The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer Bookclub 17

(70 Posts)
thewhistler Fri 01-Feb-13 19:12:56

This is quoted by so many people as one of their favourites that I have been wondering why. It is one of mine, I should add, but what is it that charms us most?
is it
The sour hero transformed,
The fairy tale princess taking second place with her almost Dickensian named swain, the nearest I can find to Dickens naming, in Fawnhope,
The humour, often about Sophy's pistol ( useful feminist discussion point here), in the cost with Charles and the turnup with the turnip, Goldhanger, ( with a bit of anti semitism that I don't enjoy)
The pantomime villainess of Eugenia Wraxton
The touching scene of childhood illness
The much better rescuing of a credible young man,Hubert is so much more realistic than Nicky or Bertram,
Wanting to be Sophy in so many ways

Or, and I think it is this overall for me, the consummate artistry of the last chapter. Not since the scene between Avon and Leonie has the suspense been plotted so well and this time with humour

This is a short intro because I am willing to bet we all know it well enough to quote from, and because I am on a phone.

So why do we love it so much?

Or is there anyone who doesn't, who finds Sophy tedious and egotistical, and sympathies with Miss Wraxton?

minsmum Germany Sat 09-Feb-13 23:23:29

I have to disagree I like Sophy and could imagine her as my friend, she might think you were being silly but would always stand by you no matter what. She trys to help everyone and harm no one. I didn't like her or the book as a teenager but the older I get the more I like her

LeonieDeSainteVire Sun 10-Feb-13 09:37:50

Actually sowornout although I do love These Old Shades I don't much like the character of Leonie!! I chose her name for my user name for other reasons. I do lurve Justin though (but I can't quite get over the conviction he would have been riddled with VD).

Mooncup I didn't know that about Dickens - its interesting.

VikingLady Sun 10-Feb-13 21:56:42

I do really love this book - it is the first GH book I ever read, so I have a soft spot for it! I do find Sophy fairly believable (at leas as much as most of her characters) - she just has a total lack of introspection and tact, and a huge quantity of self belief!

LadyIsabellaWrotham I don't think Cecilia does particularly love Charlbury, but I don't think she ever really loves anyone. She is just a teenager and more than usually self absorbed, and is another of GH's beautiful ninnyhammers. I think she likes the idea of being in love and having a grand passion (hence Augustus) but really wants adoration and to feel like she is precious. I don't think she worries about anyone else anywhere in the story. She reads like a 15 year old to me, but I think she is meant to be 19?

I do love Sir Vincent. The cad!

As Sophie says - Cecilia will become her mother. We just have to hope that Charlbury will remain fond of her given that he is less erratic and more grateful than her father.

It is the supporting cast that is the joy of this book - its her first truly comic novel, I think. The romance is peripheral to the comedy - not like Venetia where it is central. Although I do agree that it is one of GH's finer proposal scenes.

I usually start GH novices on this one and it usually goes down well.

deleted203 Sun 10-Feb-13 23:23:47

grin at the idea of Justin with VD! (I suspect you are right, Leonie).

thewhistler Mon 11-Feb-13 16:11:01

But all of them would, Leonie. Except Gilly and possibly Waldo. No question Avon, Vidal and Damerel.

LeonieDeSainteVire Mon 11-Feb-13 18:08:09

Freddy is probably a safe bet too and some of the others - who was it who was faithful to Clarissa's memory? And I like to think that Vidal, being young, may have escaped too. But yes in general I do worry our heroines will get a very unpleasant shock.

VeryDullNameChange Mon 11-Feb-13 18:41:10

Sir Gareth Ludlow was the one who was carrying a torch for the late Clarissa in Sprig Muslin. But presumably we aren't to assume that any of the male heroes are virgins are we? Except Gilly at a push (except I suspect he would have been deliberately steered to a discreet establishment on the Grand Tour on his uncle's instructions).

And if they weren't then they must have been sleeping with prostitutes, or at least demi-mondaines, because seducing "innocent girls" would make them unfit heroes. At which point it becomes a numbers game.

Vidal definitely wouldn't have escaped. There are two bits where first Juliana and then Avon challenges him about his birds and he intimates that they are very low class ie disposable women.

LeonieDeSainteVire Mon 11-Feb-13 19:16:06

Yes I think a lot of it would be luck and possibly habits. We know some of the men set up mistresses and maintained them and were possibly less likely to be therefore sleeping with all and sundry. Others would have been in brothels with a different girl every night. Logically the more partners you have the more likely to catch something. Unpleasant thoughts anyway.

thewhistler Mon 11-Feb-13 19:16:42

Married women would have been ok, but not for a boy's first experience (most likely the housemaid or dairy maid as hinted at in the foundling). But they would pass it on from their husbands.

Thank god for anti biotics.

CaseyShraeger Mon 11-Feb-13 21:56:44

Although if everyone were riddled you'd have expected a higher rate of congenital syphillis than appears to have been the case. Maybe seducing housemaids was a less disease-ridden alternative to visiting prostitutes? Someone somewhere must have done a thesis on this (not in relation to GH, but sexual health of the period in general)...

A virgin noble youth seducing a virgin housemaid wouldn't be spreading diseases, I think.

Jacksmania Mon 11-Feb-13 22:32:07

I'm really interested in the last bit of Casey's post, regarding the sexual health of the period, and the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases.
(Not in a pervy way, I hasten to add.)

There was a fabulous thread last year, it's in Classics now, called "Ways of Dying in 1665" (might have got the year wrong). There were lots of really well informed historians on it, I bet they'd know.

LeonieDeSainteVire Mon 11-Feb-13 22:44:48

There's quite a lot about syphilis and levels of infection in the Beau Brummell autobiog by Ian Kelly IIRC. I'll have a look later.

LeonieDeSainteVire Mon 11-Feb-13 22:56:09

Ok Kelly writes that in the early part of the 19th century it was estimated that fifteen percent of the population of London had both syphilis and gonorrhoea but that levels were higher in the upper classes. He doesn't give evidence for this statement though.

LeonieDeSainteVire Mon 11-Feb-13 22:59:18

Oh sorry he does, he references a work called Pox confused by D Hayden

deleted203 Mon 11-Feb-13 23:08:17

I suspect that 'levels were higher in the upper classes', is purely because the pox ridden lower classes were simply less likely to have the money to visit a doctor. More than likely that levels were as high, if not higher, amongst lower classes - just not as well documented.

LeonieDeSainteVire Mon 11-Feb-13 23:13:41

Yes it could be or that those who visit prostitutes are more likely to be affected and they are more likely to be wealthier. Apparently levels went up with the return of the armies after the ending of the napoleonic wars.

deleted203 Mon 11-Feb-13 23:32:20

Sure. But many prostitutes were also living with and sleeping with working class men, who were quite happy to send them out to earn a bit extra.

The British Army was certainly absolutely riddled with disease at this time. I wrote several papers on the Peninsular Wars when at Uni, (although not primarily on venereal disease, I hasten to add, but odd things occasionally came up). In 1816 the Army of Occupation treated 4,767 men for syphilis if you're interested! That's probably approximately 1 in 10 soldiers. I had a rather fab book called:-

'An appeal to the medical profession, on the utility of the improved patent syringe, with directions for its several uses' by John Read (maker to the army) which was published in 1829. (Catchy title!). It went into horrendous detail about the treatment of syphilis, which was pretty awful!

MooncupGoddess Mon 11-Feb-13 23:46:24

I love the way these threads come alive when the subject of sex comes up grin

Can't remember any explicit references to VD in GH (though perhaps a few uses of 'pox'?) but syphilis certainly appears in the Poldark novels, set a little earlier. I remember a mention of someone losing his nose thanks to the French disease shock

What do we think about Harry Smith, then, and Johnny "pretty girl in every village" Kincaid? confused

LeonieDeSainteVire Tue 12-Feb-13 22:48:44

Just realised my last post was in effect two complete non-sequiturs blush apologies.

Interesting figures sowornout, makes the army rather less glamorous somehow . . .

Horry - don't go there smile although as they are real people I guess we can probably find out if they did or didn't have 'the pox'

thewhistler Wed 13-Feb-13 08:40:22

Harry never had children, IIRC. There could be a number of reasons for that, and I don't know if they lost some at early stages.

I have a suspicion he came from quite a god fearing family, or may have been so himself, although that may have been looking back in old age in a different era. his father being a Dr might have encouraged him to be cautious.

Are we on Cotillion next? I am pinned to sofa under poorly small, so ought to do something productive!

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