Friday, December 21, 2007

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Turning In New Directions, Part One

In 1928 Georgette joined her husband in Macedonia, which was to be his last prospecting job. In Macedonia she almost died from an anesthetic while in the dentist's chair, and lived in a "haunted house" where she wrote Pastel. Hodge posits that the climax of this book, where the main character, Frances, has her baby, shows how Georgette's mind was working; she was ready to have a baby. Pastel was dedicated to her mother.

Ronald had never really wanted to be a mining engineer, anyway, so the two decided to return to England. Georgette had shown that she could support them with her writing, and that is what she planned to do while Ronald looked about him for a new career.

By 1929 they were back in London, and for a time Ronald was a partner in a gas, light, and coke company. Georgette continued writing. She had tried five different publishers before settling on Heinemann. A. S. Frere, Heinemann's managing director, became a lifelong friend and confidant to Georgette. Hodge writes that Frere recalled that Georgette was discouraged about her career when they first met; then after the success of These Old Shades, Heinemann decided to take over the rights of her previous books, reprinting The Great Roxhythe and The Black Moth in 1929, and changing The Transformation of Philip Jettan to Powder and Patch in 1930.

In 1929 Georgette published Beauvallet with Heinemann. This new historical novel was set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was another fast-paced, swashbuckling story, centering on the hero. She dedicated this book to her brother Frank.

Updated List

My List, So Far
Of these eight, the order in which I rate them:
1. The Masqueraders
2.  Simon The Coldheart
3.  These Old Shades
4.  Helen
5.  Instead of the Thorn
6.  The Black Moth
7.  Powder and Patch
8.  The Great Roxhythe

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Second Contemporary Novel

HELEN -- published in 1928

Original dust jacket.

I bought my copy of HELEN several months ago, but only recently sat down to read it. I found it extremely charming from page one.

This is supposedly the most popular of the four contemporary novels, and the one that was the most autobiographical.

Helen's father, faced with raising his daughter alone after his wife dies in childbirth, takes on the job with joy and much appreciation for his reserved, stoic, little girl. Helen, extremely close to her father, becomes his beloved companion. The book takes place before, during, and after World War I, and the great changes taking place in the world at that time form a background for the changes in the life of the main character, Helen's. Since Heyer had lived this time period herself she is able to paint a very real, poignant picture of the aftermath of the great war on England.

The love story in Helen is one of the most beautiful ones that Heyer ever wrote in my opinion. In Helen, when her father dies suddenly, she turns to her childhood friend, Richard, for comfort and realizes that she has previously undervalued his many good qualities. Richard is portrayed as an intelligent, athletic man who knows and understands Helen's natural reserve.

Helen mirrors Georgette in many ways. She likes and understands men better than women. She is reserved, intelligent, self-controlled, and believes in the social classes. But Helen was very athletic, and Georgette wasn't.

Georgette wrote Helen two years after her father died. There is a touching part in the book where Helen, also a writer, picks up her unfinished book for the first time since her father's death and sees some pencilled corrections he had made. But she goes on about her business, "dry-eyed and smiling", with Richard understanding and respecting her reserve.

It is indeed a very beautiful, brilliant book, and if I had not already been a fan of Heyer this book would send me looking for her other novels. There is a happy ending, but there is much drama on the way there.

My copy is a hardcover published by Buccaneer Books in the 1980s and is in perfect condition.

Heyer dedicated HELEN to Leonard P. Moore, a friend of her father's and her agent with Christy & Moore.

I have never seen HELEN in any library, but it is worth a look. It isn't too difficult to find a copy for sale, but you will not find a paperback, so expect to pay at least $20 or more on Amazon. I have once or twice seen a first edition on Ebay where the bidding went up very high.

Writing In Africa

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, Georgette must have been writing TOS while she was dating Ronald. After their marriage, while Ronald was prospecting in the Caucasus where it would have been impossible to take a woman, she stayed behind in the flat at Earl's Court. She probably had her hands full helping her mother deal with her widowhood. Mrs. Heyer did not take up her music again, but lived for the rest of her life in hotels. And although TOS was published in 1926 there was no book published in 1927 which suggests that she was doing little or no writing during the first year of her marriage.

Ronald returned to England in the Summer of 1926 but by Autumn was journeying again, this time to Africa. Georgette joined him in Tanganyika in the Spring of 1927 where she lived in a compound in the bush, surrounded, according to Hodge, by "lions and leopards and rhinoceroses." Aside from one other man, a rough Cornish miner, the Rougiers were the only white people for one hundred fifty miles.

While Ronald was on safari prospecting for tin, Georgette was left alone for long periods of time with only their native servants who had never seen a white woman before. She did once go on one of these safaris with him but never went on another one, although she never complained about the rough 20-mile-a-day travelling or the one bottle of water allowance.

THE MASQUERADERS was written while she was in Tanganyika in these primitive conditions. She got one fact wrong in this book -- the date of the founding of White's Club. She was only off by one year, though. The book was published in 1928 by which time Ronald was prospecting in Macedonia, where Georgette again joined him. More on her Macedonia experiences in a later entry....

Ronald and Georgette

Georgette, according to her contemporaries was very beautiful as a young woman. She was tall, too, at 5'10". She was not athletic, and according to Hodge "took no exercise that she could avoid", but she did enjoy dancing.

She met Ronald Rougier in 1920 at Christmas when both families were staying at the Bushey Park Hotel. Ronald liked George Heyer immediately and was impressed by his intelligence. He also took to the young Georgette. In the 1920s young ladies were expected to bring their own partner when they were invited to dances, and Ronald became Georgette's.

Ronald, tall and handsome, was two years older than Georgette. His family were of Hugenot extraction, but had settled in York where they ran an import-export business. His first love, the navy, had to be given up because of poor eyesight, so he attended The Royal School of Mines to become a mining engineer. In 1922 he qualified as such and worked in Nigeria for a while. He also played first-class rugger with the Harlequins.

After dating for five years, he and Georgette became engaged in 1925. A month later, after playing tennis with his future son-in-law, George Heyer died of a sudden heart attack.

Two months later the wedding went ahead as planned on August 18, 1925 at St. Mary's in Wimbledon. Georgette wore a pretty little cloth hat and her wedding photo in Hodge shows her carrying a huge bouquet and standing next to a smiling and dapper Ronald. The ceremoney was kept simple with no bridesmaids.

As close as Georgette was to her father, she must have been suffering immensely from grief. Ronald must have been of great strength to her. She confided to a friend a few months later that a girl never got over the death of her father.

As a couple they were always reserved. Georgette was already an established writer, bringing in a good income with her novels. At all accounts they were a well-suited and happy couple. She learned to play bridge for her husband's sake, and, though she disliked exercise, walked many golf courses in his wake. A friend stated that she was 100% loyal to Ronald and that he was entirely devoted to her. They were married for almost fifty years.

She may have been Georgette Heyer to her fans, but she was Mrs. Ronald Rougier in her private life.

A Trio Of Writers

In 1919 Heyer was introduced to two women with whom she would become good friends -- Joanna Cannan and Carola Oman.

Joanna was the youngest daughter of Charles Cannan, Dean of Trinity College, Oxford, and Mary Wedderburn. Her cousin, Gilbert Cannan was a British novelist and dramatist, and her sister, May, was a poet. She married H. J. Pullein-Thompson in 1918. Captain "Cappy" Harold J. Pullein-Thompson was badly injured during the war and Joanna became the main bread winner of the family, publishing her first novel in 1922 and then publishing a novel a year until she died in 1961. She encouraged all three of her daughters to write, with happy results, all three becoming writers. One of her granddaughters is also a published author.

Carola Oman was the daughter of noted British historian and Oxford professor, Sir Charles Oman. Carola became Lady Lenantan in 1922 after marrying Sir Gerald Lenanton. She published her first novel in 1924 and continued to write. Her biography of Nelson is still considered the standard against which Nelson biographies should be judged.

In checking Amazon for Joanna's first novel, The Misty Valley, I found a copy for $174.99, so it appears it may be a hard one to find at a reasonable price. I plan to check the library for any of her books. As for Carola, in checking for a copy of her first, The Royal Road, an historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots, there were none currently available. I plan to check my library for any of her books as well.

It would be interesting to read books written by such close friends of Georgette. I will write more on Joanna and Carola in future entries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My List, So Far

Of these seven, the order in which I rate them:

1. The Masqueraders

2.  Simon The Coldheart

3.  These Old Shades

4.  Instead of the Thorn

5.  Powder and Patch

6.  The Black Moth

7.  The Great Roxhythe

The "Old Gentleman" Orders All

The Masqueraders

Heyer's seventh novel, The Masqueraders, was published in 1928. I absolutely love this one!

Set in England it tells the story of Prudence and Robin Merriott, brother and sister, who arrive in England from France on the orders of their father, whom they call The Old Gentleman.

The two have grown up following their father across Europe, often taking assumed names and even switching genders with one another -- which is how they arrive in England. Prudence, tall and built on queenly lines, dresses and acts the part of Mr. Peter Merriott, while Robin, small and compact, dresses and acts the part of Peter's sister, Kate. Since Robin, along with their father, has recently taken part in the late Jacobite Rebellion, they feel it is a matter of life or death to maintain such a disguise.

They are guests of an old friend, Lady Lowestoft, who knows their true identities, and are supposed to wait quitely until their father arrives. But they are inadvertently drawn into society in their disguises by chancing upon and thwarting the abduction of a young innocent. Robin (Kate), of course, falls for the girl, while Prudence (Peter), befriended by Sir Anthony Fanshawe, a close friend of the girl's father, finds herself drawn to him.

With the help of their faithful retainer, John, the two maintain their disguises through many close calls until the very end of the book, when The Old Gentleman sets all to rights with a surprise that rocks the ton and restores the family's fortune and rightful place in society.

The Masqueraders has romance, adventure, intrigue, and one of the most annoyingly egotistical characters ever encountered -- The Old Gentleman. There is a dastardly villain, swordfights, tipping wine down sleeves (you have to read it to see what that means!), and a wonderful love story! All ends well, of course, but the journey to that delightful end makes this one that you MUST try to find in your local library.

Heyer was only 25 when she wrote this book and was living in Africa with her husband at the time. This is one of my favorites, in my top 10. It is light, has a fast plot, and adorable main characters.

My only copy is a hardcover, Heinemann edition, a fourth printing of the first editon, and even though it is in poor physical shape, I am very proud to have it. The image at the top is of a newer softcover copy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Heyer's Son Dies At Age 75

Sir Richard Rougier, aged 75, died this past Thursday, October 25. Details in the Telegraph.(I originally published this post on October 28, 2007)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

These Old Shades

"What was her mysterious parentage?"

Published in 1926

THESE OLD SHADES by Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades was Heyer's sixth published novel, and was set in Georgian times. It tells the story of Leonie, a girl brought up in a humble home in Paris, but whose origins are anything but humble.

Through a series of interesting events, (and after first masquerading as his page "Leon") Leonie becomes the ward of the Duke of Avon. The mystery of her real parentage lies in the hands of the Duke of Avon's enemy, the deadly Compte de Sainte-Vire, a man Leonie greatly fears.

Published in 1926, the book is very much "of it's time", with a rather melodramatic tone. It seems to be a favorite with members of the Heyer Listserv (book discussion group), and Avon is definitely a favorite hero with the ladies on the list. Justin, Duke of Avon, is amusing, arrogant, self-centered, with a sometimes destructive wit at the beginning of the book. About halfway through we see him maturing a bit; he is kinder, his good characteristics have strengthened, and he actually puts someone else's interests above his own.

Leonie, I have to admit, annoys me at times; she worships Avon with slavish adoration and defends him to all. The man's nickname is "Satanas", for goodness sake! But I still have a kindness for her, and, as I said, he does grow up. This is a Heyer that I do like to re-read once in a while. The characters of Justin's family are so very funny. There is a lot of wit and charm in the book (which one expects of Heyer, after all). I think my favorite character in the whole book is Rupert, the Duke's brother. Rupert makes the book worth reading all on his own.

It is a fast-paced, tension-filled book, which will keepyou laughing throughout -- from the moment Avon first meets Leonie, dressed in boy's clothes and going by the name of "Leon", to the excellent chase and rescue at the end. It is a feel-good read with hilarious dialogue throughout and characters that you can't help but love. And although it is not in my personal top 10, I know some who put it in the #1 spot on their Heyer list. So look for it in your library or buy an inexpensive paperback on Ebay or Amazon. It's worth the read.

My copy of TOS is a Bantam Books paperback, published in 1970. It is one of only a few that I do not yet have in hard cover.

Note: Heyer did not do sequels, but it is generally accepted by "Heyerites" (and stated by Heyer biographer Jane Aiken Hodge) that she did take the main characters in The Black Moth and use them again, under different names, in These Old Shades. She titled the book so, as a hint to her readers -- the characters in TOS were "shades" of those in TBM.

Since TOS was published in 1926, she was probably writing it at the time of her marriage to Ronald Rougier in 1925. It was published during what is known as The General Strike in England when there were not only no trains or newspapers, but no advertising or reviews, either. Yet the book was an instant success. Hodge suggests Heyer may have been encouraged to believe that she didn't need publicity to have a successful novel, after TOS sold 190,000 copies on publication.

My list, so far:

1. Simon The Coldheart

2. These Old Shades

3. Instead of the Thorn

4. Powder and Patch

5. The Black Moth

6. The Great Roxhythe

More On Their Personal Lives...

According to Hodge, the Heyer family moved from an address in Woodside to a slightly better address at 11 Homefield Road in Wimbledon in 1918. In 1923 they moved to 5 Ridgeway Place, to a newly built house. It was a four-bedroom house with a secluded garden on what was once the Ernle-Drax estate and was within easy walking distance of Wimbledon Commons. Hodge suggests that it probably had an air of country living about it.

In 1923 George Heyer gave a talk on "History in Fiction" to the select Wimbledon Literary and Scientific Society, and in 1925 he gave a talk on "The Humour of Dickens's Minor Characters". In 1924 the Oxford University Press published his translation of Francois Villon's poems, saying they were proud to handle it. Georgette appeared with her father, playing Prince Arthur to his King John in a literary tableau at the age of 11, for the Literary and Scientific Society which he had been invited to join in 1909.

It is easy to imagine how much his appreciation of her first literary effort in The Black Moth must have meant to Georgette.

Next Entry: These Old Shades

Simon The Coldheart

Book Number Five --

Heyer published this book in 1925, the fifth of her 54 novels.

I have to count Simon as a favorite, though not in my top 10.

The book is set in the year 1400 and tells the story of Simon, the illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Malvallet who, at the age of 14, has to fend for himself. He puts himself in the service of Fulk of Montlice (his father's natural enemy), and I do mean "puts himself" into his service. He has a very forceful nature and gets what he wants. He wanted to serve Fulk, and so he does! He works his way up from being a page to Fulk to becoming a friend and equal to Alan, Fulk's son. The book follows Simon to age 32, by which time he has made a name for himself as Simon of Beauvallet, has a castle of his own, and has won for wife the lady he chooses, a spitfire and a beauty.

Simon is set during the reign of Henry IV, a favorite historical age for Heyer. She dedicated the book to her father, George, because of all her published books at the time, Simon was his favorite.

Heyer, however, put Simon on the list of books she was adamant about keeping suppressed, even when fans wrote to ask that it be re-issued. After her death, her son allowed it's publication in 1977, saying that in this one case his mother had been too harsh.

I have to say I agree, because I do enjoy reading Simon now and again. My own hard cover copy looks exactly as the photograph above. I was able to get it on Ebay for $32.00 plus shipping, and it came to me encased in plastic and in pristine shape. It is a 1978 Book Club Associates edition, published by arrangement with William Heineman Ltd. And I don't mind at all that it isn't a first edition (which would be a find, indeed) because it is such a beautiful book, and I love that cover. I also have a Pan paperback, published in 1979.

Now that I've written about Heyer's first five, I will begin to put them in the order in which I enjoy them. Of these first five, the order would be:

1. Simon The Coldheart

2. Instead Of The Thorn

3. Powder And Patch

4. The Black Moth

5. The Great Roxhythe

Next Entry: More on their personal lives...

Autobiographical In Nature

Georgette was so very private, but she reportedly told those who asked that they would find her in her work. A very cryptic remark. Critic and novelist A. S. Byatt wrote a long memorial piece for The Sunday Times when she died, based on interviews with her husband, her good friend, Carola Oman, and two of her publisher friends. That is about the only written source for any information on her early life. Hodge supplemented that info with interviews with her surviving family and friends and some of the letters to which she was given access when she wrote The Private World Of Georgette Heyer, published in 1984.

Heyer's brother, Frank, asserted that the four suppressed contemporary novels (Instead of the Thorn, Helen, Barren Corn, and Pastel) were somewhat autobiographical in nature, in particular Helen. But it is still a guessing game, as far as I can see, as to which parts of the novels were autobiographical.

We have Hodge's work, based on the only written and interview sources available, and we have our own opinions or surmises as to what she was really like and what her life was really like. She will forever remain somewhat of a mystery. I guess it should be that way because she obviously preferred it that way while she was living. But those of us who have had a love affair with her work still crave more.

Next Entry: Simon The Coldheart

Daring For Its Time

In 1923 Georgette Heyer published her first contemporary novel, INSTEAD OF THE THORN; her fourth novel to be published. This post-WWI novel tells the story of Elizabeth Arden*, a sheltered 19-year-old who finds herself completely unprepared for the people and situations she finds when she ventures out into the world on her own.
Elizabeth meets and imagines herself in love with Stephen, a successful novelist much older than herself. They marry, and young, innocent Elizabeth, who had been reared by her father and a spinster aunt, is horrified by her first sexual experience with her older husband. The father and aunt had balked at explaining the facts of life to Elizabeth in any way, and, unable to deal with the realities of married life, she runs away from her husband. She comes to learn a lot about herself and marriage in general, and eventually returns and really falls in love with her husband this time. Stephen is depicted as a very good, loving man, who shows a lot of forbearance for his young wife.
This has been called a courageous book to have been written by an unmarried girl of the 1920s, and it is. The journey Elizabeth takes from being appalled by sexual relations to beginning to have real insight into herself and the world around her is well written, and the book sold well when it was published, although not as well as the historical novels.
INSTEAD OF THE THORN is one of only four contemporary novels that were not crime novels, and it is felt to be the most feeling of the four (Heyer later supressed all four of them). It is hard to find an older copy of this book without paying a fortune for it, but Buccaneer Books reprinted it in the 90s, along with the other three set in post-WWI, and this newer issue can be found and purchased at a decent price. The image below is of a 1923 issue. My own copy is one of the Buccaneer editions.
I do recommend reading this book if you have access to it, and if you are building a Heyer library, be sure to include the four post-WWI novels. They are the only novels that can be said to have offered any kind of insight into Heyer's everyday life.
*It is interesting that the heroine's name is Elizabeth Arden, but there has never been any indication that this was not simply a name pulled out of a hat. The real-life Elizabeth Arden, of beauty spa fame, opened up her first salon in Paris in 1922, and I suppose it is possible that Heyer could have seen the name and that it appealed to her, but again, there is no evidence of that.
Next Entry: Autobiographical in Nature

The Personal Lives Of The Heyers...

The following information is taken from THE PRIVATE WORLD OF GEORGETTE HEYER by Jane Aiken Hodge.

Georgette was named after her father, George, who was also named after his father. The senior George Heyer came from Kharkov, Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century, to settle in England where he married an English girl named Alice Waters. He was a fur merchant. There is little known about him or about why he immigrated to England, although it is posited that he may have been a fugitive from the Russian pogroms of that time. Georgette's brother, Frank, remembered him as being bearded, having a strong accent, and being a practical joker.

Their son George was born in Islington in 1869, enlarging their family of three girls, Alice, Ilma, and Inez. George attended King's College School in London, read classics at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and wrote regularly for Cambridge's Granta. In the 1890s he became a teacher at Weymouth College, and later was invited to teach French at King's College School in 1897 when it moved to Wimbledon.

In 1901 he married Sylvia Watkins at the Church of St. Peter in Eltham. She was 25 at the time and the daughter of a Thames tugboat owner. She had been an outstanding student of cello and piano at the Royal College of Music. Georgette was born a year after her parents were married, George Boris four years after that, and Frank Dmitri five years later.

George was well thought of at King's College School where he also discovered a gift for fund raising. In 1903 he gave up teaching and held various other positions including organizing Queen Alexandra's Charity Matinees and acting as Secretary of the Memorial Theatre at Stratford. He also wrote occasionally for Punch.

Boris and Frank both attended Lancing College, with Boris going straight from there to a junior job with Bovril. Frank went on to Cambridge and became a schoolmaster, teaching for twenty-one years at Downside.

Little is known about Heyer's life as a young girl. It is not known where she was educated. She herself said that she was educated at "various day schools", and that she never attended college. At the beginning of the 1914-1918 war she was for a time in Paris where her father was working when the war broke out. Hodge reports that Heyer recalled hearing the German gun, Big Bertha, before they returned to Wimbledon.

At that time she was enrolled for a while at The Study, one of Wimbledon's two main girls' schools, and, according to Hodge, the more socially conscious of the two; but no records of her time there are in existance today.

George Heyer was very active during the war. Even though he was over-age he obtained a captaincy in the Army Service Corps. He was a requistioning officer in France, and was awarded the O.B.E. after the war. At that time he went to work for the War Office as a staff captain, but left, after suffering a severe illness, to become Appeal Secretary at King's College Hospital.

More on their personal lives to follow.

Next Entry: Daring For Its Time

Pseudonym, Stella Martin

Pseudonym, Stella Martin


First published in 1923 under the title THE TRANSFORMATION OF PHILIP JETTAN, and under Heyer's pseudonym, Stella Martin.

The third book published by Georgette Heyer was Powder and Patch. My copy is a Mandarin paperback. I don't yet have a hard cover copy, but will be looking for one; preferably an old one.

This book is the story of Philip Jettan, a very good, very irreproachable young man, who has all his life been in love with his childhood playmate, Cleone. When Cleone returns from her ladies' seminary, having acquired the polish and accomplishments necessary for a young lady about to be presented to society, she finds fault with Philip because he is not like the foppish dandies she has met in Town. Her heart may whisper his name to her, but as the book says, "Cleone was stern with her heart, for there was much in Mr. Jettan which did not meet with her approval." Even Philip's father wishes there were just a touch more wildness in his son. Philip is a good, steady man, who takes care of his responsibilities, has a good sense of humor and all the best character traits. But Cleone wishes for a little more dash; and she has become accustomed to being flirted with, and Philip does not flirt -- he just says what he thinks.

On the advice of his father and uncle, Philip travels to Paris for an extended visit where he "transforms". He starts dressing, acting and speaking the part of a handsome, foppish, indolent young man of means. He even writes poetry and fights duels!! When Cleone sees him again, it is as if he is an entirely different person. But although this is what she seemingly wanted all along, for some reason she finds she doesn't like it, and wants the old Philip back.

The book is very funny, and although, being only her third published work, it is not one of her best, still she writes it with a lot of insight and her characteristic wit. Of her first three I like it the best.

Next entry: The Personal Lives

Well On Her Way

THE BLACK MOTH was well received, and a compulsive writer was born. Her second, third, fourth, and fifth novels were published by 1925 when she married, so she must have been doing a lot of writing while she was being courted by her husband-to-be.

Heyer met Ronald Rougier during Christmas of 1920. He was two years her senior. More about Rougier's background later.

Heyer went out with Rougier for five years, and they became engaged in the Spring of 1925, the year her fifth novel was published. A month following that engagement, George Heyer died suddenly of a heart attack after playing tennis with his future son-in-law. George Heyer's death, besides being a personal tragedy, was an economic disaster for the family, and Georgette became the central anchor for the famiy. Boris and Frank were only 19 and 15 at the time; Boris was working, but Frank would need to be put through school and Cambridge, and Georgette was the one who would do this.

Now she was not just writing compulsively, but because it was necessary to help take care of her family. She was already a well-established author, and when her sixth novel was published it was an instant success. These Old Shades sold 190,000 copies on publication without any publicity. It is speculated that this confirmed Heyer's belief that it wasn't necessary for her to spend a lot of time or effort on publicity, and this suited her very well. She and her husband were very private people, especially after her father's death. She was happy to be Mrs. Rougier in public, and keep the author, Georgette Heyer, extremely private and secluded from the public.

Information taken from The Private Life of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge.

Next Entry: Pseudonym, Stella Martin

"...I Am Roxhythe."

THE GREAT ROXHYTHE by Georgette Heyer

Set in Medieval England, this book was published in 1923.

Often this is a hard one to find. I remember watching several copies on various websites, with prices going up into the hundreds of dollars; then I finally found a copy that was around $32.00 including shipping. Mine is hardcover, without a dust jacket, in very good shape, and a second edition printing. I do not think that a paperback was ever published of this book; although with the new paperback GH re-issues that are coming out this year, I wouldn't be surprised if they are planning to print one now.

As an early Heyer, again, just like the one before it, I think it shows us Heyer's talent and to what we have to look forward. The time period in which it was set was, I believe, a favorite with Heyer. I have read other readers' comments who've not cared for the book because it is so long, because the language is sometimes stilted, and because the ending isn't all they would like it to be.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading the book, once I was able to obtain a copy. I do not believe it will be one that I can re-read regularly like I do so many others, but I believe I'll crave a re-reading once in a while.

The character of Roxhythe, himself, is conceited about his own accomplishments, powers, strengths, charm and wit. But the reader can't help liking him. You see, he really is all the things he says he is; and he is loyal, sometimes uncomprehendingly so, to his King (Charles II) and country. Heyer modeled Roxhythe after The Duke of Buckingham, according to Hodge, although she doesn't give her reasons for saying so.

The secondary character, Christopher, is one of my favorite of Heyer's. It is through Chris' eyes that we learn to see into Roxhythe; to see past the facade that he puts up for most of the world; to see the deeply-rooted convictions and loyalty, the love that he really has for his country. And it is through Chris' eyes that we see the gentle side of Roxhythe. There is, of course, a love story as well in the plot, and it is, refreshingly, a very realistic telling of a relationship between a man and a woman in love.

One of my favorite lines in the book is when Chris is speaking in some doubt as to Roxhythe's power to get some gentlemen of the court to do his bidding. Roxhythe reassures him on that point, saying simply, "....I am Roxhythe."

As in all of Heyer's novels, there is plenty of humor and wit in ROXHYTHE. The book spans several years, and it is easy to get bogged down in it. It is not her usual fare; set during the intrigue and politics of Charles II's reign, it is a far cry from the Regency- and Georgian-period romances for which she is so well-known. But, especially remembering that Heyer was only 21 at the time of publication, I have to say that the book is quite a splendid accomplishment, and I could only dream of having had the knowledge and ability to write such a book when I was 21 years old.

I read a review in which the writer said that it is not up to Heyer's "usual standards"; considering that it was only the second of her novels to be published, I have to say that she hadn't really yet had time to set any standards. And it should be remembered that she wasn't at all satisfied with it herself (she often wasn't satisfied with her books). And still, though written by an "immature" writer at the time, it is still a very "mature" book. I believe the problem that some people have with the book is that they are accustomed to the light-hearted romances or the wonderfully well-written who-done-its of Heyer; when they finally have the chance to read ROXHYTHE, it is so entirely out of that realm that they are disappointed. So, I advise that if you get the chance to read it, you should do so with an open mind. Imagine it isn't Heyer writing it, but some other 21-year-old, newly published author.

As for the ending -- I appreciated it. I cried, but I thought it was well-done.

Copies of THE GREAT ROXHYTHE can be found at a reasonable price. Do not be suckered into paying a fortune for one. If you are so fortunate as to have a copy in your local library (which I highly doubt) take advantage of it and give it a try.

Next Entry: Well On Her Way

"First Crack Out Of The Bag"

Heyer began The Black Moth as a serial story to amuse her brother Boris who had a form of hemophilia. At the age of 17 (Boris was 13) they went to Hastings in order for him to get over a bout of illness, and she made up the story to relieve their boredom. Her father, who had a connection to a literary agent called Christy, suggested, after hearing some of the story, that she prepare it for publication. He made the arrangements, sending the manuscript to Christy's partner, Leonard P. Moore. Moore sold the manuscript to Constable in England and Houghton Mifflin in the U.S. On the original book jacket Heyer's picture appeared in a central medallion -- something she would never allow in later years.

"First crack out of the bag," are the words she herself used to describe the publication of her first novel. Her mother, it is said, had a few qualms about her daughter being a novelist, but her father and her agent were very enthusiastic.

In later years Heyer did not like it when some of her fans insisted on preferring TBM to her other books; I suppose as she matured it didn't seem to be the type of book she would want to be known for or raved after. But, although not a favorite of mine, I prefer it to anything written by Baroness Orczy or even Jeffery Farnol! It is what it is, and there is nothing wrong with a wildly romantic, a bit over-the-top, period romance once in a while!

Next entry: The Great Roxhythe

A Story For A Convelescing Brother


By Georgette Heyer

Published in 1921 when Heyer was just 19 years old.

She had written the story to amuse her convalescing brother, Boris, and was encouraged by her father to have it published. Imagine, she wrote this when she was 17 years old!

The Black Moth tells the story of Diana Beauleigh, a country-bred lady who, as the book jacket says, "inflamed the passion of a great Duke." Before the Duke of Sale can manage to abduct the lady, an unknown masked man rescues her and is, of course, injured in the process. And of course, who gets to nurse the man back to health and fall in love with him before finding out he is not a highwayman? Diana, of course.

Heyer did not write sequels, but characters in this book are revisited in THESE OLD SHADES and DEVIL'S CUB.

I have a copy of this Georgian novel in paperback and a good-quality hard cover with a dust-jacket, published in 1968.

THE BLACK MOTH is special simply because it was Heyer's first book. It is good, without being great. It is not in my top 10 of Heyer's books, but it definitely showed what Heyer was going to be able to accomplish as she got older. I can't imagine writing anything nearly so good at the age of 17, much less a period piece in which knowledge of Georgian England would be necessary.

I do recommend reading it, because there is nothing wrong with it. It is a good, enjoyable read, and it does introduce characters that are brought to life in different forms in two other novels. Besides, as I said, it is her first book! That alone is reason to read it.

Written in 1919, Published in 1921

Next Entry: "First Crack Out Of The Bag"

Yes, I'm A Heyer Addict

I thought I'd list all her books in the order in which they were written. I now have at least one copy of all but two of her 55 books. And I'm very close to getting the other two. I plan to write about each one and also to put them in some kind of order of preference.

Books By Georgette Heyer In

Chronological Order ----------








1928 -- HELEN (POST WWI)





1932 -- DEVIL's CUB (G)





1935 -- REGENCY BUCK (R)








1939 -- NO WIND OF BLAME (M)


1940 -- THE CORINTHIAN (R); published in U.S. as BEAU WINDHAM



1942 -- PENHALLOW (M)

1944 -- FRIDAY'S CHILD (R)



1949 -- ARABELLA (R)




1953 -- COTILLION (R)


1954 -- THE TOLL-GATE (R)

1955 -- BATH TANGLE (R)

1956 -- SPRIG MUSLIN (R)

1957 -- APRIL LADY (R)


1958 -- VENETIA (R)




1962 -- THE NONESUCH (R)


1965 -- FREDERICA (R)


1968 -- COUSIN KATE (R)

1970 -- CHARITY GIRL (R)



*The Great Roxhythe, Powder and Patch, and Instead of the Thorn were all published in 1923. On some lists, The Great Roxhythe is listed as her second book, while on others it is listed as the third. Jane Aiken Hodge, in The Private World of Georgette Heyer, lists Powder and Patch as the third published novel, which is probably correct. The first lists I ever saw listed it as second, so that is how I made my lists and ordered my entries in my other journal. However, I have changed this list and the order of entries in this journal to put Powder and Patch as the third published novel, as Hodge states it is.

Next Entry: A Story For A Convelescing Brother

Introducing Georgette


She was born August 16, 1902 in Wimbledon, England and published her first novel at the age of 19. 

Although she is mostly known for her Regency novels, she also wrote several Georgian period novels, one biography of William the Conqueror, one set during the reign of Charles II, four Post-World War I novels (contemporary to her life) and eleven mysteries. 

As I said, though, she is probably best known for her Regency period novels --the Comedy of Manners-type works, and witty romances. I do appreciate and enjoy Jane Austen, but while Jane Austen wrote about the time in which she was living, Heyer wrote from in-depth research and her love of the period; and it shows. She is appreciated for the interesting wit, humor, and absurdities of her characters, her twisting plots, colorful use of Regency cant, and her knowledge of the customs, culture, political landscape, and class distinctions of the period. 

I have been a huge fan of Heyer since about 1980. I had obtained a few of her books over the years, but in 2005 seriously started building a collection of her work, mostly buying from Ebay and Amazon, but also making finds at flea markets, thrift stores, and yard sales. I now have almost a complete collection.** Of her 55 books I have at least one copy, and sometimes more, of 53 of them.*** This is a pretty good website for anyone who likes Heyer. 

Georgette's grandfather was Russian, and the name "Heyer" was originally pronounced, as most people pronounce it today, as "high-er". But during World War I the family changed the pronunciation to sound less German, and it was pronounced to sound like "hair". Georgette herself pronounced it that way. But it is very hard for me to do so. I didn't know about the war-years' pronunciation change when I first became a fan, so when I found out that she herself pronounced it to rhyme with "fair" I tried to do so. But it automatically comes to my mind or out of my mouth as rhyming with "flyer". I'm trying, though. Note* Updated 7/22/2014, I now automatically pronounce the name to rhyme with "hair." It only took me a few years. :)

Georgette was the eldest of three children. Her brothers were Boris and Frank. Her father, George Heyer, was a teacher at King's College School.
Note** This past Saturday (Oct. 13, 2007) I got a copy of Pastel that I'd won on Ebay. So now I have at least one copy of all but one of her books.

Note*** As of yesterday, February 25, 2008 I have a complete collection. I now have at least one of all 55 of her titles.

Next entry: My list of Heyers