Georgette Heyer's Regency England

by Theresa Chris


This a really interesting book for any Heyer devotees. Chris takes the reader on a couple of walking tours of London and Bath, as well as talking about Brighton. During the tours, the emphasis is on circumstances involving characters from the novels. If you can ignore the few mistakes in names - for example, Augustus Fawnhope from The Grand Sophy is alternatively Endymion Fawnhope (a mix with Endymion Dauntry from Frederica), August Farnhope and then finally himself - then the book is a sheer pleasure.

In addition, the lure of wonderful illustrations by Arthur Barbosa is almost impossible to resist. Overall, I would recommend the book, although I believe it can only be found second-hand and was not re-printed.

Georgette Heyer's Regency England - Introduction

For more than fifty years, millions of readers worldwide have enjoyed the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer. Her audience continues to grow with each generation as her fans, old and new, reread the novels, appreciating the sheer elegance and wit of her prose style, and relating to the wonderfully vivid characters who stay alive to us long after the last page is turned.

Georgette Heyer created her own special Regency world based on an exact knowledge of the period. We, the readers, can escape completely into this world, as she vivdly conjures up the mores of the time, the preoccupations of the people, the language in which they conversed, and the niceties of their social intercourse. It is a world which is fascinating to us, even today, because such a severe order was imposed and everybody knew their place. The ton set the standard; from the select dances at Almacks to the propriety of racing down to Brighton in a curricle. The term the ton, from the French word meaning everything that is fashionable, had come into usage in England in the latter half of the eighteenth century and by the Regency period it denoted the cream of society.

Georgette Heyer died in 1974, so there is a finite number of her Regency romances that we can enjoy; we are, in fact, lucky to have as many as we do. She was an extremely private, if prolific, person and didn't, outside her books, spend much time commenting on the world she had created. Of the over fifty novels which Georgette Heyer wrote, twenty-four are set in the Regency period. She was a stickler for accuracy and compiled copious notebooks full of details of Regency life, including drawings of items of dress and the different carriages use in the period. She meticulously researched her facts, and knew, for example, every turnpike on the Great North Road. The odd, but memorable, expressions her characters use were culled from her extensive reading and jotted down for future use.

The contemporary detail enhances the credibility of the novels and increases our pleasure in them, but it is the characters who give the novels the unique life which makes her readers lifelong fans. Georgette Heyer's heroines are often young and spirited, appealing in their inventiveness, and for falling into social scrapes from which they constantly need to be rescued. In the later novels however, a new maturity is seen. The heroines are older and wiser, `no longer in their first bloom', often financially independent. They confront the hero on a more equal footing and the relationships develop are surprisingly akin to those that men and women experience today. Georgette Heyer brings them all convincingly to life but unfortunately these characters live only between the covers of each book.

There is however one element in her books that is real and still exists for us today and that is the settings where her characters fell in love, strolled to the library, met the Prince Regent, sheltered from the rain, or fought their duels. London, Brighton, Bath and other locations all around England are rich in Regency heritage and hence rich in memories for fans who can recall each nuance of their heroines' romances or adventures. This book will explore the settings of that world so that the reader may once again enjoy parts of the novels in the places where they actually happened.

So often, whilst in the street, by raising the eyes above the modern frontages and switching our perception, we can plunge ourselves into Georgette Heyer's Regency England, and experience her world anew. In some places, like Bath, it is even possible to have afternoon tea and to listen to a quartet in the Pump Room while remembering how Abby who was `neither in her first bloom' nor `an accredited beauty' agreed to take a stroll about the room with Miles Calverleigh, the Black Sheep of the title, allowing herself to be beguiled by his iconoclastic remarks and droll wit.

Whilst many of the settings are still the same as they were over one hundred and fifty years ago, it is, in some cases, only a name that will connect us with a familiar scene. Where possible a number of gentle walking tours have been included in this book, pointing out the Regency landmarks mentioned in the novels, and recalling the most romantic, exciting or funny scenes that happened there.

Georgette Heyer's Regency England will give pleasure to anyone who has read Georgette Heyer's work and wanted more.

Georgette Heyer's Regency England
Teresa Chris
Illustrations by Arthur Barbosa
Published by Sidgwick & Jackson Limited
1 Tavistock chambers, Bloombury Way
London WCIA 2SG
Copyright 1989 by Teresa Chris
ISBN 0 283 99832 6
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