Sunday, September 23, 2007

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

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