Going down memory lane, I stumbled across something I wrote some years ago… Indeed, a book review about ‘Sylvester’, one of my favorites from Georgette Heyer. Perhaps one day I should add more tributes to that master of Regency romance and ‘their cynical Lordships’, but until then, I leave you to read a short recollection of the book ‘Sylvester’.
The trials of arranged marriages are heartfelt. But what happens when the head of the noble household of the Raynes travels to the wilds of Wiltshire to offer for his childhood bride? If the bride is a headstrong, hoydenish miss, revolting against the conventions of teachings of womanhood; quite simply, utter disaster. Such is the cleverly constructed plot of one of my favorite novels of all times; ‘Sylvester’ by Georgette Heyer. This brilliant artist of societal portrayal in its humorist and gayest of forms manages to steals hearts yet again in ‘Sylvester’.
Sylvester, the head of his household at Chance was born to responsibility, wealth and privilege. His earliest days were spent under the aegis of an honor-obsessed uncle, old matrons and tutors who drilled in him the vestiges of obligations, pride and dignity. Losing what was close to him at the mere age of twenty-six years, Sylvester sets out on his mission to find a suitable bride who would take care of his disabled mother, his orphaned nephew, and provide companionship for his widowed sister-in-law. As per Heyer’s conventions, it is not a simple journey for Sylvester. He finds out from his godmother that he and Phoebe Marlow were destined to marry since their birth, as the plan was made and much cherished by both their mothers, who were best friends. But leading to the death of Miss Marlow’s mother, and her father’s second marriage to a rigid lady not liked by relatives, the plan was pushed away, and eventually forgotten. Now Sylvester, with determination and purpose, heads out to Miss Marlow’s estate, but finds her completely inappropriate to his taste. To a man of Sylvester’s birth and handsome looks, accentuated by cynically arched eyebrows, Miss Marlow was but a wraith of a girl, brown skinned and utterly dominated by her mother-in-law. What this unusual exterior hid, of course, was spirit, and the soul of an artist of great satirical skills, which expressed themselves in the form of writing. Miss Marlow, who had taken a dislike to Sylvester on occasion of her visiting London before, was extremely angered and insulted to find Sylvester as a house-guest for the weekend, especially when his purpose was made clear to her.
Undeniably, no girl wants to be overlooked ‘like a filly’, according to Miss Marlow. Thus, her scheme of running away, all the way to London to her grandmother’s protection, emerges. Aided by her childhood friend Tom Orde, she accomplishes this journey, but not without its mishaps, to find out that her grandmother is actually Sylvester’s godmother, who sent Sylvester to Wiltshire for the same purpose of offering for Phoebe Marlow!
It is Heyer at her best indeed. With sophisticated plot development, and the const ant arrival and departure of much loved characters, she keeps me enthralled to the pages of her novel. Laughing one minute, and anxious the next, I feel like I’m whirling around in the twisters of Heyer’s world with every page I turn. Sylvester is no doubt one of her masterpieces, and one of the all- time winners of Regency literature.