The Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club are now engrossed in the novels of the Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer. They have learned more about their heroine from Jane Aiken Hodges biography. It’s called The Private World of Georgette Heyer (Quotes from the Chivers 1984 edition).
Hodge’s Foreword: “She was .. an immensely skilled and meticulous craftswoman. She did her best to conceal her high standards and stern moral code behind the mask of romantic comedy.”
Plots and technique
(From Hodges, Chapter 2). Heyer once said, “My plots are abysmal and I think of them with blood and tears”. Her family confirm she did indeed work at her plots with blood and tears .. plunged in black gloom when things went badly, prowling restlessly about the house until she had her plan worked out, when she would sit down and write … at high speed, often late into the night. Heyer said of her own work in one letter to her publisher:
“ … The Unknown Ajax and Venetia are the best of my later works. My style is really a mixture of Johnson and Austen – what I rely on is a certain gift for the farcial … I know its useless to talk about technique in these degenerate days – but no less a technician than Noel Coward reads me because he thinks my technique is so good. I’m proud of that.”
(From Chapter 8) She kept a single fan letter, received in 1963 from former political prisoner in Romania. The writer spoke of how she had read Friday’s Child before her arrest, and for 12 long years had told and retold the story, committed to memory, of “what Kitten did next” to her fellow inmates.
“Truly, your characters managed to awaken smiles, even when hearts were heavy, stomachs empty and the future dark indeed”.
Praise that would astonish any writer.
Much in Hodge’s biography is of technical interest to writers: Heyer’s dealing with her several publishers and agents, and her views about the blurbs and jackets. There is a lesson too in reading about Heyer’s decades-long tax problems. Even though she always earned a lot she had cash flow problems. These mangled finances were caused by herself and her husband simply not taking a business-like approach to her income.
The Tedettes leave you with their favourite observation from Hodge’s biography:
“She had no patience for .. Russian gloom. If she had been one of Chekhov’s three sisters they would have got to Moscow.”
You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.