My Cousin Rachel

by

Daphne du Maurier

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Letters Symbol Icon

The characters of the novel are constantly receiving, finding, and destroying written letters, which symbolize the power and limitations of the written word. Letters are Philip’s primary mode of communication with Ambrose, and the only “proof” Philip has that Rachel might be a murderer, though he almost always destroys such letters by ripping, burning, or burying them. While letters are critical plot devices, revealing new information that the characters and reader otherwise would never learn, they often result in more confusion than clarity. Some of Ambrose’s letters are unfinished or illegible; Ambrose also admits that he never sent some letters, and that he thinks still others may have been lost. Furthermore, Ambrose has left important information out of his letters to Philip, such as the news of Rachel’s miscarriage. In this way, du Maurier also uses letters as a tangible manifestation of how difficult it is to ever truly know another person.

Letters Quotes in My Cousin Rachel

The My Cousin Rachel quotes below all refer to the symbol of Letters. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Sourcebooks edition of My Cousin Rachel published in 2009.
Chapter 7 Quotes

I don’t know what I thought to see. Something bold, perhaps, with loops and flourishes; or its reverse, darkly scrawled and mean. This was just handwriting, much like any other, except that the ends of the words tailed off in little dashes, making the words themselves not altogether easy to decipher.

Related Characters: Philip Ashley (speaker), Rachel Ashley, Nick Kendall
Related Symbols: Letters
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire My Cousin Rachel LitChart as a printable PDF.
My Cousin Rachel PDF

Letters Symbol Timeline in My Cousin Rachel

The timeline below shows where the symbol Letters appears in My Cousin Rachel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Women, Sexuality, and Society Theme Icon
...and his daughter, Louise, a childhood friend of Philip’s. In November, Philip receives Ambrose’s first letter, announcing his arrival in Italy; his second letter arrives from Florence, and mentions, for the... (full context)
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In another letter, Ambrose continues to praise Rachel, saying: “She is extremely intelligent but, thank the Lord, knows... (full context)
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After not hearing from Ambrose for several months, Philip receives an Easter letter from him. In it, Ambrose announces that he and Rachel were married two weeks earlier... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...invents, from “middle-aged and forceful” to “simpering and younger than Louise.” Soon, Philip receives a letter from Ambrose, which states that he and Rachel will spend the remainder of the summer... (full context)
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Time jumps forward to the winter, and Philip begins to receive anxious, nostalgic letters from Ambrose, filled with “a kind of loneliness that struck me as strange in a... (full context)
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...throughout the spring, and he begins to grow worried. In July, Philip finally receives a letter from Ambrose; it is incoherent and paranoid. Ambrose writes that he trusts none of his... (full context)
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...Italy; as he is driving away from the estate, a servant rides up with a letter. It is from Ambrose, and it reads: “For God’s sake come to me quickly. She... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...discuss Rachel’s departure, and Philip makes the “bold move” of showing Rainaldi Ambrose’s last two letters, in which he expressed clear distress. Rainaldi insists that Ambrose’s doctors believed “there might be... (full context)
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Philip continues to press Rainaldi for details about Ambrose’s letters, which he claims are proof that Ambrose was “surrounded by people he [could not] trust.”... (full context)
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...and he stands there reflecting. He decides he believes “in the truth of those two letters” from Ambrose, rather than in Rainaldi’s version of events. He then makes a vow to... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...over to his godfather’s the next day, he learns that his godfather has received a letter from Rachel, who has arrived by boat in Plymouth, England. (full context)
Chapter 7
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Nick Kendall shows Philip the letter from Rachel. In it, she provides an account of Ambrose’s death and also inquires as... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...whole story, so he explains that his worry began when he received the two disturbing letters from Ambrose. He offers to show them to Rachel, but she says she will look... (full context)
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...does not leave, so Philip instead returns to the hearth and throws both of Ambrose’s letters in the fire. (full context)
Chapter 12
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...an extravagant sum to be paid Rachel, and watches with satisfaction as Kendall writes a letter to her informing her that “it was the wish of the estate that provision should... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Philip returns home from Pelyn by way of town, where he has deposited Kendall’s letter at the bank. He finds a bowl of flowers in his room, which he assumes... (full context)
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...From across the rooms, the two talk about the garden until Seecombe arrives with a letter from Nick Kendall. Philip is annoyed because he will now be “caught for the business... (full context)
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After Rachel reads the letter, she and Philip have an argument. She maintains that he has humiliated her by bestowing... (full context)
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Instead of going directly to bed, Philip stays up to write a letter to Nick Kendall to “reassure him that all had gone off well.” When Philip goes... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...about gardens. Philip is startled when he opens a book “at random” and sees a letter from Ambrose fall out. The letter is merely a scrap, “torn from its context and... (full context)
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Rachel notices Philip has found something, but Philip insists it’s “nothing” and throws the letter in the fire. However, Rachel has seen Ambrose’s handwriting, and asks what the paper was.... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...for help arranging them downstairs in the library. Philip eats lunch alone, ruminating on the letter he found. By the even, easily legible handwriting, Philip concludes that Ambrose must have written... (full context)
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...Philip to accept the coverings as a gift, and Philip reluctantly accepts. Having read Ambrose’s letter, Philip now feels “haunted by some doubt that what [Rachel] wanted to do for [him]... (full context)
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Again, Rachel asks what was in the letter that Philip found, and he admits that Ambrose expressed in it his anxiety “about expenditure.”... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...Christmastime. The tenant, having just donned the coat for the first time, has found a letter addressed to Philip in Ambrose’s hand wedged between the coat and its lining. Philip takes... (full context)
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...his last winter, and he sits there now, debating whether or not to read the letter. (full context)
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...the granite stone, however, Philip feels Ambrose’s “power [is] strongest.” He decides to open the letter, and finds it is dated three months before Ambrose died. In the letter, Ambrose writes... (full context)
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...disturbed by recent inquiries Rainaldi has been making about Ambrose’s will. Ambrose reveals in the letter that he has drawn up an alternate will that bequeaths the Ashley house and estate... (full context)
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Ambrose concludes the letter by describing the symptoms of his headaches, which are many, and which he does not... (full context)
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Philip refolds Ambrose’s letter, places it in his pocketbook, and buries the book in a hole under the granite... (full context)
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...tending to Don. She is distraught, and Philip finds he is not thinking of “the letter buried deep beneath the granite slab, nor of poor Don so soon to die.” All... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...her room. Philip, in his own room, is unable to shake the words of Ambrose’s letter, buried under the granite slab: that money is the “one way” to Rachel’s heart. (full context)
Chapter 25
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...a dream about returning to the granite stone in the woods and re-reading the buried letter. The next day, when Rachel is in her room resting, Philip sneaks out to the... (full context)
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...in Rachel’s bedroom as she brews his tisana. He cannot take his eyes off Rainaldi’s letter, which sits on Rachel’s bureau. He wonders: “Would an Italian, writing to the woman he... (full context)
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...the early hours of the morning, Philip sneaks into Rachel’s room and looks for the letter. He cannot find it, though he searches all of Rachel’s drawers. One drawer alone is... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...himself wondering whether Rachel poisoned her first husband, Sangalletti, as well as Ambrose. With Ambrose’s letter now destroyed, Philip is “the only one to know he spoke the truth.” Philip realizes... (full context)
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...Louise he thinks Rachel has been poisoning him. He says the proof lies in Rainaldi’s letter, which he needs Louise’s help in translating from Italian. As he begins searching Rachel’s desk... (full context)
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Philip cannot find Rainaldi’s letter. Louise suggests he check the blotter; the letter is there. It is written in English,... (full context)