall in the 1860s. As such, it was not an easy task. However, once she had agreed to the project, Daphne's imagination became caught up in the legend. In the introduction to the Virago edition of Castle Dor, Nina Bawden writes:

There are a number of different versions of the Tristan and Iseult legend and Daphne du Maurier tells us that she read all she could discover before she took on the task of completing the novel, and found inconsistencies and confusions that she had to resolve in order to satisfy her own "sense of order" (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, vii).

Daphne followed her usual method of research which was to ask the London Library to send every book they had on the subject and also enabled her to involve Tommy in trips round Cornwall, taking him out of himself as part of his cure, to look at sites associated with the legend. She devoted a chapter of Vanishing Cornwall (first published in 1967 with photographs by her son, Christian Browning) to the Arthurian legends including Tristan and Iseult:

How often we have climbed with field-glasses and maps, elated and discouraged in turn, spurred on by the insistence of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who had it from a Professor Loth, who had transcribed it from the earliest extant manuscript of the Tristan series – Le Roman de Tristan, by the twelfth century chronicler Béroul – that King Mark's palace was at Lancien, the ancient rendering of Lantyan, now a farmstead close to the Fowey river by Castle Dor (du Maurier in Malet, 1972, p. 29).

There were not only the convoluted versions of the legend but also problems of structure and characterisation; Q had left very few clues as to how the novel should develop. Foy was at the time living at Trelowarren, near Helston, with their mutual friend Clara Vyvyan. A letter from Daphne to Foy on 27th May 1959, written two weeks after Tommy's retirement began, shows that Daphne was already thinking about Castle Dor whilst working on Branwell Brontë:

The thing I believe you could tell me is at what period of his life your father began the tale, and when he worked on it, and dropped it, and took it up again. Because there are obviously gaps in train of thought. I myself am of the opinion those last chapters were written at start of last war, not the '14 one . . . I think there are more than 5 chapters to Castle Dore, to finish. How many parts usually went to a novel, for your father. I would say there was Book III and Book IV to come. Have you any of the Tristram books at Trelowarren which your father consulted? (du Maurier, 27th May 1959, unpublished letter, accessed 14/3/2021)

Daphne's criteria for the structure of a novel are listed in The Rebecca Notebook, first published in 1981, in which Daphne shares her working method of starting a new notebook and outlining each chapter:

  • Atmosphere
  • Simplicity of Style
  • Keep to the main theme
  • Characters few and well-defined
  • Build it up little by little (du Maurier, 2004, p. 33)

With Castle Dor, however, she was working with characters and a structure already laid down: 'Its characters, like step-children, were not my own, their personalities were already formed' (du Maurier, 1989, p. 113).

Moreover, far from the romantic courtly tradition of the Tristan legend, the main characters were an unappealing inn-keeper and his very young wife, and a Breton cabin boy sent by the master of his ship to hawk onions round the streets of Troy. Furthermore, the setting of the 1860s was the period of Q's early childhood, within living memory, but for Daphne, in 1959, it was ancient history, involving much verification of period detail.

The story was set in Fowey, called Troy in the novel, which had first been made famous by Q's early novel, the very amusing The Astonishing History of Troy Town and which later also featured in Shining Ferry and Hocken and Hunken.

The main characters of Castle Dor and their equivalents in the Tristan legend

  • Dr Carfax, medical practitioner at Troy and a keen antiquarian: Dinas (Dinan of Lidan in Béroul's text), seneschal to King Mark and friend to Tristan
  • Amyot Trestane, from Brittany, a crew member aboard the Jolie Brise, sent to sell onions at Troy: Tristan
  • Fouguereau, master of the Jolie Brise: Urgan the giant

At the Rose and Anchor Inn, Troy:

  • Mark Lewarne, elderly innkeeper: King Mark
  • Linnet Lewarne, née Constantine, his young wife: Iseult, daughter of the King of Ireland and married to King Mark
  • Deborah Brangwyn, her maid: Brangien or Branwyn/Bronwen, handmaid and confidante to Iseult
  • Ned Varcoe, Mark Lewarne's servant and spy: Frocin the dwarf, servant to King Mark

The Antiquarians:

  • M. Ledru, a notary from Brittany
  • Mr Tregentil, a patient of Dr Carfax, living at Penquite between Troy and Lantyan

At Lantyan Farm:

  • Mr and Mrs Bosanko and their children Johnny and Mary

Dr Carfax and the autobiographical subtext

Dr Carfax is the linchpin of the story. As a medical practitioner he has the entrée everywhere, and his opinions and advice are highly respected. He is not only the link between the antiquarians and the farming family at Lantyan as well as the topography of the legend, but also between the characters at the inn and the legend which underpins the story. The prologue begins with Dr Carfax attending the birth of Linnet Constantine and his sense of foreboding, as he observes the stars above Castle Dor whilst waiting to be called by the midwife:

Each of the doomed lovers has moments when he or she is seized by confusing sensations of being part of something older and stronger than themselves, some force that links them to the past, and sets them on the same tragic path as the legendary pair who lived and died so many centuries before. Central to their story is a certain Doctor Carfax, who seems to have been intended by 'Q' as the main mover and shaker, controlling events, Daphne du Maurier suggests, a little like Shakespeare's Prospero. He is, for her, the most sympathetic and rounded character in the novel, which opens with him in his role as the local doctor, waiting one night upon the earthwork of Castle Dor for the blacksmith's wife to give birth, and being seized by wonder at the earth that holds so many universal secrets that might "never flower again, yet be unable to forget or desist from the effort to throw up secondary shoots". Doctor Carfax is present throughout the story, explaining it, holding it together, and at the end he is still there, an old man pondering the mysteries of love, and dreaming about '"one of the saddest love stories in the world" (Bawden in Quiller-Couch and du Maurier, 2004, pp. vi-vii).

Daphne herself explained:

One character alone had my full sympathy, and this was Dr Carfax who, like Prospero, appeared to control events, and reminded me so much of Q himself. Surely something of Q's own excitement at discovering King Mark's palace at Lantyan is contained in Dr Carfax's realisation that "all my boyhood – bird's nesting, blackberrying, nutting, or merely loafing and dreaming- I had been treading the very tracks of one of the greatest love stories in the world". The great Cornishman's close relationship with the country of his forefathers and his strong sense that myths and legends get at something universal – "old, unhappy, far-off things" – about this ancient land, seemed to place him in Carfax's position in the novel. For it is Carfax (a name derived from an old French word "carrefures" meaning the place where all roads lead), who in some strange way sets in motion the whole story – the re-enactment of the Tristan legend by Amyot and Linnet (du Maurier, 1989, p. 113).

In the epilogue, Daphne makes what is clearly a reference to Q; it is when Dr Carfax rows himself over to:

...the piece of land he rented as a garden, known as The Farm – although no farm upon it – and where, most afternoons between two and four, he chose to take the exercise that suited him best, which was sawing up a score of logs or so for his library fire (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 272).

Rowse tells how Q, in his bright red rowing boat, to the end of his days 'would row across to the steep garden patch by Bodinnick, which he called "the Farm"– vegetable, flower garden, orchard, apples and plums – where he worked' (Rowse, 1988, p. 47). Foy Quiller-Couch later ran "the Farm" as a market garden.

As Q himself said in his address 'To The Reader', at the beginning of Sir John Constantine:

...if you would know anything of the writer who has so often addressed you under an initial, you may find as much of him here as in any of his books (Quiller-Couch, 1906, p. x).

The Ship of Stars was another novel containing a good deal of autobiographical information relating to Q's childhood and the death of his father which happened while Q was still an undergraduate. Brittain remarked that 'It was Q's best novel, partly because of its excellent characterization and partly because it contained so much of its author's personality' (Brittain, 1947, p. 32).

There are certainly elements of Q in the character of Dr Carfax but it also owes a great deal to elements of Q's father, Dr Thomas Quiller Couch, and his grandfather, Dr Jonathan Couch.

Ledru, invited to drop in and have a smoke with Dr Carfax after dinner following the stirring incidents at Castle Dor races (Chapters 6 and 7), quickly revises his opinion of Dr Carfax's status:

... being received by a courteous and fastidiously dressed gentleman in a well-furnished library, before a log fire burning in a basket of burnished steel. . .The room was low-raftered but ample: its far end abutted a wide bow window over the harbour tide, the surge and lap of which murmured through a lifted sash. . . The walls were brown to the ceiling with books, with here and there a glint of old gilt... (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 48).

Dr Carfax's house itself recalls Q's house The Haven, which was located on the esplanade at Fowey, overlooking the harbour towards Polruan.

One never saw Q out in the garden, he would have been far too conspicuous a target for visitors, with the windows of the Fowey Hotel looking straight down upon his roof (Rowse, 1988, p.49).

Snatching a few minutes to himself, Dr Carfax is irritated when his housekeeper announces that Mark Lewarne has come to see him and she couldn't say he wasn't in because the visitor had seen the doctor in his garden: 'Confound it . . .it's a mistake to have a house right on the street and a garden wall so low that a body can't seize two minutes sunshine without his patients knowing it' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 138). Q's sentiments exactly. The family at the Haven were even plagued by tourists:

Why so many people mistake it with its modest dimensions for a hotel, I cannot tell you. I found one in the pantry the other day searching for a brandy-and-soda; another rang the dining-room bell and dumbfoundered the maid by asking what we had for lunch; and a third, a lady, cried when I broke it to her that I had no sitting-room to let. We make it a rule to send out a chair whenever some unknown invader walks into the garden and prepares to make a water-colour sketch of the view (Rowse, 1988, p.49).

The description of Dr Carfax as a fastidiously dressed gentleman and the details of well-polished furniture and gleaming candlesticks resemble reminiscences of Q, who was famous for his exacting standards:

He had been brought up, he said, to regard dinner as the civil ceremony of the day. He regularly changed for it, in college, as at home, and was put out when the dons in war-time discontinued the habit (ibid., p. 223).

In Memories and Opinions, his unfinished autobiography, Q recalls:

...early visions of our large drawing-room with waxed floors and girandoles lit for dancing, of the dining-room too, its tables piled with fruit and flowers at Sunday luncheons to which I was allowed to 'come down for dessert', to sit by my mother in a suit of velvet (Quiller-Couch, 1944, p. 10).

Q's father, Dr Thomas Quiller-Couch had followed his father, Dr Jonathan Couch, and elder brother Richard to Guy's to study medicine. Thomas, too, was a scientist and naturalist and like Jonathan Couch was also a keen amateur water-colourist and antiquarian. In later years he devoted more of his time to antiquarian interests and research into folklore and dialects:

He arranged and edited his father's MSS, of the History of Polperro, adding chapters on its natural history, the manners and customs of its people, etc.; published a Glossary of the Cornwall dialect at once accurate and concise; his fugitive contributions to Notes and Queries and other antiquarian journals would fill a volume or two of pertinent matter (ibid., p. 9).

After their father's death, Q's sisters Mabel and Lilian continued their father's researches into Cornwall's holy wells, publishing Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall (1894) from his original unfinished manuscript. Carfax reflects on his family:

My grandfather was a naturalist too, greater than I, because he stuck to observed facts without any theorizing whatsoever. . . we Carfaxes have all been doctors, yet all intrigued by something outside the empiricism which is all about the summary of what we know, and at the back of our minds, always seeking for some sixth sense in nature (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 50).

This is a reference to Jonathan Couch's scientific method and to various inexplicable events in the Quiller family involving premonitions. Jonathan Couch himself had a strange but comforting experience of a vision of his first wife, Jane Prynn Rundle, who died very young. The theme of 'things unknown' which cannot be explained rationally or scientifically but which cannot be dismissed as fantasy or products of the imagination, runs through Castle Dor.

The references to Dr Carfax's observations of a garden spider in his front porch, and to the patient who is 'the mother of seven, and has punctually paid me for each childbirth on my attending the next' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 59), can both be found in Bertha Couch's Life of Jonathan Couch:

He contributed papers at different times to the Intellectual Observer [including] "Habits of the Diadem Spider". For many days he watched the life and work of this little insect, comfortably settled in a corner of the porch of his front door (Couch, 1891, p. 118).

There is one branch of a medical man's profession which is accounted a ready-money engagement, but here, too, his patients were an exception to the rule, one person's expression of her sentiments being only an example of the many.

"I allus pays un ver one, when I engages un ver the next," she informed a friend, "and the laast I'll never pay ver," and she never did. The unpaid entry of the birth of her "laast," stands on the old ledger today, a lasting monument to her thrifty (!) principles (ibid., p. 102).

Dr Carfax's prescription for his patient Mr Tregentil (the name surely an example of Q humour – a play on 'très gentil'?) to observe the rookery, was based on an actual prescription by Dr Jonathan Couch for Lewis Harding (grandson of Sir Harry Trelawny of Trelawne), who returned from Australia suffering the after effects of rheumatic fever and in a nervous condition. Dr Couch:

...prescribed as an occupational treatment, that he should observe the actions and habits of the rooks at Trelawne, making daily records for a year from August 1847. . . The rookery at Trelawne was one of the largest ever recorded in Cornwall and Harding's diary of his observations, entitled Life of a Rookery collected for Jonathan Couch, remains the earliest known study of any single species of bird in such detail, achieved without the use of binoculars or telescope, much of it being done from Harding's room at Trelawne (Johns, 2010, p. 43).

His observations of the rookery also led Harding to develop an interest in photography and he took several photographs of Jonathan Couch and his sons.

Like Mark Lewarne, when he was 68 years old Jonathan Couch married a much younger wife of 21, causing much local astonishment and disapproval and leading to a rift with his eldest and youngest sons, Richard and John. The marriage was, however, a very happy one and Jonathan Couch and his young wife Sarah Roose had three little daughters, of a similar age to Q and his sisters. However, the weak and boastful Mark Lewarne of the novel certainly has nothing in common with the kindly, scholarly old gentleman whom Sir John Trelawny discovered:

...repeating "Who killed Cock Robin?" to his youngest child, a little thing of two years and a half, while on the table ready for the post, was a treatise or vindication of "The Story of Brut, and the Existence of Giants in Devon and Cornwall' (Couch, 1891, p.120).

Passing a fierce sheep-dog en route to Lantyan with Ledru, Dr Carfax:

...divagated to the Odyssey, to the best way of countering an attack by dog or dogs. . . My father has left it in a manuscript, as a recorded experiment, that to sit down abruptly and laugh will defeat the most violent dog (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p.58).

In his Illustrations of Instinct deduced from the Habits of British Animals (1847), Jonathan Couch referred to the same passage in Homer's Odyssey – with which Q, the classicist, was no doubt already familiar – and discussed this 'well understood mode of defence' (Couch, 1891, p. 67).

Dr Carfax's habit of reading as he drove along was a habit of Q's father, Thomas. Speaking of his horse, Cassandra, Dr Carfax tells Ledru: 'she usually sets her own pace and adapts it to my habit of reading a book as we go' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p.57). Q remembers an incident when:

...with groom in front, my elder sister and I on the rear seat, and my father on foot some paces behind reading a book, as we crawled up Halgavar Hill – without warning the near hind- wheel detached itself and we children were gently slid into a ditch, a small avalanche of books scattered on top of us (Quiller-Couch, 1944, p.23).

The hay-making scene in Chapter 11 recalls Q's description of his grandfather Elias Ford's farm at Abbotskerwell, near Newton Abbot in Devon:

Best of all came the final tea-drinking, somehow accurately timed, when the last wagon- load stood against the sunset ready to be followed to barn, the tea and cider passed around with cakes and 'splits' and Devonshire cream in bowls crowned with golden crust; when we gathered beneath a hedge and all tongues were loosened together as we gazed across the long acres shorn to stubble, and gossiped until the bats wheeled down too close for the women and the wagon started to jolt home' (ibid., p. 32).

Farmer Bosanko's hay harvesters sat in a wide semi-circle under the hedge of the field (Mark's Gate) drinking tea which Mrs Bosanko dispensed among them along with plates of saffon cake and splitters piled with jam upon clotted cream. The hay crop had been well and truly saved; all but its last load stacked in the mowhay below. This last load remained to be carried home ceremoniously – the farmer believing in all old rites. After the coming corn harvest there would be supper in the barn with cider and songs to celebrate it. But the hay harvest concluded with a tea drink under the hedge (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 91).

The Quiller-Couches were invited to the ceremony of 'crying the neck' followed by a traditional barn supper after the corn harvest at Trelowarren, at which Q was guest of honour, by Sir Courtney and Lady Vyvyan. Sir Courtney was another who believed in the old rites.  

At the hay-making scene in Castle Dor the young Johnny Bosanko, telling his dream, is drawn into the background legend. Characteristics of the young Q can be found in the Johnny's character, who lives in an imaginary world of heroes and villains, knights and ladies and fairy tales but who is an adventurous boy, delighting in roaming the countryside. Q recalls:

I lived avidly for such outdoor sports as came within reach . . .day-dreams and the persistent lure of running water . . .making a fleet of boats out of bark and twigs. . . I would laze by the hour, watching the ducks and telling myself tales - episodes, rather, of a story that went on and never ended, its heroes drawn in the main from recollections of two books in my father's library – the Morte d'Arthur and a translation of Amadis de Gaul. Ivanhoe came later, and then the early volumes of Moxon's Tennyson, to set me charging with a clothes prop between the apple trees, for I specialised in tournaments (Quiller-Couch, 1944, pp. 23 & 30).

Mabel Quiller-Couch's children's stories also contain a good deal of autobiographical material. Kitty in Kitty Trenire, is similarly obsessed with Arthurian figures. Her father is Dr Trenire who owns Tennyson's Idylls of the King in handsome bound volumes in his extensive library. Mabel later retells the legend of Tristan and Iseult in Cornwall's Wonderland, her anthology of Cornish legends for children.

Béroul and the topography of the legend

Q had a fascination with Arthurian legends from childhood. His friend Thomas Hardy published his drama The Famous Tragedy of The Queen of Cornwall at Tintagel in Lyonesse in 1923, and Q himself had included several excerpts from Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur in the Oxford Book of English Prose, published in 1925. The possibility of a novel based on the subject was no doubt revolving in his mind for some time, particularly after his interest was piqued by the discovery of a link between Béroul's version of the legend and the locality of Fowey.

Rowse wondered whether Q had originally 'been put onto this by the young antiquarian, Charles Henderson, who became a close friend of mine' (Rowse, 1988, p.190). Q certainly knew Charles Henderson well. He wrote the preface to Charles Henderson's Essays in Cornish History, published by subscription after the latter's untimely death at the age of 33 in Rome. Q remembers his 'boyish ardour':

No jealous or suspicious inheritor of family documents could resist him. He came to see, he conquered, he saw. Once (I remember) when the luncheon-bell had twice sounded in a house not previously visited by him, I had to dig him out of a neglected muniment-room and wash and dress him, so to speak, for table; from which, the meal over, he plunged again into the vault, to emerge two hours later with armfuls of deeds and dangling seals and carry off the trove in a borrowed washing-basket (Q in Rowse &Henderson, 1935, p. viii).

In his essay on the records of Truro before 1300, Henderson refers to the grant of the 'Honour of Lantyan' to Richard de Lucy, a group of manors gathered around Lantyan in Lostwithiel. The Honour included 'the head manor of Lantyan, in earlier times the residence of Mark, King of Cornwall' (ibid., p. 2).

Q certainly corresponded on the subject with Henry Jenner, whom Rowse describes as 'the old bearded patriarch of Cornish scholarship' (Rowse, 1988, p. 190). Jenner was a leading figure of the late 19th/early 20th century Celtic revival. Q had rather ambivalent feelings on the subject. He was not interested, for example, in the revival of the Cornish language.

Rowse writes:

I remembered Charles Henderson's description of the first Gorseth in 1928, when the large horn emitted three feeble hoots and the audience laughed. Q. was barded at the same time – he swore his family not to come within five miles of the ceremony. Foy Q. [his daughter] tells me that the Fowey story is that he locked them in the cellar (Payton, 2005, p. 210).

A letter to H. F. Stewart (Dean of St John's, Cambridge when the English literature tripos was being formulated), dated Easter 1925, says:

I have been spending the time . . .exploring – or rather renewing old explorations of the real scene of the Tristan and Iseult business. Yes, my boy – the real scene. Is there anything in the world jollier than happening on a little trifle of confirmatory evidence that has lain latent for hundreds of years and dodged the antiquarians? Last week when I was morally certain where King Mark's castle must have stood, the farmer's wife at the manor farm below, over a hospitable cup of tea got out some deeds and a map with the names of fields on it; and lo! The meadow exactly fitting my hypothesis was named 'Mark's Gate'. An adjoining small field, on which the postern should have opened, has for name 'Pilfer Parc'. Plus ça change . . .' (Brittain, 1947, p. 11).

The incident was re-visited in Chapter 9 of Castle Dor - 'Lantyan'  - where Mrs Bosanko shows Carfax and Ledru a map:

 Doctor Carfax. . .poring over the map, suddenly dashed a forefinger down upon it: . . . "Cannot you see? A field in the very place entered as 'Mark's Gate' . . . and look here! 'Pilfer Door' – and if we're right just where a postern door would be. Plus ça change . . .." (p. 70).

Foy was Q's companion when he was shown the map:

I have a clear recollection of rowing up to Lantyan on the afternoon he made the discovery of Mark's Gate inscribed on Mr Santo's map. From then on the fascination of uniting the legend of Tristan and Iseult with the Fowey River took its hold (Quiller-Couch & Du Maurier, 1962, p. vii).

The novel was dedicated to Mr and Mrs Santo of Lantyan and, incidentally, members of the Santo family still farm Lantyan to this day.  

In fact, the antiquarians were about ten years ahead of Q. A 1916 paper by Joseph-Marie Loth for L'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres describes his visit to various sites in Cornwall to verify the place names found in Béroul's manuscript of the Tristan legend. He made a brief visit to Lantyan but failed to identify the 'Île de Saint-Samson' in the Fowey river. On his return to France he wrote to his friend the Rev. Thomas Taylor, Vicar of St Just-in-Penwith, who in turn applied to a celebrated Cornish writer who had passed most of his life at Fowey 'Arthur C. [sic] Couch'.

Henry Jenner, in a lecture given at the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society on 28 November 1913, referred to Loth's visit of 1912 when Jenner, Mrs Jenner and the Rev. Taylor had accompanied him to various sites in Cornwall. This must have been about the time when Q had just been appointed King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge, and was involved in developing the new English Literature tripos. Tristan and Iseult was probably the last thing on his mind. He replied to the Rev. Taylor that there was no such island in the Fowey river. The Rev. Taylor then contacted the Rev. H. Lines, vicar of St. Sampson, Golant, who did not know of the isle but helpfully supplied Loth with a map of the locality containing the name of the field 'Mark's Gate' (Loth, 1916, pp.589-593).

Loth reflected that only the prose Tristan and Chrétien de Troyes mention the Isle of St. Samson by name. In Chapter 4 of Castle Dor, Ledru and Amyot explore the terrain looking for clues to fit Ledru's theory of the connection of the locality with the legend, and Amyot offers his opinion that 'knights in armour would not fight on a rock but on some sort of sandbank; and of such there may be a dozen left when the tide ebbs' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p.27). Dr Carfax expands on the topic in Chapter 9:

...but to my way of thinking the island was more likely one of the sandbanks, uncovered at low water that lie in the main river yonder, but no matter; Béroul, if you remember, never mentions the fight, but Gottfried de Strasbourg, rewriting the poet Thomas, gives us the incident in detail. Oh yes it could all have happened on the sandbanks between St Sampson's and the opposite shore or on the mudflat by St Winnow' (ibid., pp. 71-2).

The character of the Breton notary Ledru was probably inspired by Professor Loth. He was a Breton, a linguist, historian, antiquarian, philologist and an expert on Celtic languages. His 1916 article states his intention to return to the area of Fowey to conduct further research, but no doubt this would not have been until after the end of the war. His 1934 obituary mentions that he made several long visits to Britain and Ireland in the course of his studies in Celtic history and language. It is possible that Q met Loth in person on one of these visits, but it is more probable that he had his information on Loth's research from Henry Jenner. Dr Carfax tells Ledru:

...the Antiquarian Society of which I was a member has affiliations with a similar body your side of the channel. Treatises passed between us, the similarity of place names in Brittany and Cornwall, and their legends too, being a favourite subject...

..."Manuscript 217". . .du fonds français de la Bibliotheque Nationale, le commencement et le fin du poeme sont perdus: twelfth century – and the earliest extant manuscript of the whole Tristan series. Yes I have read Béroul's Roman de Tristan; or as much of it as the professor of the learned society I have just mentioned cared to quote...

...I took Béroul's Roman de Tristan – or to be more exact the extracts from it reprinted in the journal of our society – to read the poem through once more under Castle Dor and in the woods of Lantyan, where, according to your poet, Tristan once trysted with Queen Iseult (ibid, pp. 51-3).

The learned society referred to by Carfax was no doubt the Royal Institution of Cornwall. The text of Henry Jenner's 1913 lecture 'The Tristan Romance and Its Cornish Provenance', which was repeated for the Arts Society of St Ives in 1914, appeared in Volume 19 of the Journal of the R.I.C.. Béroul's manuscript (or as much of it as remained) had been transcribed by Ernest Muret in 1903 for the Société des Anciens Textes Français and included a detailed introduction and glossary of Old French words. Loth's own research was probably based on this transcription.

The discussions between Carfax and Ledru on the origins of the legend and links to the locality of Fowey were originally much more detailed. Bozman, of Dents had recommended some pruning of the text. Daphne wrote to Foy: 'Some of the dialogue between Carfax and Ledru was really a little too learned for today's reader, and inclined to hold up the story, so there have been some abbreviations' (du Maurier, May 1959, unpublished letter accessed from www. 14/3/2021).

Cornish History and Folklore in the Tristan legend and Castle Dor

The vast body of work linked to Cornish history and the possible antecedents of the Tristan legend is mostly beyond the scope of this study, however some of the details mentioned in the novel are discussed below.

Castle Dor and King Mark

Much confusion has arisen in the past over attempts to link the legend and local place-names with actual historical persons and events. Even Henry Jenner, who was convinced of the Cornish provenance of the legend, wrote 'whether it had any historical foundation, we do not know' (Jenner, 1914).

From identifying the Lancien of Béroul's text with the manor of Lantyan, to establishing it as the actual site of the palace of a real King Mark of Cornwall is a bit of a leap of faith. The claims that Castle Dor is the site of the palace of an actual 'King Mark' of Cornwall mainly rest on the existence of the 'Tristan Stone': originally a grave-stone which has been re-located more than once and which at the time Q was writing stood at the Four Turnings, near the gates to Menabilly.

As president of the Fowey branch of the Old Cornwall Society, in September 1960 Foy Quiller-Couch unveiled a plaque which the society had donated, explaining the significance of the stone. Daphne was invited to the unveiling but was away at the time, writing with typical Daphne humour to Foy that she and Tommy had been speculating on the number of motorists who would crash trying to read the plaque in passing. Daphne wrote in Vanishing Cornwall:

Tristan died in Cornwall, whether by a poisoned spear from the hand of his rival, King Mark, or a wound received in battle, none can prove. More probably the latter. For no more than a mile and a half from King Mark's fortress at Castle Dor, the old Lancien, there stands a pillar, some seven feet high, and carved upon it the inscription "Drustans Hic Iacit/Cvnomori Filius'". Commorus, or Quonomorius, has been identified by scholars as Marcus, or Mark, King of Cornwall, and Drustans as Tristan (du Maurier, 1972, p. 38).

When Dr Carfax and Ledru discuss the monument, Q's own opinion is possibly revealed by the remark 'Our hero of a hundred legends may have lain beneath that tombstone once – I rather doubt it' (Quilller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 81).

Sigmund Eisner, discussing the origins of the Tristan legend wrote:

In the absence of further evidence I must agree with Professor Newstead, who says that the stone only tells us that a Drustanus (or someone with a similar name) was a sixth century son of a Cunomorius (Eisner, 1969, p.57).

The first part of the inscription is badly weathered. In 1769 in his Antiquities of the County of Cornwall Dr William Borlase, Rector of Ludgvan, translated the inscription as 'CIRVSIVS HIC IACIT CUNOWORI FILIUS'. More recent techniques support his opinion. Modern 3D imaging technique of ambient occlusion shading:

...was used to differentiate lettering in the inscription from damage and weathering on the granite surface of the Tristan Stone, as well as picking up a previously unnoticed wheel-head cross. . .The Tristan Stone was the first artefact to be scanned by the FARO Focus 3D laser scanner after its release in 2010 (Spring and Peters, 2014, p. 97).

Borlase was right, and all the stone actually tells us is that a Cirusius, son of someone called Cunomorius or Cunovorius was buried at the original site.

Daphne describes how:

Excavations in 1936 and 1937 on the site of Castle Dor, suggested by Dr Singer and undertaken by C.A. Ralegh Radford and the Cornwall Excavation Committee, proved the scholars right. They dated the first hill-fort at Castle Dor as early as the second century BC, when it was a fortified village, the findings suggesting that the inhabitants traded in tin and had Breton connections.

During the Roman occupation of Cornwall, lasting three centuries, the site fell into disuse. Later, about the fifth century A.D., the centre of the fortress was adapted as a chieftain's dwelling-place, with one large hall for the ruler and porter's lodges by the entry gates. Here, beyond all doubt, was the original Lancien, fortress-palace of King Mark, husband of Iseult (du Maurier, 1972, pp. 29-31).

Radford's data and the artefacts found during the 1936/7 excavations deposited in the Royal Cornwall Museum, are re-examined in 1985 by Quinnell and Harris who conclude:

A reconsideration of the data from Castle Dore in the light of current dating of Iron Age pottery suggests that all structural phases on the site may belong to the 4th to 1st centuries BC. Absence of positive dating evidence for a post-Roman structural phase supports the tentative allocation of Period IV 'King Mark's Hall' to the pre-Roman Iron Age (Quinnell & Harris, 1985, p. 123).

The actual hill-fort of Castle Dor therefore showed no evidence of occupation since the iron-age.

Of King Mark himself, Susan Pearce states:

The ninth century life of St Paul Aurelian by Wrmonoc of Landevennec contains the famous line 'The fame [of the saint] came to the ears of King Mark, who is called by another name Cunomorus. . . he is very probably to be identified with the Kynwawr who appears in the Dumnonian king list. . . Mark under his own name, however, never appears is a Cornish setting in what seems the oldest layer of tradition surrounding him.

In the life of St Samson Cunomorus appears as a ruler of local importance ruling from his stronghold at Carhaix.

It now seems unlikely that the inscribed stone near Castle Dor, Fowey . . . or that famous line in Wrmonoc's life of St Pol de Leon can be considered evidence that Mark and Cunomorus are identical (Pearce, 1978, pp. 141 & 155).

St Samson of Dol

As Professor Loth noted, the Prose Tristan and Chrétien de Troyes name the site of the fight between the Morholt (who has come to claim the tribute payable to the King of Ireland of 300 each of young boys and girls aged 15 years from throughout Cornwall, according to Bédier's version) and Tristan as St Samson's Isle.

Béroul's poem connects the legend with Lantyan in the parish of St Sampson. John Fenwick, in his history of the parish, writes:

St Sampson was a Welsh bishop of the 6th century who founded the Abbey/Bishopric of DOL in Brittany. A very early 'life' of St Sampson exists (Vita St Sampsonis, about 610-615 AD) and in this is described a visit he made to Cornwall. Scholars have long debated where in Cornwall he was supposed to have founded his Monastery but the outcome remains inconclusive, with the choice being between Golant, in the Parish of St. Sampson and Southill, near Callington. . . There was a chapel of St Sampson in existence as early as 1281 and it was annexed to the Priory of St Andrew at Tywardreath (Fenwick, 1986, pp. 5 & 7).

Full rights were granted to St Sampson by Bishop Oldham by the 1509 'Composition'. Fenwick mentions the association of the church with Béroul's version of Tristan and Iseult, in which:

Iseult offered to the "Bishop" a rich piece of material later to be made into a chasuble and still used there, says Béroul on the great feast days. . . Apart from the romantic association between Lantyan and St. Sampsons, it would be reasonable to assume that St. Sampsons had been the Manorial chapel to the Manor of Lantyan. Charles Henderson thought so but he did not put forward any evidence to support his theory (ibid., p. 15).

Pearce points out that the Ordance Survey map Britain before the Norman Conquest includes 'Golant among the minster list, but the foundation by Samson of a monastery there is only a possibility' (Pearce, 1978, p. 106). She later describes how:

Between about 901 and 907 Edward the Elder, the father of Athelstan had written to Lounan, Archbishop of Dol, asking to be admitted to the fellowship of the good works of the church of St. Samson, founder and patron of Dol . . . The resurgence of royal interest in the traditions of the see of Dol probably resulted in the dedication of at least one of the two churches, at Southill and Golant, which carry Samson's name (ibid., p. 126).


Béroul's text refers to 'Loënoi' or 'Loonois' which Muret's glossary places as either in Léon, Brittany or Lothian in Scotland, but which is probably a reference to the lost land of Lyonesse. The part of the manuscript dealing with the birth of Tristan is missing but other texts describe Tristan as being the son of Rivalen of Lyonesse and Blanchefleur.

Lyonesse was supposed to stretch from Land's End to Scilly and to have been lost by rising sea levels in a single night due to a great storm (tsunami?). The Vyvyans of Trelowarren (and others) claimed to be descended from Trevelyan, the last survivor of the storm, who escaped riding the white horse which features on their crest.

The 2014 'Lyonesse Project': 'A Study of the Coastal and Marine Environments of the Isles of Scilly' concludes that Scilly was all one island at one time (c. 7000 BC) but that:

By c.1500 BC the pattern of the islands was approaching that of today, but with the dramatic difference of a vast intertidal area of saltmarsh in what is now the islands' inner lagoon. However, much of this would have remained useful land, especially for grazing animal stock. After this point in time the rate of change slowed down significantly and it was not until there was an open channel north of St Mary's that the saltmarsh began to erode rapidly (Charman et al, 2014,

The study gives a likely date of AD 969, plus or minus 294 years, for this land's last useful existence. Some evidence of stone walls on the sea bed were found near Scilly but it is not clear whether these are the remains of buildings or medieval fish traps.

The Forest of Moresk, Mal-Pas and Blanchelande

Béroul's forest of 'Morrois' (1903, ll.1275, 1648, 1662, 2090) or 'Morroi' (l.1900) is described by Muret as a large forest, part of the estates of King Mark, not far from the royal residence and identified by Muret as Dartmoor, or possibly Moray, Scotland. Loth was convinced that it was the forest of Moresk (Moreis in Domesday). The original manor of Moresk was in the present day parish of St Clements, near Truro and was part of the lands awarded to the Count of Mortain by William the Conqueror. The area is still quite wooded but originally the woodland would have been much more extensive. Loth thought it probably extended as far south as St Michael's Mount which also features in Béroul's text. The existence of a footpath called Denas Lane and a field of the same name at St Clement attest to the former presence of a castle or fortress – 'Dinas' – of some sort.

Moreover, in the same area there are two more places associated with the legend. Firstly, 'Mal-Pas' the river crossing where Tristan, disguised as a pilgrim (or leper), carries Iseult across. There was a ferry at the crossing for many years, but it would have been possible before that to cross at low tide although a difficult crossing. O.J. Padel went as far as trying it himself:

...crossing the river twice, at low tide (though not with a lady on his back): it is most unpleasant, mainly because of the deep mud, a true Malpas, but perfectly possible (Padel, 1982, p. 86).

Secondly, at nearby Kea, there was also the manor of Alba Landa: 'Blanchelande', probably named for the white quartz of the area. Ditmas points out, however, that the term 'Blanche lande' in romance 'tends to be associated with open, deserted landscapes' and she suggests 'the sparsely populated uplands north-west of the head of the River Par' as Béroul's location, and that 'the Mal Pas and thus the Gué Aventuros and the Blanche Lande were in the same area which could be identified with the Par River Valley and the high ground to the west beyond Luxulyan' (Ditmas, 1982, pp. 56 & 58).

Dr Carfax, musing on the subject of the Moresk forest, says that the notion of a forest covering eight and twenty miles is rather 'far-fetched' (p. 157). Daphne du Maurier has Amyot hide in Lantyan Woods in a ruined cottage next to a neglected orchard near Woodgate Pill – a reference to the underground cellar belonging to the forester Orri where Tristan hides in Béroul's text – and chooses to set the scene of the projected elopement of Amyot and Linnet at Castle-an-Dinas, St Columb, thereby resolving the difficulty of distance which has been of concern in interpretations of the Tristan legend, and where:

...everywhere were the great white clay peaks themselves, turning the moorland landscape into an unlikely range of mountains. Here was Tristan's "Blanche Lande" come to life indeed... (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 226).

Lantyan and Tintagel

Tintagel is the site traditionally associated with King Mark in Cornish folklore, although Daphne's husband, viewing it with the eyes both of a military man and a keen sailor, opined that the arrival of Tristan and Iseult from Ireland by sea at Tintagel would be an impossibility, stating picturesquely that: 'not even a goat in charge of a flat-bottomed punt would beach his craft there' (du Maurier, 1972, p. 29).

Loth identifies 'Lanciën' in Béroul's text as being the Lantyan (its modern name) in the parish of St Sampsons, Golant, around which Castle Dor is set, although described in part of Béroul's text as being a 'cité' next to Tintagel, which the poet describes as a village near to the royal city of Lanciën. An earlier transcription of the text by Fr. Michel gives 'l'ancien' rather than 'Lanciën', but Muret thought this was wrong.

Peters writes:

In Cornwall nothing matches the status of Tintagel [in the early medieval period] . . .the number of its dwellings and the wealth of its imports classify it as one of the most important sites in the whole south-west and beyond. The original rectangular buildings, made of timber, were replaced with rectangular houses with drystone walls. There were at least 120 houses, possibly more. Many were built on artificial terraces on the eastern, leeward side of the peninsula. . . Even without Arthur, Tintagel was clearly a major stronghold of the Dumnonian kings (Peters, 2005, p. 116).

Peters goes on to suggest that the association with Arthur was the reason why Richard, Earl of Cornwall decided to built his fortress there, to reinforce the idea of his political power. He also raises the point of the peripatetic nature of the court, even at an early period. It was quite likely that a king would move between several residences, in order to be able to supply his court.

Dr Carfax replies to Ledru that he thinks Béroul was right and that:

'...he can be proved so by research into old manor histories and by the study of place names. This Lantyan you seek is indubitably the Lancien of the original story. I believe, as Béroul knew, that King Mark held his court just there below Castle Dor and ruled all this part of the coast of Cornwall from it; that Tintagel, in the north, never came into the story at all...'

Later, they visit the site:

The farmhouse [Lantyan], itself of a fair age, stood a furlong or two from the site of the old manor and its surviving kennels where the quality kept their hounds. And this manor house had been built centuries later than the dead-and-gone palace for vestiges of which Monsieur Ledru had travelled to seek (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, pp. 54 & 68).

Although there was no sizeable settlement at Lantyan, the manor had previously been an important site belonging, as Henderson states, to an 'Honour' of manors. The Domesday survey gives the holder as a Saxon, Osferth or Osfrith of Okehampton, who held various other manors including Boconnoc in the adjacent parish of St Winnow, all of which he held of Count Robert of Mortain. Osferth had been the pre-Conquest holder of the manors. (An Osbert later held the manor of Alba Landa – perhaps a descendant?). Lantyan Manor lands extended over the whole of St Sampson parish  plus Milltown, where the Lord's mill was, in Lanlivery parish, and Treverran in Tywardreath. The manor was then held by the de Lucy's; in 1166 Richard de Lucy was chief justiciar to Henry II. Lantyan passed to the Ripariis (Rivers) family c.1216 on the marriage of Richard's grand-daughter, Maude, to Richard de Ripariis. In the late 13th century:

The manor house of Lantyan was almost certainly located on or near the site of the present farmhouse of the same name, situated in the North of the parish. Although Lantyan manor was apparently poorer than that of Tywardreath it ranked sixth in size out of the 53 Tithings which went make up the Hundred of Powder in 1284 (Fenwick, 1986, p.7).

The "extent" of the Honor of Lantyan in about 1600 was the parish of St Sampson together with Manors or lands in the parishes of Bradoc; Duloe; Lanlivery; Quethiock; St. Denis; St. Veep; Tywardreath; Veryan (ibid., p. 69).

The Rashleighs of Menabilly were lords of the Manor of Lantyan when Castle Dor was written.

King Hoel and Carhayes

Dr Carfax refers to Béroul's understanding of topography:

'He has King Mark appeal to St Evol, St Stephen and St Tresmer of Cahares almost in one breath, parishes I can show you any time Par St Estienne le Martyre; par St Tresmer de Cahares – and Carhayes the other side of Dodman, across the bay from Troy' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 81).

Mr Tregentil, learning that Farmer Bosanko's mother was a Hoel, declares that he is probably descended from King Hoel of 'Little Britain':  

'You must understand that in 530 or so AD the country was split into small kingdoms and my research has led me to believe that Little Britain was not Brittany at all, as had hitherto been supposed, but an area stretching roughly from the Dodman to the Fal estuary. King Hoel held court at Karahes, or Carhayes, as well call it, not to be confused with Carhaix in Brittany (ibid., p. 199).

This may be a reference to de la Borderie's hypothesis in his Histoire de Bretagne (1896) which proposed that immigrants from the Kingdom of Dumnonia, fleeing from the Saxons, established their capital Carhaix, in Poher, Brittany and named it after Carhayes in Cornwall. Ferdinand Lot (1900) treated this with scornful incredulity, asking why they would name their important capital after an 'obscure bourgade' in Cornwall: not even a village, as he learns from Davies Gilbert's Parochial History of Cornwall, but only a manor.

King Hywel of Britain lived much later:

A notice in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 927 describes how, after he had settled affairs in the north, Athelstan received at Eamont Bridge near Carlisle the submission of the rulers in Britain including Hywel, king of the West Welsh. It is possible that a Cornish prince is intended, although perhaps the known contemporary Hywel, king of Dyfed, is more likely (Pearce, 1978, p. 169).

An area outside the walls of Exeter, after Athelstan expelled the Britons, became known as 'Little Britain.' It is clear that Béroul is referring to Carhaix, however. The final part of his manuscript is missing but in other versions of the legend Tristan marries Iseult of the White Hands, daughter of King Hoel of Brittany at Carhaix. 'St Tresmer' is St Trémeur of Carhaix. Ditmas thought that Béroul might have been educated at the Abbey of St Évroul (also known as l'Abbaye d'Ouche) Normandy: 'beau sire saint Évrol'.

A similar name 'Carharles' or 'Carhurles' just south of Castle Dor is associated with a family of that name but Fenwick points out that surnames were often derived from a place and that 'Charles Henderson thought that perhaps Carhurles was derived from the name of the one time King of Cornwall, Gorlois, hence Car-Gorlois (the castle of Gorlois) and that this was his residence' (Fenwick, 1986, p. 32-33). The name Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall at Tintagel, first appeared in connection with the Arthurian legends in Geoffrey of Monmouth's writings. There is no Gorlois in the Dumnonian king list.


Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae identifies King Constantine as the son of Cador and King Arthur's successor. Pearce states that:

A Constantine, King of Dumnonia, appears in De Excidio Britanniae, described in the most unflattering terms as "the unclean whelp of the lioness of Dumnonia," and as a man who committed sacrilegious murder. There seems no reason to doubt that this is a piece of genuine testimony describing, among other contemporary rulers, a ruler of Dumnonia about the middle of the sixth century (Pearce, 1978, p. 141).

In Castle Dor, Linnet Lewarne is the daughter of Prosper Constantine and Deborah Brangwyn her servant a 'Constantine on the wrong side of the blanket'. Rather than King Constantine, however, Linnet is supposedly descended from 'a certain Theodore Paleologus...the last stout man of imperial race to hold the Turk out of Byzantium' (Quiller-Couch& du Maurier, p. 35), whose actual tombstone at Landulph, Cornwall (died 1636) reads:

Here lyeth the Body of Theodoro Paleologus of Pesaro in Italye descended from ye imperiall lyne of ye last Christian Emperors of Greece, being the sonne of Camilio, the sonne of Prosper, the sonne of John, the sonne of Thomas, second brother to Constantine Paleologus, the 8th of that name and last of ye lyne yt raygned in Constantinope until subdewed by the Turkes.

Q's novel Sir John Constantine (1906) and short story The Mystery of Joseph Laquedem (1900) were also inspired by Theodore Paleologus and both feature his 'descendants' named Constantine.

Linnet's reference to the 'Constantine Pippin or Gillyflower' is no doubt an allusion to the old 'Gilliflower' variety of apple discovered by Sir Christopher Hawkins growing in a cottage garden near Truro, in 1813, which flowers on the tip of the spray and was named for the clove-scent of its flowers: gillyflower being a corruption of girofle (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 85).

The Rose and Anchor Inn, Troy

Linnet's husband is Mark Lewarne, proprietor of the Rose and Anchor Inn in the Town Square, Troy. The inn was probably modelled on the Ship Inn, Trafalgar Square, Fowey. This building, believed by Historic England to probably have 15th century origins, has a reputed date of 1578, being built for John Rashleigh, and later extended in the 17th and 19th centuries (THE SHIP INN, Fowey - 1210721 | Historic England).  The first floor contains a 'fine quality panelled room' which recalls the best bedchamber panelled with old oak given to Ledru (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 18). The location of the inn is specified as Trafalgar Square in Daphne's half of the text.

Béroul as a minstrel

Pearce writes that:

Béroul's story (or his source) seems to depart from what had been the traditional setting of the story. Quite probably he had personal knowledge of the area involved, and so made use of the topography (Pearce, 1978, p. 155).

Loth proposes that Béroul himself had not visited Cornwall, but instead had taken the details from an earlier version of the legend by someone familiar with Cornwall, thus accounting for inconsistent details in the text. However, Ditmas suggests that Béroul was a minstrel, educated, a 'clericus' but not a priest, who travelled and had knowledge of both Brittany and Cornwall and that any inconsistencies might be explained by the use of artistic licence.

She points out that he would have needed a patron, possibly from one of the important Cornish families, perhaps the Cardinans of Cardinan Castle and Restormel – 'Dinan', seneschal to Mark, being derived from their name (Dinan of Dinas Lidan in the text). Béroul therefore would have used topography familiar to his audience and, as the poem would have been recited over a period of time, for audiences which might vary and to which he would have adapted various aspects of the recital.

Padel thought that the de Lucys were more likely as patrons. He writes of Lantyan that:

Richard de Lucy held it 'in demesne', which meant that he had a special interest in it and would have been likely to reside there if he visited Cornwall. . . he also had a close interest in the other main focus of interest in Béroul's poem, the area around Truro (Moresk, Malpas and Blanchelande), for it was in de Lucy's manor of Kenwyn that the borough of Truro was founded during his lifetime [In fact he styled himself Richard de Lucy de Trivereu].

His patronage would, however, entail a fairly early date for the composition of the poem, since he died in 1179, although not impossible (Padel, 1982, p. 91).

Perhaps the next generation of de Lucy's? As stated above, they held the manor until 1216. Could the poem have been composed for the occasion of the marriage of Maude de Lucy, widow of Geoffrey de Lascelles, to Richard de Ripariis in 1216? Maude had inherited, via her grandfather Richard de Lucy's third son, Godfrey, Bishop of Winchester, the 'honour' of Ongar (Essex) which comprised fees held of the honours of Boulogne, Gloucester and Mortain.

The de Lucys were a leading Anglo-Norman family: Richard de Lucy had been Sheriff and Justiciar of Essex under King Stephen and then Chief Justiciar to Henry II, jointly with Robert de Beaumont, second Earl of Leicester, until 1168 and then alone until 1179. He held ten 'knight's fees' (substantial units of land) in Cornwall before 1135 and 19 'knight's fees' in Normandy by 1179. The family had reputedly originated in Lucé-sur-Orne, Normandy and the Abbey of Saint Évroul, where Ditmas suggests Béroul may have been educated, is also in the department of Orne.

Richard de Ripariis or Rivers was a servant to King John from the time when the latter was still Prince John and Count of Mortain. De Ripariis was married three times, the second time to Joan de Port, widow of John Marshal brother of William Marshal (later 1st Earl of Pembroke) and the third to Maude de Lucy. In 1221 he was appointed keeper of the dower-lands to Queen Isabella of England.

As a matter of interest, Joseph Loth wrote an article in 1923 concerning the 'sword of Tristan', part of the royal regalia of England, and which was mentioned in the letters patent of King John, 10 December 1207, as having been brought from Germany by the hands of 'Hugonis de Ropell et Rad(ulphi) de Rip(aria) et Johannes Ruft'. Rip has been extended to 'Riparia' but was more probably 'Ripariis'.

Muret's detailed introduction to his transcript of Beroul's Le Roman de Tristan, (Manuscript 2171), states his belief that more than one poet was involved in its composition. The manuscript itself is a copy probably made in the second half of the 13th century. From his analysis of the dialect used in the first part, which is attributed to Béroul and which contains the place name 'Lancien', Muret proposes that the poet must have come from or have spoken the dialect of the 'extreme north of the department of the Orne or the Eure-et-Loire'. This part also refers to Tristan's weapon as the bow 'Qui ne faut', a reference to Geffrei Gaimar's History of the English People c. 1147-51, a translation into Anglo-Norman French, in which he describes the assassination of King Edmund in 1016 by the traitor Eadric, using the weapon 'Qui ne faut'. This helps date the first part of the manuscript. The second part of the manuscript refers to the siege of Acre of 1190/1, so must post-date this. The first part of the manuscript closely mirrors that of Eilhart von Oberge. It also mentions St Andrew, which Muret took to be a Scottish reference although the Priory of Tywardreath, founded by Richard Fitz Turold in the 12th century, was dedicated to St Andrew. Fitz Turold's estates in Cornwall, held by Robert, Count of Mortain, formed part of the feudal barony of Cardinham.

Ditmas's suggestion of the Cardinan (Cardinham) family as Béroul's patrons - or possibly a successor given the dates involved and that Muret thought that more than one poet was responsible for Manuscript 2171 - is strengthened by the connections to Dol in Brittany as well as Tywardreath and Fowey, and the recurrence of the name Iseult in Cardinham family history along with other names linked to the legend mentioned in Béroul's text.

In 1167 Yseult de Dol was given in marriage to Hasculf de Subligny (also written Asculph/Harcoul/Hasculph de Soligné/ Sulenay and other variations) by Henry II, who also granted him lands in England and Cornwall. Hasculf was descended from Othuel d'Avranches - illegitimate half-brother of Richard d'Avranches the Earl of Chester - and his wife Lesciline de Subligny. (Othuel was tutor to William, son of Henry I, and was aboard the White Ship with his half brother Richard and Henry's heir when it sank in the Channel.) Hasculf was the son of Sir John de Soligny of Umberleigh in Devon. His elder brother, Philip, inherited Umberleigh but had only one daughter who married Jordan de Champernowne. Hasculf had the manor of Fawton in Cornwall.

One of Hasculf and Yseult's daughters, Isolda, heiress of Fawton, St Neots, married Richard de Prideaux (Pridias), Lord of Prideaux, whose grandfather, Baldwin, had been given a grant in fee of Pridias by the prior of Tywardreath. Richard and Isolda's daughter, Emma de Prideaux, married firstly Sir Walter de Treverbyn and secondly Robert de Cardinham, Lord of Fowey. Fawton is very close to Cardinham and its castle and to Restormel, the title Lord of Restormel was inherited by Robert de Cardinham through his first marriage to Isabella Fitzwilliam de Hastings.

The entry for St Neots in the Lysons' Magna-Britannia reads:

It is probable that the Domesday manor of Fawintone, described as held by the Earl of Moreton [Count of Mortain] in demesne, comprehended a large district on the banks of the Fowey, which rises in this parish, and extended to the borough of Fowey at its mouth. At a later period the Cardinham family certainly had the manor and borough of Fowey, and there appear to have been two manors of Faweton, both distinct from each other and probably both within the parish of St Neot, as one of them is known to be. There was, in the reign of Henry III, a manor of Faweton, which belonged to Andrew de Suleny, on whose death without issue it devolved to his uncle Jeffrey; and he dying without issue, it was inherited by his sisters in moieties: one moiety passed by marriage to the Treverbyns (Lysons, 1814, p. 245).

And for Fowey:

The manor of Fowey was held at the time of the Domesday survey, under the Earl of Moreton, by Richard, ancestor of the Fitz-Richards and Fitzwilliams, whose heiress married Robert de Cardinham. This Robert, in the reign of Richard I, gave the church of Fowey and certain lands which formed a manor to the prior and convent of Tywardreath (ibid., p. 109).

On the death of her father Jean II of Dol, Yseult de Dol as his heiress also inherited the title of Lord of Combourg and 'Signifer Sancti-Samsonis' – Standard-bearer of Saint Samson. She held the title from 1162 until her death in 1197 when it passed to the eldest son of Hasculf and Yseult, Jean III of Dol. The Seigneurie of Combourg had been created by Junguené, archbishop of Dol, for his brother Riwallen of Dol (also the name of a ninth century prince of Brittany and another name which appears in the legend).

Lines 2991-2998 of Manuscript 2171 describe Iseult giving a piece of rich material to the bishop – a kind of brocade woven with gold – out of the goodness of her heart, which she places on the altar and from which a chasuble is made to be used for the important festivals and which, the poet said, was still at St Samson's:

Un riche paile fait d'orfois: 

Onques n'ot tel ne quens ne rois;

Et la roïne Yseut l'a pris

Et, par buen cuer, sor l'autel mis.

Une chasuble en fu faite,

Qui ja du tresor n'iert hors traite,

Se as granz festes annés non.

Encor est ele a Saint Sanson (Muret, 1913, p. 93).

It has been suggested that these lines are evidence for the prior existence and folk memory of a local knowledge of the legend, but may well be evidence of an actual event in local history. It is quite likely that Yseult de Dol would have given gifts for use at the Chapel of St Samson for which saint she held the title of 'Signifier', and the incident was no doubt included by the poet as a tribute to the family for whom he was writing. The mention of Lantyan as the site of King Mark's palace may therefore have been because the poet was aware that the chapel belonged to the manor of Lantyan. The chapel was a dependant of the priory of Tywardreath, as was the later church of St Sampson until 1509.

St Andrew appears in Béroul's text and, not only was the priory of Tywardreath dedicated to St Andrew, but also Robert de Cardinham's son by his first wife Isabella Fitzwilliam (from whom he inherited Restormel) was named Andrew and had a daughter, Isolda de Cardinham.

The grand-daughter of Isolda de Cardinham, Isolda de Carminowe, appears as a central character in Daphne du Maurier's novel The House on the Strand, based around the priory of Tywardreath (Tiwardri meaning 'House on the Strand').

Chocheyras proposes that, rather than the Abbey of Saint Évroul suggested by Ditmas, Béroul may have been a clerk of the Abbey of Saint Serge and Sainte Bacchus at Angers, of which Tywardreath was an alien priory (i.e. under the control of a religious house outside England), along with the priories of Totnes, Devon and Minster, Cornwall. In his article, Chocheyras includes Daphne du Maurier's map from The House on the Strand which shows the former estuary (now Par Sands) as navigable right up to the site of the former priory of Tywardreath, where ships from France could have berthed. The Fowey river was also navigable right up to Lostwithiel and Restormel Castle in the 12th century. Béroul could have been sent by the Abbey at Angers (Chocheyras, 1994, pp. 898-916).

According to Guilloreau, the priory of Tywardreath was very much out on a limb and had little contact with the Abbey. However, perhaps the donation of lands for a priory at Minster would have led to an exchange of messages. As a literate clerk and travelling minstrel, Béroul would have been a useful person to employ in the business. As a minstrel no doubt he would have claimed hospitality at the various monasteries en route wherever he went. Offering hospitality to travellers was part of the rule of St Benedict; both St Évroul and Saint Serge d'Angers were Benedictine houses as was the priory at St Michael's Mount which Béroul also mentions. By 1339, the guest lodgings at Tywardreath were in a dilapidated state and the prior asked Bishop Grandisson for dispensation from the rule of hospitality, but got short shrift. The priory managed, however, to limp along until the Dissolution.

Minster Priory was at Boscastle, very near to Tintagel which Béroul also includes in his story; it was first established by the gift of lands on which the oratory of St Merthiana stood to the Abbey of Saint Serge by Guillaume FitzNicolas. Also included was the manor of Polyphant, lands at Kennegi and Trelay and part of the income from the domaines of Woolesdon, Trefoward, Tredawl ,Trevalga and Holmwood. This gift was approved and ratified by Bishop Henry Marshall between 1194 and 1206. FitzNicholas probably belonged to the Bottreaux family who built the castle of Boscastle and later renewed the gift to the Abbey (Guilloreau, 1908, pp.433-488).

The first prior of Tywardreath was called André; Rivallon, a contemporary of Henry II, was witness to a transaction between the monks of Tywardreath and Philip de Treverbyn (the Treverbyns being linked to the Cardinhams by marriage). The list of benefices of the priory in 1283 included the Chapelle de Vale, Fowey, Tywardreth, St Austell, Lanlivery, St Anthony and Treneglos and rents at Lesnewth.

Line 2870 of the poem reads 'Andrez qui fu nez de Nicole' which Muret's glossary and Mermier's English translation give as Andrez (nephew of King Mark) who was born at Lincoln. However, Nicole as Lincoln does not really seem to fit (Brittonic 'Lindon'; Roman 'Lindum Colonia; English Lindocolina or Lincylene; modern Lincoln) but, instead, could not this line be an allusion to André first prior of Tywardreath/ the Priory of St Andrew and the donor of Minster, FitzNicholas?

It seems, therefore, that one can make a case for either the de Lucy's or the Cardinhams as patrons of Béroul. Hasculf de Subligny was made Warden of Jersey by King John in 1206 to be succeeded by Philippe d'Aubigny in 1212 (Geoffrey de Lucy was in charge of Guernsey during the same period), and Robert de Cardinham was granted custody of the county of Cornwall in 1215, so here was a union of two extremely influential families with local connections. Their status together with the various coincidences in Béroul's text seem to make it more likely that Ditmas's suggestion was the correct one. Dates also seem to support this. The marriage between de Subligny and Yseult de Dol took place in 1167, and Béroul's text is thought to date from c. 1170, although the second part of Manuscript 2171 must post-date the siege of Acre in 1190/1.

Blakeslee, discussing the date of the manuscript, believes the 'mal d'acre' to refer to leprosy not the crusaders' malady and refers to the allusion to 'Malpertuis' (line 4286) pointing out that this is a reference to the Roman de Renart in which Renart's lair is called Malpertuis (as Ditmas also mentions) and that there are no allusions to this before 1165-70 and it was not in common use until c.1179-80. Blakeslee also thought that the Roman de l'Escoufle by Jean Renart in which there are several references to Tristan and Iseult, betray a knowledge of Béroul's version of the legend, which would put the date of his poem before 1202, although it would have to have been in circulation well before this date. The Roman de l'Escoufle makes no mention of any of the localities specified in Béroul's poem, however, and most of the references to the legend are just similes; although Blakeslee (as does Sudre, 1886) points out that Gouvernal, in connection with the episode in which Tristan trains his dog Husdent to hunt silently, is only found in Béroul and Eilhart von Oberge, and that only Béroul refers to Gouvernal as 'maistre', as in the Roman de l'Escoufle (Blakeslee, 1985, pp. 145-172).

However, perhaps more weight should be given to specific events in the location in which the poem is set when attempting to date it. Ditmas suggests Andrew de Cardinham's marriage as the reason for the composition of the poem but this would mean a rather later date for the poem than has previously been thought. Andrew's daughter Isolda de Cardinham died in 1301 aged 66, making her date of birth c.1235. There were two other children from the marriage but even so the date of the marriage was probably not before 1225.

The marriage between Robert de Cardinham and Emma de Prideaux, grand-daughter to Hasculf and Yseult, seems more likely. Her elder sister, Alina was born c. 1185 and married Sir John Orcharton of Modbury, Devon, part of the feudal barony of Trematon, Cornwall, held by the de Valletorts. Modbury is not far from Totnes where the Abbaye d'Angers had its third alien priory.

Emma de Prideaux was probably, therefore, born c. 1187. A deed of gift of the revenues from the mill at Lanlivery was made to the monks of Tywardreath 1200-1225 to pay for masses for the soul, amongst others, of Robert's first wife, Isabella to which his second wife Emma was a witness. His marriage to Emma de Prideaux, widow of Sir Walter Treverbyn, could easily have taken place in the first decade of the 13th century. The Prideaux family also owned land in the parishes of Kenwyn and Kea, linking them to the possible areas of Morreis, Blanche-Lande and the Mal Pas. (Confusingly, Robert's younger son Robert de Cardinham married another Emma and their daughter Emma de Cardinham married the younger son of Emma de Prideaux and Walter de Treverbyn, Odo de Treverbyn).

The poem was not necessarily written to celebrate a marriage, however: perhaps it was a celebration of the gift of the lands at Minster and intended to flatter all the local benefactors of the mother Abbey of Angers. Whatever the motivation, the numerous coincidences between local history and references in the poem point to local patronage specific to Cornwall playing an important part in this.

Origins of the legend

Q hints at his own belief as to the origins of the legend when Dr Carfax says to Ledru:

The tale originated here in the sixth century, or before that even, and was handed down from father to son, or more likely mother to daughter, until your wandering troubadours got hold of it and turned it into poetry (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 52).

Henry Jenner writes:

He [Loth] shows that the author of that original was remarkably well acquainted with Cornish topography, and so was presumably a Cornishman. . . And if the author of the original Trustan was a Cornishman, and was the man whom M. Loth takes him to have been, then I think that we may claim the whole Arthurian cycle of romance, and perhaps even the nucleus of the great Grail allegory, as of Cornish origin (Jenner, 1913, p. 473).

He goes on to say that Professor Loth:

...makes Tristan to be a Welsh form, and will have nothing to say to the theory which connects the Trystan ap Tayllwych of the Welsh Triads and poems with the Drostan macTalorcs of the Pictish king lists. He considers that philologically it can't be done (ibid., p.486).

Jenner ends his lecture with reference to a recent book by Schoepperle (1913) who discusses the similarities of the Tristan legend with the Irish legend The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. Professor Loth discussed her work in his 1924 paper 'Un Parallèle au Roman de Tristan, en Irlandais, au Xième siècle'. He writes that the sources of the legend by both Thomas and Béroul should not be sought in Ireland but in Cornwall, and he is convinced that it must have Celtic origins.

Loomis writes:

I am far from subscribing, however, to M.J. Loth's theory of the Cornish origins and immediate transmission of the legend from Cornwall to France. The introduction of Lancien and the chapel of Saint Samson seem to be late localizations, made after French conteurs had begun to cater to audiences in England. At least these details cannot have deep roots in tradition since Béroul is the only poet who knows them (Loomis, 1927, p. 96).

Muret thinks that some of the details contained in Manuscript 2171 are derived from an earlier, non-French, more 'barbaric' tradition. He cites, for example, elements such as the suspension of an enemy's severed head from the branches of a tree by its hair.

Sigmund Eisner makes a convincing case for the legend's sources. To summarize: he points out the number of Pictish kings or sons of kings called Drust who were sons of Talorc, tracing the name Drust to Drustan and Tristan and Talorc to Welsh Tallwych and the Breton Rivalen. He also finds similarities in recurring details with classical legends e.g. Philoctetes and the death of Paris; Theseus and the Minotaur; Perseus and Andromeda; and even with the Eygptian Isis and Osiris, stating that there was a cult of Isis known to exist in Gaul. This last is connected with the legend of Midas' asses' ears, which in the Brythonic language is also a pun on the name March (King Mark) meaning horse, as in the Welsh folktale Clustiau March. Eisner speculates that an educated monk with access to classical texts, in one of the northern monasteries of St Columba (perhaps Iona or Lindisfarne), 'about the seventh or eighth century, borrowed some names from local history and attached them to classical tales, thus forming a nucleus for Tristan and Isolt' (Eisner, 1969, p. 37). He goes on:  'Many Welsh kings traced their ancestors to a small group of subreguli who reigned in the North, that is Strathclyde' (ibid., p. 58) and that '...the best candidate for a quadrilingual [British, Scottish, Irish and Pictish] state was Strathcylde' (ibid., p. 64).

The Welsh tradition of Essyllt of the Fair-Hair is associated with Owain, a figure from North Britain. In the Welsh Triads Tristan was known as Drystan son of Tallwych (Breton Rivalen). March (Mark) appears as the son of Meirchawn and in the Welsh version he is 'husband of the faithless Essyllt, Uncle of Trystan son of Tallwych and cousin-german to King Arthur' (ibid, p.55).  A ford in south-west Cornwall named 'Eseylt's ford' is named in a charter of AD 967, which may be an indication that the legend was known in Cornwall by the tenth century.

Eisner thought that the legend was exported to Cornwall and Brittany from Wales: 'It has been pretty well established that wherever Mark was king, it was not Cornwall' (ibid., p. 55).

As Pearce says about the body of tradition surrounding the figures of Arthur and Tristan and Iseult:

Although the body contains elements which derive from the deepest streams of oral folklore, the emphasis of the written material as we have left is nevertheless aristocratic and fitted for a sophisticated literary taste. It forms a segment. . . of that wide field of literary production which, originally for the British princely families, and then for a wider but still gentle audience, offered a satisfactory account of their origins and history and a reflection of their aspirations (Pearce, 1978, p. 139).

Beroul's topography and Q's ancestry

Whatever Béroul's sources, his topography forms a neat framework for Q's version of the legend, solving, as has been stated, the difficulties of distance which stretch credulity. Apart from the denouement at Indian Queens and Castle-an-Dinas, all the action takes part in the triangle between Fowey, Milltown and Tywardreath.

Not only did Q use the setting for his story, it is also the area where he had his roots. Daphne du Maurier wrote that the Quiller-Couches 'are Cornish to the last drop of their blood' (du Maurier, 2004, p.129).

Q was born and brought up in Bodmin, where his father had his medical practice, but his father came from Polperro, where Couches had been yeoman farmers in Talland from before the time of Elizabeth I. Q was descended from Samuel Couch and Joan Libby of Talland, his great-great-great grandparents, who were married in 1696, and ultimately from John Couch, husbandman of Talland (died 1616) who married 12 November 1581 Sibblye Rennols of St Veep, the parish adjacent to St Sampson, just across the Fowey river. The earliest reference to the name Couch in the area, 'John Coche of Plenynt' (Pleynt) appears in the 'Feet of Fines' 1459 (Richard II-Henry VI).

The name Tristram Couch appears several times among the Couches of Talland, and the name Couch is associated with several locations in the Golant area, where Béroul set his Roman de Tristan and Q Castle Dor. In his Private Memoir, Jonathan Couch refers to 'Great Torfrey, sometime a seat of the family of Couch'. At Golant can be found Couche's Nursery and fields named 'Couche's Brake' and 'Two Close Couche's hill', and in the parish of St Winnow, at Boconnoc, Couch's Mill, where descendants of Samuel Couch and Joan Libby are listed in the 1841 census.

Aspects of the Tristan legend in Castle Dor

Both Q and Daphne, whilst using Béroul's topography, probably also consulted Hilaire Belloc's 1903 translation of Joseph Bédier's version of the legend, reconstructed from several sources. Bédier was professor of Medieval French at the Université de Fribourg, Switzerland and of Breton origin. He was convinced that the legend came from a single Cornish or Breton source. 

In Castle Dor, the antiquarians Dr Carfax and M. Ledru and later Mr. Tregentil, provide a commentary throughout the narrative, linking the local topography and the legend with the events unfolding in the lives of Amyot Trestane and Linnet Lewarne. Aspects of the legend are woven into Amyot and Linnet's story.

Of Tristan's birth, Dr Carfax says:

I won't have any truck with your Celtic derivations – your Destanes and Drustagnis and the rest. . . I say that those lays of Tristan . . .called Tristan by his name for the simple reason that they give – that his mother, overtaken by birth pangs as she followed an adored husband, and dying, named the child so – partus tristis – and that is all (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p.108).

In Belloc's translation, Blanchefleur learns of the death of her husband, Rivalen, King of Lyonesse, when about the give birth: sadness did I bring forth, and in sadness has your first feast day gone. And as by sadness you came into the world, your name shall be called Tristan, that is the child of sadness.

Amyot's 'own mother had told him once that she had born him in sorrow and he had been christened in sorrow' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 115).

Unlike most women in the Constantine family, Linnet is fair. Iseult is also blond: a swallow takes a hair of her head to King Mark, who vows only to marry the owner of the golden hair. Just as Iseult heals the wound sustained by Tristan in his fight with the Morholt, the wounds inflicted by Fouguereau on Amyot, are annointed with ointment prepared by Linnet.

There is an emphasis on Linnet's new clothes, for Mark Lewarne a symbol of his proud possession of a new young wife and the envy of his neighbours, and for Linnet of her new status. In Béroul's text, the hermit with whom Tristan and Iseult take refuge in the forest, goes to buy rich materials at the market on St Michael's Mount for Iseult to make clothes for her meeting with King Mark, to remind him of her status as Queen and of his former affection.

Linnet and Dr Carfax, sheltering from a thunderstorm under the bank of the old hill-fort Castle Dor, find an old armlet of shale. Linnet gives it to Amyot as a token, who, when she is lying drugged at the inn at Indian Queens, slips it back onto her arm. King Mark gives Iseult an emerald ring, and when Tristan and Iseult are sleeping together, Mark removes the emerald ring – emeralds being a symbol of chastity – and substitutes it for one of green jasper, which Iseult later gives to Tristan who presents it when he returns to Mark's court so that Iseult will know the owner is Tristan himself.

Amyot gives Linnet a puppy– the runt of a litter bred at Lantyan Farm and which he has been promised by Johnny – when he is arrested. Johnny tells Amyot he is called Pettigrew. In Béroul's version, the dog is a hunting dog, Husdent, and Ditmas suggests that amongst the audience for his recitation as a minstrel is a hunting party, whom he sought to flatter. In other versions of the legend, notably that of Gottfried de Strasbourg, it is the tiny fairy dog Petit-Crû or Petitcreiu– which Tristan has had as a reward for slaying the giant Urgan – which he gives to Iseult.

Urgan the giant is represented in Castle Dor by Fouguereau the evil master of the ship Jolie Brise: 'a giant of a man' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 10) whom Amyot, summoning an almost superhuman strength, knocks down the steps of the Custom House. Fouguereau later dies.

Ned Varcoe, Mark Lewarne's servant, who spies on Linnet and Amyot and reports back to Mark, 'has been misshapen from birth, wretched fellow, and never grew after he was ten years old' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 161). King Mark is advised by the dwarf Frocin, who spies on the lovers.

At the hay-making at Lantyan farm. Linnet deliberately falls from the hay wagon to be caught in Amyot's arms. Tristan, disguised variously in different versions as a beggar, leper or pilgrim, carries Iseult on his back over the river crossing at the Mal Pas, enabling her to declare that no man save Mark has ever had her 'between his thighs' except the man who carried her over the ford. The later versions, including the incident in Castle Dor, put it rather more delicately than Béroul, as 'in his arms'. Henry Jenner wrote in his lecture that:

I think the hero and heroine of the medieval story would have shocked the poetry reading public of the 1850s. They would certainly have considered them "not at all nice" (Jenner, 1913, p. 464).

The love philtre is given to Brangien, Iseult's handmaid, by Iseult's mother, the Queen of Ireland, who instructs her to give it to King Mark and his bride on their wedding night to ensure that they fall in love, and have a happy marriage. The philtre is drunk by Tristan and Iseult on the voyage to Cornwall in error. By the time they arrive they are lovers. However, Linnet deliberately gives Amyot the philtre which she has prepared from an old family recipe of the Constantines, and drinks it herself as well.

The legend has Brangien take Iseult's place in the marriage bed to disguise the fact that Iseult is not a virgin. In Castle Dor there are hints that in fact Linnet and Mark Lewarne have not consummated their marriage, in the conversation between Amyot and Mrs Bosanko: ' "But married, you say?" Mrs Bosanko winced. "What has she told you?" '(Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 108). 

Mark Lewarne tells Dr Carfax that Linnet will have nothing to do with him, and the gossips of Troy (who represent the Barons pouring their poison into King Mark's ears) have already remarked that the three year marriage is still childless. What is only hinted at in Q's half of the novel, however, is made explicit by Daphne du Maurier:

And the first trick was the best yet, when my own maid took my place on my wedding night, and lay between the sheets with the groom who was so drunk he never knew the difference between us (ibid., p. 165).

The 'saut Tristan': Tristan leaps from the window of a chapel on a promontory at Tintagel to escape execution, known still as 'Tristan's leap'. Chocheyras suggests the location of the former chapel of St Catherine, where William Rashleigh's mausoleum stands, as fitting the description in Béroul's topography. There was a chapel there in 1390 which could have been built on the site of an earlier building. In Castle Dor, Amyot jumps out of Linnet's bedroom window at the inn at Indian Queens to evade Mark Lewarne.

In Bédier's version of the legend Tristan dies as the result of a wound from a poisoned spear. In his last illness he wishes to see Iseult the Fair once more. Kaherdin, brother of Tristan's wife Iseult of the White Hands, promises to fetch her. If he has succeeded, Tristan will know because the ship will have white sails. Iseult of the White Hands tells him that the ship has black sails and he dies of grief, as does Iseult the Fair when she lands and hears of his death.

In Castle Dor, Linnet has been given a sleeping draught by Mark that Deborah Brangwyn has given him so that he can keep her from her intended elopement with Amyot. She does not wake.

Amyot dies of blood poisoning from an accidental wound from Dr Carfax's dirty clasp-knife, after Dr Carfax had used it to get a stone out of the horse's hoof. Amyot, in one carriage with Mary Bosanko, on his way to hospital, is followed by the other carriage containing the unconscious Linnet and Mark Lewarne. Amyot, who thinks he has heard Linnet's voice call out to him, hears the other carriage but Mary tells him it is strangers:  'they have a brougham something like Mr Tregentil's but painted black' (ibid., p. 268).

Mary's motives are pure, unlike those of the other Iseult:

...she did not know that the hope that had been his for a brief moment, on hearing the sound of carriage wheels behind them, was now ebbing, like the life within him. The lie, spoken on impulse to spare him distress, had failed in its purpose (ibid., p. 269).

The death by blood poisoning (sepsis) was probably used by Daphne as being a credible source of death during the 1860s when there were no antibiotics. Q's uncle Richard Quiller-Couch of Penzance died of sepsis as a result of a wound sustained during a surgery he was performing. 

Morality, romance and the modern reader

Daphne du Maurier was acutely aware of the difficulties of reconciling the characters of Tristan and Iseult of the legend with those of Amyot and Linnet, considering modern notions of morality and romance, and of their lack of appeal as characters to the modern reader. Adultery, deceit and betrayal in marriage were no more acceptable to the reader of the early 1960s than to those of Q's own generation.

Q was a Victorian, with Victorian ideals of truth and honour. The popularity of the Arthurian legends to the Victorians was linked to romantic ideals of heroism and chivalry. Daphne points out that:

Béroul, the first Frenchman to take up the tale and make a poem from it, described the love affair with all the robust humour inherited from some earlier source ...

Outlining the plot of Tristan, she goes on to say:

This is true bawdy, and certainly not romance. Here was the stuff that made our ancestors slap their thighs and roll in their seats, but it did not serve at a later date (du Maurier, 2004, p. 102).

Henry Jenner thinks it 'not quite nice'; he describes Tristan as 'an astounding rip and fantastic liar' (Jenner, 1913, p. 464).

Amyot Trestane is portrayed as an innocent: a nice lad experiencing first love. His thrashing Fouguereau, and his saving Johnny Bosanko, thereby losing his own chance to escape, together with his constancy to Linnet, give him a more manly, gallant, heroic aspect and this is particularly evident in Daphne's half of the manuscript. 

In her letter to Foy, discussing the project in May 1959, Daphne says of Q's manuscript that:

His view of Linnet alters, you know, which intrigues me. At first the Hardy-ish heroine, young, married to an older man, one can see the quick temper, the pout on the lips – and then she becomes almost a kind of She, with the potion and the two older men with their dreams – and then finally, almost out of this world, which is what I meant to Bozman about Woman or even the Muse, it's a sort of ideal in the mind of a man, and one near the end of his time.

The portrait of Linnet which emerges as the plot unfolds fits with Daphne's exploration  of strong-minded and manipulative womenin her other novels: Rebecca in Rebecca and Rachel in My Cousin Rachel. In the original legend, the lovers drink the love philtre given to Brangien by accident but in Castle Dor, Linnet gives Amyot the philtre quite deliberately and she is portrayed as being quite ruthless and determined in her pursuit. Also, Linnet's servant Deborah Brangwyn, in her betrayal of Linnet to Mark and the provision of the sleeping draught, provokes a similar question as Rachel Ashley's possible poisoning of her husband: did she do it or not? Daphne herself admitted that she hadn't decided but thought she probably had. Did Deborah mean Linnet to wake or not?

Daphne's honest view of romantic love – honest given her own affair during the Second World War, with Christopher Puxley – was that: is an illusion, a name given to cover up an illicit relationship between two people, one of whom is married, or betrothed, to somebody else. The great love stories of the world . . . have had for theme forbidden passion, for nothing else would stimulate the reader (Du Maurier, 2004, p. 99).

Mrs Bosanko's view of Amyot and Linnet's budding romance is uncompromising: 'Of course it's wickedness. She's a married woman' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p.104).

Mrs Bosanko and Dr Carfax take on some of Ogrin the hermit's role in their attempts to separate the couple. Mrs Bosanko is not unkind but believes it is for Amyot's own good that she arranges for him to leave and work on board the steam-packet Downshire: 'you must go away this night, and out of this calf-love you will grow into a man' (ibid., p. 108).

Dr Carfax, when Amyot is acquitted of murder, shocks the collector of customs by saying that it would have been better for Amyot had he been deported, instead of given into the custody of Mr and Mrs Bosanko, and that he might have married and lived happily amongst his own kith and kin. Amyot and Linnet are separated by circumstance – indeed Linnet threatens that 'Anyone who tries to come between me and the man I love will suffer for it'. Dr Carfax is left with the impression that Linnet is as ruthless 'as those seas now pounding and sweeping the deserted quay'(ibid., p. 192).

In Béroul's version, however, Ogrin brings Tristan and Iseult to the realisation of their Christian duty to separate, in the words of Edith Wharton's 1909 poem, Ogrin the Hermit, sheltering the couple:

For pity of their great extremity,

Their sin abhorring, yet not them with it,

I nourished, hid and suffered them to build

Their branched hut in sight of this grey cross,

That haply, falling on their guilty sleep,

It's shadow should part them like the blade of God,

And they should shudder at each other's eyes.

Manuscript 2171 contains a long narrative on the 'judgement of God' and the lovers' sin, although it is acknowledged that they are innocent of any evil intent as their actions have been provoked by the love philtre drunk in error. Iseult is not subjected to trial by hot iron, as in other versions, but by a solemn oath taken on the saint's relics. These sections are perhaps another indication that Béroul probably received his education at one of the great abbey schools and of the importance of the alien priories of the Abbey d'Angers to local society. Religion played a prominent part in twelfth century life.

The saving grace for Amyot and Linnet in Castle Dor, reconciling the reader – particularly of Q's generation – to their infidelity and deceit, is the notion that they are acting in a manner which is beyond their control. Telling Ledru how he was overwhelmed by the revelation that the legend had played out in the local landscape and wondered if, as wild flowers grow on derelict sites, whether:

...if a soil having once brought to birth such a story as that of Tristan and Iseult would never so flower again, yet be unable to forget or desist from the effort to throw up secondary shoots (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 53).

Discussing Q's influence, Daphne writes:

In hindsight it seems less of a coincidence that he 'touched' all three of the novels which speak of the primaeval spirit of Cornwall – Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, and the novel on which we collaborated, Castle Dor, based upon the ancient Cornish legend of Tristan and Iseult. These, more than any other of my novels, are about the mythic history, the mystery, the primaeval enchantment that make this land and its people what they are. Q had begun to write Castle Dor in the 1920s, a time when other writers invoked legend and mythology in their work – T S Eliot in The Waste Land, James Joyce in Ulysses. But whereas these writers used myths and legends – including that of Tristan – as a creative device to stimulate the imagination and to try to make sense of the modern world, Q maintained no such distance. He was a Cornishman through and through; for the Cornishman his legends are part of the reality of being Cornish, they are his inheritance. While I felt his novel worth preserving for its description of the Fowey countryside alone, it was his belief – that a soil once having brought to birth such a story of Tristan and Iseult would 'be unable to forget or desist from the effort to throw up secondary shoots' – that convinced me (du Maurier, 1989, pp. 101-2).

 'Things Unknown'

From an examination of Q's original manuscript, Bunting identifies du Maurier's contribution as beginning at Chapter 24, which becomes Chapter 19,  'An encounter at Penquite', in the finished text , Q's chapters having been re-organized (Bunting, 2013, p. 265). The narrative in the second half of the novel betrays Daphne's interest in 'Things Unknown' and the possibility of psychic communication between individuals and animals. She speaks of her:

...instinctual desire to recapture the past – a past often tantalizingly out of reach of our so- called normal senses. Certainly I believe the desire to belong both to the past and the present goes very deep in human nature, and it is an urge that strengthens when we get older.

My Grandpapa George developed the ability to 'visit' the past by dreaming true. He would lie back and in his mind's eye become the child he once was, and he wrote about this 'psychic ability too (du Maurier, 1989, p. 166).

She refers to George du Maurier's novel Peter Ibbetson, in which Peter's childhood friend Mary says:

My dear father had learned a strange secret of the brain – how in sleep to recall past things and people and places as they had once been seen and known by him – even unremembered things (ibid., p.167).

Du Maurier took the idea further in introducing the idea of thought transference. In their researches into the legend:

He, Carfax, and poor Ledru, and then Tregentil, had in some way set the appalling thing in motion, while the impressionable lad from Brittany and the impulsive young woman born at Castle Dor, had acted as mediums to a source of power which, if tapped, might revolutionize the whole conception of time in its relation to the unconscious mind (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004, p. 224).

In Castle Dor, the past and the present become increasingly blurred: 

What he appeared to be stumbling upon now had no name in the world of medicine , but belonged surely to some other dimension outside time itself, and as a scientist he refused to credit it (ibid., p. 161).

In the thunder-storm where Linnet and Dr Carfax shelter under Castle Dor, in Chapter 20, the identity of Dr Carfax becomes confused with that of the King Mark of the legend:

...even as he threatened her the sensation came to him, unbelievable and horrible, that what was happening now had happened a hundred times before; that the scene between them was a sickening repetition of others known too well; that he was in fact that very husband whose disparity in years between him and his bride was bringing him through jealous rage to the borderline of madness (ibid., p. 165).

At Castle-an-Dinas, Amyot sees not the mine which exists in the present, but the buildings of the past and so, seeing a stairway, falls into a mineshaft. Du Maurier revisited this notion in The House on the Strand when Richard Young comes back to reality, after the drug given to him by Professor Lane has worn off, to find himself not in a 14th century Cornish manor but on the edge of a quarry. Later, 'in a world where there exist no lines, no signals, no warning hoots sounding in the air, he [Magnus] is struck and killed by a passing train' (du Maurier, 1989, p.187).

The process which Magnus Lane describes seems to be an extension of the idea of a kind of primeval memory which can re-emerge, like Q's 'secondary shoots' of Castle Dor, and Carfax's notion of himself and Tregentil as a sort of medium, together with the experiences of George du Maurier but given a more scientific, 1960s, twist:

Briefly. . . the chemistry within the brain cells concerned with memory. . . is reproducible . . .the exact contents of which depends on our hereditary make-up . . .right back to primeval times. . .the particular cells I have been working on . . .store not only our own memories but habits of the earlier brain pattern we inherit. These habits if released to consciousness, would enable us to see, hear, become cognoscent of things that happened in the past, not because any particular ancestor witnessed any particular scene, but because, with the use of a medium – in this case a drug – the inherited, older brain pattern takes over and becomes dominant (du Maurier, 1969, p. 196).

The central female character in The House on the Strand belonging to the 14th century is another Isolda, who bears a certain resemblance to Iseult of the legend. She is fair, and has inherited a knowledge of herbal medicine from her grandmother, Isolda de Cardinham. She has a tame squirrel with a bell round its neck like the fairy dog Petit-crû. Isolda and Otto de Bodrugan, both tied to loveless, dynastic marriages, fall in love and have an adulterous liaison. Several of the characters are based on real 14th century persons descended, coincidentally, from the Yseult de Dol for whose descendants Béroul probably composed his version of the legend.

Modern readers and dual authorship

Rowse's biography of Q of 1988:

...was dedicated, interestingly enough, to "Daphne du Maurier in common admiration of our old mentor and friend". The book was in part an attempt to achieve greater recognition for Q; to restore him to the literary heights he had enjoyed in his lifetime (Payton, 2005, p. 241).

Even in Q's heyday the more 'Cornish' novels were less popular than those in the R.L. Stevenson and Rider Haggard vein (Daphne du Maurier was also a great fan of both writers), such as Dead Man's Rock and The Splendid Spur. After the disappointing sales of Ia, J.M. Barrie advised Q in 1896:

I should feel very miserable if I thought you were getting despondent about your books because they have not a large sale. Go back to the Dead Man's Rock business and you will at once be in the running with the most popular men of the day (Brittain, 1947, p. 31).

Q was also writing for a completely different readership than Daphne du Maurier. His last novel, Foe-Farrell, was published in 1918, 44 years and two world wars away from the completed Castle Dor. Du Maurier herself was acutely aware that the novel might prove too old-fashioned for the modern reader. This was probably because of the Cornish 1860s setting rather than the link to the legend of Tristan and Iseult, however, as the Arthurian legends have proved perennially popular. Mary Stewart (with whom Daphne hated to be bracketed as a popular romantic author) had a great success with her marvellous Merlin Trilogy in the 1970s. Daphne wanted to honour Q and please her friend Foy Quiller-Couch – who was extremely attached to her father and would not have approached Daphne if she had not thought she would do justice to the project – but had to consider the damage to her own reputation, should the novel prove a failure.

Bunting quotes the critic Leo Duggan writing for the Times Literary Supplement (13 April 1962) who refers to the novel's style as being that of a 'romantic Victorian library novel' and said that 'Sir Arthur was a sound judge of prose. His verdict of the 1920s [that the book should have been left unpublished] stands' (Bunting, 2013, p.268).

Foy Quiller-Couch thought that perhaps her father was just growing old and tired and had too much else going on in his professional and private life and that was partly why he laid it aside. A glance at the impressive list of Q's published work at the end of Brittain's biography, shows that, although he published no new novels after Foe-Farrell, Q was by no means idle and continued writing until his death in 1944.

Bunting's article 'The imprint of what-has-been':

 ...investigates the reasons why the novel received faint praise from reviewers in the 1960s and remains on the fringes of the du Maurier canon today, often overlooked by readers and critics despite the authors' continued celebrity, the plot's inventiveness and the insight the work offers into du Maurier and Quiller-Couch's shared love of Cornish landscape, heritage and myth making (Bunting, 2013, p. 260).

Bunting discusses the 'uneasy relationship' of modern readers to dual authorship in that there is a belief that the completed novel must be inferior to the author's original conception: in short that they expect to be disappointed. She points out that Q had faced similar anxieties to Daphne's when he undertook to finish R. L. Stevenson's novel St Ives: Being the Adventures of a French Prisoner in England. Bunting goes on to discuss how Daphne and her publishers tried to turn this dual authorship to their own advantage. The publication of the novel was accompanied by an article by Daphne for the Daily Telegraph describing her conflicted feelings and sense that it was somehow a presumption.

Bunting writes that this was a deliberate strategy: that du Maurier: 'paints herself as the reticent and anxious surviving author, only half-conscious of the posthumous forces at work upon her . . . a kind of automatic writing'. This was also a means of pre-empting 'accusations of collaborative imperfection, poor imitation or, simply, failure in her task (ibid., p. 265).

Bunting states that the publishers: 

...revelled in the strange fact of the story's posthumous completion, inviting readers to share in the reading experience as literary 'detectives' looking for authorial liminality. This invitation extends from their advertising strategies to the novel's front matter. In fact, in her preface to the novel, Foy Quiller-Couch issues a challenge directly to the reader. She states "So cleverly has she woven her work into his, that I defy anyone to discover where the shuttle passed from his hand into hers" (ibid., p. 265).

She points out that Ledru's comment, 'It is a curious coincidence that no poet, or shall we say investigator, has ever lived to conclude this particular story. His work has always been finished by another' (Quiller-Couch & du Maurier, 2004 p. 80) was not in Q's original manuscript but must have been inserted by Daphne du Maurier who perhaps hoped the reader: 

...would think Quiller-Couch himself had experienced the uncanny prescience that he too would not live to complete the novel, thus inscribing the pages of Castle Dor with an atmosphere of tragedy and uncanny inevitability which parallels the fatalism of the Tristan story (Bunting, 2013, p. 266).


Q's early fascination with the Arthurian legends and the exciting discovery that Béroul's manuscript set the legend of Tristan and Iseult in the very area where Q had his own roots, probably sparked an initial conception of a semi-autobiographical version of the legend, set in the period of Q's own childhood. The prologue to Castle Dor introduces the notion of the palimpsest of which 'All England is made up' and this theme is continued throughout the novel as the landscape and events of the legend, rooted in Cornish history and folklore, are overwritten by the unfolding story of Amyot and Linnet. Daphne du Maurier recognised similarities with Q himself in the person of Dr Carfax,  but it is not certain whether Q's co-author actually realized that Q's part of the novel contained a palimpsestic, autobiographical sub-text in which is revealed Q  - from the fastidious gentleman in his library, to Q the scholar and classicist, Q the dreamy yet adventurous young boy, and Q's father, grandfather and his ancestors who inhabited the landscape of Béroul's version of the legend. Daphne herself, perhaps unwittingly, added the last layer in the epilogue, where Dr Carfax works in his plot known as 'The Farm', a deliberate reference to Dr Carfax as a portrait of Q and perhaps a tribute to Q recognizable to those who knew him. The novel is perhaps more complex in structure than is apparent to the general reader with no knowledge of Quiller-Couch family history.


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