Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Seven Things You Didn't Know About Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester

Today I'd like to welcome guest author, Jennifer Kloester to History Undressed. Not only is Ms. Kloester the author of a biography on Georgette Heyer, she's written a fascinating piece on Georgette Heyer, a renowned author of Regency titles. Leave a comment for you chance to win her new book! Enjoy!

Seven things you didn't know about Georgette Heyer:

1. As a baby, Georgette's favourite lullaby was 'The Animals Went in Two by Two'.

2. Georgette's 1923 novel The Transformation of Philip Jettan (re-titled Powder and Patch in 1930) was probably inspired by the famous letters Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son Philip (also the name of Heyer's hero in the novel). Published under the title: Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman the letters are full of entertaining insights, brilliant wit and sound advice to a young man making his debut in high society. Heyer's novel is peppered with French phrases and is the only one of her books to include a rondeau – a form of verse much favoured by the Renaissance poets and a favourite of her father's. There seems little doubt that her father helped with the book. He spoke fluent French and probably checked the novel's French phrases and may even have written the rondeau which the hero, Philip, reads aloud in idiomatic French to his friends at a select dinner in Paris.  As well as being her only novel written under a pseudonym, The Transformation of Philip Jettan is also unusual as being the only book Georgette ever wrote in which she uses the first-person and in which, as the narrator, she occasionally obtrudes into the text to speak directly to her audience: 'A while back I spoke of three gentlemen…'

3, In 1924 Georgette had one of her short stories: 'Chinese Shawl' translated and published in the Danish periodical, Tvidenskronder. It tells the story of Mary, a well-bred young woman, whose father has killed himself after becoming bankrupt in the stock market crash. A wealthy aunt sends her an exquisite Chinese shawl for which Mary, too poor to go to parties and without suitable clothes, can see no use. Although loath to part with such a beautiful thing, she is eventually forced to sell it, but the shawl proves to be a good-luck charm reuniting Mary with her lost love and providing, as Georgette wrote in the last line of the tale, an ending 'just like in a real fairy story'.

4. One of the most original reviews of Georgette Heyer ever received was for her novel Helen. The review appeared in the famous magazine Punch in the form of a poem. It is an amusing and remarkably accurate account of Heyer's most autobiographical novel.
            Is a pleasant story, as stories go,
               But everyone in it talks such a lot
That they constantly seem to forget the plot,
               Though that, to be sure when you smooth it out,
Is hardly a thing to worry about.

We start when Helen arrives on earth,
Or rather the evening before her birth,
And we go right on to the period when
She has captured the hearts of a score of men,
Some in the country and some in the town,
And finally turned the whole lot down.
              
And, just when we're dropping a silent tear
To think that Helen, who's rather a dear,
Must fizzle out at the end of the book
Without a suitable male on her hook
Up turns one of the turned-down batch
And just at the close she achieves a catch.

In fact I think, though I may be wrong,
               That it's not too short and it's not too long,
               It's not too broad and it's not too deep,
               And it weaves no nightmares into your sleep;
               And Georgette Heyer must write again
               In an equally pleasant and placid vein.

5.  Despite her professed dislike of household chores ("I loathe domesticity") Georgette did enjoy some 'domestic arts' such as knitting and once, in 1955 after finishing Bath Tangle – she actually took up stitchery. She'd never done it before but she had found an old fire-screen that needed re-covering and, as she explained, being 'seized by unaccustomed energy' refurbished it with silk and brocade. When it was finished she was so delighted with her achievement that she made a patchwork cushion with the left-over silk – her 'first attempt at this kind of work'. Although she did not consider herself a 'needlewoman', she'd become so caught up in the pleasure of sewing that she made several more. A week before Christmas Georgette delivered one of her cushions to her dearest friend, Patricia Wallace, the wife of her publisher A.S. Frere of Heinemann, with a note explaining that it was a present for their flat 'so that Frere shall no longer be able to go about town telling people that the only thing Georgette Heyer can do is to write frippery romances.'

GEORGETTE HEYER AND HER CAR NICKNAMED 'THE VIPER' CIRCA 1936
6. Georgette was not a very good driver but in the 1930s she had a car which she nicknamed 'the Viper' which she drove around the Sussex countryside. 

7.  In 1969 Georgette went to Bath to see Doris Langley Moore's collection of historic costumes, in the Assembly Rooms. Her report of her visit revealed that, despite having set a number of books in Bath, she had never before visited the Assembly Rooms: 'One or two interesting exhibits, and a lot of exquisitely embroidered brocades, but a great many omissions. I thought the settings the best part of the exhibition – and was far more interested in the Assembly Rooms, which I had never been able to see before, since they have been under reconstruction ever since they were blitzed in the war. They have done a lovely job on them.'                                       



5 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

Isn't that funny, she'd never been to Bath. But then, as a writer of Regency fiction, I've never been to England.

Thanks for a great read this morning.

Jennifer kloester said...

Yes, even though she'd never been able to see the Assembly Rooms before 1969 she still managed to set some wonderful scenes there. As a Regency writer yourself you would appreciate Heyer's amazing ability to recreate the past. Good luck with your new book Anne and with the giveaway.

Margaret Mallory said...

As a big Georgette H fan, I found this fascinating. Thanks!

Margaret

Jennifer kloester said...

It was my pleasure Margaret. I'm really glad you enjoyed it and I hope you like the biog.

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