The Foundling: Georgette Heyer book thread no. 15

(55 Posts)
MooncupGoddess Thu 03-Jan-13 19:54:16

The Foundling is rather an oddity amongst GH's Regency romances - in that it is barely a romance at all. The hero proposes to the heroine on the orders of his uncle in about chapter 3, and we then see nothing more of the heroine until the final section of the novel, in which she shows support to him by offering to buy some substandard hats. This makes him recognise her worth and they indulge in a bit of affectionate chitchat. Damerel and Venetia it isn't - though the depiction of Gilly and Harriet's relationship is touchingly realistic.

In some ways The Foundling is a reworking of The Corinthian: rich young man is ordered to propose to suitable family connection, rebels against his ordered life and controlling family and goes off on an adventure. Just like Richard Wyndham, Gilly encounters various criminal low lives whom he thwarts, and a couple of silly young things whom he helps. I find GH's comedy criminals rather irritating - Liversedge has his moments (especially at the end when he turns out to have immaculate butlering skills) but it's not very believable that he would offer to do away with Gilly for payment from his cousin Gideon, and even though Gilly is apparently at risk of his life at one point the reader never doubts he will come through.

Tom Mamble is fun - one of GH's many spirited adolescent boys - but Belinda is so airheaded as to be utterly dull, and the subplot (pinched wholesale from Emma) about her devotion to a taciturn farmer is rather unconvincing. Similarly, Gilly's cousin Matt is a cardboard cutout Silly Young Man, and Harriet and her oppressive parents feel very familiar.

The redeeming feature of The Foundling, however (for me anyway), is Gilly (always referred to by his Christian name rather than his title, unlike other noble heroes) himself. Quite unlike most GH heroes (except perhaps Adam in A Civil Contract), he is young, short, skinny and no more than nice-looking. His kind, shy nature makes it very hard for him to stand up to his numerous well-meaning but overbearing relatives and retainers and the core of the novel is his quest to become a proper grown-up and assert his own opinions and boundaries. His character develops convincingly throughout the novel, whose climax is not The Clinch but the point at which Gilly finally tells his Uncle Lionel to shut up and let him make his own decisions for once. It's very reminiscent of those fantastic MN threads where the OP is dreadfully put upon by her dominating mother/ neighbour/SIL and after much encouragement finally finds her backbone and tells them where to go.

The Foundling will never be one of my favourite of GH's works - and I suspect GH recognised its weaknesses, which is why she reworked the plot in the (for me) more successful Sprig Muslin. But thinking of Gilly and his triumphs still makes me feel all warm inside.

I began to put together a post along the same line as thewhistler, abandoned it due to irritating children and now find that she's said it much better.

The attractiveness in GH's heros - for me - falls into a few categories:

The capable ones: Men who are comfortable in their own skins, know how to manage life without exerting Alpha-male power over all and sundry:
Hugo, Alverstoke, Freddy, Anthony Fanshawe, Waldo Hawkridge,

The men-who-like-their-women: the ones with humour and affection who treat the heronines as friends, as equals - which is NOT what the norm would have been:
Damerel, Miles Calverleigh, Oliver Carleton, Tristram,

The distant and paternal: Never on an equal footing with the heroines, but at least don't scowl:
Rule, Richard Wyndham, Worth (although he goes into the next category more often for me....), Avon,

Scowly and/or patronising: I struggle with Worth and actively dislike Rotherham - too Alpha-male and still too condescending to the women.

I make an exception for Vidal - I think because he's my girlhood crush and whilst I itch to shake him now, I retain a lot of affection for him. (Good Lord - am I turning into Fanny?!) shock

thewhistler Sat 12-Jan-13 18:12:49

Duchess, no one has ever said that before to me! Am thrilled. on phone otherwise (blush).

I like Sophy's diagnostic of men, those like Charlbury who are capable and reliable; the useless like Fawnhope who cannot get a chair in the rain and whose tables are in a draughty unseen corner (I may have ascribed the wrong attributes but ykwim); and the dishonorable Alfred.

So then we divide up the capable.

There is not an incapable hero, as Gilly's road towards hero status is the road to proving he is capable on the practical level and Sherry's on the emotional one, ad Gil points out.

I still like the Rochester types. Sherry and Freddy are just too silly. What would one have talked about to them? I would have got very bored with them and they with me.

Once again, how wonderful this thread is...

GinGirl Sat 12-Jan-13 18:27:51

Duchess where would you put Charles (TGS)?

Am thrilled to have found this by the way, have all Heyer in paperback and most on my Kindle as well. Just read 'Annals of Almacks' and it made me think of Sophy saying how lucky she was to have such an accomplished flirt for a father (to procure vouchers). So am obviously reading it again (must be well into double figures by now, approaching 20 times)

Back to The Foundling. Although it is not my favourite there are some stand-out characters for me. I think Gideon is well-drawn (would take him over Gilly!) and Lionel. Harriet endears herself so me through the act of suggesting to her grandmother that she should be allowed to do something because her stepmother would disappove. She has obviously adored Gilly from afar for years and I think the relationship will develop into a mature marriage where each partner respects the other.

This thread is quite cross-referencey now - vair educated.

What's next? I think we are due something new for Monday and I want a good one.

(Although if Ronald has "got his shit together" grin by now I won't like the hero much wink )

LadyIsabellaWrotham Sat 12-Jan-13 21:10:45

I've never thought before that GH was only about 120 years away from the Regency when she started writing about it, whilst we're nearly 80 years on from her. As a child of the mid twentieth century, born well within Heyer's lifetime, she fits in a box marked Modern, whilst the Regency is firmly Pre-Victorian. But when you look at the cold hard numbers, it won't be long before her readers are as far from her as she was from Beau Brummell.

But from a feminist perspective I don't think she's a long way away from Austen and the Brontes, I'm hard put to find anywhere in which she's visibly writing from a post-suffrage, post Married Women's Property Act perspective. What's sad is that neither GH, JA, nor the Brontes could see any happy ending for a woman beyond marriage. Obviously they're romances, so the leading lady has to marry, but IIRC, none of the supporting cast can have a destiny beyond marriage (although some of Heyer's older women are having a fabulous time in their widowhood). Please please correct me if I've missed something (and I haven't read Shirley).

GH offers possibilities for some of the women who get married anyway - I'm thinking of Phoebe Marlow who was planning on setting up home with Miss Beccles and writing novels. She marries Sylvester instead, but it's mooted as a possibility.

Austen's heroines are unrelentingly wet. The Brontes are a bit better (although I can't remember Shirley) although their unmarried women are unsurprisingly unhappy.

Heyer at least lets her heroines have minds of their own.

We are a long way off Cousin Kate, aren't we? She's interesting in this topic, and we perhaps should have cross-referred to her during Reluctant Widow.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Sat 12-Jan-13 21:30:44

Arabella next - half way through and loving it, proper London high society comedy, which is my favourite sort of Heyer.

Cousin Kate is 16 books on from there shock I agree that it fits in the same sort of box as Reluctant Widow, but I haven't read it in twenty years, so who knows what I'll think of it this time round.

Charles eludes me ... maybe there is another category for the transformed hero - Charles, maybe Alverstoke fits in here ...anyone else? Maybe Charles does belong in Capable after all.

I also struggled with St Erth.

Mmm.. all needs a bit more work. My days of incisive literary analysis as an English under-grad are too far behind me.

I will work on heroine categories and then do an interesting set of cross-references between hero/heroines categories to see which is the most popular combination.

Bloody hell Duchess that sounds like a lot of work... shock

Arabella - hurrah! One of my go-to Heyers.

I believe the phrase is "on it like Sonic".

<<down with the kidz>>

edam Sat 12-Jan-13 23:53:27

LadyIsabella, Jane Eyre is a feminist novel IMO. Mr Rochester is a dominant male who is not allowed to marry Jane until he has lost his dominance and become vulnerable. Jane is a remarkably independent woman for her time and place, who refuses to submit to bullying men, in her childhood, her time with Rochester or with Rivers. She is prepared to Do Her Own Thing to the point of walking off into the hills on her own rather than be forced into a relationship with Rochester on terms that are not acceptable to her.

I'm sure there are plenty of feminist Georgette Heyer fans, including my Mother and me. Thing about her heroes is, most of them have a sense of humour, which is a pretty redeeming feature. Worth isn't so appealing but for his time he's quite advanced. Can't recall the title but which is the one with the heroine who was brought up as if she was her father's heir, and discovers when the will was read Daddy has made her ex her trustee, much to her fury and their mutual embarassment - is she Lady Serena? Anyway, there's a line at the end to the effect of 'and you'll clear any fences I set you at' or something, which has always irritated me - even though she's a strong, confident woman, he's still the boss.

Yes that's Serena and Ivo. But in part that's the ridiculous will, isn't it? that the otherwise independent woman is hamstrung by her misogynist father from beyond the grave.

Horatia I might not have been entirely serious.....

Looks like Bath Tangle will be a good discussion when we get there.

mackerella Sun 13-Jan-13 10:00:36

Hello, I've been lurking on these threads for a while and wondered if I could join in? I haven't read any for a while, but the next two books (Arabella, The Grand Sophy, right?) are among my favourites, so I hoped I might have something vaguely sensible to contribute! grin

LadyIsabellaWrotham Sun 13-Jan-13 10:25:23

Greetings mackerella. What you need to know is that the first rule of Georgette Heyer Book Club is "Hi! come in, lovely to see you, I think there's a space in that sofa over there"

It's not much of a rule but it's the only one we've got.

Am having to physically force myself not to start Grand Sophie too early so it's still really fresh in my mind when we discuss it, but the temptation is very strong.

mackerella Sun 13-Jan-13 10:54:39

Thank you! I was worried that you might be as strict with your entry requirements as the Patronesses of Almacks...

edam Sun 13-Jan-13 11:03:15

Hello mackerella!

Horatia, indeed she is hamstrung. Thanks for reminding me of Ivo - when I first read it, as a teenager, I decided Ivo would be a good name for any future sons... I'm sure ds would be glad he escaped that one if only he knew!

MooncupGoddess Sun 13-Jan-13 11:10:44

We are pretty welcoming here, I hope - as long as you don't engage in any Inappropriate Waltzing, of course.

Edam said what I was planning to say about Jane Eyre (and Villette, Shirley and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall all have fascinating feminist elements, though it's a different thread of course).

Agree that the future of GH heroines is portrayed as pretty bleak if they don't marry. Occasionally one of them starts planning an alternative life involving renting a house somewhere unfashionable like Kensington, but it's always made to sound a terribly depressing prospect.

edam Sun 13-Jan-13 11:19:30

I dunno, I always think whatsherface the one in Yorkshire who is a 'fabulously expensive' governess would have done quite well even if she hadn't married that hugely rich bloke with the orphanages - Waldo Hawkridge? (Am being dense about names atm.)

mackerella Sun 13-Jan-13 11:54:06

[Incidentally, Mooncup, I have the advantage of you - as a GH hero might say - because I know you IRL. If that alone isn't enough to tell you who I am, a quick look through my posting history would probably enlighten you...]

mackerella - welcome! and a mystery as well ... grin

I think the "expensive governess" is Ancilla Trent, who marries Sir Waldo Hawkridge in iirc The Nonesuch, having been Theophania (Tiffany) Wield's governess-companion. Her life is pretty grim and dependent until she marries, too.

MooncupGoddess Sun 13-Jan-13 17:55:25

Ah - triply welcome then, mackerella! We must arrange to meet ere long for a morning gallop across Hyde Park, or perhaps a shopping expedition to that Bond Street emporium where Kitty Charing buys silk stockings and fans, followed by a soothing glass of ratafia* and a macaroon.

* which turns out to be 'a liqueur made from an infusion of macerated fruit or fruit juice in a liquor (as brandy) and often flavoured with almonds'. Sounds much more alcoholic than I'd supposed!

mackerella Sun 13-Jan-13 18:30:24

I have a recipe for ratafia! It's in this book, which has a whole section called Cordials and Ratafias, as well as others called Tree Sap Wines, Country Vinegars and Meads and Melomels (the last surely the novel that Jane Austen would have got round to writing had she not died tragically young). If you want to know how to make bilberry wine, broad bean wine confused, cock ale (which has chicken bones in it confusedconfused) or metheglin, I'm your woman.

Some of them definitely sound like drinks in GH novels: ratafia of oranges, gooseberry ratafia, Sir Walter Raleigh's cordial water, currant shrub, syruped fruit vinegar ("a spoonful of which may be dissolved in warm water and taken when a cough or sore throat is troublesome"), bragget and negus. Maybe we should have a real-life book group meet-up, complete with authentic food and drinks?

edam Sun 13-Jan-13 18:33:30

Wow, I'd always assumed ratafia was a very mild drink. Don't the gentlemen scorn it and complain when they have to go to Almacks which serves nothing more dangerous?

Yes, Ancilla Trent, of course! She's not a drudge - although Tiffany is a right royal pain in the backside Ancilla points out she has a very high wage and Tiffany's aunt is extremely grateful to her. I know a governess's lot is not always a happy one but Ancilla makes it clear she chooses to earn her own living rather than be supported by her brother and mother. I can't see her putting up with a bad employer.

mackerella Sun 13-Jan-13 18:34:15

Actually, although the food is described in great detail in GH novels, I don't think that much drinking goes on - at least among the women. They all seem to drink dishes of tea, lemonade or orgeat*. Arabella Tallant's attempts to drink champagne are something of an exception - I can't think of any other heroines who drink (alcohol) at all?

* This is apparently an almond syrup flavoured with rosewater or orange flower water, which I think sounds quite nice.

MooncupGoddess Sun 13-Jan-13 18:43:54

What a fantastic book, mackerella! (Though I might pass on the broad bean wine.) There is definitely negus in GH - I have a feeling dowagers drink it.

Ancilla is great and definitely a Spinster Role Model - though I have always been a bit lukewarm about The Nonesuch for the slightly pathetic reason that Waldo and Ancilla are both bloody awful names. Feels like GH was getting a bit desperate after four decades of inventing names for a different set of characters every year.

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