Archive for August, 2009

The Alpha, The Frivol and the Kindly Young Man

Oh, I love Freddy in Cotillion. He’s so kind. I don’t think many of Georgette Heyer’s heroes are.  He’s not just kind to Kitty,either;  he’s pretty good to his sisters and I love his relationship with his parents.

But I’m not sure I’d call Freddy a Frivol, exactly. He’s not mischievous. Though I agree with Liz, Jan, Evonne and Jane, there are a lot of other similarities. And he’s certainly a charmer, not least because he doesn’t know it himself.

There are hints of  Heyer’s other daffy young men in Freddy, of course. Think of Viscount Dashwood in The Convenient Marriage or the whole crew out of Friday’s Child.  (Sherry and his friends always reminded me of William Brown’s Outlaws, actually.  But then I was quite young when I read Frdiay’s Child). But I’m sure Jane is right, Freddy is unique as a romantic lead. 

Cotillion must have been a real challenge to write. It has got an Alpha hero in Jack.  Only, for once, we see the Alpha as he really is: wilful, impatient, arrogant, as well as sex on a stick. And he gets his come uppance. Ultimately he doesn’t deserve Kitty – and she sees it before he does!   

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Cotillion may not be High Romance but it is amazingly touching – especially when you realise that Freddy has known all along what Kitty was up to and has fallen in love with her anyway. And then, when he asks her to marry him but doesn’t expect her to say yes because he isn’t romantic, there is a whiff of real pain. 

Actually, I think Georgette Heyer undersold herself when she said all her heroes were either Mark I or Mark II. My favourites are all pretty unique.  I adore Sylvester, who is very high in the instep, occasionally arrogant, but kind, too, if he chooses to be. Much more complicated than an unadulterated Alpha.  Of course, wicked, wonderful Damerel is pretty Alpha but I forgive him.  And then there’s glorious Hugo in The Unknown Ajax who winds up his estranged family by talking like his groom and pretending he went to a scrubby Dame School instead of Harrow.

Now I come to think of it, Hugo just might be a Frivol after all.  I thought Georgette Heyer didn’t get the full enchantment of the Frivol, but I may have done her unjust.  I can just see Hugo getting the giggles.

Liz, Jan, Evonne, Jane, you are geniuses.

The Frivol as Romantic Hero

Loving them as I do, I would love to write a romantic hero frivol. (See previous post.)  But can it be done? Even the Incomparable Georgette Heyer did not quite bring it off.

Lord Rupert Alastair – ‘Solitude’s the thing. Solitude and a fat ham’ – is undoubtedly a wondrous Frivol. But he is also a resolute bachelor.

Lovely Sherry in Friday’s Child has a touch of the Frivol but marriage sobers him – along with making him a warmer and more wonderful human being, of course, and capable of slugging slimy Sir Montagu.

I love that book – but I’m not sure romance quite takes with Frivols.

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In praise of Divers Englishmen

What’s the point of a blog? To share things you know and love, right?

Right. I’m starting with Englishmen. Some of my best friends (and a good percentage of my lust objects) are Englishmen. I don’t think they get the press they deserve. Maybe because we don’t take the time to think about them rigorously enough. So I’m going to try.

1) The Frivol (homo hilaris urbanus)

An entirely British species, generally found south of the Tyne, with a pronounced chattering call, playful, very sociable. Fond of word games.

Typical specimens:

Henry Blofeld – cricket commentator extraordinaire, who cheered me up no end today by confessing one of his worst on-air mistakes. ‘You get into terrible trouble with Spoonerisms,’ he said darkly. Then he described being in the commentators’ box when Graham Gooch scored 333 against India at Lords. As the hero left the field, Blofeld told the radio audience, ‘Let the crowd do the talking’ and paused for 10 seconds, presumably to allow the listeners to throw their gardening hats in the air in time with the applause at the cricket ground. Resuming, as he says himself, in full Churchillian mode, he announced to a grateful world, ‘Never before in the history of this great ground of ours has a cloud crapped like this one.’

Dr Spooner – a Victorian Dean of New College, Oxford, who gave his name to the transposition of consonants to change meaning. Probably most, possibly all of the examples quoted are apocryphal. The one most loved in my family was ‘Let’s raise a glass to the queer old Dean’ – otherwise the dear old Queen. Though my own favourite is ‘the Lord is a shoving leopard’. Yeah. I’ve lived with cats like that.

The Voice from the Back – Someone out there knows who this particular VFTB is; sadly I don’t. On my first day in the Overseas Department of the Bank of England three people told me about him. Whoever he is, I take my hat off to him. For, back in the early 70s, when the world came off the gold standard and the IMF was trying to devise an international unit of currency, the relevant committee was chaired by Mr (later Sir) Jeremy Morse – who went on to become Chairman of Lloyds Bank and inspire the Inspector of that Ilk.  Eventually they came up with SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) in the IMF. Not a name to conjure with. What might they call them instead? Sequins? Doubloons? Said the Voice from the Back, ‘You could always call them Morsels.’

Thank God for the Frivols.

Gentlemen, I salute you.