Monday, September 12, 2011

Georgette Heyer's Regency World

Georgette Heyer's Regency World, Jennifer Kloester

Jennifer Kloester is a member of the Georgette Heyer listserv that I help manage, and we are eagerly awaiting the publication of her biography of Heyer later this year.  In researching it, she discovered new collections of Heyer's correspondence, and she was also given unparalleled access to the family's papers, including Heyer's famous research notebooks.  Georgette Heyer's Regency World, based on her doctoral dissertation, was originally published in Britain in 2005.  I was surprised and pleased to find a copy recently on the shelves at Barnes & Noble.  After reading Lady of Quality with the listserv, I was in the mood for more Heyer, but rather than re-reading one of the novels, I sat down with this book.

As the author explains in her introduction,
"The aim of [this book] is to expand on Heyer's history and to provide for the modern reader an explanation of the people, places and events that made her Regency world so unforgettable . . . Everything in this book is inspired by a reference in at least one of Heyer's twenty-six Regency novels . . ."
The material is presented thematically, in chapters such as "At Home in Town and Country," "A Man's World," and "Eat, Drink and Be Merry."  There are frequent examples drawn from Heyer's books, and I found myself thinking of similar examples in Jane Austen's books.  The citations often reminded me of favorite parts of the different novels, or made me curious about the context of the citation.  So I kept setting the book down to pull one of the novels off the shelf, just to check something, but then of course I ended up drawn into the story again and reading much further than I intended. That slowed down my reading of Dr. Kloester's book, but it enriched my reading both of it and Heyer's books.

Also in the introduction, Dr. Kloester writes,
"For many years these books have beguiled my leisure hours, affording me enormous pleasure, but also giving me a great deal of useful information about the English Regency period.  I hadn't known just how much accurate and factual information there was in the novels until I came to research and write this book, and, although I had always been under the impression that Heyer was meticulous in her communication of the period, I hadn't appreciated the scope of her research, nor the degree to which she immersed herself in the Regency era."
Heyer was not of course writing history.  Her Regency world is her own.  As others have pointed out, for example, it is a world where religion plays a very small part.  But in creating her fictional world, Heyer still managed to ground it in reality.  Thanks to Dr. Kloester, I have an even deeper appreciation of Heyer's research and of her books, and I realize that I have learned more than I knew from her books.  This book will be an invaluable resource as I continue to enjoy her wonderful Regency world.


  1. Georgette Heyer is an author I've heard so much about, but have never read. We don't have any of her books in my library system which I find to be odd as she seems to continue to be popular!
    I really enjoy "companion" type books that illuminate the world of our favorite novels. This sounds like a good one!

  2. Oh, do you have a treat in store, then! I'm surprised that your library system doesn't have any, since she wrote over 50 books, mysteries and "modern" novels as well as the historical Georgian and Regency stories - and there are many different editions available.

  3. I'm reading this too! It's so good, so much great background in it. We're also reading a Georgette Heyer novel in our Jane Austen book group at the library in November. We don't have enough of any one book for everyone so we're all going to choose different ones and talk about them, which should be fun.

    I'm also reading The Annotated Persuasion which is wonderful -- tons of great background and explanation. The left hand pages are the original text and the right hand are the notes. The editor has also done P&P and S&S and Emma is supposed to come out next year.

  4. That sounds like it will be a lively meeting! I hope you'll post a review of the one you read. The annotated Persuasion would be a great reference - but I would still need a plain copy for reading. I can't resist stopping to check the notes, which does break up the story.


Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!