Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Personal Touch

Some people think a person's handwriting can be very revealing. I'd like to think that's true but true or not I confess to being fascinated by the myriad ways people form the letters and words by which they communicate. Handwriting may be a dying art these days (I hope not) but for many centuries it has been considered an essential skill. Today we know a lot about the lives and personalities of many famous people because they wrote letters - by hand. Georgette Heyer was a compulsive letter writer and below are some of her signatures - each one a tiny window into the personality of an intensely private woman.

Georgette's nine-year-old signature

One of my treasured books is a copy of At the Back of the North Wind which once belonged to Georgette Heyer. It is the 1911 edition and I expect she received it as a gift for her ninth birthday. It was given to me from the remnant of Georgette's library during one of my visits to her son's home and I love looking at the carefully formed letters and thinking about Georgette as a nine-year-old and of the stories she might have been making up at that age.

Georgette's family nickname

This inscription to her mother is on the flyleaf of the first edition of Georgette's third detective novel, The Unfinished Clue. Her mother regularly read of Georgette's books in manuscript form and would offer frank critiques of her daughter's latest work.

'Dordette' was the family's pet-name for Georgette and probably came from Boris her younger brother who as a little boy (he was five years younger than his sister) might have found it difficult to say her name correctly. The signature has sometimes been incorrectly translated as 'Dordatta' because Georgette's idiosyncratic 'e's look like 'a's.

'with George's love'

From the flyleaf of the very first edition of Royal Escape, this time inscribed to Georgette's husband Ronald: 'This, the first copy out of the press, is for Ronald, with George's love.
Very few people were allowed to call Georgette 'George' as it was a nickname reserved for only her closest friends and family.

Her 1962 signature

I love how much her signature has changed over the course of her life. By 1962 it is much tighter and more angled. She has also learned the popular authorial trick of crossing out the printed name when signing your own.

In keeping with her policy of never giving interviews, Georgette never did public book signings either. She signed copies for family and a few friends though and would sometimes send signed copies to fans. Unlike many of today's well-known authors there are relatively few signed copies of Georgette Heyer's novels.

No comments:

Post a Comment