'Illiterate' Barbara Cartland was a plagiarist, alleged Georgette Heyer


05 August 2011
imports_WRI_0-npqqq7ec-100000_57746.jpg 'Illiterate' Barbara Cartland was a plagiarist, alleged Georgette Heyer
Two grandes dames of historical romance go head to head... now that's a fight we'd like to have seen ...
Only just coming to light, but bringing colourful images into our heads of the face-off that never was, are decades-old allegations of plagiarism from historical novelist Georgette Heyer.

Heyer, who wrote over 50 successful historical novels, prided herself on the strength of her research. Not-yet Dame Barbara Cartland was rather less fastidious, but much more prolific, famously producing over 700 novels before her death in 2000. But within those 700 novels are some similarities to Heyer's work, according to letters from 1950, due to be published in October in Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester.

Fair enough, you write 700 books, there are bound to be some similarities to existing ones, one might reason... and then you learn that Cartland wrote of Sir Montagu Reversby in her 1949 novel Hazard of Hearts, five years after the character Sir Montagu Revesby appeared in Heyer's Friday's Child.

Learning from a fan of similarities between her These Old Shades (1926) and Cartland's Knave of Hearts (1950), Heyer wrote to her agent: 'I think I could have borne it better had Miss Cartland not been so common-minded, so salacious and so illiterate.

'I think ill enough of the Shades, but, good God! That 19-year-old work has more style, more of what it takes, than this offal which she has written at the age of 46!'

Heyer went on to suggest that rather than accurately research for herself, Cartland simply appropriated historical detail from her books. 'She displays an abysmal ignorance of her period. Cheek by jowl with some piece of what I should call special knowledge (all of which I can point out in my books), one finds an anachronism so blatant as to show clearly that Miss Cartland knows rather less about the period than the average schoolgirl.'

There is no record of a response from Cartland, alas.
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