Music in Heyer


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Music in Heyer

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Nov 25, 2009, 6:16 am

I recently bought this CD of music from Jane Austen's era (her library, actually), to add to a playlist I'm putting together to use as background music when I'm reading Heyer. (Because my Heyer kink is that extreme!)

Doing this, though, made me realize that how little Heyer talks about music. Characters do to the theater quite often, but they hardly ever seem to go to musical performances. Men have affairs with opera dancers, but where are the singers? And heroines seem to spend very little time practicing or performing on the piano.

The only concert I can recall in a Heyer book is from, I believe, Black Sheep, where someone remarks that the singer had too much vibrato, and the hero says, "I thought she had too much of everything!"

Can anyone think of any other examples?

Nov 25, 2009, 10:47 am

How interesting, WM! The pianist in me is kicking the rest of me for having missed this. Our young ladies don't practice their instruments or sing during evenings at home, do they? I'll be on the lookout for more!

Nov 25, 2009, 11:52 am

Every once in a while one of the heroines notes that she lacks musical talent. Makes me think GH didnt value the inculcation of musical training in the young ladies very highly.

Nov 25, 2009, 6:20 pm

Oh dear. Did I just make this up? After I left the site, I remembered Lydia's experience of the opera (in A Civil Contract, naturally) and how she was so carried away with the music that she persuaded the party to leave before the good stuff was polluted by the lighter stuff to follow. Now I can't find it, but I read it very recently, and I can't think of anything else I've been reading that would have such a scene. I'll keep looking. Sheeesh.

Nov 25, 2009, 9:46 pm

One more time..... I can't find the scene at the opera in A Civil Contract, but I did come upon a scene where Julia plays a sonatina at the piano and then sings in a thin, but true voice - completely charming her husband-to-be. Since Julia is not a favorite character of anybody - including GH, I'll be bound! - music continues to be suspect. Hmmmm.

Nov 26, 2009, 8:44 am

I think you are on to something here.

Nov 26, 2009, 10:09 am

Although I can't find it at this exact second, I'm almost sure there's a scene in The Quiet Gentleman wherein Lady St. Erth calls upon Marianne to entertain upon the pianoforte at which she is discommoded due to her lack of skill. Miss Morville interevenes and plays while Marianne sings.

The only book I could be confusing it with is Cotillion, but I don't think so.


Nov 26, 2009, 11:00 am

That doesn't sound familiar; I don't think it's in Cotillion, so you must be right.

Interesting idea about the music. I'll be on the lookout.

Nov 26, 2009, 11:46 am

I thought there were quite a few books where an evening at home with visitors was enlivened by the young ladies playing music and singing. Often with a gentleman to turn the pages! There was definitely one book where a young lady played the harp, to the annoyance of several people.

But this is a very interesting thread! Makes me want to go back and do a complete reread...

Nov 26, 2009, 9:19 pm

I think that the music is almost always annoying to someone, at least so far as I recall. Part of her subtle poking fun at the conventions?

Nov 27, 2009, 1:30 pm

Right you are again, oh K-one! In Sylvester I've just read his objection to marrying Miss Orton. It's her "infernal harp." He says, "...I've no turn for music and to be obliged to endure a harp's being eternally twanged in my own house - no, I think that's coming it a trifle too strong, don't you, Mama?"

Nov 27, 2009, 2:25 pm

Maybe GH was the one with 'no turn for music'! Does anyone know?

Editado: Nov 27, 2009, 4:47 pm

I recently bought The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge. It is a beautifully illustrated book. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but skimming through the first chapter, I found out that Georgette Heyer's mother was a very talented musician who gave up her career when she married. Apparently she regretted that loss later in life, but never tried to resume her music. I haven't found any information about Georgette's musical abilities though, except that she did like to dance.

Nov 27, 2009, 5:57 pm

It's true that Heyer's female protagonists are in general bereft of the usual talents young ladies are supposed to be taught. I can't think of any with a turn for drawing, either. (I do recall Tristram and Ludovic making fun of Sarah Thane for not being able to draw.) And the only writer among them is Phoebe. Several of the heroines appreciate novels, but none seem to appreciate literature to any notable degree except Venetia, whose self-deprecation in comparison to Aubrey tends to conceal how very well-read she is. (And what else, besides managing Conway's estate, does she have to keep herself occupied?)

It's been a while now since I've read "A Civil Contract." Is there anything there showing that Jenny has an appreciation for the arts out of keeping (one would assume) with her background?

Nov 28, 2009, 10:55 pm

W_M, I glanced in my *Civil Contract* for a second. I found early in the book a couple of references to Jenny's playing the piano-forte, but that's all. (She was educated with Julia, so I would expect her to have all of the required arts.) I still can't find the reference to the opera.
I had given a thought to sketching or painting but haven't read enough GH lately to put that forward. I'm glad that you did. Meanwhile, Phoebe is a dear and funny too!

Nov 29, 2009, 12:44 am

Isn't there something in A Civil Contract about how Julia wasted her time at school and Jenny (although without particular gifts) didn't? Or am I thinking of Mary Challoner and Lady-Fanny's-daughter-whose-name-I-don't-remember?

Nov 29, 2009, 8:24 pm

(I think you're right about Julia and Jenny, W_M.) Here's a merry little paragraph from Sylvester.

"Phoebe was an indifferent performer, but as neither her father nor Lady Marlow was at all musical they were perfectly satisfied, as long as she did not falter, or play any unmistakably wrong notes. Sylvester was not musical either, but he had been used to listen to the first musicians of the day, and thought he had never heard anyone play with less taste or feeling. He could only be thankful that she did not play the harp; but when, in response to some affectionate urging from her father, she sang an old ballad in a small, wooden voice he was much inclined to think that even a harp might have been preferable."


Nov 30, 2009, 2:15 am

If Heyer's mother was a musician, perhaps GH had to sit through similar dismal performances. Or perhaps she just takes her inspiration from letters of the period, but it's awfully tempting to see such passages as drawn from her own experience!

And of course very reminiscent of Mary's mediocre performances in Pride and Prejudice!