Dornford Yates: characters and originals

Opened Mar 2015

Updated: 27 Mar 2015
Back to Home PageBack to author list

Boy Pleydell

The Berry books are all narrated in the first person, by Boy Pleydell, who as near as makes no difference is Mercer himself.

Jill Pleydell

The character of Jill makes many a Dornford Yates enthusiast a little queasy. While she may be fey and at one with the spirit of nature, etc, etc, she's clearly a few cards short of a full deck and not fully capable of looking after herself. And the plain fact is that Mercer liked his women helpless.

Mercer's second wife was Elisabeth Bowie, a polio victim. Her legs were so wasted that she could hardly walk. Mercer idolized her, and she became a subservient and dutiful wife. But from the outset he rechristened her Jill, the name of what he thought to be the most engaging and desirable character of the Berry books, and she remained as "Jill" for the rest of their life together. This does not of course mean that Jill was based on Elizabeth, because the character had been created long before Mercer met her. In fact it was almost the other way around.

When Mercer built Cockade, his big house in France, (it is called Gracedieu in The House That Berry Built) the plateau on which it was erected had to be cut out of the side of the mountain, with its front secured by a retaining wall some forty feet high. There were 93 steps up from the road to the terrace and front door. Given his wife's disability this was somewhat tactless, leaving her a virtual prisoner there. One can only hope he did it subconsciously rather than deliberately.

At the end of Berry

Virgil Coleton

As noted elsewhere in Lit Crit, Virgil Coleton is probably a disguised portrait of Hector Hugh Munro, (Saki) who joined up for WW1 as a private and was killed in 1916 at the age of 46.

Back to Home PageBack to author list