Beyond the Pale

Georgette Heyer: Biting Wit, Social Commentary, A Bit of Romance & BETTER THAN AUSTEN!
September 12, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Books, Fripperies, Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Literature, Regency, Stephen Fry, Trinkets

Yes. You read that correctly. Better than Austen, and I don’t care two hoots or give even a bit of figgy pudding who knows it. I rate Heyer that highly and I take every opportunity to tell people. Well. Not every opportunity. I don’t walk along the street frothing at the mouth whilst muttering the mantra over and over again; nor do I startle people in the park by screaming it in their faces, or have to be led away at family gatherings whilst having my hand patted and a dear relative having to explain that my nerves are not what they were.

I simply mean that whenever the topic of Georgette Heyer comes up, I feel urges overtake me and I must – absolutely must – share with someone in the vicinity how utterly glorious her historical novels are.

The Private World of Georgette HeyerBut hopefully share in a socially acceptable way with no need to call the rozzers or phone Social Services or any other unpleasantaries. So put that phone down immediately.

I think – bizarrely – most people I know came to read Heyer quite by accident. Finding a book whilst staying with relatives, espying the cover and buying it merely for – what one [incorrectly] assumes will be – a bit of froth with nothing beneath the muslin to give it substance. The highest instance of Heyer Discovery seems to occur in the sickroom – a prolonged period of illness in which one seeks out comfort and allows novels previously deemed well below one’s standard to vie for attention among the smelling salts and chest rubs.

Watch this fascinating clip of the ever magnificent Stephen Fry describing his “guilty pleasure” of his obsession with Heyer (which began in the sickroom at his school)… [starts talking about Heyer around 02:44 or thereabouts if you don’t want to watch the whole thing]

Such unfortunate discoveries seem to further denigrate her reputation – of which she was well aware during her career.  An excellent book to learn more about her, should you wish, is Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer; or for more general information about the Regency period, with particular reference to Heyer’s novels (and showing how meticulously she researched her work) do seek out Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.

My absolute favourite of Heyer’s novels is, without doubt, The Grand Sophy. It’s just a masterpiece of farce combined with accute observations on family life and – overall – of society. The Grand SophyIn this way, I think it’s a very good start for a new reader to Heyer’s historical novels, and it shows that really (as with Austen) she wrote far more about manners than romance.

We Heyer fans will forever be relegated to the realms of Whismy Readers. Those who have never before picked up one of her books will delight in sniffing loudly and declaring “OH. You like ROMANCE novels, do you?” in a tone of voice usually reserved for the slightly insane or obviously working class. These people assume that it’s all gadding about on horseback and flapping around with lace hankies. Now, I cannot deny that Heyer’s novels usually have an amount of horseback-gadding and hankie-flapping, but they are incredibly well-written accounts of gadding & flapping, and really deserve greater respect [than I am giving them here, certainly!] and a wider audience.

This post was inspired by reading Melanie’s ongoing account of her favourite Heyer novels, and particularly the pleasure of witnessing someone (in this case a fellow blogger called Lucy who writes Enchanted by Josephine) who begins her latest post with the immortal words: “So now this is for sure…I’m officially hooked on Georgette Heyer.” Ha. Another convert for the clan. Join us, darlings, do!

By now you should know that any subject I love talking and writing about inspires me to curate a shopping gallery at Etsy, so here’s my latest offering. I do hope you like the pieces I have chosen, and wont think them too whimsical. Oh, actually, I don’t care if you do, because I adore them. ;p

Heyer 1

Direct Links to Items Shown:

Tara Fly Photos

Marmee Craft

Matti Online

Atelier Talaru


Posh Adornment

Heyer (2)

Further Links:

And Found Furnishings

Art Zodiac

Trim Goddess

Brick House Fabrics

Pattern Pedder

Andy Fee

Yours in whimsy,

Miss Nightingale.



6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Wonderful article. Thanks for including me in your fascinating photos. :0)

Comment by poshadornment

Thank you for including my Regency artwork in your exquisite collection of Etsy treasures!

I confess, the name “Georgette Heyer” only vaguely rang a bell in my head… so now I absolutely must rent a few of her novels, to see if your claims are true! 😉

I also chuckled to see “The Republic of Pemberley” listed among your links! I spent a few years there, off and on, debating every possible angle of Austen’s writing ad nauseum… I left in 2001, and eight years later they are STILL pondering the same old questions that have oft been repeated. How many times must we re-hash the meaning behind Darcy’s words, ladies?! LOL

Anyway… excellent blog post. I will most certainly check back with you, from time to time, and read more. 🙂

Comment by taraflyphotos

You’re so welcome – I loved featuring it! I do so hope you enjoy the Heyer novels and must also hope you wont come running after me asking what on earth I was talking about, as you thought they were terrible, or something! 😉

I tend not to get embroiled in author websites/forums for the very reasons you cite! I do like to check them for the occasional snippets of info, though.

So glad you like the blog, and thanks. 🙂

Comment by beyondthepaleblog

I loved the selection of etsy offerings you attached to your article on Georgette Heyer. And a special thank you for including my white Georgian Squares trimming in the right historical context.

Comment by Rosita

Thank you – I’m so happy you enjoyed the feature! I know what you mean about placing things in the correct historical context, too. Things like that can bug me sometimes. 😉

Comment by beyondthepaleblog

I am in complete agreement. I am a huge fan of Austen, but I feel that Heyer is the better and more enjoyable writer. Her writing is something I love to stop and study as I read. She crafts a sentence and dialogue so well. And her characters are absolutely priceless. I normally lend ‘The Grand Sophy’ when I want to get someone hooked, but my favorite is ‘These Old Shades’. She writes such a complex hero and charming heroine.

Comment by TheReluctantGypsy

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