The influence of Austen’s cleverest novel, Emma (1815), may be seen in several Heyer novels, including The Foundling¸ Lady of Quality, The Grand Sophy and The Unknown Ajax. Maria Farlow in Lady of Quality is undoubtedly Miss Bates’s literary descendant, while Sophy Stanton-Lacy in The Grand Sophy (1950) is every bit as managing as Austen’s Emma Woodhouse and far more successful in her schemes for the betterment of other people’s lives.
Gender-swapping the character, Hugo Darracott in The Unknown Ajax (1959) proves to be a brilliant manipulator in an emergency, but he is a far more subtle manager than Emma. It is in The Foundling (1948) that Heyer draws direct inspiration from Emma with her foolish orphan Belinda desperately in love with the Robert Martin-esque Mr Mudgley and causing problems for all who cross her path. Like Emma, Gilly, Duke of Sale, does his best to solve the difficulties of his nearest and dearest, and like Emma, he is thwarted at almost every turn.
Of course, Heyer’s story is very different from Austen’s, but it is highly entertaining read with enough Austen moments to delight the biggest fan.
CONCLUSION: If you love Emma, read The Grand Sophy and The Foundling.
TOMORROW: Northanger Abbey!
Which is your favourite Austen novel? Did you know there is a Georgette Heyer novel to match it in mood and spirit? Tune in tomorrow for the next post in this new series by famed literary scholar Jennifer Kloester, author of Georgette Heyer’s Regency World and the forthcoming masterwork Jane Austen’s Ghost.