Our Favourite Heyer Reviews: The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer, Boston Evening Transcript


This long and entertaining review of The Black Moth, comically written in a similar vein to Heyer’s Georgian style, is from the Boston Evening Transcript (23 November 1921).

The Black Moth, man! Have ye never heard of Devil Belmanoir? ’Tis evident ye were not raised in London, then, in the days of the Hanover Princess, no, nor yet mixed with the gallant and fair at Bath, when Beau Nash ruled the Pump Room. Tracy, Duke of Andover, was his birthright, and many another name beside, but Devil Belmanoir men called him, for the twinkling light that dwelt in those black and long-lashed eyes. Devil Belmanoir, when men waxed hot in their cups, Devil Belmanoir when stakes at cards ran high, and Devil Belmanoir, God help us all, at the swish of a perfumed petticoat. As many paramours as the French Louis had Tracy, Duke of Andover, and a handsomer calf, and a far better hand at the sword hilt, and as handsome a leg could he make at a duchess’s rout as any gallant of them all. Yet did he not flee happiness, Tracy of Belmanoir, and he took defeat, black heart through he had, like a gentleman.

For the Black Moth is not the hero, only, in joyous olden fashion, the villain. The title role is reserved for that prince of good fellows, the peerless highwayman, Jack Carstares, Duke [sic] of Wyncham. Highwayman, say you, and yet a duke? Aye, faith, and for no good reason, merely to chase away ennui in a gentleman forced from his home. For Jack has a younger brother, Dick, who cheated at cards on a distant night, when both loved a pretty lady, and Jack, the elder, went forth with all the men’s scorn, and the younger married a wife. But, tare an ‘ouns, he could not have done it, our Jack o’ the laughter-lit eyes, who holds up a coach so gallantly, who succors a lady so valiantly. What then? Have ye guessed it?

The crossed each other’s paths from the first, Devil Belmanoir, with that look in his eye of race and breeding and a good breed gone bad, and Jack, Duke of Wyncham, whose brother Dick has married the lady of Belmanoir, Tracy’s sister, the lovely Lady Lavinia, crossed it from the night when Tracy, far-seeing, picked up a scratched card and laughed, and laughed, and then, with a look, crossed the room. Yet who would have thought, on that black night, when the Devil held up Diana’s coach, that it was highwayman Jack who lurked in the shadows, who fought, with a hole in his shoulder, and saved the lady, only to faint in her arms! What can highwayman Jack do with a lady, Jack with a blackened name? Nought, says he between his teeth, and rides away. But Devil Belmanoir is not used to failure. This time there is no highwayman in the offing. To cover he rides with his captive and kisses her in the great hall of Andover. “By God, it is too late,” he swears. “Nought can avail you now!”

“You delude yourself, Belmanoir,” says a voice from the recessed window. And Carstares turns to meet his Grace. A pretty fight it is then, though one man has ridden half the night on his small mare Jenny, and the old wound in his shoulder needs but a touch to break into life. Riposte and quinte, quarte and riposte, such a fight as one seldom sees between a day and a night. Then Tracy lunges the length of his arm and a deep, red splash stains the whiteness of my Lord’s sleeve. Well fought, oh, Jack, the highwayman, well fought, but the end is near.

Tale of love and adventure is this, and withal, a tale of personages well met in the old streets of London, of character work of a clearness and charm, and an originality to delight a delver in men’s thoughts, yet, tare an ’ouns, a tale to stir one’s blood. Those nights on the open road—we sympathise with Jim, Jack’s faithful servant, because, glad though he is that my lord, again my lord, still wants a rude fellow like him he pulls, on a sudden, a long face, in the middle of tying the bow to his master’s wig. “What’s amiss now? And what have you done with my patches?”

“In that little box, sir—yes—that one. I was just thinking—here’s the haresfoot, sir—that I shall never be able to see ye hold up a coach, now.” And my lord laughs, as that good friend across the hall, O’Hara, has not heard him laugh, not for many a day. What days are these, God help us all, that we see such highwaymen no more. But at least we may take to the ribbon of road in the moonlight, for a brief space, with Jack and with Black Moth.

SOURCE: Boston Evening Transcript, 23 Nov. 1921.

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