Notes on Georgette Heyer's Life and Novels


Unknown Lady

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Hey, there, Hi there, Ho there!


What is the correct pronounciation of "Heyer"?

This is by far the most frequently asked question by newcomers on the Heyer Mailing List.  Georgette Heyer's grandfather was Russian, and the name was pronounced, even after they emigrated to Great Britain, to ryhme with "higher" or "flyer."  However, during World War I, and in company with many exalted personages like the Battenburgs, the family changed the pronunciation to sound less German and more British, so they began to pronounce it "Hay-er," or, even more British, "Hare," rhyming with "fair" and "hair."  This is how Georgette herself pronounced it, but it's a matter open for debate as to which pronunciation is "correct." 


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The Biography


There is a biography of Georgette Heyer, published by Jane Aiken Hodge called The Private World of Georgette Heyer (The Bodley Head, 1983).  It tells the story of her life and discusses the novels in the context of how, why, and when she wrote them, but it assumes that you are familiar with the entire corpus, so if you don't want to encounter any spoilers, you might not want to read it in full yet.   The illustrations are wonderful, including many Regency-era fashion plates and even some photos of Heyer's own research notebooks.

This book, unfortunately, is not in print, but it is available via interlibrary loan, and used copies crop up occasionally at sites like the Advanced Book Exchange, Bibliofind, and Interloc, and it is on every listmember's "buy now, ask questions later" list if they come across a copy at a used bookstore.  Some Heyer Mailing List members have even found large caches of it, but just now none seem to be surfacing.  We want to read it together on the list but are waiting until the summer so that more people have a chance to look for it.


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The Grandy Sophy


Q:  Eugenia's father is an earl, but she is introduced as "The Honorable Eugenia Wraxton." Shouldn't she be "Lady Eugenia" since her father is an earl?

A:  Yes, she should, but the error is not Miss Heyer's.  This inconsistency, and indeed several other editing errors, appears to originate with the U.S. 1950 Putnam edition.

In the first U.K. edition of The Grand Sophy, Eugenia's father is a viscount;  her eldest brother has no title;  and her sister's title derives from her sister's husband.  In the first U.S. edition, however, Eugenia's father is an earl;  her eldest brother has the courtesy title Lord Orsett;  her sister is called Lady Louisa; and there is an omission of a sentence about a giraffe, which makes a later reference to the giraffe (not deleted) nonsensical.  Also, there is an apparent misprint of a sentence in Chapter Four which reads "outrun the carpenter" rather than "outrun the constable."  Finally, some editions reportedly eliminate some language about the moneylender which some people might find offensive, specifically, that "his nose was characteristic of his race," and that he had an "instinct of his race," although it appears that the nose language substituted, "a Semitic nose," is hardly less egregious.  [Note:   I think that the "nose" language may have been misreported, probably confused with the "instinct of his race."  If you have a first edition Heinemann please check it for me (and check the carpenter/constable reference too) and let me know!]


Inconsistencies in UK vs US Editions of The Grand Sophy
Year Publisher Country Earl / Viscount
(Ch. 3)
Carpenter/ Constable (Ch. 4) 1st giraffe  (Ch. 7) Lady Louisa / Lady Ealing
(Ch. 8)
Moneylender PC (Ch. 11) Lord Orsett / "her elder brother"
(Ch. 13)
1950 Heinemann U.K. Viscount ? p. 116 Lady Ealing nose/"instinct of his race" "elder brother"
1950 Putnam U.S. Earl
(p. 45)
carpenter (p. 54) p. 103 Lady Louisa (p. 113) "Semitic nose"
(p. 178)
Lord Orsett
(p. 201)
1950 ACE green paperback (based on Putnam ed.) U.S. Earl
(p. 45)
carpenter (p. 54) p. 99 Lady Louisa (p. 108) "Semitic nose"
(p. 169); "his instinct"
(p. 170)
Lord Orsett
(p. 190)
1951 Heinemann HB reprint U.K. Viscount   p. 92 Lady Ealing   "elder brother"
1957 Pan U.K. Viscount   yes Lady Ealing   "elder brother"
1960 Pan U.K. Viscount
(p. 48)
carpenter (p. 58) p. 108 Lady Ealing
(p. 118)
"Semitic nose"
(p. 185); "instinct of his race"
(p. 186)
"elder brother"
(p. 208)
1976 Berkeley large print U.S. Earl   p. 108? Lady Louisa   Lord Orsett
1983 Jove U.S. Earl   no Lady Louisa   Lord Orsett
1985 Jove (based on 1950 Putnam ed.) U.S. Earl   no Lady Louisa   Lord Orsett
1985 Heinemann HB reprint U.K. Viscount
(p. 50)
carpenter (p. 61) p. 116 Lady Ealing (p. 126) "semitic nose"
(p. 201);
"instinct of his race" (p. 202)
"elder brother" (p. 227)
1991-6 Mandarin paperback U.K. Viscount
(p. 50)
  yes Lady Ealing   "elder brother"
1991 Heinemann reprint U.K. Viscount   yes Lady Ealing   "elder brother"
1992 Harper Collins paperback U.S. Earl   no Lady Louisa   Lord Orsett


If you have one of the above editions, please double-check the info to make sure I have it right.  Also, I need page numbers where the errors are found.  And if you have an edition not listed, feel free to send me data from it!


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Friday's Child


There is a misprint in the first chapter in the Harper paperback, where it says Isabella's mother "whisked her off to Ken."  It should read, "whisked her off to Kent."  If you find any other misprints let me know and I'll put them here.

ACE pb (US)



Pan pb (UK)



Pan pb (UK)



Harper pb (US)




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Recurring Characters


Heyer wrote The Black Moth when she was 19 years old to amuse her younger brother while he was convalescing from an illness.  It was designed as a great melodrama, but when all was said and done, she found she still loved the characters and wanted to write about them again.  A sequel didn't really fit the plot of TBM, however, and she didn't want to write another melodrama, so she took the same basic characters, renamed them, and called her new story These Old Shades as a tip to her fans.  One must admit that turning Andover into a likeable character must have been a challenge, but then everyone wants to believe that a bad man can be reformed by love for the right woman.


The Black Moth These Old Shades
Tracy "Devil" Belmanoir,  Duke of Andover Justin "Satanas" Alastair, Duke of Avon
Lavinia Lady Fanny
Richard Edward Marling
Andrew Belmanoir Rupert Alastair
Diana Beauleigh Jennifer Merivale
Jack Carstares Anthony Merivale
Miles O'Hara  
Frank Hugh Davenant


TOS was followed a few years later by Devil's Cub, a story about the Duke of Avon's son Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal.  Heyer's first Regency novel was Regency Buck, and several years later she tied the characters of these two books together in a masterpiece about the Battle of Waterloo called An Infamous Army.  Its heroine, Lady Barbara, is a granddaughter of the Duke of Avon who was the Marquis of Vidal in Devil's CubAIA also includes real-life characters from her earlier novel, The Spanish Bride, which was about a soldier named Harry Smith and his young Spanish bride, Juana, during the Peninsular War. 

A note about the dates of the above sequence of novels, by Susan Faust: 

"I have been trying to date Devil's Cub, and it's not easy. It should be in 1779, because it is specifically indicated to be 24 years after TOS, which refers to Justin's involvement in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 "ten years before." Unfortunately, this makes it impossible for his grandchild, Lady Barbara, to be 26(!) in 1815. One could exactly date TOS by the Prince de Condé being 20 if one knew French royal history. Unfortunately I don't!   I tried to date DC by the lecture on phlogiston which Mr. Marling attends. Unfortunately, phlogiston was a big topic throughout the century. There were major breakthroughs in chemistry in 1766 (hydrogen) and 1774 (oxygen). Both were mistakenly considered to be phlogiston. I think Heyer just cheated big-time in An Infamous Army because she wanted an Alastair as her heroine, but the time wouldn't work out right. If Lady Babs' father was only 21 when she was born, and if Mary and Dominic reproduced in the first year, that would push DC all the way back to 1767. This is not likely, as Charles James Fox (yes indeed he is the famous legislator, orator, and rake) would have been only 18 in 1767 (plus, 24 years before would be before the Jacobite rebellion, and this is less than 20 years after the Gunnings!). Fox seems about 25 in the book, which would make the year for DC 1774, and would make Lady Babs' father only 14 when he had her! And didn't she have an older brother?!?  So, the dates are tough . . ."

Debra Shaw put it this way:

"Re the various appearances of the Alastair family: I think we have to resign ourselves to a certain vagueness of even seemingly solid dates.  Despite the fact that DC contains (repeated) references to the Duke and Duchess being married for 24 years, Dominic is also described as being 24 years old (though he sometimes acts like he's 10!). It's possible that the Duchess got pregnant on her wedding night but I think it more likely that we have to allow for an extra year somewhere. (And why no other kids? The Duchess was certainly up for it and if they survived Dominic's childhood, you would think they'd be able to handle anything.)  [Editor's note:  we have discussed this last point in great detail on the List!]

"Another discrepancy is the Duchess being described as "just turned forty" which means she would have been 16 in TOS; in fact she is specifically described as 20 years old in that novel. It would work better if she were the younger age; if Avon were "20 years older" than he would be only 36 years old and more likely to have a 22 year old brother like Rupert. Leonie certainly acts more like a teenager than a 20-year-old in TOS.

"There are also some questions about Fanny's age in DC but in her case I'm very willing to believe that Fanny herself can't be trusted to be accurate."

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Sir Gregory Markham of The Black Moth reappears in The Masqueraders as the man Letty Grayson was running away with.

Josef says that there is also a direct link from Richardson's Clarissa villain, Lovelace, to The Black Moth (there being a tip-off because the subsequent character in TOS is named Avon). 


If you know of any other
errors, inconsistencies, coincidences, or recurring characters
in these or any other Georgette Heyer novel,
please send them to me and I will put them up here.

Back to my home page.

L.A.W. 12 June 2004