My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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My Cousin Rachel: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Philip rises early the next morning, and visits the stables, where he discusses Rachel’s wish to ride with Wellington, the coachman. Philip is rankled when Wellington asks what time “the mistress” would like to begin her ride; “how swiftly men, especially men-servants,” Philip thinks, “bec[o]me fools when in the presence of a woman.” Philip spends the afternoon working on the accounts, but when the servants arrive to receive their wages, he notices that the gardener, Tamlyn, is not there. He learns that Tamlyn is working in the garden with Rachel, and he goes out to find them.
This passage contains another brief moment of irony, since it is clear that Philip is in as much danger of behaving like a fool in Rachel’s presence as his servants are. Philip’s annoyance at hearing Rachel referred to as mistress is important to note because it will eventually be paralleled by his annoyance that Rachel’s last name is Ashley because of her marriage to Ambrose, and not because of anything to do with Philip. This parallel suggests how aggravated Philip is at the idea of Rachel being in possession of the Ashley estate. Philip only bequeaths the estate to Rachel later in the novel, because he wants to prove and solidify his possession of her.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
In the garden, Rachel cheerfully informs Philip that she brought to Plymouth “all the plants and shrubs that we had collected, Ambrose and I, during the past two years,” and that she and Tamlyn have been discussing where to plant them. Rachel bids Tamlyn goodbye, and recommends eucalyptus oil for his wife’s sore throat. As they walk toward the house, Philip informs Rachel: “You may be able to teach Tamlyn about camellias, but you won’t be able to do the same with me and farming.” Rachel replies, “I know oats from barley […] Doesn’t that impress you?”
This scene provides further evidence of how charming and personable Rachel is—clearly she has gotten to know Tamlyn and inquired about his family while working with him in the garden. Rachel’s suggestion of eucalyptus oil for Tamlyn’s wife is the first indication of Rachel’s facility with herbal remedies, which will become an important plot detail later on. It is also worth noting how breezily Rachel deals with Philip’s curmudgeonly comment about farming, suggesting that one of Rachel’s great social skills is diffusing tension. This will become incredibly apparent later in the novel, at Philip’s birthday dinner.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
At the house, Rachel and Philip eat lunch together. Philip is impressed that Rachel “has a certain independence of spirit that would seem, thank the Lord, unfeminine.” However, he is annoyed that Rachel has been interpreting his “sarcasm […] as joviality.” After lunch, Wellington brings around a horse for Rachel to ride. Philip is struck by how much “more distant, more remote, and more—Italian” Rachel seems, when viewed in profile upon the horse. Philip leads Rachel and the horse about the Ashley grounds, and is surprised that she knows the names of all the Bartons (tenants’ farms associated with the estate). Rachel says, “[Ambrose’s] home was his passion, therefore I made it mine.”
It is clear in this passage that Philip has already begun warming to Rachel, even though she has just arrived. Philip’s admiration for Rachel’s “unfeminine” independence indicates that independence and autonomy are traits that society does not ascribe to women; possessing them makes a woman not quite a woman. Furthermore, the fact that Philip mentally goes out of his way to describe Rachel as unfeminine suggests that perhaps he finds her just the opposite, and doesn’t know how to deal with feelings of attraction. Finally, the idea of Rachel looking “foreign” when in profile is one that will recur throughout the novel, and serves as an indication of how unknowable people really are to one another.
Themes
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
As they continue to walk, Rachel begins describing the Villa Sangalletti to Philip, and he realizes that Rachel does not know he visited the villa (even though Philip had asked Nick Kendall to mention it in the letter he wrote to Rachel). He realizes guiltily that he must tell her, but is unable to bring himself to do so and instead falls silent. The two finish their walk and have dinner at home. They then sit together in the library, where Rachel asks what is troubling Philip. Philip admits: “My godfather […] and the servants learnt of Ambrose’s death through Signor Rainaldi. But […] I learnt of it in Florence, at the villa, from your servants.” Philip sees “no tears in [Rachel’s] eyes, no hint of laughter either”; instead, she looks at him with an expression of “both compassion and reproach.”
The fact that Philip feels compelled to tell Rachel of his visit to Florence shows that he already feels a degree of loyalty to her that is surprising given his recent vow to hate her. It is difficult for the reader to interpret Rachel’s look of “compassion and reproach” that follows. Perhaps Rachel feels that Philip violated her privacy by visiting the villa, or that his visit was inconsiderate of her recent loss. Alternatively, Rachel may be worried that Philip has seen the villa because she has something to hide that she fears he may have learned by visiting her home. Du Maurier forces the reader to play many of the same interpretative games Philip does, thus driving home the point of how difficult it is to truly understand another person.
Themes
Guilt Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Jealousy, Possessiveness, and Unknowability Theme Icon
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