Book review: The Private World of Georgette Heyer
THE PRIVATE WORLD OF GEORGETTE HEYER by Jane Aiken Hodge (Pan Books).
Big, big fan. So I read anything and everything on this wonderful writer.
Hodge chronicles Heyer`s writing `Black Moth` when she was just nineteen for her young brother who had taken ill; her ability to average two books a year for years, books that went immediately to the top of the bestseller lists and stayed there for ages; her caustically witty correspondence with her publisher; her staunch and loving support to her family and her tetchy nature to the world at large.
The book records Heyer`s rather strange aversion to giving interviews, meeting fans or discussing her books. There is an account of her utter shock and disgust at being blatantly plagiarised by a popular Regency romance writer. “I think I could have borne it better had Miss **** not been so common-minded, so salacious and so illiterate,“ Heyer told her agent, Leonard Parker Moore. “I think ill enough of the `Shades,` (`These Old Shades`) but, good God! That 19-year-old work has more style, more of what it takes, than this offal which she has written at the age of 46!“
Hodge does not name the plagiarist but hint, hint: the woman used to surround herself with the colour pink, and that includes the tint of her hair! In a twist of irony that cannot be anything but painful to the Heyer fan (and doubtless, to Heyer herself), the plagiarist went on to become a Dame of the British Empire!
Re-reading one of her earlier works, Heyer comments, “I was agreeably surprised when I went through it again, usually I have to take to my bed when I`ve had occasion to look at an Early Work.“
What the reader sees clearly is how Heyer yearned to be recognised as a writer of substance; failing to garner that recognition, she characteristically chose to make fun of her desire. “ I`m a scribbler of trivial romances,“ she once told someone.
Millions of fans the world over, people who have read all her books and re-read them many times over, would strenuously refute that modesty. Georgette Heyer has given us so much reading pleasure, we can never thank her enough for it.