My Cousin Rachel


Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Don dies around midnight. In Rachel’s bedroom, Rachel and Philip reminisce about Philip’s tenth birthday, when Ambrose gifted him with Don. Philip talks of his twenty-fifth birthday, which is coming in three weeks, and on which the Ashley property will become legally his. He insists that he will gift Rachel with all the family jewels, including the pearl collar. Rachel refuses, saying the jewels should belong to Philip’s wife. Philip “[knows] well what [he] long[s] to say to her,” but he remains silent.
The fact that Philip is unable to articulate his feelings for Rachel will become even more important as the stakes of their relationship become higher. Philip’s decision to gift Rachel with material things as a sign of his affection not only demonstrates his immaturity, but also suggests that he feels intimidated by the woman he loves. This is clearly an unequal pairing, yet this lopsidedness might also be part of the attraction Philip feels to Rachel.
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Rachel announces that she intends to leave the Ashley home after Philip’s birthday. Philip is unfazed by this news because of the “plan” he has in mind. Without mentioning Ambrose’s letter, Philip asks Rachel what she would do had Ambrose left a will of the exact kind he described in his unsent letter. Rachel says she would have still chosen to stay at the Ashley home, but it would have been different than the current situation. “I should be Mrs. Ashley,” she says, “you my heir. But now, as it has turned out, you are Philip Ashley, and I, a woman relative, living on your bounty.”
Rachel’s description of how her situation would be different if she had inherited the estate is noteworthy. Though she describes herself as currently “living on Philip’s bounty,” she would still be at Philip’s mercy even if she had inherited the estate, because he would still have the running of it according to Ambrose’s will. No matter what, it seems Rachel will not be able to actually achieve financial independence, highlighting yet again how constricted women’s lives are in the society of the novel.
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Rachel asks to drop the subject, but Philip forces the issue by asking her what happened to the will. He then suggests that Rachel even has it with her. Rachel admits that she has the will, and when Philip asks, she agrees to let him read it. Philip sits down to write out a copy of the will, and while he does so, he questions Rachel about it. When he asks why Ambrose never signed this version of the will, Rachel replies: “I think when he realised that I could not […] have children, he lost belief in me. Some sort of faith went, though he never knew it.” Philip wonders “how it could be that two people who had loved could yet have such a misconception of each other.”
This exchange is difficult to interpret. While it seems that Philip is bullying Rachel into answering questions about the will, it is also possible that Rachel is strategically meting out the information in order to manipulate Philip. Regardless, Rachel’s feeling of failure—as if she has let Ambrose down by not being able to have children—is worth noting, as is the fact that she does not directly mention her miscarriage. Rachel’s grief and her silence respectively reflect how damagingly society associates fertility with “true” womanhood, and the impossibility of ever adequately communicating one’s suffering.
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Philip asks a few more questions, and then tells Rachel that she will know his reason for asking them “in three weeks’ time.” Rachel replies, “I don’t ask the reason […] all I ask is that you go.” In the morning, Philip and Rachel bury Don together, and Philip then rides to an attorney in town. He asks that a document be drawn up that “enable[s] [him] to dispose of [his] property to [his] cousin, Mrs. Rachel Ashley, upon the first day of April, when it [becomes] [his] by law.”
This is an important action on Philip’s part, as it shows that he will voluntarily part with his beloved home in order to secure Rachel. This decision not only shows the level of Philip’s infatuation, but also clearly indicates his naïveté, since just because Rachel will now be in charge of the Ashley estate, she will not necessarily decide to permanently reside there.
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When the lawyer points out that Philip has come up with no provision should Rachel remarry, Philip decides that in the case of remarriage, the property should revert to him. The lawyer agrees to send a copy of the document to Philip by March 31. Philip rides home with “a reckless feeling in [his] heart,” thinking how perfectly he has “turned the tables” on Nick Kendall. Now, Philip thinks, Rachel will have no reason to leave the Ashley estate, since it will legally be her property. Philip considers this “a day for folly and high fever.”
Du Maurier emphasizes the frantic undertone of Philip’s happiness in this passage, showing that he is on his way to being out of control. Du Maurier seems to be suggesting that Philip’s love of Rachel is turning him into a rather unpleasant man—someone who enjoys spiting Nick Kendall, long a friend and mentor. Perhaps du Maurier is implying that Philip’s “love” is more lustful and “reckless,” than heartfelt and genuine.
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When Philip returns home, he notices a carriage in the driveway. He goes inside and hears Rachel call him into the drawing room to see her visitor: Signor Rainaldi.
In this passage, it is not a forgotten letter that revives the question of Rachel’s guilt, but rather her real-life, potential co-conspirator, Rainaldi.
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