Those who have read anything of Georgette Heyer, her writings, and her life know about the hushed-up squabble with another romance writer during the 1950s – Heyer chose not to sue for plagiarism, but Heyer had her say and the writer was “politely” asked to just stop it. Now finally the story is out, Barbara Cartland the offender, all the juicy details to be revealed in Jennifer Kloester’s* new work, Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, to be released this fall by Heinemann.
Here is the story from Bookseller.com:
Heinemann to explore Heyer’s plagiarism fury
29.07.11 | Benedicte Page
A literary plagiarism allegation from the 1950s is set to be given its first detailed airing in a new biography of much-loved novelist Georgette Heyer.
Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester (Wm Heinemann, hb, £20, October) reveals the outrage felt by the queen of witty regency romances at the obvious similarities between Barbara Cartland’s historical novel Knave of Hearts and her own youthful story These Old Shades (published in 1926), when they were brought to her attention in 1950.
“I think I could have borne it better had Miss Cartland not been so common-minded, so salacious and so illiterate,” Heyer told her agent, Leonard Parker Moore, in no uncertain terms. “I think ill enough of the Shades, but, good God! That 19-year-old work has more style, more of what it takes, than this offal which she has written at the age of 46!”
Heyer was also indignant at Cartland’s “borrowing” of various character names. “Sir Montagu Reversby”, a character in Cartland’s novel Hazard of Hearts, was blatantly pinched, Heyer felt, from Sir Montagu Revesby, a character in her novel Friday’s Child.
But it was Cartland’s historical and linguistic errors that really offended the writer‚ herself a stickler for accuracy. “She displays an abysmal ignorance of her period. Cheek by jowl with some piece of what I should call special knowledge (all of which I can point out in my books), one finds an anachronism so blatant as to show clearly that Miss Cartland knows rather less about the period than the average schoolgirl,” said Heyer, who told her agent she would “rather by far that a common thief broke in and stole all the silver”.
A solicitor’s letter to Cartland followed, and according to Kloester: “There is no record of a response . . . but Georgette later noted that ‚’the horrible copies of my books ceased abruptly’.”
Kloester’s biography has been written with the backing of Heyer’s son and the late Jane Aitken Hodge, whose own biography was entitled The Private World of Georgette Heyer. The book’s editor, Georgina Hawtrey-Woore, said the book contains much new material, including photos and 400 of Heyer’s letters.
[Thanks to the Teach Me Tonight blog for the information]
*Dr. Jennifer Kloester’s previous book, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, is an engaging fact-packed compilation of all things Heyer. She visited the Word Wenches blog last November – you can read her interview here where she talks about this upcoming biography.
For further reading on Georgette Heyer, see my bibliography post here, as well as the link to all the book reviews from Austenprose‘s fabulous Heyer celebration last year.
I have read both of the books about Georgette Heyer already and will look forward to this new biography. I had always wondered who the mystery author was that stole from Mrs. Heyer.
Yes, I had read the Hodge biography as well, which just leaves you wondering who the offending author could possibly be – I had assumed it was Clare Darcy, who wrote under a pseudonym and produced works that echoed Heyer without the brilliance [more on Darcy in another post – I have since discovered who she was by the way, thanks to a few leads from commenters and some further research] – so this is interesting to finally know these Cartland facts. It shall likely increase sales of both authors!
As always, Karen, thanks for stopping by!
No surprise to me about the plagiarist. I stumbled across the blatant Cartland ripoffs in my youth, before I had quite learned that no other author could match, or even approach, Heyer’s touch with the Regency world. Really cheap knock-offs. No wonder Ms. Heyer was not amused.
I confess I have not read a single Cartland [though I did stay at an Inn once in Scotland that she had visited – her picture was everywhere – they treated her like she was the Queen!] – and I have only discovered the joy of Heyer’s work in the past few years – but I do agree that no one can get close to her – she was truly unique in her creations – not unlike Austen, when in need, do a re-read!
Thank you Jayne for stopping by!
This sounds like a fasinating biography. I am going to have pick this up. next to Austen I am a huge Heyer fan. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
I too cannot wait for this new Heyer biography – though if you haven’t read the Hodge bio “The Private World of Georgette Heyer”, I highly recommend it!
Thanks for stopping by Kaydee,