Transcribed by Jill Livingstone
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SARA-MAE: Previously on Heyer Today.
JEN KLOESTER: In a way, the PhD was really a means to write Georgette Heyer’s Regency world. And having the imprimatur of the university meant that when I contacted people like Georgette’s son, Sir Richard Rougier of Jane Aiken Hodge, there was a reason, you know, as a research student at the University of Melbourne, it lent me a credibility that I may not have had otherwise.
And I just hugged that bag to my chest all the way back to London. I just couldn’t believe it. And, I tell you, if you had offered me the crown jewels, I would not have swapped them for that bag. I would have hung on to that bag, as if my life depended on it. I still have that bag, you know.
Look, she came from a very not tactile generation. You know, public displays of affection were certainly never going to happen. But I don’t know that she was particularly interested in sex that’s certainly been said to me in the course of my research, from people who had things said to them by Georgette Heyer.
SARA-MAE: Hello, and welcome to Heyer Today, season two of Fable Gazers podcasts. We’re spending this season exploring the life and work of Georgette Heyer, so if you haven’t listened from episode 1, do go back to the start, as we’ve had some cracking guests like Stephen Fry, and many more.
This is one of our fortnightly book club episodes in which we ignore Heyer fans and experts and try to convert Heyer virgins to her work. So far, I’ve got six converts out of eight victims …[cough] willing participants.
Who’ll be joining me today? What dastardly methods have I used to coerce them…. well, I’d have to be a nodcock with bats in my belfry to tell you wouldn’t I?
My lovely friend Jojo Thomas is a trained Co-Active coach, master hypnotist, writer, editor, speaker and public speaking trainer. Apart from all her other qualifications Jojo brushed off an English Lit degree to chat to me about this week’s book, Cotillion. Did I have to hypnotise her into it? Judge for yourself.
The other person who’s delved into the book with us was Aiden Truss. He’s a novelist and copywriter – and a lover of horror fiction, so, Regency romance is definitely not his milieu. But did I manage to win him over? You’ll have to wait and see….
As ever this episode is chock full of spoilers as we discuss the book in depth, so do read it first, it’s available on Naxos as an audio book if you’d like to treat yourself. But first, what was Heyer up to when she wrote the delightfully frothy Cotillion? Here’s Mike to fill us in:
MIKE: A cotillion (from the French for petticoat) is a dance for four couples. A courtly version of a country dance, interspersed with ‘changes’ – figures breaking out of the square formation.
What a perfect metaphor for the 1950s. It’s the beginning of a decade of exciting change – it’s like Britain is changing fast – from post-war monochrome to vivid colour.
For a start, in 1952 the country has a new monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – just 27 years old. Her coronation was the first to be broadcast to the world on TV.
The cinemas in the West End would have been showcasing fellow Albany resident Dame Edith Evans and Margaret Rutherford, at their scene-stealing best in the film version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
And just a bus ride away from Albany and Piccadilly, in 1953, scientist Rosalind Franklin is working at King’s College. She’s experimenting with high resolution photographic images that would eventually capture the structure of DNA.
But it wasn’t all English roses and Union Jack bunting….
In 1950 and 1951 the Mau Mau Rebellion declared a state of emergency in British ruled Kenya.
In 1952, Vallentine Mitchell Publishing releases the first UK version of The Diary of Anne Frank, from a manuscript kept by Anne’s father Otto, her family’s only Holocaust survivor.
In five days in December 1952, the Great London Smog kills around 4,000 people and makes thousands more ill, quite possibly also affecting Georgette who experienced persistent colds and flus around this time.
Rosalind Franklin’s lecture about her unpublished findings on DNA was seen by American biologist, James Watson and shared with English physicist, Francis Crick. They would eventually win the Nobel Prize for the discovery. (While Franklin’s work was acknowledged, unfortunately, she died before the end of the decade and the Nobel committee did not give out prizes posthumously.)
Also, Georgette’s beloved Fortnum & Mason’s was taken over by a Canadian following a boardroom coup!
The power of TV was on the rise – The Flower Pot Men and Sooty make their BBC TV debuts. Before TV really takes over, there is still radio and magazines – lots of magazines.
Perhaps because of the changing roles for women during and in the aftermath of war, the 1950s were the golden age of women’s magazines – when most women (83%) read at least one magazine a week. And of course, Georgette can be included in this readership herself.
As Heyer fans know, since the 1920s, the magazines had been a lifeline for Georgette, publishing short stories and serialisations. They provided a useful supplementary income on the same novels that were selling in the bookshops, and were a way of introducing new readers to the Heyer romance canon.
It was usually the romance titles that were popular. In fact, when Georgette offered up her latest mystery novel, Detection Unlimited in 1953, Dorothy Sutherland of Woman’s Journal was one of several editors who rejected it.
When her brother Boris announces his engagement in early 1952, Frere offers to advance her £3000 for Cotillion to help out. Instead, Georgette dashes off a batch of short stories as a way to fund the wedding reception.
These stories are published in Illustrated London News, Good Housekeeping, Everywoman, and the Woman’s Journal. (After the wedding, bills from her dentist and the tax man force her to call in the advance after all!)
In addition to the many British journals, there was also a US and colonial market in Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.
The times may indeed have been changing. Georgette – now in her 50s – must have felt the need to boost her potential readership pool, because she agrees to meet an Aussie journalist – former war correspondent and writer for women’s magazines, Coral Craig. They meet for an interview at Albany. It is Georgette’s first – and last – interview.
British literature in the 1950s is also going through a golden age with bestselling titles by Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, William Golding, JRR Tolkien, Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess, Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis and Agatha Christie.
The literary and magazine worlds collide when Georgette attends a launch party for the New Windmill Press in Kingswood. A photo of Georgette, Frere and Pat Wallace is captured by Tatler magazine. At the party they meet writers and editors – including Arnold Gyde and Noel Baker.
Georgette is still Heinemann’s star, but appearing as Mrs Rougier she is perhaps not as instantly recognisable as her more famous nom de plume.
NARRRATOR: It’s June, 1952. Georgette is talking to Pat Wallace and Frere at a glittering party to celebrate the grand opening of the New Windmill Press in Kingswood. Somerset Maugham is to open it, and Georgette is present as one of Heinemann’s star authors. Tatler is taking snaps.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Miss Heyer! Over here please!
GEORGETTE: It’s Mrs Rougier, actually.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Who’s she? Mr Maugham, Mr Maugham, over here!
PAT: Oh dear.
GEORGETTE: [Laughing] It seems Mrs Rougier isn’t of much interest to the huddled masses.
FRERE: Darling, I’m just going to go and slap a few backs – don’t flirt too much with all the famous writers.
NARRATOR: Frere pushes his way into the crowd, leaving the ladies by themselves.
PAT: Well? What do you think of all the glitz and glamour?
GEORGETTE: It’s a squeeze, isn’t it? I’m sweating commas and clauses.
PAT: Rather like one of your Regency Almack affairs.
GEORGETTE: Don’t you dare start spouting Corinthianisms. The last thing I want to do is bore on about my books – especially amongst so many authors. Really, Pat, I would have thought you’d know better, being married to a publisher!
PAT: I abase myself. So…?
GEORGETTE: Well, I haven’t forgotten that they rather dropped the ball on An Infamous Army. I handed them the best thing I’ve ever done. I put my whole heart into that book, and I expected my publishers to put some of theirs into its production. Ah, there’s Arnold Gyde, the head of editorial. He had the touching but misplaced confidence not to read Army, and he let some meddlesome and illiterate person take it upon himself to change my spelling and punctuation after I’d passed the proofs on for publication.
PAT: Scandalous! Oh, he’s caught my eye… he’s coming over here.
NARRATOR: Arnold Gyde approaches with Noel Baker.
ARNOLD: May I introduce you to Mr Black. This is Lady Jones, whose pen-name is Enid Bagnold.
GEORGETTE: Well, I am not Enid Bagnold.
NOEL: Nor am I Mr Black.
ARNOLD: Oh, I say. [LAUGHS NERVOUSLY] I hope very much that you’ll put that down to mental exhaustion. It’s just that…uh…
NOEL: Mr Baker.
ARNOLD: Mr Noel Baker, of course! He said to me, ‘Who’s that fine-looking woman?’ and so I came over here to, er…that is, I must have confused him with Mr Black of The Daily Mail. I uh, oh do excuse me, I have to go and see to the er…
NARRATOR: Mr Gyde dashes off, flushing a bright cherry red.
GEORGETTE: Very nice to meet you, Mr Black.
NOEL: And you too, Miss Bagnold.
[THERE’S A BEAT AND THEN ALL THREE, PAT, GEORGETTE AND NOEL LAUGH.]
MIKE: Today Tatler is very glossy and glamorous, and calls itself ‘the original social media’, but in June 1952, it was still mainly printed with its distinctive red masthead featuring the red-coated ‘man about town’ motif, and on plain (but high quality) newsprint.
Despite its early literary origins, by the 1950s, it was more busybody than bookish. I suspect that Georgette was secretly beaming to have made it to the famous ‘Bystander’ pages among the full-page ads for chic attainments and lifestyle aspirations.
Ironically, when you try to access the Tatler archive today, you are greeted with a pop-up advert for Find My Past DNA test – not something Rosalind Franklin could have anticipated.
Considering the times, making the pages of Tatler is an achievement. Let’s face it, London was becoming a city for the young – with curvy pretty girls in full multi petticoated frocks on the arms of angry young men.
And these hep cats needed a place to let loose – London’s coffee bar craze begins, and Frith Street in Soho is rechristened “Froth Street” due to the plethora of new coffee bars serving European style cappuccinos!
Georgette did not always appreciate the speed of social change, famously sputtering: “Oh Christ, why did I have to be born into this filthy age!”
When Cotillion is published in 1953, Georgette was 51. Cotillion had an initial print run of 140,000 copies and was to become one of her most cherished novels.
Georgette knew, in Regency times, the uncertainty caused by the constant presence of war and revolution made dancing incredibly popular. She also proved adept at adjusting her step when the dance moves changed.
She’s a survivor and would continue to twirl on the dance floor with elegance and grace. After all, she’s only halfway through the song and ready to promenade into the second half of her writing career.
SARA-MAE: Now that you know what Heyer was up to while writing Cotillion, here’s our interview with Jojo and Aiden. I hope they’ll both love it as much as I do.
JOJO: Hi, Sara.
SARA-MAE: Welcome to Heyer Today.
JOJO: Thank you.
SARA-MAE: Can you tell me who you are?
JOJO: I’d love to tell you who I am. So, I’m Jojo Thomas. I’m a life coach and public speaking trainer. A long, long time ago, I did an English literature degree, and I’m a passionate book lover.
AIDEN: I’m Aiden Truss. I’m a 45-year-old copywriter. I work at the Royal Academy of Dance – that pays the rent, but in between that I write. I’ve had a novel published a couple of years ago Gape, which hasn’t bought a yacht yet, [laughs] so yes, I just try and fit in as much reading and writing as possible in between visits to the pub and the office.
SARA-MAE: Before I asked you to read any Georgette Heyer, had you ever encountered her before?
JOJO: Absolutely no clue who Georgette Heyer was.
SARA-MAE: And what would you say the genre that you’re kind of most comfortable writing in and also that you enjoy reading?
AIDEN: Well, I grew up as a big horror fan and when I set out to write my novel, I envisaged it as a fantasy horror, but it kind of evolved into fantasy, comic horror. I don’t actually read very much horror or fantasy. I’m more into factual books and art history and things like that. I don’t have a set genre. I like to kind of flit between genres and read a bit of everything. Everything except for Regency romance up until now. [laughs]
SARA-MAE: Uh oh, this doesn’t bode well for my converts tally. I’m guessing he’s not a fan of Austen. Never mind Heyer.
SARA-MAE: You missed that.
AIDEN: The closest I’ve read to that was probably Vanity Fair, which this book kind of reminded me of that sort of vibe, but yeah, I’ve gotten no further than that. Obviously Thackeray had a social point to make. I’m not sure this book did. I don’t think I’d wander into a bookshop and head for that particular section. It seems like it’s writing by women aimed at women.
SARA-MAE: That’s an interesting if rather sweeping statement. Funnily enough, I know loads of women who really love fantasy, myself included.
AIDEN: People I’ve discussed it with say yeah, I used to love Georgette Heyer when I was a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of it. You mention it to another guy, and get – who? It’s very similar with Jane Austen. It’s all part of the canon of English literature, but I must confess, I’ve seen a couple of screen adaptations, but never actually read her stuff. My wife reads her, she loves her stuff, not sure that she is actually aimed at me in any way.
SARA-MAE: Why do you think they’re sort of seen as being particularly aimed at women?
AIDEN: I assume it’s the escapist aspect of it. I’ve no data to back this up but I’ve always assumed that fantasy is…although Game of Thrones has probably changed that now… It’s always predominantly been a male genre and the same with science fiction. And that historical romance always seems to have been the purview of women.
And there were times when I was thinking – God this guy needs to grow a pair – I mean these women should be stronger. What’s going on? It’s an accomplished piece of writing that sometimes you read more as a historical document.
SARA-MAE: What were your sort of preconceptions? What were you expecting?
AIDEN: My reading voice in my head is normally my own voice. But the first chapter of this one I was a really bad Lady Bracknell. What really struck me was the language – it kind of seemed a bit more historical, just because… I flatter myself I’ve got a fairly decent vocabulary, but I read the Kindle version, so luckily, I was able to highlight words, but even that floundered sometimes where it just couldn’t find some of these old slang terms, the first one I highlighted, they just had me roaring with laughter actually, where someone was accused of being ‘dicked in the nob’. [Laughs] A set of gudgeons. What’s a set of gudgeons? Another one I highlighted – ‘dashed bacon brained notion to take into your cockloft’. I thought what’s a cockloft? It’s very simple when you look it up, it’s part of the gable of a house or whatever.
But I think I spent two thirds of the novel actually going through looking things up. So in that way, it was a really good experience. She obviously did tireless research on the argot of the time, which I really appreciated.
SARA-MAE: Did you find as a writer that enjoyment of the language and did it give you any sort of inspiration to think about maybe phrasing things in your own work a little bit differently?
AIDEN: No, I’m kind of a subscriber to the parsimonious style of writing of people like Hemingway, and if you can say it in fewer words, and less flowery language. I guess the fiction I tend to read is a bit more modern and a bit more edgy. Reading things like you know, DeLillo and people like that.
I really did struggle with the length of some of her sentences. It’s so prolix and ornate. Yeah, not for six chapters at bedtime. A chapter at bedtime. Hence finishing the book this morning, rather than last week, I had to take it in sort of small doses – I have the same problem with Dickens, who… I absolutely love his stuff.
But yeah, it’s kind of… you have to retrain your mind, get used to it all through the book, then you’re there. And then the best time to read another Dickens, of course, is after reading Dickens. I suspect it’s the same with Heyers.
SARA-MAE: You do enjoy them even more as you go along. She’s very famous for the humour that she uses. Did you get her humour?
AIDEN: I did. There were some nice ones and I sort of underlined another one of Freddy talking to Kitty at one point says that, ‘you’ve a deal more hair than wit’ and I thought – I totally saw that the way that they were always talking about their appearance. And is this the right shade? Is this the right material? It was such a preoccupation. And the thing is, he’s such a dandy himself. So yeah, there were bits that I just thought were very funny.
SARA-MAE: Were you by any chance wondering what Stephen Fry thought of Cotillion?
STEPHEN FRY: Oh, Cotillion is a great one, isn’t it? I love…
SARA-MAE: Freddy, Freddy Standen.
STEPHEN FRY: Is it Freddy? Yes. He’s a bit like Ferdy Fakenham isn’t he? Quite Wodehousian but very, very honourable and likeable – quite a lot of ‘dash it’!
It’s an unusual one, it’s much less guessable as to who’s the hero is going to turn out to be in that sense which makes it very likeable. And it’s got a big family – what’s the name – Penicuik the Penicuik family, all ghastly.
JOJO: So, very quick precis of the plot and how it starts out is that your leading lady is an orphan, Kitty Charing, who has been sort of informally adopted by an old friend of her family who is your typical, grumpy, old, miserly character and he considers himself on death’s door. And he has a fortune, of course, and he wants to leave this fortune to Kitty but on the condition that she marries one of his great nephews. So, the premise right at the beginning is which one of the great nephews is Kitty going to choose? Indeed, if she chooses any of them.
SARA-MAE: Yes. Matthew Penicuik.
JOJO: Yeah, Penicuik. Its spelled ‘cuik’, but again I looked it up, but it’s Pennycook, apparently.
SARA-MAE: I’m glad one of us has done their research.
JOJO: According to Wikipedia.
SARA-MAE: Oh, dear Wikipedia pronunciation versus Stephen Fry. What do you think, is it [Penny-quick] or [Penny-cook]?
SARA-MAE: He’s a really irascible old man, isn’t he?
JOJO: That is exactly what you’d call him. He’s grumpy, he’s a little malign, you get the feeling that he really likes putting people’s backs up. You do occasionally get little flashes of humour coming from him. And I suppose you also have this sense that he must have some goodness to him to have raised this child as his own to have given her a home even though it hasn’t been a particularly happy home for her. He has looked after her.
SARA-MAE: And it is quite funny because they sort of imply that he was perhaps in love with her mother who is a French woman.
JOJO: The French woman! He thinks she (the mother) is probably the only beautiful woman that he’s ever really seen in his life. So yeah, there is that sense and there is a question quite quickly dispatched of whether or not he might in fact be the father of Kitty. But the sense is that actually, that’s not the case, it’s just a rumour that’s gone round.
SARA-MAE: The French link comes back into play in the novel, doesn’t it?
JOJO: It does, indeed, later on we meet the Chevalier d’Evron.
SARA-MAE: Ooh la la! Isn’t Jojo’s French accent good?
JOJO: Who is Kitty’s French cousin, and he appears and he plays the role of one of these dancers in the cotillion. He’s very dashing and you do wonder right at the beginning if he is going to be a….
JOJO: Yes, is he a love interest for Kitty? She holds him in very high esteem.
SARA-MAE: She also does because he’s one of the few family that she has really. We find out late in the novel, that’s a bit of a thing with her because she’s sort of always had to feel beholden to this grumpy, great uncle and he’s really begrudged every penny [to] poor old Fishguard who’s her governess…
JOJO: Yeah, old Fish.
SARA-MAE: I loved her.
AIDEN: Initially, I thought it was quite a stilted thing but then as you get to read more into the characters, and Fish, she’s absent for most of it. But every time you hear of her, she makes you giggle.
SARA-MAE: She’s always quoting from these Romantic poets that she adores. And has filled Kitty’s head a little bit with this romanticism, which spurs the plot on.
JOJO: It really does. And what you’re saying about family is so important. So, Kitty is really alone in the world. She doesn’t feel connected to anyone really. She calls these boys, the great nephews of Matthew Penicuik, her cousins, but really, they’re not. She doesn’t have any blood ties until the Chevalier d’Evron shows up – Camille.
SARA-MAE: I suppose we should introduce the suitors for her hand. We’ve got Lord Dolphinton….
SARA-MAE: Who plays a massive role.
JOJO: Yes. So, one of her second cousins, he’s a sort of hard-up Irish peer. And really what Dolph wants to do is go and breed horses on his Irish estate. He’s not a great communicator. He’s very, very frightened of his mother. She’s a bully, and she’s constantly trying to make him do things that he doesn’t want to do. But he is a dolt.
SARA-MAE: So, we have Lord Dolphinton, who’s clearly not in any way a legitimate suitor, but he even says that he’s been kind of coerced into coming along.
JOJO: Oh, he’s the first to propose, you get your first proposal in the book within about 10 pages. And he makes it very clear that he’s offering for her because his mother’s told him to and he looks absolutely petrified that she might say yes. And he’s so relieved when she says, ‘don’t worry, Dolph, no intention of accepting you at all’.
SARA-MAE: But it’s a really funny interaction between the cousins because I mean, there’s a bit of Basil Expositioning going on where they’re talking about who is and isn’t there. And Jack Westruther is who they all thought had Kitty’s affections already. And so everyone’s kind of thinking, where’s Jack? Why isn’t he here? So, you’re really introduced – oh, maybe this guy’s the hero.
JOJO: Absolutely. So, the first people that you have in the house are Dolph. You have Lord Biddenden, George and his brother, Hugh.
George is married. And Dolph makes a very big point of saying that he wasn’t invited, which in fact, he wasn’t. So maybe Dolph’s not as stupid as he looks. So actually, in the room, you have three people, George, Dolph and Hugh. And Hugh is a rector and very stiff, very proper. And Hugh also offers for Kitty. He doesn’t really care about the money, but – I will marry her because she needs somebody to show her the ways of the world and look after her and she’ll be a very upright young lady under my tutelage – which of course, Kitty is totally unwilling to do.
My actual first impression of the book was one of frustration. Because there were only three people in the room. It shouldn’t have been that complicated. But Heyer keeps flipping between their first names and their second names. And they’re talking about people, flipping between first names and second names as well. And I had no clue what was going on for the first three or four pages. I was – who are these people? Who are they talking about? I’m utterly lost. So my first impression was, I don’t think I’m going to like this book because it feels like a mess. It’s nothing to the way Austen so elegantly lays out who you’re looking at and talking to in very simple terms.
SARA-MAE: Yeah, no, I get that. I’ve read it many times. So, it was a bit easier for me to slip into that. If they’re a lord, they have a separate name. So, for example, Lord Biddenden is George Rattray, brother to Reverend Hugh Rattray, but then he’s called Lord Biddenden. And I agree with you actually, the first chapter for me is not the greatest of her introductory chapters. But once the action kicks off, once we meet Freddy really….
JOJO: Let’s go to Freddy. So Freddy is another of the great nephews. Indeed, it transpired he’s also been invited to this great event, at which Kitty is going to bestow her hand theoretically, but he’s running a bit late because he really dithered about whether to come or not. He wasn’t going to come because he doesn’t really like being summonsed in that way. Also, Freddy is of absolutely independent fortune, his father’s very wealthy. He doesn’t need any of Uncle Matthew’s money, not that he knows what the summons is for. So, he just has this random summons and he thinks – I’ve got better things to do than this. I’m not going to go.
But then he bumped into a couple of people, which again, you discover later who slightly goad him in different ways into going. And I think one of the people he met is Dolph’s mother, who evinces absolute delight that he’s not going which of course makes him want to go. But he’s running late and he’s stopped at the inn for a drink and something to eat basically. So he stopped at the inn just outside Arnside, which is the property where, Uncle Matthew and Kitty and Fish live and he’s just relaxing in the salon, there’s a nice roaring fire, the innkeeper’s looking after him and who should bundle in but Kitty.
Kitty is running away. Now she’s running away for a couple of reasons. On one level, she’s horrified by what’s happened and these awful proposals from Dolph and Hugh and she’s feeling like – why should I be chattel in this way? I’m not property. But actually, she’s really sore because the person that she is in love with, Jack, the other cousin, hasn’t shown up. She feels abandoned, forsaken by him. So, she decides to run away. She’s put no thought into this at all. And she’s got literally 10 to 15 minutes outside of the house, and she stopped at the pub, basically because she didn’t know what to do. And who should she run into but Freddy. And she’s furious with Freddy.
They’ve always had a nice cousin-like relationship and she’s like – what the heck are you doing here? Surely you didn’t come to propose marriage to me – that is atrocious. I thought better of you. I thought you were a better person. You don’t need the money. Why would you do this?
Freddy of course, had no idea, absolutely baffled. Good God Kit, you know, what can you be thinking? Of course I didn’t do that. At which point she immediately goes – oh, thank God! Fine, I’ll sit down and think what I’m going to do because really, I’ve run away from the house without thought. Everyone thinks I’m upstairs in my bedroom. And actually, I have no idea what to do. She proposes becoming a housekeeper or a chambermaid, which obviously Freddy finds laughable because she’s been brought up to do nothing much.
AIDEN: She was considering all these domestic roles she might be able to take on just to look after herself, which kind of seems retrospectively progressive. I mean, I’m saying somebody was writing in the 50s about the 18th or 19th century. Again, it just adds to Kitty being this more well-rounded, fleshed out character.
SARA-MAE: As Hugh points out to her, she isn’t very accomplished either which I didn’t think was particularly tactful of him.
JOJO: Hugh is not a tactful gentleman at all. Of course, the problem is Fish, who’s this nanny, who’s the companion who’s been employed to look after Kitty most of her childhood. She loves this poetry and she spouts it left, right and centre but she’s probably not very good at anything else. You know, she hasn’t taught her French and Italian and Latin and her sewing’s not up to much, her pianoforte playing’s not up too much. She’s not an accomplished young lady, particularly.
SARA-MAE: Except when it comes to remembering quotes from poems.
JOJO: Well, Fish is very good at doling out quotes from poems at all occasions, much to everyone else’s sort of horror.
SARA-MAE: What was your first impression of Freddy?
AIDEN: He does come across as the most human character. He’s not the most eloquent.
JOJO: Charming, not the sharpest tool in the box again, so not Dolph levels, but, just a lad about town quite happy in himself. He uses an awful lot of slang. And this was my other struggle with the book. Having not read any Heyer before and in fact, not that much Regency romance. The slang was shooting over my head, I had to keep looking things up. And there are some passages in the book where I was – just let this page wash over you Jojo, because you’ve got no idea. Every other word is something I haven’t heard of. So, he’s a lad about town, he’s obviously in with the fashionable folk. He seems pleasant. Not really much of a care in the world. Not a very deep character, that’s probably your first impression.
SARA-MAE: Yes, he’s very amiable and kind is the word really and what Kitty grows to really like about him, as opposed to the other people in her life, who are patronizing, who are kind of telling her what she should and shouldn’t do… He’s not really like that. And she manages to steamroll him into this quite ill-conceived plan to help her to get to London. She realises that that’s the best thing for her. If she can go to London, she can maybe have at least one month of fun. And you know, ‘who knows what might happen in a month’, she actually says to him. And he’s very reluctant at first. I mean, he is someone who is very concerned about his clothes. And the first time I read it, I very much wrote him off as a fribble.
JOJO: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t know much about Regency romance. But of course, the character read from the modern day, I’m like, well, he’s gay. She’s painting this picture of someone who’s absolutely – one of the first things you see about him is that he gets distracted by – is his buttonhole slightly off centre? Or, has he got some water on his face from the rainy journey he just took? He gets distracted by his appearance, very much and he’s really into fashion. He’s got this incredible eye for colour. And he’s constantly advising people how to dress. If you’re reading that in the modern day you’d think well this is a bit of a stereotype of a homosexual man. So, you think that he’s a bit player.
But Kitty who’s the absolute queen of ill-conceived plans thinks – aha! right, here’s Freddy. He doesn’t want to marry me, great. I don’t want to marry him either. But he does have an independent fortune. He does have a family in London. He’s got access to all the places.
Kitty is desperate to see something of the world, to experience parties. She’s dressed in very dowdy clothes, that’s all that gets made for her. She hasn’t got anything pretty or bright and no adornments apart from some topaz jewellery that was left to her by her mother.
And she wants to get out there and see the sights and the bright lights and enjoy herself and she thinks – right, Freddy. ‘What if we just said we were engaged, just for long enough for me to have a month in London? Meet, or remeet your family and enjoy myself? And then I don’t know what we’ll do, but we’ll sort it out. And Freddy says no, absolutely not, old girl. Not going to happen, not going to happen. And then the innkeeper who’s just trying to eavesdrop on the conversation, comes in with a massive bowl of hot punch. They both have two or three cups of warming rum punch and get a little bit drunk. I mean, there are so many words for slightly tipsy in the vocab. And I can’t remember any of them right now. They’re quite funny.
SARA-MAE: ‘A trifle disguised’.
JOJO: Yes, disguised, right. But he says no, she starts crying and the next thing you know he’s agreed.
SARA-MAE: So Kitty goes back to Arnside, Freddy proposes, and they sort out the intricacies of getting her to London.
SARA-MAE: So, let’s cut to London. He fully enters into her feelings when she talks about why she wouldn’t marry of the three that were there, obviously the only potential one was Hugh and he’s so ‘saintly’, she says in a really disgusted tone. Indeed, you don’t really want that for her to have never seen the world to just settle into life with Hugh. And so, she arrives in London, because they’re foisting her… without having told his parents that she’s coming… It turns out that there’s some kids that have measles, and the upshot is she can’t stay there. So, Freddy, surprising his father, who’s a great character… I don’t know if you enjoyed his character?
JOJO: I very much enjoyed the father and I enjoyed the father’s enjoyment of Freddy. So, Freddy is slightly written off by his father as not the bright one. They’ve got a younger son Charlie, who’s at Oxford, but Freddy’s considered a bit of an airhead by his father. But his father’s quite indulgent and a very nice, caring sort of a father, but doesn’t think much of Freddy’s intellect, and really enjoys watching Freddy problem solve, which he in fact, divulges a bit of a talent for. He keeps saying – ‘I’m sure I’ll think of a way’ and then sure enough, he thinks of a way.
So, Freddy’s sister, Meg, is married to Lord Buckhaven who’s gone off to China (of all places) on some sort of tour. They’ve only been married a year. Meg is pregnant and her odious mother-in-law is demanding that she come down and stay with her in the country while Lord Buckhaven’s away, for propriety’s sake. She probably knows that Meg is a little bit of a girl about town. She’s also really into fashion. She likes to have a good time, she’s not demure. Of course, Meg’s pregnant, she can’t go and stay at her parents’ house because of the measles.
So poor Meg is about to be foisted back off to the country and Freddy is – ‘aha! what we’ll do is we’ll install my fiancée’, although they don’t announce the engagement in the Gazette which is where it should in fact properly be announced. They don’t announce it there because of the measles. And also obviously, because they’re not really engaged. Propriety is covered, measles not a problem. They’ll be fine. Sure enough – great solution for everyone.
So, Kitty, having arrived and then being horrified finding the house in sickness, is then moved across to Meg’s house which is very comfortable and very nice. ‘Yes, I’ve got my month in London!’ And by the way, she doesn’t just want to see the sights, her secret plan is to show Jack Westruther that she’s engaged to Freddy, make him jealous, have him come and propose to her.
SARA-MAE: In her innocence… because she is an innocent. She’s not a scheming minx by any means.
JOJO: No, no, no, she’s formed a very real attachment to Jack. You know, it’s never absolutely revealed what’s been said between them, but for sure he encouraged her affections.
SARA-MAE: I like the fact that we got to see the different people’s perspectives. Which, actually you don’t get so much in Austen. You know, you certainly don’t get the male perspective as much.
JOJO: At all, I don’t think you get it at all.
SARA-MAE: And Jack, it turns out, was deeply offended and annoyed by the summary demand that he come down to Arnside. And so, he deliberately didn’t go down out of pride.
JOJO: And also because he’s so absolutely full of himself, that he feels totally safe in Kitty’s affection. He’s sure she won’t marry anybody else. Heyer gives us this internal monologue where he says he always intends to eventually make Kitty his wife.
So, what’s really interesting here is, when you first meet the idea of Jack, you assume that he is the romantic interest of the book. And personally, if I was writing a book like that, I might have tried to keep that going a little bit longer. So, if you think of Wickham, or Willoughby in Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, there’s a good old chunk of time where we think that is a believable hero love interest for our female character. With Jack, it takes all of one meeting with him before you go – no way in hell. I mean, he’s a jerk, he’s unkind, he likes taking the mickey out of people, he’s entitled…
SARA-MAE: It’s funny that you say that though because I think, having read maybe more of her books, she certainly has a certain type of hero, who could be seen as this kind of ‘bad boy’. And then gradually he changes over the book, through the love of a good woman. Is, if not reformed… because Heyer has a lot of time and affection for these bad boy characters. So, there’s characteristics that aren’t as charming as the other rakes.
JOJO: Maybe if I’d read other Heyer books beforehand, I might have had more of a sense of – oh, what’s his journey of redemption going to be? But as it was, I went – he’s a jerk, nah, yeah, no thanks. But I guess that leaves space for your head to go – right, so who is a love interest? Is it going to be Camille the Chevalier d’Evron? Is it going to be somebody else that we haven’t met yet? Who is going to come in and whisk Kitty up and transform her life, which is, of course what we’re yearning for when we’re reading this book.
SARA-MAE: What I loved in the book was Freddy’s journey, because he starts off, as we said, as this complete fribble that you sort of write off, you know, he’s very sort of self aware in the sense that he’s always talking about how he’s not the bright one and whatever. But through the course of the book, through all the scrapes that Kitty pulls him into, he comes up with these very ingenious and practical ways of subverting the problems that face them, and overcoming the obstacles, which is really lovely to see, particularly when you see him in exchanges with Jack, who is the sexy one, who is the one that all the women want, and who’s convinced that he’s got Kitty in the bag.
And, as you say, it’s surprising that Heyer allows us to see him thinking that because it is so off putting. Like there’s a moment where he says he prefers the idea of her staying in that village like a sleeping beauty.
JOJO: That’s it.
SARA-MAE: Which is so awful when you think about it.
JOJO: Yes, he wants the little woman at home. He sets up mistresses around town. He pays for women to have a very nice life and not be his wife but be there at his beck and call.
SARA-MAE: This reminds me of our British Podcast Award winning season 1: The Sugar Baby Confessionals. If you’re over 18 do give that a listen. It’s all about modern-day mistresses and it’s much naughtier than this one, so approach with caution…
JOJO: And he would like his virtuous, plain dressing, meek, mild Kitty sat at home waiting for him. And that is probably the life he would have given her. If he’d shown up that day to Uncle Matthew’s summons, that’s the life she would have had, she wouldn’t have been allowed to go anywhere. She would have been left there locked up in Arnside as the ‘sleeping beauty’.
SARA-MAE: Of course, he still thinks as soon as soon as Kitty and Freddy are going around town and Freddy’s doing his duty by Kitty… he really takes it seriously, which is very sweet… You gradually realise that he’s got this gentility of character where he goes to great shifts to protect Kitty from lots of different types of knowledge, like the knowledge of certain things that would hurt her. She befriends this lovely young woman just randomly…
[SOUND OF BAZAAR]
JOJO: She sees Olivia, a very pretty young, blonde lady at the bazaar where she’s encouraged Meg to come because Meg goes and shops at all the most exclusive boutiques, but Kitty gets a shock as soon as the price of the first dress is revealed and says we must try somewhere cheaper. So off they go. Olivia is at the bazaar with her again, horrible mother. There’s a few of those.
SARA-MAE: She’s very vulgar, isn’t she?
JOJO: Very vulgar. She’s trying to get her pretty daughter married off, or indeed not married off, to the wealthiest suitor, to the highest offer. And you get the sense that this is… it’s quite shocking, actually. That she would quite gladly pimp her daughter out. If someone offers lots of money for Olivia to be a mistress, she’ll take the highest bidder. And that’s pretty grim.
Kitty has a very sweet, kind heart and she wants to help people. She spots Olivia being browbeaten and bullied by her mother. She casually befriends her, to Meg’s horror because these people are significantly below the social standing. But of course, it’s a bit too late now, Kitty’s made friends with Olivia.
Olivia shows up at the house a few days later, although without the mother who had the good sense to know she wouldn’t be welcome and, so develops a friendship and Olivia is one of the people that Kitty wants to help, [she] wants to help get her out of the situation she’s in and solve the problem.
SARA-MAE: Yes, it reminds me a little bit of Emma, you know, in the relationship between Emma and… what’s the name of the lady?
JOJO: Oh, the sweet little red head that falls in love with the reverend briefly.
SARA-MAE: Harriet Smith is the name of the character we’re racking our brains to remember.
She just wants to help this young woman. She just seems so sweet… and she is sweet. But it turns out later that it causes a lot more problems than she thinks because she is, in fact, the target of several men about town, including Jack, you gather later on, who have their eye on her as their next mistress because she’s so pretty. And you also find out that, in fact, her mother may have been a ‘prime article’ as they’re described, in her youth in Covent Garden, which is why she doesn’t mind the idea of…
JOJO: Having a daughter set up in the same way. So, Olivia, she’s the object of affection of a creepy old Lord, who’s going to theoretically offer for her and then indeed does offer for her – Sir Henry Gosford. At some point they meet Sir Henry Gosford out in the gardens. Olivia and Kitty are taking a walk and Olivia is talking about how difficult it is and how her mother wants her to get married off. And then Henry Gosford shows up and they have this horrible creepy walk where they can’t avoid him.
SARA-MAE: I like the fact that when he’s talking about how he’s completely disconcerted, he says – ‘Ah, Amaryllis and her attendant nymph!’
JOJO: And Kitty, who knows all the quotes in the world can correct him on his use of that piece of literature.
SARA-MAE: And that is what draws his attention to her. Only to find this very clear-gazed young woman, not one of the vulgar people that Olivia is normally with, who would sort of ‘wink wink’, let him walk alone with Olivia. Instead, he’s got Kitty clinging like a burr to Olivia to protect her from having to spend time with him, because he kind of foists himself on them and tells him he will give them his company. And I just like the way… there was a moment where he thought – could she tell that he was wearing corsets?
JOJO: That’s right, yes, he’s suddenly like somebody is seeing the rot beneath the surface. The corsets and the powder on the face and actually the old, ugly person that he is inside.
Kitty is the queen of ill-conceived plans, but she has spirit. Actually, when it comes to it, she won’t stand for certain things. Even though she gets in a muddle and flustered and makes mistakes. There’s no way in hell she’s leaving Olivia alone with this creep. And that is something that I came to really admire about her. For all that she’s been brought up without access to society and a really clear idea of how she could be in the world, she’s got a strong moral compass inside that means she’s not going to marry someone just for the money and she’s not going to leave her friend to the wolves in that way. And that’s really cool.
SARA-MAE: It is lovely because, not only does she have innocent good intentions, she’s not a snob. There’s several moments where she befriends people that she really, really shouldn’t. In fact, she’s advised against when she helps Lord Dolphinton with his little love affair, which we discover later on. He’s fallen in love with a very, very plebeian woman who is just very nice, very practical, who would suit Dolph down to the ground. And she doesn’t stoop to visiting her and helping them, offering her assistance, even though she doesn’t think it through enough. And Freddy has to help her and often extricate her from these situations.
JOJO: Absolutely. She hasn’t been enough in the world to have learned that society has a hierarchy and that she has a place in it, which she should respect. Which is why at the beginning, she’s like, ‘well, I could be a housekeeper, I could be a chambermaid’. She doesn’t see any shame in that work and she doesn’t see any shame in Olivia, you know although she’s not of a family or born and bred in the same way. She does start to realise the differences and… what is right and what is not right.
So, for example, Hannah, who is the love interest of Dolph and as you just explained, is quite a practical, not a beautiful lady. She’s quite a simple person. She’s smart, she’s set and she is not romantic. She cares for Dolph and she can see a very happy life for them. She feels like she’ll look after him. So, she is someone from a different social class who is portrayed as a totally good, honest, kind, sensible person.
And then you’ve got all of the family surrounding Olivia.
SARA-MAE: What are they called? The Scrotons? The Scortons. [Laughs]
JOJO: Yeah, the Scortons. I’m pretty sure I read it as Scrotons all the way through! The Scortons.
SARA-MAE: The thing that was lovely was Kitty learning that there’s society’s rules and whatever. But also, it’s not like they’re saying you should be a snob or something. Because in actual fact, if not for her interventions… yes, she does need to be extricated and helped out of them because of her lack of street smarts or worldliness. If not for her taking these steps, there would have been really bad outcomes for all of the people – Olivia, Dolph – it’s really a combination of her good intentions, innocent and ill-conceived as they are, and Freddy’s practicality in helping her to navigate the world that they find themselves in. He has a lot of street smarts as well. Like he has a lot of knowledge about how society works. So, you gradually realise he’s not just this really kind of… unthinking person. He’s very knowledgeable about what will make her life easier, what won’t… and I think that’s quite a nice combination. She often apologises for getting herself into these scrapes because she didn’t listen to certain advice she was given…
JOJO: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. And it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because we were talking about Emma just a second ago and all of Emma’s attempts at matchmaking are slightly disastrous. And they don’t end up the way they were supposed to. Whereas actually, you’re right. The things that Kitty does, even though she goes about them in a thoughtless way, have positive impacts for the people that we want to see positive impacts on.
And I suppose I don’t know how much of this is in the text or how much it’s something that I want for myself and something that therefore I’m interpreting – Freddy, he comes to see a lot of value in Kitty’s just raw heart and the fact that she wants to help people. So even though he’s practical, and he does see the social separation, and what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in inverted commas, and to do things that maybe wouldn’t be considered proper by society – I hope that he comes away with a sense of, well, there’s some goodness in what she’s doing, even if she’s doing it in a crazy way and I think that’s why they make such an interesting pair.
SARA-MAE: I love how we’re talking about them as though they’re real people. For me, that’s a true sign of a book coming to life.
SARA-MAE: No, completely. If she hadn’t come into his life, he would have gone on living this very facile… he described himself as not being ‘in the petticoat line’. She really makes him change, she makes him reach into himself and discover these depths which constantly amaze his father. I mean, you see the father throughout, popping up… and every time he encounters Freddy, you know Freddy’s got some new problem – but ‘don’t worry, Dad’, you know, kind of thing. He’s going to solve them.
JOJO: ‘Bound to think of something’.
SARA-MAE: Yeah. And it’s really funny because his dad is actually more like one of the heroes in the rest of her books… this kind, but quite sardonic, very clever person. And you can tell that he’s never really anticipated his oldest son having these depths and that’s quite sweet to see their relationship changing as well.
JOJO: It’s lovely. We’ve maybe written Freddy off at the beginning and that’s what his dad has done as well. And, he’s done. And, as everyone stops writing Freddy off or starts to notice that he’s got more depth, so do we, as the reader start to feel that.
SARA-MAE: We do have the Chevalier come into the scene and actually where we left her and Olivia, she’s met the Chevalier a few times. He’s very urbane, he’s very suave. He’s got this allure of the French aristocrat.
JOJO: So, the Chevalier is in attendance to a wealthy widow, who is again, you know, caricatured.
SARA-MAE: The picture that they paint of her is not very appealing.
JOJO: No, and we first see them at the opera and she comes in and she’s with an attendant sister who’s scrawny and tall, so you’ve sort of got a dumpy one and a big skinny one come in, and it’s not a charming picture. And there is Camille in attendance and of course, the supposition of the society [at large] is that he is courting her in order to secure a fortune. It is Jack who reintroduces the Chevalier to Kitty. And she’s very thankful to him for that and she thinks he’s doing it out of some sense of real care for her and, you know, bringing her this family connection, but actually Jack just likes throwing the cat among the pigeons. He knows the Chevalier is a gambler.
SARA-MAE: He’s a bit of a pretender. His aristocratic…
JOJO: It’s all a bit vague, you know, who is the family? Where are the blue bloods? Are they there at all? And indeed, at Freddy’s request, Freddy’s father goes off to see if he can find out what the provenance is. What’s the story? Who is this family?
But Jack actually, what he’s doing is, he wants to see what happens. He’s enjoying watching Kitty in this world. Jack knows right from the beginning that the betrothal between Kitty and Freddy is fake. He just knows because he is so confident in Kitty’s adoration of him. So, he likes seeing what chaos he can cause, he enjoys the teasing. He enjoys setting people up to fail.
SARA-MAE: And perhaps he thinks she might fall in love with the Chevalier and that will punish Freddy. The fact that Freddy is even attempting to pull the wool over his eyes – Jack’s eyes – when Jack is so much his superior in every way. And it’s nice seeing Freddy get little moments of one-upmanship on him because I mean, Freddy is so unconcerned with being one up, he genuinely doesn’t care. He knows Jack is trying to tweak him. No, that’s the lovely quality that he has. He really doesn’t give a damn about being seen as ‘better than’ or whatever. He just wants to get on with his life…
JOJO: Yeah, in the nicest clothes possible.
JOJO: To look as good as he can.
SARA-MAE: And help Kitty. He sees it as his responsibility to steer her through the shoals of high society. So that’s one thing that Jack’s done to cause a rift. But it doesn’t really cause a rift because she’s so innocent. Although yeah, there is a chance… I was thinking maybe the Chevalier will be the one because he’s a very charming, handsome young man. He’s got a sense of fun about him…
JOJO: He also seems kind. He seems to know himself quite well. You definitely feel warm towards him straightaway.
SARA-MAE: Yeah. And then he comes to her and Olivia’s rescue in the park.
JOJO: That’s it. So, they’re walking with the creepy old Lord, who Kitty has steadfastly refused to abandon Olivia to, and then who should sweep in, but the Chevalier d’Evron. So, he sees the appeal in Kitty’s eyes, she’s staring at him – help! And they very swiftly between them contrive to dismiss Henry Gosford, which is absolutely delightful. He has no choice but to leave. And of course, what happens in the moment between Kitty introducing Olivia and Camille is a coup de foudre.
SARA-MAE: Dang girl! I’m loving this French Jojo keeps coming out with…
JOJO: It’s love at first sight for both of them. There’s nothing subtle about that, Heyer tells you that’s what’s happened. Of course, as soon as that happens… one thinks, well, probably these two are meant to be together. Although, of course, there’s always the possibility, isn’t there? That that will be Emma-like…
SARA-MAE: A red herring.
SARA-MAE: Of course, Kitty is really chuffed. It’s her first attempt to match-make and she wishes them both well.
JOJO: Yes, although she realises fairly swiftly that this has its attendant problems, because actually are they equally matched? Will the Chevalier’s family accept Olivia?
SARA-MAE: Because she’s not really abjectly born, Olivia, because she’s got a father who was a Lord. But as Freddy later explains to Kitty – because Kitty can’t understand why she shouldn’t make a good match… And of course, it never enters her mind about the mistress thing until later, until the Chevalier basically blurts out to her that there are other men, including Jack, who’ve been setting out to set her up. And this is deeply shocking to her. But of course, she pretends that she’s worldly enough to know that already. And of course, Freddy has been protecting her from that knowledge all along. Freddy knows very well that Jack is very annoyed with Freddy for allowing her to befriend Olivia. And Freddy’s like – ‘listen, it was an accident. I wouldn’t do that’. And I think Jack knows that he’s got no machinations in him.
So, it’s a very complex imbroglio. On the one hand, you’ve got Chevalier and Olivia in love.
This is where we find ourselves in the book, Kitty’s been quite pleased with the results of her campaign to punish Jack, but also hopefully win him.
JOJO: Yes, which Jack has a mix of amusement and, actually, his back’s starting to get up about it, especially because Kitty is not shy to compliment Freddy and the compliments that she gives are real. They’re things that she genuinely believes. She believes him to be a good person and a kind person, the ‘best dancer in London’. So, she refuses to stand up with Jack at a dance and then she goes and dances it… ‘the only person I’m comfortable dancing a quadrille with is Freddy’. She’s also doing that because those are things she really feels about Freddy. And that’s really lovely. And of course, it bothers Jack because he knows the things she says to be at their heart, true. He probably deep down knows that Freddy is a good person and he is not, I assume.
SARA-MAE: Hmm. I mean, not that that kind of puts any dent into his confidence. I mean, unbeknownst to Kitty. I mean, in her innocent mind, she’s quite happy with the fact that she seems to be able to hold her distance from him and draw a line between the young girl who was just adoring and everything and this young woman who’s getting a bit of town bronze. We’ve got Chevalier and Olivia, of course… once Jack learns of that he warns the Chevalier off behind the scenes.
JOJO: Yes, in no uncertain terms, because Jack has been making a real play to set up what is – again a bit of vocab that I didn’t know in this context – the ‘carte blanche’. Which is the relationship between a wealthy man and a mistress, whereby he would set her up with a home and everything that she needed to just be there at his beck and call, until such time as he tires of her.
So, he’s had his eye on Olivia and she’s a real prize because she’s very beautiful and charming and demure.
SARA-MAE: And innocent.
JOJO: I’m not sure she’s as innocent as Kitty is. Jack is absolutely not going to have this upstart Frenchman come in and pinch his conquest that he’s just on the brink of making so he really in no uncertain terms, sees him off the property.
It turns out that Jack has a piece of knowledge, which is that the Chevalier ain’t no Chevalier. He’s just Camille from the outskirts of Paris. It’s not a high-born family. He’s made up this provenance in order to make his way and find his fortune in London.
And Jack says – ‘look, if you don’t want to be uncovered for who you are, you’d better just give Olivia a wide berth’. And so the Chevalier does indeed after that warning, leave Olivia alone, stop dropping in at her home with the Scortons slash Scrotons and goes back to paying his compliments to the wealthy widow.
SARA-MAE: We sort of glean this from Kitty’s interactions with Olivia and Olivia saying to her, have I done something to annoy him? And this is when everything is coming to the boil. Kitty has, by now, met Hannah Plymstock, Dolph’s beloved. She’s agreed to help them to appease Dolph’s mother. She’s been going out on drives and walks with him. And obviously, actually, they’ve been going to Hannah’s house, so she’s allowing them to carry on their romance.
JOJO: Which, it must be said, is one of the few things that really piques Freddy. Even though the engagement between Freddy and Kitty is not official, of course, lots of people know that it’s unofficial. And they say, ‘why, dash it all! What’s Kitty doing going around with Dolph all the time, does she mean to actually marry him instead?’ Because he is an Earl.
SARA-MAE: ‘Tip him the doubler!’
JOJO: Exactly. That’s the only thing really that piques Freddy because he doesn’t like being made a fool of.
SARA-MAE: Eventually he follows her. He’s like – ‘typical of Dolph to take her to this really bad part of town for his dalliances’ and ‘Kitty, what are you trying to do?’
It’s very sweet the way she’s very grateful to him, and she’s like, ‘I am a wretch for putting you in this position’. But this is the story. So, she unburdens herself. All the way through it’s very sweet the way she feels very comfortable in telling Freddy… He always hears her out, listens to her, gives her advice, and does his best to help her which is quite nice, because in a lot of these books, often there’ll be like, but for someone merely just having a conversation with someone, things could be resolved quite easily. And in this case, she actually does unburden herself all the time. They have a very comfortable rapport. I love the scene when they go to see the sights of London and obviously, Freddy is completely appalled. It’s like really infra dig to go to all these…Westminster…
JOJO: The British museum. Yeah, he hates it – to see the Elgin Marbles. Oh God!
SARA-MAE: He thinks it’s a huge cheat on the public because they’re missing arms and legs.
AIDEN: Heads missing… why would you want to look at that?
SARA-MAE: She has to stop him from going to give them a piece of his mind that people are wasting their money going to see this.
AIDEN: And the guide book said that St Paul’s wasn’t worth looking inside. It’s only the outside. I mean, this is a marvel of Baroque architecture. I mean, this is incredible, but no, the guidebook says it’s not worth it. So, we just looked at the outside. Just dismissed it. [Laughs]
SARA-MAE: He’s looking for any excuse, you know, to get out of it.
AIDEN: Exactly, he likes the writer of the guide book more and more. [Laughs] That made me laugh as well, because he had nothing good to say about anything, so they could move on to the next thing and not waste Freddy’s time. So, he was becoming more and more enamoured of the guide book writer.
SARA-MAE: He almost gets sidetracked when talking to his father later because he’s feel so incensed about it.
JOJO: He wants his father to do something about the fact that people are being tricked into going to see the Elgin Marbles. It’s quite delightful.
SARA-MAE: So, he is always fully aware of what’s going on with her various little things that she’s trying to sort out.
JOJO: Yes, it’s true. She never tries to hide anything from Freddy. It’s quite refreshing as a reader, because so often it’s the case where, as you just said, but for one conversation, things don’t have to be this bad. And she always does unburden herself to him – and you’re like, oh, thank goodness, right. And we quickly come to rely on him to solve the little problems. She doesn’t have the artistry to quite do it. And he comes in and he says – ‘well, bound to think of something’ – and indeed, he thinks of something and it’s such a relief when Freddy shows up.
SARA-MAE: It is, isn’t it? And we have a particularly strong sense of the tide changing in terms of her emotions towards him when she goes to dinner at the Scrotons. And she already knows even at the dinner, that she shouldn’t have really come to their house. Because they’re very vulgar, and they kind of – not forced her – but out of politeness, she’s sort of forced to go with them to this masquerade.
JOJO: She gets tricked essentially, I think, and it’s not malicious on their part, but it’s very thoughtless. And this is what I was going to say before about, you know, Heyer, not necessarily painting classist pictures. Because you’ve got Hannah, who’s this plain, simple person, not from the upper classes. And then you’ve got the Scorton/Scrotons, who are probably a similar, maybe even slightly higher, but who live in – and I thought that whole scene, the scene, first at the dinner party and where they’re playing lottery tickets, and then they go to the masquerade, was really elegantly drawn.
I found it very uncomfortable, because she quite artfully paints a picture of debauchery, and lack of propriety that really Kitty shouldn’t be anywhere near that, she’s not worldly enough. She didn’t make a conscious choice to be there. Interestingly, at this masquerade ball, she spies Meg, also in a mask, but in this lilac gown everybody disapproves of. She recognises the gown.
And so it’s really interesting that interplay between the social level and propriety and just what you’re into, and actually Meg likes a bit of a ruckus, she likes a bit of a party and she’s feeling constrained by her pregnancy and her marriage. And she goes out, of course, she’s escorted by Jack who has no qualms about taking a proper lady into such company. But it’s a really smart picture of how money or no money, you can choose how to behave and how to treat people. And it’s very, very overwhelming for Kitty. And she’s desperate to get out of there and she feels the impropriety of it deep in her bones. She’s learned so much from her time in London that she knows immediately – I shouldn’t be here, but what do I do? And that sense of pressure and discomfort, I think is transmitted to the reader really, really well.
SARA-MAE: It is, yeah, because it just gets wilder and wilder and it’s a moment where you really realise that Jack has no qualms, as you say. Jack takes great pleasure in seeing Kitty’s discomfort, and he makes it worse by egging her and Meg on. Because obviously, when Kitty sees Meg and she sort of tells her off, and I mean, fair enough for Meg to be like….
JOJO: Who the heck are you to tell me where I should be?
SARA-MAE: Exactly. And Meg then swans off with Jack leaving Kitty to these wolves. Kitty has seen and conversed with the Chevalier. So I think Kitty sort of thought he might help to extricate her but it turns out that he’s more concerned with his own problems.
JOJO: So this is the big moment where Olivia had written to the Chevalier saying – where have you been? Come with us to the to the party tonight. And so, he of course, had followed the tug of his heartstrings, despite Jack’s warning to stay away from Olivia and had come to the party. And then upon seeing his beloved, had unburdened himself to her and said – look, you need to know I’m not who I say I am. I’m not an aristo. And he unburdens himself out of pure love for her, and then he sees Kitty and he unburdens himself to Kitty – this has just happened. At which point Kitty realises what she’s done by introducing these two so thoughtlessly, and she realises that she goes about things a little bit half-cocked, and – oh gosh, Freddy was right. You know, I’ve been playing with fire.
SARA-MAE: What’s fascinating is this idea of nobility because actually, there’s a contrast that becomes very clear to Kitty in this moment. She doesn’t see it as noble for him to tell Olivia. She actually says, you know, if you’d just not gone and seen her she would have gotten over you. But the fact is that now you’ve made yourself into this romantic tragedy. You know, you didn’t have to do that, it would have been a stronger move [not to]. It would have been what Freddy would have done. He would have protected her at his own expense. And that’s not what the Chevalier has chosen. He followed the tug of his heartstrings, as you said, because it made him feel better to unburden himself, and to Kitty, which he really shouldn’t be doing. Because not only does he tell her the exact circumstances of why he and Olivia can’t get together, he also inadvertently tells her about Jack being this kind of thing. And it’s a horrible moment for Kitty because she was still holding out hope….
JOJO: That she loves him in some way.
SARA-MAE: And when she hears there have been these men luring and he’s one of them, it breaks her heart a little bit. And she has to pretend that obviously she knew. And the fact that she has to go back to this horrible group of people who are getting louder and louder, and I actually thought something bad would happen to her then.
JOJO: Yes, I was expecting something really bad from the party because the sense of peril is built up so well. I thought soon there’s going to be a real disaster here. And of course, what happens? Freddy swoops in.
He went to pick her up from the dinner party she was supposed to be at, thinking it’s not right the coachman was sent away. So he asks her coach driver – where’s Kitty? What time are you picking her up? He says, I’m not picking her up, the Scrotons are bringing her home. That’s not on? I’ll go and pick her up. Finds out they’re not there, finds out they’re at the ball. Immediately goes. And what’s so lovely is he doesn’t tell her off.
SARA-MAE: No, he never tells her off.
JOJO: He doesn’t patronise her. He doesn’t condescend to her. He doesn’t tell she’s a silly little thing. He whisks her out of there. And then they have a conversation about it. And she’s the one who says, I knew as soon as I got there that it was wrong, and I didn’t want to be there. And I’m so thankful for you. And he never rubs that in her face, he’s not patronising at all and it’s really nice.
SARA-MAE: It leads to one of the cutest little discussions that she has with Meg because they make up when they get home. Because she sort of saves Meg’s bacon a bit in front of Freddy, because if Freddy had known Meg had been there…..
JOJO: He would have been really horrified.
SARA-MAE: Yes, so she kind of pretends that Meg has been waiting up for her, which clearly she wasn’t.
JOJO: Kitty covers Meg’s back and Meg who’s all ready to be furious with Kitty for ticking her off at the masquerade ball is so thankful to have been saved the embarrassment in front of her brother, that all is forgiven immediately.
SARA-MAE: And they fall into a little discussion. And you hear Kitty really going into raptures about Freddy, to Meg’s real astonishment which is quite funny because she really struggles to think of her brother in that way. But it’s a very sweet exchange in the moment, which is like – in romance, I always thought I wanted to like a romantic hero to sweep in on a horse.
JOJO: Lord Galahad, yes.
SARA-MAE: But, of course, if you think about it in real life, that wouldn’t be very useful it’d probably be quite uncomfortable.
JOJO: Yes, one never actually needs anyone to slay a dragon at a ball. It’s great. She channels Fish, talks about the romantic heroes and comes to that realisation that, that’s not what a hero looks like. And actually to her, Freddy really is a hero. Meg is sort of blinking away at this like – good Lord, never thought of Freddy in that way. But it’s really charming. And again, it’s part of Kitty’s growing up, that realisation that the dashing gallant is not actually necessarily going to bring you what you need in your life.
SARA-MAE: Whereas having someone who always is there for you, who appears at just the right moment, because he’s thought about you, and he’s taken measures to, at every turn, to make her life more comfortable. He is just as shocked whenever Kitty pays him a compliment, you know, she keeps going – oh, you’re so clever. You always know what to do. And he’s like – oh, you must be thinking of someone else.
JOJO: Yeah, right. Right. You see him have these moments of – what is she talking about? But you’ve sensed that he grows in confidence through that. And he does start to believe in himself even more through that. It’s really smart how they balance each other out in that way.
SARA-MAE: So this all precipitates several events that could end in disaster. We have the Chevalier and Olivia who feel that they might as well just take their own lives because they neither of them can possibly have any affection for anyone else. We’ve got Hannah and Dolph. Kitty finds out that Dolph’s mother is holding the ultimate threat over his head. And this is pretty dark, where she’s threatening him with a doctor who she’s got under her thumb to say that he’s not mentally equipped…..
JOJO: To have him committed to it to a mental institution. It’s very dark.
SARA-MAE: And obviously then she’d be able to control his wealth what there is of it.
JOJO: There’s not much of it. Dolph’s mother doesn’t want him to do anything unless it’s her bidding. And of course, Dolph is terrified.
SARA-MAE: But that’s why Hannah is such a good match for him. She just makes him feel comfortable. Their plan is that they …..
JOJO: If they can just get married. Hannah is convinced she’ll be able to square things off with the old lady as she calls Dolph’s mother. Even though Hannah has said, I’m not in love with him. I don’t think anyone could be in love with him, but I believe we should do very well together. And you can see that that’s true. She’s kind and gentle with him. She’s sort of unromantic in the way that maybe Charlotte is and Pride and Prejudice.
SARA-MAE: So Kitty’s faced with this problem. How are they going to get them married? And of course, they don’t want to do like an eloping to Gretna Green.
JOJO: Dolph would lose his mind on the way up to Gretna Green.
SARA-MAE: Kitty says – Look, we’ll pretend that we’re going to elope together. And that way your mother will be perfectly happy to just let it happen because she’s got her spies.
JOJO: It’s important to say at this juncture that Freddy has had to dash off to Oxford, to dig his little brother out of a scrape. So, Freddy is not around. For some reason, it’s crunch time for Hannah and Dolph. And Kitty says – I know what we’ll do. We’ll get you down to cousin Hugh, who you remember is a pastor, is a reverend, and he’ll marry you. And once you’re married, all will be fine because there’s nothing that she can do. That’s her plan.
She wants Freddy to know but he’s not there. So, she writes him a long letter explaining in great detail everything that’s about to happen. Eventually the three of them, Hannah, Kitty and Dolph get into the carriage and off they go to Hugh’s. So it’s all going well, the elopement’s going to happen, Hugh will marry them as soon as they arrive, everything will be fine. That’s the plan.
SARA-MAE: And you do get this sense that she sort of feels like…..
JOJO: She’s resigning herself to you know, Jack’s not the one for me. My fun’s coming to an end. Let me do this one good thing before I basically have to release Freddy from this engagement.
She’s noticing that it’s not doing Freddy any good socially, because people are tittling about the fact that she’s been going around with Dolph. She feels like she’s making life difficult for Freddy and she doesn’t want to do that anymore.
My sense at that juncture is that she cares for him, but she doesn’t have any self awareness around that being romantic. I think she just feels like – he’s been so good to me. He’s been such a stand up friend. I need to release him from this engagement because it’s not fair.
SARA-MAE: But of course, then Freddy comes back into town.
JOJO: Meg talks at him for half an hour about how weird it was that Kitty was here and that lady, Hannah whats her name was here. I don’t know what was going on. And she tittles and tittles and tittles and Freddy’s about to go off and see if he can find out and Meg says – oh, by the way, Kitty left you a letter. So dash it all, Meg, you’ve been prattling away this half an hour, just give me the damn letter, just like you. Anyway, she gives him the letter and he sits and reads it. And he reads it with great concentration. And then he leaves.
SARA-MAE: He goes to meet with the Chevalier who’s desperately distraught.
Jojo brings up a great point about all our couples, romantic Olivia and Camille, practical Hannah and Dolph, with Kitty and Freddy trying to steer them through all their problems.
JOJO: If you think about it in the context of a cotillion, in fact, a dance between couples, it would be a right mess of a dance. Because you’ve got some people that know the steps and some people that just want to freestyle all over the place. So, I find that very funny.
SARA-MAE: We’ve had the contrast between Freddy and Jack and then we’ve had the contrast now between Chevalier and Freddy who is very, very practical. He’s like – I’m going to sort you out now, this is one other loose thread.
JOJO: What’s the solution? Well, obviously you two if you’re that in love with each other, you ought to elope.
SARA-MAE: And Chevalier has just got all this highfalutin kind of language of heartbreak. Oh, but I could not do that to my angel. And then Freddy is like, well, what’s the alternative? If you don’t rescue her, she’s going to become someone’s mistress. Tout de suite. And that’s a far worse life than living with you who she adores.
JOJO: Dash it all, it’ll be fine! And it’s great because he, you know, he lifts the Chevalier from the depths of despair to sudden hope and animation. But in the midst of all this desperate gratitude and excitement and romance, Freddy just wants to dispatch Olivia and Camille off to France as quickly and efficiently as humanly possible. He’s like, right, if you’re going to do it, we’re going to do it. We’re going to get you the heck out of here.
SARA-MAE: Here’s an extract from the audio book of Cotillion, courtesy of Naxos and read delightfully by Claire Wille…..
‘Came to tell you Miss Broughty’s in the devil of a fix’. The Chevalier had walked over to the window, but he turned swiftly at this. ‘You would say that Miss Broughty is in trouble?’ ‘That’s it,’ nodded Freddy. ‘Run away from Hans Crescent. Not the thing, but can’t blame her. Never saw such a set of rum touches in my life as those relations of hers!’ ‘For the love of God – –!’ cried the Chevalier impatiently. ‘What has happened to her? Where is she?’ ‘Left her with m’sister,’ Freddy replied. ‘She came to ask Kit to help her.’ ‘Ah, she has a heart of gold this Kitty, and she will do so!’ the Chevalier exclaimed, his brow lightening a little. ‘Daresay she might, but she ain’t there,’ said Freddy stolidly. ‘Not there! Where then is she?’ ‘Gone down to my great-uncle’s. Poor girl’s at a standstill: don’t know what to do! Seemed to me I’d best come and tell you about it. Thing is, she can’t stay in Berkeley Square. First place that Broughty woman will think of, when she starts searching for her.’ ‘But tell me, I beg of you! It is not – mon dieu, it not that madame has discovered — ? It is not I who am the cause –?’ ‘Oh, no nothing of that nature! You know Sir Henry Gosford? Offered for her.’ ‘She will not consent to marry that ancient!’ the Chevalier said contemptuously. ‘No, very likely not. Seems to me she’ll accept a carte blanche from my cousin Jack,’ said Freddy brutally. ‘No! no!’ ejaculated the Chevalier turning pale. ‘You shall not say such a thing! ‘Have said it. Very understandable thing to do. Frightened of her mother: won’t return to her. You go off to France: nothing else she can do! Must know Jack would treat her devilish handsomely: at least, he would while she was living under his protection. Trouble is, these little affairs don’t commonly last long. Mind, I don’t say Jack would turn her off without a shilling, because he wouldn’t. Shabby thing to do, and he ain’t shabby. But –’. ‘Stop! Stop!’ said the Chevalier hoarsely. He cast himself into a chair by the table, and buried his face in his hands. ‘Every word you speak is torture! Ah, why did I cross her path? I have brought misery upon her!’ ‘Don’t see that at all,’ objected Freddy. ‘Dashed good thing you did cross her path! Able to rescue her.’ The Chevalier raised his head, and flung out his hands. ‘But can you not understand that I am without power? Never would that woman permit me to marry Olivia! Ah, do you imagine that I do not care, that I do not desire with all my heart to call her my own, to take her to France, far, far from such as her mother–that Gosford–that roué, your cousin?’ ‘Well, why the devil don’t you do it?’ demanded Freddy. The Chevalier’s hands dropped. He sat staring at Freddy, as though thunderstruck. ‘Do it?’ he repeated. ‘An elopement,’ said Freddy helpfully. ‘Carry her off to France before her mother finds her.’ The Chevalier’s eyes flashed ‘But–It would be an infamy! I tell you, I have for that angel a respect, an adoration beyond your comprehension! To steal her in that manner–I, a gamester, an adventurer! –is a villainy too great!’ ‘Shouldn’t call it a villainy myself,’ said Freddy. ‘It ain’t the thing, of course: not saying it is. Mind, if you didn’t mean to marry her, it wouldn’t do at all!’ ‘If it were possible, I would marry her at this instant!’ the Chevalier said impetuously. ‘Well, it ain’t possible. Marry her when you get to France.’ The Chevalier began to pace about the room. ‘I would take her to my mother. She is not such a one as Madame Broughty, rest assured!’ ‘Very good notion,’ approved Freddy. The Chevalier drew a deep breath, and flung open his arms. Freddy’s eyes started from his head with horror, for it seemed, for one hideous moment, as though the Chevalier had every intention of embracing him. However, the excitable Frenchman contented himself with seizing both his hands, and exclaiming in a voice of profound emotion: ‘My benefactor!’
JOJO: What’s funny is that even though he wants to do it as quickly as possible, Meg packs a bag for Olivia and then she comes to the house looking for Kitty because she doesn’t know what to do, because she’s meant to marry. Her mother’s putting a real threat on her head that if she doesn’t say yes to Sir Henry, she’s going to be cast to the wolves. She finds Meg and Freddy at home. Freddy’s like right….
SARA-MAE: Just stay here. There was a line like, some people might not have had confidence in Freddy’s abilities to sort the problem out. But she did not number amongst them.
JOJO: Absolutely, absolutely. So Freddy goes, gets the Chevalier, says right you’re going to meet us here you’re going to jump in the coach. It’s all going to happen.
Dash back, tells Meg – go and pack her bag. Just give her some of your clothes. He gets Olivia in the coach. They’re on the way and then he’s like, hang on a minute, Meg packed the bag. What’s in the bag love? And there’s like a shawl and a dress. And he’s like – is there a toothbrush in there? No, there’s no toothbrush. And despite everything, despite his hurry, he stops the coach and goes and buys a toothbrush and a comb for Olivia. Because the poor girl needs a toothbrush and a comb. And I just think that was such an adorable thing to do.
So, let’s jump back to the arrival of Kitty, Dolph and Hannah at Hugh’s. Now you remember the plan is, they arrive at Hugh’s and Hugh says – Oh, wonderful, I’ll get you guys married.
Of course, this is not what happens, because firstly, Hugh does not approve of the whole thing. And he makes it very clear that he doesn’t approve. And so we have a great amount of despair suddenly evinced, especially by Dolph and Kitty.
SARA-MAE: I mean, Dolph is at his wits end. He’s, you know, they’ve been driving for a long time. And he’s, as you said ….
JOJO: He’s a nervous wreck. So, when eventually they convince Hugh, he’s right, where’s the licence? Where’s the bit of paper and everyone goes, what bit of paper? Because of course, Kitty didn’t even think that they might need a special licence to get married without the banns being published. Now they’re stuck. At some point very soon, Lady Dolphinton’s going to come and she’s going to have Dolph committed to the asylum. And it’s going to be heartbreak and tragedy. And all through this process, Dolph is so on edge. Anytime there’s the slightest noise outside, he hides either under the table or in the cupboard. And this thing goes on for a while. And I actually was properly giggling away at the idea of Dolph hiding from his mother in the cupboard at his cousin, the reverend’s house. I thought it was very, very funny, very smartly done.
AIDEN: And Dolph, that’s one of the best comic scenes, that he’s absolutely petrified. He keeps hiding in the cupboard, thinking his mother’s going to arrive at any time. And he thinks he can protect her by taking her into the cupboard as well.
SARA-MAE: Well, I love that when, his cousin’s saying to him, listen, stand your ground, come on, protect her and he goes, she can go into the cupboard with me.
JOJO: In the midst of this Jack shows up, there’s been a scribbled letter from the Fish, the governess, full of strange lines of poetry that Kitty couldn’t make head nor tail of…
SARA-MAE: Referencing Catherine of Aragon.
JOJO: Exactly. That was her excuse for getting the carriage and going – so we’re going to go and visit Uncle Matthew. Although, of course, what we’re actually going to do is go and get Hannah and Dolph married.
So, there’s this letter, and Jack’s got wind of it. And of course, what’s happened and I have to credit myself with really guessing this a long time before. When Fish was complaining about being left alone with Uncle Matthew when Kitty went to town, my little smart brain went – I bet they’re going to end up getting married. And of course, that’s what happened, which of course means where’s the inheritance going to go? If Fish who is actually not as old as she looks, has a baby? That’s the end of it. Cuts Jack out, cuts Kitty out.
SARA-MAE: He completely believed with all his heart …..
JOJO: That money’s for him. So he’s got wind of this betrothal and he’s in hot pursuit to see if he can’t persuade Kitty to accept his hand in marriage and then they go as two of Uncle Matthew supposed favourites and convince him to irrevocably bestow his fortune upon them. And he shows up and of course is completely unsympathetic to Dolph and Hannah.
SARA-MAE: Doesn’t give a damn. Like the nail in his coffin in terms of Kitty’s affections, isn’t it?
JOJO: Yeah, because he just shows himself an out and out cad, a rake, only interested in what he can get for himself. And he’s not even embarrassed. I feel like…
SARA-MAE: No because he thinks he can charm her and he can crook his finger.
JOJO: Exactly. And he is alarmed and distressed to find that that is not the case.
SARA-MAE: You know, every time there’s a carriage coming up, poor Dolph is like in and out of the cupboard, popping in and out like a Jack in the box.
And Hugh is, of course, very annoyed. His small house has been taken over. He doesn’t approve of any of this nonsense, and he’s exacerbating the situation because he’s got no patience. And him and Jack are rubbing up against each other, and of course who comes to the rescue?
JOJO: So Freddy’s carriage pulls up outside and what do you think dear reader, Freddy shows up with?
He actually surmised from Kitty’s garbled, very detailed, over detailed letter that – Freddy has read this letter and his brain, which is a whole lot sharper than he gives himself credit for, has gone: now she hasn’t mentioned the special licence. Can it possibly be that my dear young, harebrained Kitty didn’t know that they would need a licence to do this? So what has Freddy done? He’s gone and he’s got the licence. And it’s a lovely, satisfying little trope where he shows up says – oh, this licence – whips it out of his inside pocket. And there it is, saves the day in the most spectacular manner.
SARA-MAE: I love that, but my favourite moment comes where he actually stands up to Jack, because Jack is pouring scorn on their relationship and telling Kitty to sort of get over this, stop playing these games with him and everything. And you know Kitty’s basically like no Jack, leave it and Freddy’s overcome for the first time in his life and punches him. Upon Jack insinuating that Kitty’s done it out of some kind of deep cunning plan to get Freddy’s title and money.
AIDEN: He has his high point here, doesn’t he?
SARA-MAE: He does pretty unexpectedly even to himself. Just punches him and he’s aided in this by the fact that he trips over a table and falls down.
AIDEN: Yeah, but even then, Jack’s more worried about his apparel, more worried about that than whether he’s got a bruise or cut lip or whatever.
SARA-MAE: I think it was quite nice because Freddy admits that he wouldn’t have been able to land a punch, because Jack is this great sportsman. And Jack – this is something that shows him in a good light in that he takes it in good part and he realises that he was wrong and he obviously doesn’t want to just have a fight with Freddy for no reason.
AIDEN: Yeah, he’s too nice. He’s not the buccaneering sort of swashbuckling type, is he? He just wants a quiet life and he’s done this and that’s true bravery, isn’t it? Stepping out of your usual character and doing something like that.
SARA-MAE: And it shows how much he feels for Kitty. He would never do that in normal life.
AIDEN: And that clinches it for him with Kitty as well, doesn’t it, that she’s she sees his bravery and this big gesture that he’s made for her.
JOJO: It’s absolutely delightful. And again, it’s quite farcical. There has been referenced a couple of times previously, where Jack’s been quite rude to him, where Freddy’s really wanted to punch him in the face. In fact, I think Kitty wanted to punch in the face at some point.
SARA-MAE: Everybody wants to smack Jack.
JOJO: Yeah, everyone wants to smack Jack. But it’s this wonderful moment of surprise. Jack’s humiliated but also realising he can’t get what he wants.
SARA-MAE: It’s the one redeeming moment for Jack where he’s like, at least acknowledge that you could never have landed that punch, you know?
JOJO: Yes, if you hadn’t taken me by surprise.
SARA-MAE: And Freddy’s like, yeah, of course.
JOJO: Obviously, obviously.
SARA-MAE: And I really liked that interaction between the cousins. Jack isn’t a total dick about it. Once he realises that it’s not a game that she’s playing he does give Freddy his due doesn’t he?
JOJO: Probably there’s a little complex series of emotions going on in his head. One of which is: she’s not my slave anymore. She’s not my, my puppet anymore.
SARA-MAE: Which is good for his ego.
JOJO: And he never loved her.
SARA-MAE: Again. I could see a spin off though, where he also…..
JOJO: Is redeemed. Yeah, and I suspect that from what you’ve said, some of the characters in the other books are, you know, are Jack’s a bit further down the line?
SARA-MAE: So, what did you think of the final scene?
JOJO: The two of them in the coach. Kitty is so thankful to Freddy and she’s also so shamefaced about the terrible hash she feels she’s made of everything, and then she finds out that he’s sent Olivia and Camille off to get married and she’s so grateful.
She says – right, now I don’t know what to do. I must release you. How are we going to make it happen? And Freddy, deeply romantic says, well dash it all, Kit, you know, there’s only one thing to do, isn’t there? Publish it in the Gazette and get married.
And she’s absolutely floored by it, you know – you can’t do that Freddy.
And then he gives this little speech. But I think he says, I love you. And I know you can’t possibly love me, but shall we?
And she says, I love you more than you could ever imagine. And I genuinely think that’s the moment she realises it. I don’t think she’s known on any….
SARA-MAE: Conscious level.
JOJO: I think it’s buried very deep. In fact, that’s why she’s able to be so genuinely complimentary of him throughout the book, because she’s not associating that with love. So, it’s such a lovely moment. And it’s over, it’s over. I was actually a bit shocked. I was like, it’s done. Oh, gosh, okay, but it was so neat.
SARA-MAE: From a writing perspective I find it very interesting and I think that in her oeuvre, she’s so good at what she does. I don’t know there’s something to be said – you can read your great literature and your postmodern works, classic works – DeLillo – and that’s a different level of enjoyment, but everybody has I think their kind of guilty pleasures.
AIDEN: Yeah, totally. It’s the same thing – it’s nice watching a good French film or whatever, but it’s always good to watch Diehard or something like that.
SARA-MAE: Speaking of movies and blockbusters, what do you think about the potential for this book to be made into a film?
AIDEN: Well, I’m not sure on artistic or literary merit and I don’t say that to do her down, but I imagine it being quite successful just because of the fact that that kind of thing is popular at the moment. Whether it’d actually be a movie or a six part BBC costume drama. It just seems like we can’t get enough of that sort of thing. And so, it’s not the kind of thing I generally tend to watch. Downton Abbey even fell out of favour with me after one episode. I got fed up with watching people who couldn’t dress themselves and then insisted on getting dressed five times a day, it’s ridiculous. We’ve even had Jane Austen set in the world of zombies recently, haven’t we? People seem to be really into this.
SARA-MAE: Don’t talk to me about that.
AIDEN: Yeah, we won’t go down that route. It’s one of these things, art reflecting culture and this time of austerity and we’re more class conscious than we’ve ever been I think, because of the current situation. The Americans love it because it’s British and upper class and we tend to love it because we are just so class obsessed. We say we’re not but we absolutely are.
SARA-MAE: Yeah. In the very beginning, you had your reservations.
JOJO: Yes. So as I said at that first chapter, I felt oppressed by …. felt it was confusing. It wasn’t clear who was who and I thought if the whole book’s like this, I’m going to be in trouble. And once I was allowing myself to not worry about that, I really enjoyed it, it was a total page turner. And in fact, I hoped from quite early on, that she would get together with Freddy and I kind of thought that was what was going to happen. So even though it wasn’t packed with surprises, there weren’t massive twists, there weren’t massive revelations like there often are in Austen. It was just a damn good, page turning read with a very satisfying end. So of course I enjoyed it.
SARA-MAE: So can I say that you’re a convert?
JOJO: I’m definitely a convert, and I’m going to ask you which one I should read next. Hundred percent.
SARA-MAE: So happy. Thanks so much, Jojo. That was amazing. What an odyssey, I feel like we’ve really covered the book.
JOJO: We have! We’ve gone into – I hope your listeners were ready for that level of detail.
SARA-MAE: So, Aiden, it’s come to this. Have you been converted to Georgette Heyer?
AIDEN: I’ve been converted in as far as I would recommend Georgette Heyer to any of my friends that I speak to about books. I would say try, because I came into it thinking I’m really not going to, this is going to be such an onerous thing but came away thinking actually I’m glad I read that, try it. When it comes to female friends – I hope that doesn’t come across as sexist, unhesitatingly I’d say, read Georgette Heyer, especially if you like Jane Austen. If you like that sort of sort of milieu then, you know, definitely read it. Yeah, I just think it appeals more to the feminine side of people than the masculine. Even though as we’ve said, these what could have been very stereotypical male characters came out to be slightly more fleshed out than we initially imagined. I’d recommend her, but with qualifications, put it that way.
SARA-MAE: So you’re a partial convert.
AIDEN: Put me down as a partial convert. You can have a partial win on that.
SARA-MAE: Yes, I’ll take it. Thank you so much for spending the time to talk with me.
JOJO: Heyer today, Heyer tomorrow.
AIDEN: No problem. My pleasure. It’s been really good, really interesting.
SARA-MAE: So that was Cotillion, one of our longest episodes so far. Jojo and Aiden were both fantastic and I’m now forced to recline on a sofa to recover!
In episode 13, we’ll be interviewing Susanna Fullerton, president of the Australian Jane Austen Society. She’s helped organise several Georgette Heyer festivals and has written about many of our favourite authors, including Austen and Heyer. I can’t wait to chat to her.
Till next time, don’t be a bacon-brained nodcock, rate, review and subscribe.
This has been Heyer Today.
This episode was recorded, produced and edited by me Sara-Mae Tuson with production, writing and research help from Beth Keehn and Will Dale from Aurality for production support. Thanks also to Mike Scott for editing assistance. Plus, once again, this week Mike’s is the voice you heard reading our historical segment.
This week’s voice talent features audio drama heroes Sarah Golding as Georgette, Fiona Thraille as Pat, John Grayson as Frere, We Fix Space Junk’s Beth Crane and Hedley Knight as the photographer and the discombobulated Arnold Gyde, respectively.
I’ll be including information about this stellar group of actors in the show notes.
Thanks to Geraldine Elliot and Talitha Gamaroff, as well as all the other people who supported us throughout the process of making this podcast, including Suzy Buttress in particular, and the podcast community at large for invaluable support and advice. Read more about Jojo’s counselling and other work here. Joanna Josefina dot com that’s Josefina with an F. https://www.joannajosefina.com
More news and information about Aiden’s writing can be found here: aidentruss.com
The music used in this episode is from Emma Gatrill’s fantastic album Chapter 1, as well as Jerome Alexander’s amazing Message to Bears Tunes. Original music was composed especially for the podcast by myself and Tom Chadd.
Comment and take part in our discussions on social media, we’re @fablegazers on Instagram and @fable_gazers on Twitter.
Heyer Today is a Fable Gazers production.