Posts Tagged ‘Frederica’

I will be resurrecting old posts until electricity has been restored in my house. The power company promised that 95% of households will be online by Friday. In 2004, our tiny street did not receive full service until 13 days after the storm. Right now I am looking for a hot shower!!

I published this post about the Peerless Pool two years ago. Perhaps my new readers might be interested in learning a few facts about a public swimming pool in London over 200 years ago. Click here to read the post.

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August 16th marks Georgette Heyer’s birthday. In several comments on my book reviews some readers have made it a point to mention that Georgette is no Jane Austen and termed her novels mere romances. Ah, but they are so much more. I love her novels in part because they remind me vividly of the satirical prints that were so popular during Jane Austen’s day.  Observe the dandy at left in the print below, then read Georgette’s description of Sir Nugent!

Beside Sylvester’s quiet elegance and Major Newbury’s military cut she had been thinking that Sir Nugent presented all the appearance of a coxcomb. He was a tall man, rather willowy in build, by no means unhandsome, but so tightly laced-in at the waist, so exaggeratedly padded at the shoulders, that he looked a little ridiculous. From the striking hat set rakishly on his Corinthian crop (he had already divulged that it was the New Dash, and the latest hit of fashion) to his gleaming boots, everything he wore seemed to have been chosen for the purpose of making him conspicuous.  His extravagantly cut coat was embellished with very large and bright buttons; a glimpse of exotic colour hinted at a splended waistcoat beneath it; his breeches were of white corduroy; a diamond pin was stuck in the folds of his preposterous neckcloth; and he wore so many rings on his fingers, and so many fobs and seals dangling at his waist, that he might have been taken for a jeweller advertising his wares. – Georgette Heyer, Sylvester

Astley's Amphitheatre

Here is her passage about Astley’s Amphitheatre in Cotillion:

Though Meg might cry out against so unsophisticated an entertainment, Mr. Westruther knew Kitty well enough to be sure that she would revel in it. Had it been possible, he would unhesitatingly have taken her to Astley’s Amphitheartre, and would himself have derived a good deal of amusement, he thought, from watching her awe and delight at Grand Spectacles, and Equestrian Displays. But the Amphitheatre, like its rival, the Royal Circus, never opened until Easter Monday, by which time, Mr Westruther trusted, Kitty would have returned to Arnside.

Vauxhall Gardens, Samuel Wale, c. 1751

By way of whiling away the eveing Sherry escorted his bride to Vauxhall Gardens. Here they danced, supped in one of the booths on wafter-thin slices of ham, and rack-punch, and watched a display of fireworks. – Friday’s Child

He complied with this request, backing the phaeton into place on the right of the landaulet, so that although the high perch of the phaeton made it impossible for his sister to shake hands with Frederica she was able to exchange greetings with her, and might have maintained a conversation had she not decided that to be obliged to talk to anyone sitting so far above her would soon give Frederica a stiff neck. – Frederica

A Kiss in the Kitchen, Thomas Rowlandson

‘But if she knew that you do not mind George’s having kissed me -‘

‘But I do mind!’ said Sherry, incensed.

‘Do you, Sherry?’ she asked wistfully.

‘Well, of course I do! A pretty sort of a fellow I should be if I did not!’

‘I won’t do it again,’ she promised.

‘You had better not, by Jupiter!’ – Friday’s Child

Time and again the zany plots and witty conversations in Georgette’s novels echo the Regency prints that I love to study. Yes, she is no Jane Austen, but as an interpreter of the Regency era, she is priceless.

As a birthday gift, please click on this link to read her short story, A Proposal to Cecily.

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The Classics Circuit is taking a Georgette Heyer Tour this month. I thought I would piggyback in a circuitous way, and add my own reviews where they fit in. Such fun! For those who have not read Georgette’s sparkling novels, mostly set during the Regency era, you have missed a treat. Although Ms. Heyer’s writing lacks the depth of Jane Austen’s novels, they are historically accurate and largely FUN to read. Going backwards, here is a recap of the first four days of the tour (I am including only the novels set in the Regency era), with my own reviews thrown in:

March 4  Sparks’ Notes Review: Friday’s Child, My Review of Friday’s Child

March 3 Michelle’s Masterful Musings Review: Devil’s Cub

March 2 Enchanted by Josephine Review: Beauvallet

March 1 Austenprose Review: Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester

March 1 One Librarian’s Book Reviews Review: Frederica; My review of Frederica

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Inquiring readers: This is my second review this year of a Georgette Heyer book to help you while away the winter doldrums. When SourceBooks sent Frederica my way I went into paroxysms of joy, for I recalled loving the book when I first read it just out of college. Years later I like it even better. frederica

After reading Frederica I thanked my lucky stars that Georgette Heyer was such a prolific writer and that she lived a long life. She wrote over 50 books, most of them quite entertaining, and the knowledge that I still have so many to choose from leaves me quite content (At present I am reading The Convenient Marriage and I have just finished Black Sheep). When I first encountered Frederica I was the same age as the book’s heroine – 24 – and wished for myself a mate as dashing and capable as the Marquis of Alverstoke, the hero.

Frederica’s plot is rather simple. Frederica, a single woman who is raising her younger siblings in the country after their parents’ deaths, has brought her beautiful sister Charis to London so that the latter can attract a rich and eligible husband. Considering herself too old for the marriage mart, Frederica’s self-deprecating, no-nonsense attitude charms 37-year-old Lord Alverstoke, who has despaired of ever finding a woman he can both respect and love.

We meet Lord Alverstoke, a nonpareil and Corinthian of the first order, at a time when he is beset by his two sisters to help them introduce their daughters to Society in a proper and extravagant manner. Both sisters expect him to pay fully for the privilege of hosting their coming out at his mansion. Enter Frederica who, with the slimmest claims upon his purse and loyalty, asks him for a favor. The Marquis, seeing a possibility of riling his unloving sisters, agrees to sponsor the Incomparable Charis, a dimwitted but sweet-natured beauty, at his niece’s coming out ball. Frederica’s plans for her brothers and sister and their unpredictable antics overset the marquis’s self-centered life and manage to bestir him out of his perpetual boredom.

Then came Frederica, upsetting his cool calculations, thrusting responsibilities upon him, intruding more and more into the ordered pattern of his life, and casting him into a state of unwelcome doubt. And, try as he would, he could discover no reason for this uncomfortable change in himself. She had more countenance than beauty; she employed no arts to attract him; she was heedless of convention; she was matter-of-fact, and managing, and not at all the sort of female whom he had ever wished to encourage. Furthermore, (now he came to think of it), she had foisted two troublesome schoolboys on to him, which was the last thing in the world he wanted!

balloonHeyer’s rich detail of life in London during the heyday of the Industrial Revolution sets this novel apart from the others. The book’s events occur after Beau Brummel’s gambling debts drove him to France in 1716-1817, the last year of Jane Austen’s life. This was a heady era of scientific discoveries and invention that changed the world forever. Through young Felix’s brilliant mind we see the wonders of the age unfold in the form of steam engines, scientific collections, and balloon travel. Sixteen-year-old Jessamy’s earnestness in studying to become a man of the cloth represents the burdens that befall a second son who knows he must make his own way in the world, but he is still boyish enough to get into trouble on occasion. And Harry, the eldest brother, set down from Oxford for his antics, is too frivolous to set a good example as heir. Under ordinary circumstances he is more than happy to leave the decision-making to Frederica. Under extraordinary circumstances he is more than likely to bungle events, including endorsing an ill-judged elopement.

Heyer introduces her usual panoply of comedic characters – the selfish sister whose demands on her brother are unreasonable and grating; the foppish dandies in their outrageous attire who flock around the new Incomparable – Charis (she of the dim mind but sweet, unspoiled disposition); the competent and capable male secretary who can be depended upon to take care of complex matters and smooth the way for the marquis, yet who is romantic enough to fall foolishly in love; and the sensible, loving sister who sees immediately which way the wind is blowing when it comes to her brother Alverstoke’s heart. Frederica might not be as beautiful as Charis, but she possesses such style and class that Lady Jersey promptly grants the two girls vouchers for that most exclusive of clubs: Almack’s.

Georgette’s description of the novel to her publisher is telling:

This book, written in Miss Heyer’s lightest vein, is the story of the adventures in Regency London of the Merriville family: Frederica, riding the whirlwind and directing the storm; Harry, rusticated from Oxford, and embarking with enthusiasm on the more perilous amusements pursued by young gentlemen of ton: the divine Charis, too tenderhearted to discourage the advances of her numerous suitors; Jessamy, destined for the Church and wavering, adolescent style, between excessive virtue and a natural exuberance of spirits; and Felix, a schoolboy with a passion for scientific experiment. In Frederica, Miss Heyer has created one of her most engaging heroines, and in the Marquis of Alverstoke, a bored cynic who becomes involved in all the imbroglios of a lively family, a hero whose sense of humour makes him an excellent foil for Frederica. (Jane Aiken Hodge, The Private World of Georgette Heyer)

velocipedeThe plot of this book is simply delightful. Frederica’s “Baluchistan” hound and her two youngest brothers manage to wrap the reader around their paws and grubby fingers with very little effort. More importantly, the trio charms the marquis, whose ennui is legendary.

Georgette is at her best writing about young boys and dogs. We chuckle when Frederica’s dog escapes its leash and runs amuck among the milk cows in Green Park, and laugh when a parade of incensed “victims” follow Frederica and the hound to the front steps of Alverstoke’s door. His aplomb in sizing the situation up in a tenth of a second is worth the book’s purchase. We hold our breath when Felix clings to a rising balloon for dear life as it loosens from its moorings. We feel sympathy for Jessamy – who acts his age for once – for all the damage he causes with his runaway velocipede. Frederica, so honest and serious and self effacing, is a breath of fresh air among the many heroines we encounter in an endless parade of romance novels. Her intelligence and earnestness are a perfect foil to Alverstoke’s light-hearted and self-deprecating banter. We love her all the more because she never quite sees the marquis in the negative light that he knows he deserves, and for her ability to make the best of any situation.

The novel ends on a most satisfying note, and I can think of no better way of spending a chilly winter evening – wrapped in a down comforter with my pooch sleeping by my side – than reading this gem of a book.

Order the book from SourceBooks at this link.

My Other Georgette Heyer Reviews Sit Below

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