Breakout session 3: Bringing the Regency to Life

Jennifer Kloester – Waves of Muslin: Bringing the Regency to Life

Georgette Heyer: 1902 – 1974
40 years since she died, yet sold over 1 million books last year in the UK alone

Heyer was incredibly private.  Never gave an interview, never did a book signing, only signed a few books for friends.

The Heyer notebooks:
– Jennifer got access to them from Sir Richard Rougier (Heyer’s son)
– had access to baby book, letters, family photo albums, note books she had on research for her books (regency and mediaeval)
– Only person who sets her Regency novels in the true regency period of 1811 – 1820 (rather than the greater period when George IV was Prince George and quite influential)

By drawing on Georgette Heyer’s personal letters and notebooks, we can see how she recreated a vivid sense of the popular Regency historical era.

– There was not much written about the Regency at the time
Arthur Bryant – Age of Elegance (1939)
Heyer wrote Friday’s Child, huge success.  Possibly the popularity of Friday’s Child and Heyer’s other work then lead to the huge volume of other fiction in the Regency Period.
– there were no real resources for the period, so she had to do her own resource from primary sources – others have subsequently used the research that Heyer for themselves.
– then converted text into dialogue and action

Historical texts
eg The Creevey Papers
– converted, humanised, brought to life in An Infamous Army
Photographs of Heyer’s notebooks and research

– closeup of one notebook, a book with phrases, organised by feature
eg hair, eyes, mouth etc
‘not just in the common style’ etc

– she takes the research and changes it from passive description to active
– Takes real historical figures and either incorporates them in a genuine way (eg Poodle Byng or Beau Brummell) or transforms them into fictional characters in her stories
– does this to humanise her main characters, give them depth and makes them feel real

– used Aubrey’s Brief Lives as inspiration for her characters
eg Venetia Stanley for her heroine Venetia Lanyon
– spent a lot of time working out who her characters were (did jigsaw puzzles etc while she worked)

– first drafts were often her final drafts (eg Faro’s daughter, written in 8 weeks)

Had her own copy of Egan’s Life in London – used it for locations in Regency London. eg Almacks

4 thoughts on “Breakout session 3: Bringing the Regency to Life

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop, it gave me the spark to finally read GH. I look forward to hours of reading her Regency wit. Thanks Jennifer.

  2. Hi Sasha

    if you haven’t read any Heyer before, then you have that joy before you. The stories are varied, and everyone has their favourites, but the characters and dialogue are so rich, you will be able to see where pretty much the whole Regency genre sprang from.

    I have a few favourites, including Cotillion and Arabella and Frederica and so many others really, but most especially Venetia. Damerel is the template for all other Regency Rakes, but every other one I have read falls so far short of him. His wit and intelligence and humour set him apart, being bad doesn’t make him a jerk, he is will aware of his shortcomings.

    And unlike most Regency readers I have read all the mysteries too – Death in the Stocks is just superb.

  3. I first read Georgette Heyer in my teens and made myself obnoxious by saying everything was odious. I have collected all her Historicals and contemporary (to her) mysteries and they are my go to books for the ultimate in stress relief. Nothing really compares to them in spite of all the modern regency writers. They are good but she is a class of her own.

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