Wednesday, October 15, 2014

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 suppressed 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.

Friday, October 3, 2014

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 existence 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 requisitioning 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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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 copies are a Mandarin paperback and a small hard cover, First Australian edition, 1932, published by William Heinemann, with a dust jacket

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

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 World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge.

Next Entry: Pseudonym, Stella Martin

Monday, August 25, 2014

"...I am Roxhythe."

THE GREAT ROXHYTHE by Georgette Heyer

 Set in Restoration 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 favorites 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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Story For A Convelescing Brother

THE BLACK MOTH By Georgette Heyer

The Black Moth was 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"

Friday, August 1, 2014

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 Convalescing Brother

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Introducing Georgette

I began this blog on September 23, 2007, back when AOL had their "Journals." I've neglected it and never finished it the way I wanted to when AOL Journals closed and we moved over to Blogspot. I'd like to remedy that now. This is the first entry from the blog.


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