I am a Georgette Heyer fan. There. In the full knowledge that many, probably most, of those who consider themselves serious readers will react to such a statement with a disdainful curl of the lip, I’ve said it. And over the nearly fifty years since I read my first Georgette Heyer, just enough other fans have stuck their heads above the parapet for me to know that I’m in good company.
We are a disparate bunch, a secret society so secret that we don’t even know who else belongs. We have her books so we don’t need each other. If we are rumbled – an inquisitive visitor comes across a row of her titles while perusing our bookshelves, say, or we leave a copy of our latest reread (her books must be reread more than those of any other author) open on the table – we brace ourselves for a sneer and rehearse a casual disclaimer. This is invariably met with a disbelieving ‘Hmm’ and a change of subject, but we have heard the clunk of our fall in their estimation. Strangely, this predictable scenario is almost easier to deal with than the obverse, for if the rumbler turns out to be another fan we will almost immediately fall out. The delighted ‘Oh you read Georgette Heyer too!’ is always followed by ‘Which is your favourite?’ And then the arguing starts. ‘How can you like The Toll Gate more than Devil’s Cub? There’s no comparison.’ ‘Friday’s Child better than The Grand Sophy? Never!’ Perhaps, all things considered, we do better to keep our devotion to ourselves.
Georgette Heyer was renowned for keeping herself to herself. Throughout more than fifty years as a best-selling author, she refused to be interviewed, never made a public appearance and only rarely replied to fan letters. Little is known about her early life beyond that she was born in Wimbledon in 1902, the eldest child and only daughter of Sylvia Watkins and George Heyer, and that she was educated in London and Paris.
It was possibly her father’s intriguing background that inspired Georgette with a love of the romantic. The son of a Russian émigré and fluent in several languages, George Heyer attended King’s College School, London, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in anticipation of a life of gentlemanly leisure, reading p
The full version of this article is only available to subscribers to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly. To continue reading, please sign in or take out a subscription to the quarterly magazine for yourself or as a gift for a fellow booklover. Both gift givers and gift recipients receive access to the full online archive of articles along with many other benefits, such as preferential prices for all books and goods in our online shop and offers from a number of like-minded organizations. Find out more on our subscriptions page.Subscribe now or Sign in