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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Heaven   » April Book Group: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer (Page 2)

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Source: (consider it) Thread: April Book Group: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Doone
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A good point, Jane (about Uncle being an old romantic at heart), after all, that is why he took on Kitty originally. Is it surprising that he considered Jack an ideal husband for Kitty? He must have known what he was like.
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Brenda Clough
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Uncle Matthew is a recluse, after all. Nephew Jack surely takes care to show only his very best side to his rich uncle from whom he is hoping to inherit so much. Even Kitty does not know the extent of Jack's gaming and skirt-chasing until she comes to town and hooks up with the local gossip circuit. I would bet that (assuming she married him) that Kitty would wind up marooned at Arnside for the duration of her marriage, while Jack went to racetracks and gaming hells and rapidly burnt through all the inheritance. Jack is clearly not ISO a relationship or a wife. He needs money.

Let's talk about Dolph, whose difficulties (and those of Camille) come to dominate the middle of the work. I wonder how his disability would be classified today. He is certainly LD; I wonder if he's dyslexic. And he's got some social disorder (but it's not autism or Aspergers), exacerbated by his mother's bad management. There is an inherited component (the mention of some relative locked on the top floor of a house with attendants to keep him from doing harm to himself -- just like Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre) but he is well able to pursue country activities, riding and driving and so on. I have a niece like him. You would not trust her behind a cash register or a keyboard, but, a hundred years ago, she would have been a perfectly respectable member of society, a housewife with kids.

Although there is some mild social opprobrium (it's an uphill fight for Lady D to get her son married) there is no sense that Dolph is someone to be ashamed of, and when it is suggested that he be shut up in an asylum people know this is abusive and react with horror. I have a sense that this is Heyer's sensibilities and not historically accurate. Also everything must be viewed through the lens of class; it is more allowable for an Earl to be dotty than a chambermaid.

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Jane R
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Interesting ideas about Dolph. Someone (Freddy?) describes him as a 'seven months' child. It sounds to me more like he has Down syndrome (or perinatal brain damage, though it doesn't sound like cerebral palsy). Down syndrome wasn't described until the mid-nineteenth century, but people with it were integrated into society as far as possible. IIRC the cause was not identified until the mid-20th century.

[ 25. April 2017, 20:22: Message edited by: Jane R ]

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Brenda Clough
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The other angle to Dolph is Miss Plymstock. What an unusual relationship. Fraught with possible disaster, a heavy authorial hand on the scales of likelitude. It is difficult to imagine how such a thing would be worked out today. May we hope that his disability is not genetic (a bad childbirth with attendant neurological damage) and that their offspring will be entirely normal?

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Doone:
A good point, Jane (about Uncle being an old romantic at heart), after all, that is why he took on Kitty originally. Is it surprising that he considered Jack an ideal husband for Kitty? He must have known what he was like.

His overriding characteristic is selfishness, rarely softened by shame or the memories of a love doubtless the stronger for being dead and therefore conveniently out of the way. His preference for Jack is all of a piece with this; Jack is a man-about-town and will certainly not want to be dragging a lawfully wedded wife to London, where she will spoil his pleasures. If Kitty marries Jack, Uncle Matthew can expect to have the pleasure (oops, convenience) of her presence in his home for the foreseeable future. Plus he need no longer concern himself with her future, and Jack will come in for whatever censure on her account the kinder-hearted members of the family may care to heap.

If Kitty were to marry any of the others, Uncle Matthew would certainly lose her presence (and she appears to manage a great deal of his comfort). Any potential visits from Kitty would be spoilt by the presence of an irritating great-nephew (and later, by "brats" as he would call them). No, Jack's the man for Kitty in Uncle Matthew's book. And all the better if she takes him willingly.

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Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Lamb Chopped
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I'm guessing it's not Down's, or someone would have mentioned the physical characteristics, at least one of them. I suspect some brain damage during an early and possibly traumatic birth--prolapsed cord, lack of oxygen, that sort of thing. Not that he wouldn't be a great deal better without his mother harassing him all the time! I think Miss Plymstock is right and he will greatly improve once he is free of her tactics and has nothing more stressful to do than riding and raising horses. I am afraid that they may be childless, however, since I get the impression that Miss Plymstock is not the youngest. (I know there's a reference to her being "a stout young woman" or something somewhere, but IMHO she can't be a day under 35, as assured and decided as she is.) With Dolph's difficulties there may be--not sterility, but a level of sub-fertility that is difficult to overcome. Though she'd make a great mother if they did.

[ 26. April 2017, 03:41: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
The other angle to Dolph is Miss Plymstock. What an unusual relationship. Fraught with possible disaster, a heavy authorial hand on the scales of likelitude. It is difficult to imagine how such a thing would be worked out today.

Forgive the triple post, I missed the most interesting bit of this! I agree it's hard to imagine working it out today, but IMHO that's because we live in a climate that is decidedly hostile to practical and/or arranged marriages. Miss Plymstock is willing to make the bargain to have a home and status free from her brother's interference; and in exchange she offers kindness and a kind of custodial care that is exactly what Dolph needs. I could see it succeeding beautifully as long as she can maintain patience and kindness with Dolph; and it seems to have been tested pretty well already. Seriously, I can think of at least one person (a probable Williams syndrome girl) I'd be delighted to see meet with Miss Plymstock's male counterpart. It scares me having her loose in a world where she is considered legally capable when her difficulties guarantee that she falls into every scoundrel's hands and never smells a trap until she's left beaten and bloody.

ETA: I did once imagine making a marriage of this sort (generally speaking) before I met Mr. Lamb and fell in love with him. I thought it highly unlikely I should ever do so, and I wanted to be useful in the world. I would have been content with friendship and faithfulness.

[ 26. April 2017, 03:48: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Jane R
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I like Miss Plymstock too, and I agree with Lamb Chopped. I suppose it is possible that she might have an adulterous relationship with someone else once she and Dolph are in Ireland, but that kind of thing did happen back then (cf Freddy and Meg trading on-dits) and Dolph probably wouldn't notice as long as she went on being kind to him and letting him work with his horses.

I'm not so sure about her age - I think it's quite likely that she is in her late twenties like Dolph. Even if she is 35 that doesn't mean she will be infertile. Jack is panicking about the possibility of Miss Fishguard having a child after her marriage to Uncle Matthew, and she must be at least forty.

The fact that Miss Plymstock doesn't have any money of her own makes it more likely that she'll stick with Dolph and go on being kind to him (even if she has another lover); but given the dangers of 19th-century childbirth it's possible that she might die before Dolph. And in that case, he would be vulnerable to being taken over by his mother again. Presumably Miss Plymstock's lawyer would make provision for this contingency.

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Brenda Clough
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And you could get by, with that kind of disability back then. (Assuming you did not have a hectoring mother forcing you to live in London and be miserable doing the man-about-town thing.)
If you weren't utterly disabled or demented, and if you had title and status, you were merely eccentric. There are masses of historical examples -- who was the peer who could never bear to see people, and so had tunnels constructed under his estate so that he could go from building to building without being viewed?
All your problems would be soothed and smoothed over, with money. Your servants would take care of all the stuff you couldn't handle around the house; your estate manager would manage the properties; your man of business would deal with the investments; your wife would handle the family. And you could get a wife. Dolph's problems are not with finding a female; even with his difficulties Miss Plymstock stands ready to give him her hand. His problems are that his mama wants him to marry money and status.
If my LD niece had been born a hundred years ago she would be utterly unremarkable. Women were not expected to be competent, to work at a job, to be able to handle money, to drive or handle machinery. She would have married some masterful man and been a happy (if not very competent) wife. Her difficulty is that she was born in the modern era. If you can't hold down a job or manage money, then your options in life contract amazingly. Young men are not hoping to adopt a lifelong project managing their wife.

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Brenda Clough
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I agree that, given Miss Plymstock's maternal air managing Dolph, that it is difficult to imagine them having children together. The idea of something on the side later on in Ireland is fun to contemplate. Poor old dowager Countess, how enraged she will be if the title and estate eventually pass on to a cuckoo in the nest.

I see Miss Fishguard as considerably older than Kitty. If Kitty is 19, Miss Fishguard is at least in her late 30s, probably 40. She will have taken the position of governess when she was in her late 20s, having been undeniably left on the shelf as a marriage prospect and forced to make her own way in the world. When Kitty turned 7 or 8 she would have passed out of the nursery and be ready for more adult supervision. It is possible that Fish could bear Uncle Matthew an heir, but this supposes that Uncle Matthew is, um, up to it. Fish does make the analogy to the elderly Henry VIII.

One of the themes of this work is the -unlikely- unions that somehow seem right and inevitable. We have these two, and also the Kitty-Freddy match, which everyone, without exception, doesn't believe in.

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Sarasa
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I'm rather late to the party, having been away most of the last week. I've enjoyed catching up with the discussion and I enjoyed the book. I was jolly glad that Kitty didn't end up with Jack, even though it looked that was the way things were heading, and I enjoyed the Dolph sub-plot.
My only niggle was the begins. I was totally confused as to who was who and was tryign to guess which ones would turn out to be important.

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Penny S
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I'm going to be even later catching up - I haven't been able to read properly for a while, and turned to my ebook while waiting in the hospital yesterday (I had to desert the A&E department for the foyer as I started sneezing and coughing and thought it ba dto stay) only to find that the borrowed Cotillion had expired. (As had a Donna Leon, and all I had left was a book I had already read.) It's on order again, but there is a waiting list.
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Jane R
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Brenda:
quote:
If my LD niece had been born a hundred years ago she would be utterly unremarkable. Women were not expected to be competent, to work at a job, to be able to handle money, to drive or handle machinery. She would have married some masterful man and been a happy (if not very competent) wife. Her difficulty is that she was born in the modern era. If you can't hold down a job or manage money, then your options in life contract amazingly.
Yes, modern life is very hard to navigate for anyone with learning difficulties. On the other hand, it wouldn't have been so easy nowadays for the Countess to effectively imprison Dolph and steal his money. There are laws designed to prevent that, and the Legerwoods, as concerned relatives, could have made a bid to be appointed as alternative guardians of Dolph's interests.
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Brenda Clough
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By her lights, the Countess is indeed looking out for her son's interests. She is managing him with great firmness; she is beating back unsuitable females who might entrap him, at least up until this point. And she is struggling to rescue the encumbered estates in the only way she can, by getting him to marry money. I assume she has already worked through all the other possible solutions, selling off bits of land and so on. Certainly in this period she cannot support the family by her own labors.
If she slams him into an Asylum marriage becomes impossible. Madmen by definition are not able to enter into contracts. And mental institutions in that period were very much not free. There were no social services at all. So I think this threat is a bluff, but Dolph of course cannot perceive this.

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Brenda Clough
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quote:
Originally posted by Sarasa:

My only niggle was the begins. I was totally confused as to who was who and was tryign to guess which ones would turn out to be important.

You thrill me. Because that is the main complaint with how the work sets off. The beginning is very confusing indeed; people like to know who the main character is. You have to be fairly observant (or know the Regency romance conventions well) to grasp that Kitty must be the protagonist, because in the first chapter she is delineated solely as a negative space, by the issues of all the other characters. (The family tree, upthread on the Georgette Heyer fan website, is mightily helpful to sort out the blizzard of names/titles.)

It seems to be an authorial tic that Heyer had, however. She has done this more than once. Her faithful fans are used to it.

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Jane R
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Brenda on Aunt Dolphinton:
quote:
And she is struggling to rescue the encumbered estates in the only way she can, by getting him to marry money.
...though the estates would be significantly less encumbered if she curtailed her expenditure and lived within her means, instead of embezzling Dolph's money to live in the style to which she would like to become accustomed.

Also, I am not convinced that she cares about Dolph's interests. I think she sees him as a means to an end (Perpetuation of the Family Name), as Aunt Minerva does with her son in Cousin Kate.

[eta] What did Georgette Heyer have against aunts?!

[ 27. April 2017, 17:00: Message edited by: Jane R ]

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Brenda Clough
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Or PG Wodehouse, for that matter.

And we have not yet discussed Camille and Miss Olivia! Now there is a girl in deep trouble. Her mother seems willing not only to marry her off to some aged creep, if one should happen to show up. She seems willing to prostitute the girl to Jack, or anybody else, for temporary gain. The burden of a large number of daughters is of course considerable, and I immediately am reminded of Mrs. Bennett, who was also a little loose in the standards as long as she could get the girls shoved off.

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Jane R
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Yeah, but Mrs Bennett didn't encourage Lydia to run off and Live In Sin with Wickham the way Mrs Broughty is trying to get Olivia sold off to the highest bidder. And one does wonder how the senior d'Evrons react to the return of their son with a penniless English girl in tow instead of the moneybags he was hoping to get for agreeing to go away and stop trying to seduce Lady Maria.
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Brenda Clough
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Yes, but the about-face once Lydia was married to Wickham was startling, wasn't it?

Clearly Camille is hoping that a pretty face will inspire gallantry. Also, assuming that Olivia can learn some of the tricks of the trade, a startlingly pretty female can be useful in a gaming operation. (Have you read Faro's Daughter?) It is never especially clear what Camille's family is doing in France (which was in some turmoil at that period), but they are clearly keeping a good eye out for the main chance. And I would not wish Lady Maria on my worst enemy.

A fine instance of Freddy's growing cleverness is his idea of consulting his father about the bona fides of Camille. You can see Heyer keeping all the cards in her hand, dealing each one out....

[ 27. April 2017, 22:00: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

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Curiosity killed ...

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Somewhere Jack (?) says that he's pretty sure that Olivia can be bought because he suspects Mrs Broughty managed to persuade her gentleman husband into marriage from prostitution. Mrs Broughty will not be so bothered about marriage from that background, particularly since she's been so unsuccessful in launching Olivia on the ton.

Heyer has a number of women who made good from prostitution around - Dolly in The Black Sheep, for example.

Faro's Daughter has a slightly different set up, the family there are accepted as well born, the aunt is in straightened circumstances and trying to make a go of a gaming house with the help of the niece to keep paying for the nephew's military career.

Dodgy cousins who put the sticklers to the blush, like Olivia's cousins and Kitty's Chevalier d'invention, Camille, abound in Heyer.

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Brenda Clough
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Oh, now here is a fine notion that had not occurred to me before! Any analysis by the great Jo Walton has to be taken seriously. This is a link you should not click on until -after- you've finished the book.

[ 28. April 2017, 00:25: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

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Jane R
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Yes, when Freddy says he's not in the petticoat line you do wonder if he might be gay. Not sure I'd go so far as to say he's bi - he might be, although if so Heyer wouldn't have thought of it in those terms (the book was written last century, after all). My take is that he just hasn't grown up enough to realise that he likes girls. And during the course of the book you watch him growing up and realising that actually, he does want to marry Kitty and he IS quite a competent grown-up; even equal to the task of flooring Jack.

I have to keep reminding myself that these people are fictional characters...

And I like the bit about the hairbrush too.

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Jane R
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[apologies for the double post]

If we're looking for Heyer characters who are very probably almost certainly gay, I propose Gil Ringwood in Friday's Child. Ferdy might be as well, but I'm less sure about him.

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Sarasa
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Yes, I thought at first that Heyer was being radical and Freddy was gay, and I was wondering how the story was going to go. As the story went on that idea (if Heyer had ever had it) seemed to fade into the background.
As it was a while since I'd read it I'd forgotten the Camille sub-plot. That was one marriage I thought was goignt o eb far from happy.

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Jane R
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She wouldn't have risked being that radical - being gay was still a criminal offence in 1953. Alan Turing had been sentenced to chemical castration the previous year.
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Penny S
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The aunt thing - there were a lot of them about after WWI, and presumably some of them in society strata which did not allow them to enter gainful employment. They occur in Richmal Crompton, as well, wandering between branches of the family like the Flying Dutchman, tolerated because they hold some money which might be inherited.

My mother had one who, with her mother, resented their brother daring to get married instead of supporting them, but the aunt got into being a housekeeper. Possibly in circles which had the Mosley's as visitors! Her relatives weren't well off enough to be sponged off.

My father's cousins made a business dressmaking. (Lovely taste in buttons.) But those higher up the social scale couldn't do that sort of thing.

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Brenda Clough
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Yes, the whole ladies-don't-work thing was horribly confining and difficult. When Kitty suggests becoming a housekeeper -- a perfectly sensible career choice, since she's been parsimoniously keeping house for Uncle Matthew all this while -- she is immediately shouted down. It's totally impossible for a person of her status; if she did it she would immediately lose that status and probably never get it back.
It's not so visible in Heyer (who was writing in the 20th century) but literary predecessors like Austen or Dickens are haunted by the possibility that you will slip out of gentility into a lower class. Everyone is grimly angling to marry 'up', and hang out only with people in a slightly higher class; everyone below you is to be avoided. And of course everybody saw what the Veneerings in Dickens were doing and held them in contempt for it.
In fact one of the anachronistic things in the book is the way Kitty happily and naturally becomes acquainted with people like the Broughtys or Miss Plymstock. It's an authorial waving of the wand (for this one person the rules are suspended!) which is very popular in the romance genre, because it greases so many plots along. I read one last year in which, mysteriously, a modern American girl is rapidly and naturally accepted into the society of the Prince of Wales in about 20 minutes. Or another one, set in Victorian times, in which an Asian girl (not even a princess!) is accepted as the bride of his lordship's heir even though she is not white. Nobody even remarks upon her race and the word miscegenation is not breathed. Utterly unrealistic.

[ 28. April 2017, 13:55: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

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ArachnidinElmet
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So, finally finished.

Did I enjoy it? I'm not sure. Individual sections gave me pleasure. The conversation about how knights who fight dragons are not of much use nowadays and maybe a thoughtful and practical man might be better. Freddy and his family are fun. I'm glad Heyer didn't feel the need to make Freddy incredibly bright and more obviously heroic, or Miss Plymstock madly in love with Dolph (rather than affectionate and practical).

I also found the beginning a little confusing, not due to the set up, but the use of more than one name (title vs first name) for each character. We were definitely supposed to think of Jack as the main love-interest, but I'm very happy the plot turned out to be more subtle than that. I'll die happy if I never read another book who's main hero is called 'Jack'.

I agree Uncle Matthew is obviously far less cranky than given credit for, and would have liked to see a scene at the end with him and Fish and/or more information about his relationship with Kitt's parents.

Heyer's habit of mid chapter changes of POV definitely puts me in mind of a certain strain of fanfic (Brenda C's passing mention of Jane Austen fanfic especially helpful in thinking about this book). I had to flick back-and-forth a couple of times to check how much time had passed between one paragraph and the next.

Heyer clearly knew everything there is to know about this period, but wish she's kept some off it to herself and it slips into parody occasionally. I couldn't figure out at first (never having read the author before) whether she was being satirical.

I'm happy to have read the book, but don't think I'd pick up another one.

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Jane R
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Brenda:
quote:
Nobody even remarks upon her race and the word miscegenation is not breathed.
It wasn't commonly used in British English and interracial marriage was less of an issue in Britain than it was in the States, largely because there were so few non-white people in mainland Britain. In the 1920s/30s if you wanted to indicate that someone's family tree included some non-white ancestors you talked about them having 'a touch of the tar-brush' (Margery Allingham uses this very phrase in one of her books; also cf. the comments about Cousin Hallelujah in Dorothy Sayers' Unnatural Death ). Not sure what the Victorians would have said, but they wouldn't have said 'miscegenation'.

I think a member of the aristocracy might have got away with marrying an Asian woman if her status was high enough - class usually trumps race over here - but you're right, it's very unlikely that *nobody* would have commented.

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Brenda Clough
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A more realistic handling of a similar situation (impecunious female trapped in a dead-end life) is A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell. This was an early and not very well known work, and he was clearly not a master of the form at that time. But it does show how very few options were open for respectable women. You could slave forever for your clerical papa (as the Bronte sisters did), or you could submit to an uncongenial marriage, or you could bail out of your class and pick hops in Kent. Kitty has other, rather more fantastical options, because it's a Regency romance.
In fact that is one way to analyze Cotillion -- it's a catalog of all the depressing options open to women of that period. Miss Plymstock is stuck housekeeping for her brother (Charles Dickens had sister-in-laws doing that), with intervals of being pressured to marry some businessman. Kitty can housekeep for Uncle Matthew all his life and then be destitute unless she marries a cousin. (Thomas Carlyle had a niece in a similar situation, and he only left her money because friends pointed out how wrong it would be to leave her nothing.) Olivia Broughty can choose between marrying an old roue or becoming Jack's mistress. And Miss Fishguard, after spending her adult years governessing, now can look forward to nursing a gouty old man until he dies. I wouldn't put it past him to leave her only a pittance in his will, and pass the bulk of the dough to Kitty or even Jack.

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Net Spinster
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
And Miss Fishguard, after spending her adult years governessing, now can look forward to nursing a gouty old man until he dies. I wouldn't put it past him to leave her only a pittance in his will, and pass the bulk of the dough to Kitty or even Jack.

I think there were laws that entitled her to a life interest in a third of the estate. These could probably be evaded but likely only by leaving her something substantial outright.

One of my ancestors was a daughter in a large family of daughters (at least 8, one was named Octavia, though some died young) and a couple of sons circa 1800 whose father though Welsh gentry married a second time way down the social scale (a coal miner's daughter). Apparently one of her sisters did not like the new setup and married a clergyman to get away (unfortunately her husband was a tyrant and her misfortune didn't end until his death). My ancestor's husband (also my ancestor) had several sisters only one of whom married. However their father seemed to have been generous in leaving them property (no entailment especially since most of the property was in shares in the family firm which he himself had created [his own father had died impoverished], the sister who married had a dowry of 25,000 pounds in 1796) and so they never had to be financially dependent on their male relatives. Two became active financial backers of the anti-slavery movement (a cause also dear to their father). My ancestor as a gentleman's daughter married slightly down socially [her husband's father has started life as an apprentice potter] though up economically.

BTW I don't think Heyer ever mentions slavery in her novels though I think black pages are mentioned in at least one.

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Curiosity killed ...

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There wasn't much obvious slavery, as in black slaves, in Britain in Georgian times. That was mostly kept in America and the West Indies. The servants are mentioned regularly and there were some black servants, including the black pages that feature (but servants were meant to be invisible and conversations not held before them). It might be because slavery was illegal from 1772, and the Heyer books, for the most part, are set in a very short historical period in the early 1800s. The only book I've noticed American links in is The Convenient Marriage where one of the protagonists, Edward Heron, is recuperating following injury in The Battle of Bunker Hill (1775 - according to the link below).

Lord Bromford in The Grand Sophy has visited Jamaica and is prepared to tell everyone about it, but he is regarded as a bore. Sophy has gained her experiences in the Peninsular War in France, Spain and Portugal as a follower in Wellington's camp with unconventional father, Sir Horace. Lots of other characters have fought/want to fight in that campaign - Claud in Cotillion, Richmond and the eponymous hero in The Unknown Ajax, to name just a few. That dates these books to 1807 to 1814 and the years following. According to this site Cotillion is set in 1816.

There is mention of British involvement in India in The Black Sheep where both Miles Calverleigh and Mrs Grayshott's brother have made their fortunes in that trade. But trade in general is regarded as a bit sordid and marrying into trade to ally money with the estates and titles as not ideal, although it happens - when Adam Deveril, Viscount Lynton, marries Jenny Chawleigh in A Civil Contract, Adam has also returned from the Peninsular War following his father's death.

I haven't reread this one recently, but there is mention of some of the repercussions of the industrial revolution in The Nonesuch (I had to look this one and some of the names up) and if you haven't read it, more information would be a spoiler.

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Net Spinster
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However the abolition of the slave trade and slavery were major issues in England at the time. The sugar boycott by those supporting abolition and that many well-to-do families had investments in the West Indies made it a current issue even if slavery itself did not exist in England.

On another point I've heard that Heyer introduced a few invented items into her novels to catch out people who copied her directly rather than doing their own research in the sources.

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Curiosity killed ...

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There is some mention of politics and eager secretaries trying to persuade their ducal masters to sit in the House to debate different issues - but the lords themselves are usually not that interested in Heyer, it's all the eager secretaries - for example, Charles Trevor writing speeches for the Marquess of Alverstoke to deliver in Frederica.

There is mention in that book of new inventions which Felix, Frederica's younger brother, wants to investigate - balloons, steam ships, engines in the Mint. But it's all fringe to the interesting world of the ton.

It's something I find irritating about Heyer, that and some of the attitudes, which change through her work, which suggests she's doing what Ellis Peters / Edith Pargeter is criticised for, writing her own moralities and attitudes into historical novels. But when I'm reading light froth to entertain a long commute, it's less of an issue.

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Brenda Clough
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quote:

On another point I've heard that Heyer introduced a few invented items into her novels to catch out people who copied her directly rather than doing their own research in the sources. [/QB]

Yes, she occasionally makes up slang. You will never know it, because she had a vast library of letters from the period, and borrowed authentic period terms. The one or two made-up one she slipped in allowed her to catch people who weren't doing the primary research, but merely xeroxing her work.

The current state of the genre would, probably, make her groan. At this time Regency romance is something not unlike Twilight rip-offs. They exist in a Disneyland universe that is only dimly connected to history, and the characters are essentially modern Americans running around in buff-colored unmentionables and gowns tied under the bust.

Of course Heyer herself was writing about modern people, really. You can see it even in Cotillion -- I am certain that Miss Plymstock would not be so readily accepted in a historical 1816.

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Net Spinster
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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:


Of course Heyer herself was writing about modern people, really. You can see it even in Cotillion -- I am certain that Miss Plymstock would not be so readily accepted in a historical 1816. [/QB]

It is the sums of money that tend to be inflated to my eyes.

Miss Plymstock wouldn't be readily accepted but I don't recall any suggestion that she intended to enter society. There were cases of upper class men marrying down the social scale. One of the Prince Regent's friends, Sir Harry Fetherstonhaug of Uppark in Sussex, married his dairy maid in 1825. He was over 70 and she was 21; he sent her to Paris for 6 months of rapid education before marrying her. On the other hand I seem to recall reading about one annulment on grounds of insanity of the titled husband brought by his next of kin (she was also lower in social scale) though I can't seem to find the case now.

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Sarasa
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Although I enjoy Heyer, the slang, that's been mentioned several times does grate rather. It sounds like she is trying to really emerse you in the times, but authors who wrote at that time didn't seem to use nearly as much as she does.

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Brenda Clough
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There are some writers where you worry that they have a spreadsheet, with all the proper epithets, slang and oaths, and every now and then the pop over and slap a couple good ones into the text.

However, I do think that Heyer has a good grip on voice. Kitty sounds entirely like herself, as do all the major characters. Even Fish does sound like a terrific bore. I yearn to see these books dramatized; I'd like to hear the proper actors drawling this stuff out while peering, awfully, through a quizzing glass.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the fourth and final union in the work? Miss Fishguard seems to have a gift for managing Uncle Matthew. I do hope that the union will at least ensure that she has a comfortable old age. With a marriage tie she can now be a grand-aunt to all the cousins, however they may dislike it, and come to Christmas dinner and so forth, forever. And with Meg soon, and with luck (if that gay thing is not set in stone) Kitty and Freddy in due course, there should be another generation of little ones who might regard a weird older aunt with favor.

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Jane R
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(thought I wasn't going to have time to get to the computer today...)

I think it would be more accurate to say that Miss Fishguard has been forced to discover a gift for managing Uncle Matthew. Like Kitty, I hope she has not been bullied into accepting him... but even if she has, marriage to him is likely to be better than the alternative of living on sufferance with Kitty and Freddy or trying to find another post as a governess.

I think Jack's panic over possible heirs is misplaced: after all these years as a reclusive invalid Uncle Matthew has probably forgotten what to do, and even if he hasn't Miss Fishguard is probably too old to have children. I should imagine she will have to put up with him for quite a long time, though; I bet he isn't as ill as he likes to think. Gout is very painful but you can live for years with it, and he doesn't seem to have anything else wrong with him.

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Brenda Clough
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His relatives have hinted that he is not anywhere as ill as he lets on. The illness is clearly a tool for Uncle Matthew to a) get his own way all the time and b) not go out and see anybody. He reminds me of Howard Hughes, rich and sociable in youth, reclusive and crazy in age. Hughes's Wikipedia entry says that he was plagued in later life by OCD, which might fit Uncle Matthew as well.

When you think about it, there are a lot of people with social/mental issues in this book. Aunt Dolphinton is so universally loathed that she surely counts as having an issue.

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Jane R
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Not sure I agree with you about Aunt Dolphinton. I think she's selfish and manipulative, like Uncle Matthew, and is completely unscrupulous about making everyone else around her miserable in pursuit of her goals.
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Brenda Clough
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There are masses of material about Heyer on the Web, but I pick through them and find here a thorough analysis of the curious dearth of eroticism in Cotillion, comparing it to other period novels.

I agree; there is no 'zing' in any of the book's unions except possibly that of Camille and Olivia. I trust that Camille's declaration that she shall be a queen to him is French sentimentalization, and that when they are actually wed it'll be fine.

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Brenda Clough
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And here is a discussion of Heyer's heroes, the Mark 1 and Mark 2 editions. Heyer only ever claimed to be able to write the one or the other.

As the writer notes, Freddy is a clear example of the Mark 2, good-looking, amiable, and above all well dressed. While Jack is a Mark 1, rakish, alluring, and dangerous, hopefully to be reformed by love. And, interestingly and I think correctly, Lord Legerwood is a Mark 1 in later life, tamed by years of domesticity and marital happiness.

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Marama
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A bit late in on the discussion, but thank you all for getting me to re-read a favourite author from my teenage years. I haven't read a Georgette Heyer book for ages, and I don't remember ever having read 'Cotillion'. I enjoyed it, and found Heyer funnier than I had remembered - or perhaps one's preoccupations at 60+ are not the same as at 16. Less lusting after the dashing heroes now, I think!

I enjoyed too the commentary provided by Brenda Clough - yes I see the distinction between Mark 1 and Mark 2 heroes. The Mark 2 ones may be less exciting - but so much more satisfying in the long run.

Brenda, thanks too for introducing me to Connie Willis last year. I've been reading more of the stories, and greatly enjoying them. 'Inside Job' seemed particularly timely!

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ArachnidinElmet
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quote:
Originally posted by Marama:
I enjoyed it, and found Heyer funnier than I had remembered - or perhaps one's preoccupations at 60+ are not the same as at 16.

Agreed. I wasn't expecting to find the book funny at all, but did chuckle my way through it.
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Brenda Clough
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This is hailed as one of the funniest books in the Heyer oeuvre, although I would argue that Sprig Muslin is the funniest. Another Mark 2 hero (the kind and spiffy sort), which may be essential for funny.

Did anyone spot the detail that Uncle Matthew made his fortune in the draining of the Fens in the east of England? There's a whole separate discussion about what hsitorical or economic events undergird many of these novels. A case has been made that Mansfield Park is about slavery in the West Indies, where the Bertram family clearly has their fortunes.

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Marama
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Yes, I guess one could see Freddie as a Bertie Wooster figure.
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Curiosity killed ...

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I find The Grand Sophy one of the funnier books - and it and Faro's Daughter are fascinating about the role of women. Sophy and Deborah are very unconventional and getting into problems as a result. But in The Grand Sophy the Mark 1 hero is really not expecting to become a protagonist in the romance.

I'd picked up that Great-uncle Matthew had made is money draining the fens. You also have heroes whose fortunes originated from being one of the "thatch-gallows in the Conqueror's train" or becoming a nabob in India - The Black Sheep. Somewhere in one of the links there was some comment that Heyer started accepting in her later books that her heroes could start having purposeful lives, for example, Adam rebuilding his estates by becoming a gentleman farmer in A Civil Contract which was published in 1961.

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Brenda Clough
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And I forget which book it was ( The Convenient Marriage?) which turned on investing in the South Sea Bubble.

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Jane R
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Brenda:
quote:
A case has been made that Mansfield Park is about slavery in the West Indies, where the Bertram family clearly has their fortunes.
There have been claims (most famously by Edward Said) that the Bertram fortune was made in sugar plantations worked by slaves, and that therefore Austen approved of slavery. These have been challenged, both on the grounds that Austen herself opposed the slave trade and that Fanny Price, the novel's heroine, does not approve of it.

Some have gone further and argued that it is by no means clear that the Bertram fortune depends on slavery and the sugar trade. Agriculture in Britain was booming and the Bertrams owned a large estate; much of their wealth would have come from that. All of this sounds plausible to me, although I wouldn't go so far as to speculate on the possibility that Sir Thomas went to Antigua to free his slaves.

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