Sunday, 22 January 2012

Lady of Quality–Georgette Heyer

Not the type of book I would normally read but having just romped through it in one sitting, I can recommend it. I had listened to a interview on BBC Radio 4 titled ‘The Enduring Appeal of Georgette Heyer’ and felt I must read at least one of her books.

You can listen to the program here.

Georgette Heyer was born on 16th August 1902 at Wimbledon, London. She was the eldest of three children and the only girl, her brothers being Boris and Frank.

It was as a story for her brother Boris that she first wrote The Black Moth. Her father, George Heyer, impressed with his daughter's imagination, suggested that she prepare it to be published, which it was by Constable in 1921 when she was only nineteen.

She continued writing and in 1925 she married Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer. After reasonable but not spectacular sales from her first few books the instant success of These Old Shades in 1926 brought her a solid source of income which was very necessary at the time, her father having died shortly before her wedding and her youngest brother needing financial support for his education.

In 1927 she joined her husband in Tanganyika where he was working and later went with him to Macedonia 'where she nearly died of an erratically administered anaesthetic in a dentist's chair' (PWGH).

By 1929 they were back in London. The success of These Old Shades had permitted Ronald Rougier to give up his mining work which he had never enjoyed. This success also prompted Heinemann to buy up and republish Georgette Heyer's earlier novels.

After Ronald had an unsuccessful venture in London, he and Georgette moved to Horsham in Sussex where in 1932 her son, Richard was born. Georgette Heyer was continuing to write and had started on a new genre, detective novels, in addition to her historical output. Her husband, eventually disatisfied with his new venture in Horsham and with the encouragement of his wife, started studying to be a barrister.

In 1939, after several more novels, Ronald had qualified for the bar with the need to be within easy reach of London the family moved to a service flat in Hove. Richard's education at private school was not cheap and as a junior barrister does not earn the fees of a more senior one, the family continued to rely to a large extent on the income from Georgette Heyer's writing.

In 1942 they moved back to London, to chambers in the Albany which was to become their home for 24 years. Efforts to satisfy the tax authorities were to plague her for many years as the harsh rules then applying in a war-torn Britain, and even long after the war, took their toll but when her husband became a QC in 1959 and it must have taken some of the pressure off her.

Georgette Heyer's relationship with her publisher, Heinemann, had always been personal and soon after the Managing Director A. S. Frere left she moved to The Bodley Head. Her output of historical novels continued but she was now 60 and her own health was starting to be a little erratic. More tax problems loomed and the income from her new American publishers, Duttons, must have been welcome.

In 1966, when the lease expired on their rooms at The Albany they moved to a flat in Jermyn Street, London. Books continued to be written but the flow was stemmed by deteriorating health and she died on 4th July, 1974.

The above brief chronology is almost entirely derived from Jane Aiken Hodge's 'The Private World of Georgette Heyer', a biography and detailed account of the background to her novels.


She certainly wrote a lot of books.

A Civil Contract
An Infamous Army
April Lady
Bath Tangle
Black Sheep
Charity Girl
Cousin Kate
Devil's Cub (2)
False Colours
Faro's Daughter
Friday's Child
Lady of Quality
My Lord John
Pistols for Two
Powder and Patch
Regency Buck
Royal Escape
Simon the Coldheart
Sprig Muslin
The Black Moth (full text)
The Conqueror
The Convenient Marriage
The Corinthian
The Foundling
The Grand Sophy
The Great Roxhythe
The Masqueraders
The Nonesuch
The Quiet Gentleman
The Reluctant Widow
The Spanish Bride
The Talisman Ring
The Toll-Gate
The Unknown Ajax
These Old Shades


Carol said...

I haven't read that one, sounds excellent. I read several by her as a teenager as my Mum liked her. "Arabella" is still on my bookshelf, perhaps time for a re-read.
Carol xx

Joy said...

I LOVE Heyer books and it's great to see someone blogging about them. Thanks.
J x