The “Dash It Alls” on Romance, Writing, and the Influence of Georgette Heyer

The Recital by Vittorio Reggianini, (l1858-1938).

The Recital by Vittorio Reggianini, (1858-1938).

As some of you may remember, during the RWA Beau Monde’s 2015 celebration of the eightieth anniversary of the Regency romance novel, I wrote a weekly Georgette Heyer poll here on my site as my way of contributing to the festivities.  These polls were quite popular at the time and a great way for Heyer lovers to connect over favourite characters, favourite scenes, and best loved phrases.  It was during this time that romance authors Avril Tremayne and Jane Godman, editor Ali Williams, and I formed our own little Heyer group which Ali affectionately named the “Dash it Alls” in honour of Freddy Standen from Heyer’s 1953 novel Cotillion

Over the next three months, each of the #DashItAlls will be contributing a post here at MimiMatthews.com on the novels of Georgette Heyer and how Heyer’s writing has influenced our own work.  Now, we don’t all write Regency romance.  Ali is an editor and academic, Jane writes paranormal romance and suspense, Avril writes romances set in the twenty-first century, and I write romances set in both Regency and Victorian England.  Nevertheless, Heyer has influenced all of us in ways both big and small.  For example, Avril and Jane both have upcoming books with heroes named Sylvester—a tribute to Heyer’s 1957 novel Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle.

The Next Dance by George Goodwin Kilburne, (1839-1924).

The Next Dance by George Goodwin Kilburne, (1839-1924).

In my own writing, one of the most influential aspects of Georgette Heyer’s novels has been her use of language, particularly the often humorous exclamations by various male characters.  These exclamations vary widely, from a simple “Good God!” uttered by a horrified Viscount Sheringham in Friday’s Child to a “Silence, rattle!” commanded by Sir Vincent Talgarth in The Grand Sophy.  And, of course, there’s Freddy in Cotillion who, at my last count, uttered the phrase “dash it” more than thirty times throughout the course of the novel.

These exclamations, generally consisting of less than three words, are often more eloquent than a paragraph long speech.  They can convey anger, frustration, disgust, good humour, and—in some cases—the first sign of love developing between the characters.  When coupled with “kindling eyes,” lips that quiver, and expressions that are “hard to read,” one can understand exactly how the character is feeling at any given moment.

While these sorts of exclamations may not technically qualify as “Heyerisms,” to me they are quintessentially Heyer.  They are also a reminder in my own writing that long speeches, minute descriptions, and detailed inventories of a character’s feelings are sometimes not as impactful as a scornful “Good God” or a frustrated “Dash it all.”

venetia

The next post in this series will be out next month.  In the meanwhile, if you would like to learn more about my fellow #DashItAlls, Avril, Jane, and Ali, click through to their individual blogs/websites via the links below.

Avril Tremayne

Jane Godman

Ali Williams

**If you are new to the novels of Georgette Heyer, I highly recommend Venetia (linked above).  Not only is it my favourite Heyer novel, it is one of my favourite romances of all time.  If you dislike Heyer or romances in general, have no fear.  I will be back with a post on 19th century history next week!

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in January 2018). She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. Her articles have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web, and are also syndicated weekly at Bust Magazine.

Sources

Heyer, Georgette.  Cotillion.  New York: Putnam, 1953.

Heyer, Georgette.  Frederica.  New York: Dutton, 1965.

Heyer, Georgette.  Friday’s Child.  New York: Putnam, 1971.

Heyer, Georgette.  The Grand Sophy.  New York: Putnam, 1950

Heyer, Georgette.  Sylvester; Or, The Wicked Uncle.  New York: Putnam, 1957.

Heyer, Georgette.  Venetia.  New York: Putnam, 1959.


© 2016 Mimi Matthews

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27 thoughts on “The “Dash It Alls” on Romance, Writing, and the Influence of Georgette Heyer

  1. Jane says:

    Nice to hear that you will be doing a Heyer series. For me, the great thing about Heyer – apart from her skill as a writer – is her humour, something that far too many copyists totally lack. I’m a writer too (under another name, so I’m not self-publicising) and my two main influences are Heyer and Mrs. Oliphant, a very amusing Victorian writer who has been called a ‘feminist Trollope’. (Not, of course, a feminist trollop.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mimi Matthews says:

      Thank you for your comment, Jane 🙂 I agree with you about Heyer. She had such a gift for subtle humor. Many authors have been touted as her successor over the years, but I’ve yet to see anyone who can duplicate her style. She really was one of a kind.

      Like

  2. Jenny Haddon says:

    Splendid. Really look forward to this. Georgette Heyer had the most brilliant ear for irony and bathos, from her earliest writing too. Think it must just have been natural.

    I always remember The Black Moth, when Jack is being all Noble and Self-sacrificing, as a Disgraced Man. It goes something like:

    “I once -” Heavens,how hard it was to say “- cheated at cards.” [He may even have closed his eyes at this point, JH]
    There was a silence.
    “Only once?” said Diana.

    She was about 17 when she wrote it !!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. dawnharris5 says:

    Georgette Heyer is my all time favourite author – a friend introduced me to her books when I was about twenty. I love her subtle humour too, and she inspired me to write in an era that I had learnt so much about from her. Mine are mystery thrillers with romance and humour set in the 1790s – a few of her books are set around that time too. I’ve read all her books many, many times. I have about eight favourites, but if I had to pick one, it would be Venetia. Followed closely by A Civil Contract. Maybe I enjoy books with unlikely heroes and heroines! Like Freddie Standen too. I’m really looking forward to reading the Dash It Alls.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Angelyn says:

    I have to think that the adolescent Heyer must have stumbled upon some ancient relative’s stash of magazines–the early nineteenth century’s version of TV Guide–and read them voraciously. How else could she have used the language so brilliantly, as if she’d actually heard Regency-era conversation spoken?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. danaselkirk says:

    I’m looking forward to this series! (Hello, first time commenter here!)

    I read my first Heyer when I was 12, followed not long afterward by my first Cartland. It wasn’t until many years later that I heard about the ill will between the two of them and the slang terms Heyer created to catch copycats.

    If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say it’s a tie between The Corinthian, The Talisman Ring, and An Infamous Army.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mimi Matthews says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Dana 🙂 The Corinthian was my very first Heyer and is still one of my absolute favorites. I’ve yet to read a Barbara Cartland, but would really like to for comparison sake. The two authors have quite a history!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sarah Waldock says:

        I read Cartland when I ran out of Heyers in the library, but although the first dozen or so of them weren’t bad, I found most of the others I read lacking in substance and not very satisfying. I wondered at first at the lack of quality in some, and looked into the dates of publishing in case she improved – and found it was the opposite. It did not surprise me to find out that many of them had been ghost written for the Animated Meringue. I grew out of them by the time I was 15, they were a bit childish. So I started re-reading Heyer, and discovered how you can find something new every time. It was on my second reading of ‘Frederica” at this age that I discovered that the hero was Alverstoke, not Felix! I also discovered on family shelves the gentle stories of O Douglas, who I think can be claimed as the Austen of Scotland, 100 years after Austen.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mimi Matthews says:

        I never read any Cartland, but when I was very young, there was a tv movie based on one of her books. It was called “A Hazard of Hearts” and featured Helena Bonham-Carter and Diana Rigg. It’s a camp classic and lots of fun. I really should read the book it’s based on!

        Liked by 1 person

      • danaselkirk says:

        By about a dozen Cartlands, the sameness definitely would’ve set in. 🙂

        I’ve usually responded strenuously to disparagement about romance novels all being the same, but in Cartland’s case, I think there’s kinda something to it. The heroines always spoke in that “I never…knew…a kiss could…be like that…” way. The guys looked the same, talked the same, acted the same. My sister and I used to joke that Cartland’s books were SO pattern-driven that you could write software to generate them.

        Heyer’s books are cut from an entirely different cloth. Some of her characters are the most memorable of any I’ve read.

        I’ll have to check out O. Douglas.

        Like

      • Sarah Waldock says:

        LOL now that should have been a project I could have tried when we had THE school computer instead of killing it thoroughly enough to need a technician to be called in, with a program to work out how much of England would be drowned per degree of rise in temperature having forgotten that the poor thing was already overloaded with my program to roll dice for Dungeons and Dragons character generation. It was a Commodore Pet and couldn’t handle ambitious students with outsize projects. the dice throwing program would have been a good basis for that.
        Cartland’s heroines were almost all educationally sub normal as well as I recall. Big blue eyes, all windows open and nobody home.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. authorangelabell says:

    I adore Georgette Heyer! I’ve described her to friends as “a sarcastic Jane Austen” with an unbeatable wit to boot. And yes, her smart dialogue is fantastic! Thus far, my favorite work by Heyer is The Grand Sophie.

    Liked by 1 person

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