Whenever I give talks about Georgette Heyer someone always asks me about the suppressed novels. What are they? And why did she suppress them? In the late 1930s, Heyer suppressed six of her fifty-five novels. The Great Roxhythe, Simon the Coldheart, Instead of the Thorn, Helen, Pastel, and Barren Corn. She was determined these books should never again see the light of day and she was mostly successful. Today, five of the novels remain out of print though copies of the contemporaries produced in the 1970s can still be found online. The one novel rescued from Heyer’s determined censorship was Simon the Coldheart. In 1977, three years after Heyer died, her son, Richard, decided that, “in this instance, her judgement had been too harsh”. He allowed it to be republished.
THE GREAT ROXHYTHE
It is still possible to find copies of The Great Roxhythe online. Originally published in 1922, Heyer’s second novel tells the story of the fictional Marquis of Roxhythe and his service to King Charles II as a spy. Just nineteen when she wrote it, Roxhythe is both historically accurate and very readable. It’s an impressive achievement for a teenage author. Georgette loathed the book, however, and in 1951 was appalled to learn that Heinemann were reprinting it. She wrote to the CEO, her friend A.S. Frere and begged him to stop publication. Heyer described Roxhythe and the other suppressed novels as “childish”, “lethal and immature”. Though she stopped republication of the contemporary books, she was furious when Roxhythe appeared in print.
The four remaining suppressed novels are contemporary stories set in 1920’s England. The books reveal much about Heyer’s life and ideas at that time. Her brother, Frank Heyer, often said that Helen was her most autobiographical novel and Pastel definitely contains Georgette’s mother. Both plausible reasons for suppressing them. While the contemporary stories are not in the same class as her historical novels, they are perfectly readable. Indeed, Barren Corn is a fascinating aberration in the Heyer canon. Though they lack the wit and flair of her Regencies, they offer a fascinating window into Heyer and the world she knew.