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.
I do so love the Duke of Avon. He’s so fabulous.
“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 in The Happy Magazine, September 4, 1922
Republished in Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective by Mary Fahnestock-Thomas
As promised…”and now for something completely different!”
In her biography of Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Kloester writes that Heyer was extremely productive in the early 1920s. Along with her books, she was publishing short stories in magazines. These markets were common in the UK at that time and paid well, and Heyer was helping to support her family, so the extra money was no doubt welcome. By combing through microfilm of hundreds of magazines, Kloester found evidence of dozens of these stories, and thinks there are many more that haven’t yet been discovered. Heyer’s first published short story was republished in in Mary Fahnestock-Thomas’ book, Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective, and I thought it would be fun to re-read it and write a blog post on it.
Update: I just found out that Vic posted the story in its entirety on the Jane Austen’s World blog. Enjoy! There are some other links to online publications of Heyer’s works on the Teach Me Tonight blog. Continue reading
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