In 1958, UK magazine Punch featured this short piece by Georgette Heyer, with her thoughts about the proliferation of biographies about the Brontë family, including her own vision of what one of her own might look like.
With typical wit, obvious in-depth knowledge and more than a little exasperation, Heyer breaks down the facets of a successful Brontë-based scholarly work, while also weighing in with her opinion of the Brontës themselves…
In which we serialize Heyer Society editor Rachel Hyland’s first book in her Reading Heyer series, Reading Heyer: The Black Moth. Called “delicious” by Heyer expert Jennifer Kloester, it is a reading guide, critique and loving homage all in one. But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun. We hope you enjoy. Check back every Monday for another installment, or buy the book here.
This sees us visiting with one Mr. Chadber, a self-important innkeeper whose professed political leanings give us a solid historical background in which to lay our scene. He is a Tory in support of Prince Charlie. He professes a hatred of the usurping “little German” who currently occupies the throne. He gave solace to those loyal to the Crown in “’Forty-five.” Thus, we find ourselves in mid-18th Century, England, where the arrival of a nervous lawyer-type interrupts our ruminations on the complicated affairs of state that ruled Britannia in times past. This lawyer, declaring himself in the employ of someone whom he rather haltingly designates “Sir Anthony Ferndale,” is at once considered a personage of importance to Chadber, despite the latter’s earlier distaste of him; we immediately discern that Sir Anthony must be a personage of passing great importance indeed.
Our first meeting with the gentleman does not disappoint. Dressed in the very latest of Parisian styles, Sir Anthony – who is not, in fact, Sir Anthony, but the infamous Lord John “Jack” Carstares, disreputable son of a furious Earl – greets the lawyer (Warburton, by name) suavely, much to the other’s wondering delight. Sent thither by Jack’s younger brother Richard, who’d had no sight of his elder in six years before having his carriage held up a highwayman who was, gasp! Jack!, Warburton’s business is the death of said furious Earl. With his Lordly father out of the way of both the family and the plot, our Hero (for such we now most assuredly think him, and not that dude with the girls’ names) must assume the title of the Earl of Wyncham. Words like “prodigious” are bandied about, and there’s a fair bit of “’tis”ing. Jack is already established as a gentleman of wit and good humor, in addition to being described as “debonair” and possessed of a “magnetic presence.”
On this, the forty-sixth anniversary of Georgette Heyer’s death on July 4, 1974, we here present an obituary that was printed in the New York Times just two days later. Interestingly, among her most significant works, the divisive and often unpopular modern family saga/murder mystery Penhallow is mentioned; likewise her straight histories Royal Escape and The Conqueror, neither of which has gone on to be as beloved as… almost any other one of her novels. Curious, isn’t it?
Vale, Georgette. You are missed, but you will always live on.
Georgette Heyer is Dead at 71; Wrote Regency England Novels
LONDON, July 5—Georgette Heyer, the novelist, died in a hospital here last night after a two‐month illness. She was 71 years old.
Miss Heyer wrote more than 50 books, most of them historical novels set in Regency England, She also collaborated with her husband, George Ronald Rougier, in writing 11 detective novels.
She was only 17 years old when she began her first novel, “The Black Moth,” as a serial story to amuse her brother, who was recovering from a serious illness. Her father encouraged her to work on it with a view to publication, and it appeared in 1921.
The novelist shunned all publicity, maintaining that readers would find all they needed to know about her in her books. They included “Penhallow,” “Royal Escape,” “Arabella,” “The Conqueror,” “Faro’s Daughter” and “The Spanish Bride.”
Most of the books were published in the United States by G. P. Putnam’s Sons and E. P. Dutton & Co. Her most recent novel, “Lady of Quality,” appeared in 1972.
Besides her husband, she is survived by a son.
Cheerful and Unorthodox
‘There’s nothing like a glass of blood and thunder to put a cove in high gig,’ remarks one of Georgette Heyer’s amiable Regency rascals. Miss Heyer writes cheerful and highly unorthordox historical novels about Regency England, in which people never lose their lives, their virtue or even their tempers. The author of ‘The Foundling’ is as much at home in Almack’s Assembly Rooms and the Grand Pump Room at Bath as a New Yorker in the Automat. But she likes her people and their century too much to take them seriously.”
So wrote Richard Match, capturing the Heyer flavor in a review published in The New York Times on March 21, 1948.
Shortly after her marriage to George Rougier, a barrister as well as an author, the couple took an apartment in Albany, off Piccadilly, one of London’s most exclusive apartment buildings; Lords Macaulay and Gladstone lived there, one believed haunting the chambers of the other. Miss Heyer’s own neighbors there included Dame Edith Evans,. J. B. Priestley and Terence Rattigan, the playwright, all providing a conducive atmosphere for her writing.
Her publishers described her, despite her shy nature, as a very bright and amusing person to meet, with conversation that sparkled with verve and wit. She worked quickly, they said, and made few corrections, soaking herself in the Regency period—becoming an expert on the history and manners of that time. NYT
In addition to her lengthy essay in Nonpareil #1 regarding Georgette Heyer’s first novel, the ever-insightful Jennifer Kloester also recently presented us with a post about 1921’s The Black Moth on her website, as part of her continuing project to cover each of Heyer’s novels in sequential order, and in her own inimitable style.
Read “The Black Moth – from teen novel to enduring best-seller” here.
And catch up on the rest of her series so far, with:
Our exclusive monthly circular for members only is winging its way to inboxes around the world as we speak! This time, we’re looking in depth at Georgette Heyer’s celebrated debut novel, The Black Moth (1921).