Whereas with these old Shades of mine, Their ways and dress delight me; And should I trip by word or line, They cannot well indict me.
— Austin Dobson, “Epilogue” to Eighteenth Century Vignettes, Second Series (yep, that’s where Heyer got the title)
“He has Titian hair,” said Justin blandly. “Titian hair has ever been one of–my–ruling–passions.”
Chapter I, His Grace of Avon Buys a Soul
I have received some complaints from my Gentle Readers about some of the earlier posts in this series: some dissatisfaction that I’m wasting time reading these stupid, boring books that the author herself didn’t even like very much instead of moving right to the Good Stuff.
Well, Gentle Readers, we’re at the Good Stuff now.
In fact, I would say that These Old Shades is probably the best-known of Georgette Heyer’s novels–her Pride and Prejudice, if you will, at least in terms of popularity. However, can one imagine Jane Austen, having lived another ten, twenty, thirty years, ever growing tired of praise of Elizabeth and Darcy, and weary of readers begging for more books like Pride and Prejudice? More, in those days before the JAFF genre existed, of the Darcys themselves? If her letters are to be believed, Georgette Heyer certainly grew weary of fans asking for more books like These Old Shades. Yet in this book she not only recycled characters from her first published work, The Black Moth, she went back to the adventures of the Alistairs two more times in Devil’s Cub and An Infamous Army. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Well, I snarked, and now I’m going to praise. I’m working on my All of Heyer entry on These Old Shades (no, really) and I came across this cover image.
This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about! They wanted a fresh new look to appeal to younger readers, and this time they’ve done a smashing job. A fan, pistols, cards, a quizzing glass, a carriage–presumably His Grace of Avon’s light traveling coach on the way to Versailles, pulled by his high-couraged horses–all the things one thinks of in connection with this delightful story. It looks like fun! Who wouldn’t want to read it?
So it seems that Sourcebooks took the criticism about their proposed new books–and believe me, I was not the only one complaining, the Georgette Heyer Facebook group was acquiring pitchforks and torches–and went back to the drawing board, and came up with a really wonderful new look, also rebranding them as “The Georgette Heyer Signature Collection.” Well done, Sourcebooks! Your ebooks still cost too much, though. (They do occasionally put them on sale, if you’re in the market…sign up for eReaderIQ and set your preferences for Georgette Heyer, and you will be notified by email when the prices drop. They often run a sale near Heyer’s birthday in August.)
Incidentally, we think Miss Stanton-Lacey would approve of The Grand Sophy‘s makeover, though Miss Wraxton might sniff. And they included Tina the Italian Greyhound! HI TINA WHO’S A GOOD GIRL YOU ARE YES YOU ARE
Sourcebooks is in the process of rebranding its editions of Georgette Heyer’s novels. I want to say up front that Sourcebooks performs a real public service in keeping Heyer in print here in the U.S. It wasn’t that long ago that, if we Yanks wished to read Heyer’s books and our public library was not well-stocked, we had to comb used-book stores and websites, sometimes paying outrageous prices due to their rarity–Heyer fans tend to hang on to their copies–or import them from the UK at considerable expense. I know that because I did it.
Sourcebooks recently posted on their “Georgette Heyer” Facebook page the first redesigned cover they are launching, for The Grand Sophy, which can be seen at left (you can see it at a larger size by clicking on it). While the illustration is fresh and appealing, it has about as much to do with The Grand Sophy as I do with nuclear geophysics.
One is tempted to respond, in the language of Austen and Heyer, that some great misapprehension has occurred. Is that supposed to be Sophy Stanton-Lacy? Whose clothes are all from Paris, who drives a high-perch phaeton and rides a spirited Mameluke-trained stallion, and who carries a pistol and knows how to use it (though it throws a little right)? This simpering miss with her ribbons and flounces and sweet cotton gown that she ran up from the Simplicity Basic Regency Gown pattern using quilting fabric from JoAnn? With a really weird handbag? And evening gloves with a day dress and bonnet? THAT’S supposed to be The Grand Sophy?Continue reading →
A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high. A long purple cloak, rose-lined, hung from his shoulders and was allowed to fall carelessly back from his dress, revealing a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold; a waistcoat of flowered silk; faultless small clothes; and a lavish sprinkling of jewels on his cravat and breast. A three-cornered hat, point-edged, was set upon his powdered wig, and in his hand he carried a long beribboned cane. It was a little enough protection against footpads, and although a light dress sword hung at the gentleman’s side its hilt was lost in the folds of his cloak, not quickly to be found. At this late hour, and in this deserted street, it was the height of foolhardiness to walk unattended and flaunting jewels, but the gentleman seemed unaware of his recklessness. He proceeded languidly on his way, glancing neither to left nor to right, apparently heedless of possible danger.
“Almost from the first her novels stood apart from the usual offerings among historical fiction.” – Jennifer Kloester
I liked Simon the Coldheart well enough, but find myself with not much to say about it. Reading it between Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies* was, in retrospect, not the greatest idea. I was too eager to get back to Mantel to give Simon the attention he deserved; and he does deserve it. To be honest, I had a hard time putting it down for first half of the book. The second half didn’t exactly drag, but it lost a little momentum–and that was just when we were getting to the love story. Continue reading →
“Theme handled with restraint, but not needed in small libraries.” – from a review in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin, May 1924 (ouch!)
Instead of the Thorn was Georgette Heyer’s first novel with a contemporary setting. Of course, she wrote it in 1922 or so, so that makes it a period piece for our purposes. In fact, it’s a year or two before the current season of Downton Abbey is set, though the characters are middle-class and the plot is darker in some ways. Not in the occasionally silly dramatic-death soap opera way of DA; this feels like real life.
“She had expected to feel a heroine’s exultation when Stephen slipped the ring on to her finger, but the ring was too big, and she had wanted sapphires.”
Published 1923 as The Transformation of Philip Jettan by Stella Martin Republished in 1930 as Powder and Patch without the original final chapter
“Short on plot, it is full of light-hearted comedy, and surprising people like it.” – Jane Aiken Hodge
Powder and Patch is not one of Heyer’s best-known or best-loved novels, though it’s very entertaining. It also had an interesting journey to publication–both times.
An early edition of the republished Powder and Patch
It is not known why Heyer published Jettan under a pseudonym. Jennifer Kloester offers several theories, all of them good, and among the usual reasons why authors have used pseudonyms even till the present day. Perhaps Heyer, having published one rather serious historical novel in Roxhythe, and working on a contemporary novel, Instead of the Thorn, which also addressed serious subjects, did not want the lighthearted Jettan to be unfavorably compared to these other works, or give readers the wrong idea about the kind of novels she wrote. All during her writing career, Heyer struggled with the fact that her books, however popular, were not taken seriously, and wanted to write serious historical novels. It’s very possible that at the beginning of her career, she was trying to establish herself as a serious author. Continue reading →
“It is probably the worst book Georgette Heyer ever wrote.” – Jane Aiken Hodge
Have you ever read a book and it was kind of awful, but you kept reading it because it had to get better? And then it never does?
Cover of the first edition
It pains me to say that about The Great Roxhythe. It pains me to say that about any of Georgette Heyer’s novels. She is a favorite, as the Marquis of Roxhythe himself was a favorite of Charles II, and one does not like to think ill of one’s favorite; but I suppose that every author–even a favorite–is entitled to a dud. And even while I didn’t care much for Roxhythe, it is not a dud, not completely. And even bad Heyer is better than a lot of other books.
“The Great Roxhythe, The Transformation of Philip Jettan (later retitled Powder and Patch) and Simon the Coldheart were all published by 1925. They are all interesting as early experiments in the historical mode, and it is also illuminating that she later suppressed The Great Roxhythe and Simon the Coldheart. They were experiments in a direction that was not to prove propitious for her.” – Jane Aiken Hodge
Greetings, Gentle Readers. A question about the copyright of Georgette Heyer’s books came up on Twitter, and I thought it worth dedicating a blog post to it. I hasten to add that I am not a lawyer, nor an expert on copyright. I am just putting together the information I know.
The Black Moth was published in 1921. My understanding of copyright is that any book published prior to 1923 is in the public domain. The text is available on Project Gutenberg, which lends credence to this idea. However, my paperback copy of The Black Moth, published by Harlequin in 2003, has a copyright statement of “Copyright 1929 by Georgette Heyer.” Was the copyright re-registered in 1929? Does the pre-1923 original publication trump that re-registration? Perhaps. Like I said, not an expert. Sourcebooks is keeping it in print, and no doubt pays royalties to the Heyer estate, if one is scrupulous about such things. Continue reading →