” Frederica ” ~ ‘Cutting One’s Eye Teeth’* on Georgette Heyer’s Regency Cant

Layout 1Frederica
Georgette Heyer
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2008
ISBN:  1402214766
[originally published 1965]

I loved this book ~ just so full of humor and the usual fabulous Heyer-created characters – the scattered, talkative heroine, though surely not pretty enough to BE the heroine; the elegant and aloof hero, always “quizzing”; the off-the-wall family of the heroine [who else but to engage the hero?]; the elitist family of the hero appalled at the arrival into their midst of this not quite up-to-snuff relative; and a series of hilarious mishaps and one serious accident to give everyone a chance to show who they really are – a pure Heyer-romp, and one you must add to your to-be-read-pile.

A quick overview:  Frederica, already “on-the-shelf” at about twenty-four and the sole guardian of her younger siblings, entreats a distant cousin, Lord Alverstoke, to take on her sister’s coming-out in London.  The Marquis is the epitome of the Regency Buck, older [in his late thirties], rude and condescending to his sisters and their families, yet bored with his fashionable lifestyle.  When Frederica appears on the scene, he is in no way inclined to help this unheard of “cousin” with her beautiful sister and two out-of-control brothers – but he is taken in regardless and agrees to help her, at first just as an exercise to undercut his sisters, and little knowing that his easy, boring existence will never be the same again.

No full review or spoilers here! – you can see with the opening lines where this story will lead – but Heyer in Frederica gives us one humorous page after another, and the creation of the two young brothers Felix and Jessamy, one of a scientific bent, the other bound for the clergy, gives the reader an interesting diversion on the hero-heroine tale – what IS it about these boys that makes Alverstoke, who barely acknowledges his own nephews and nieces, take such a liking to them and their endless mis-adventures?

What I found so engaging about this book is the abundant collection of Regency “cant” thrown into every sentence whenever possible – Heyer had a field day in this book with her uncivil tongue!  During the Regency it was the fashion for upper-class men to pepper their speech with the language of the lower classes, especially boxing and horse-racing speak as well as that of the Regency underworld.  In Frederica, we have a heroine with three brothers who use this talk constantly – she is adept at it herself, much to Alverstoke’s surprise and delight [“…such cant expressions on the lips of delicately nurtured females are extremely unbecoming,” he says to her with a “gleam in his eye” -p. 177].  Most of the terms you can figure out in context, others you can look up in the Regency Lexicon for starters [though alas! so many are not there!] or if you have Jennifer Kloester’s very helpful Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, or The Regency Companion and see below for other sources and links on cant – otherwise you might be at a loss in reading this book!

I here append a list – you will see that many terms make reference to one’s “stupidity” or “denseness”, but there are many others that apply to all manner of situations – if you can figure them out OUT of context, you are a better “canter” than I! [and with apologies for any duplication – I feel like I am transcribing a foreign language!]

  • Tremendous swell
  • Rake-down
  • Moonling
  • Slow-top
  • Nip-farthing ball
  • Bumble bath
  • A complete hand
  • Ramshackle
  • Rubbishing style
  • Tongue runs like a fiddlestick
  • Cry craven
  • Stow it!
  • Rag–mannered
  • Little bagpipe
  • Shabster
  • Oh botheration!
  • Shag-rag
  • A regular trump
  • Frippery fellow
  • Gammon
  • Bird-witted
  • Pudding-hearts
  • Toadeaters
  • Shatter-brained
  • Pea-goose
  • A set-off
  • Wet-goose
  • Dovecots
  • Paper-skulled
  • You are a baggage
  • Rackety gadabout
  • Give you a pepper
  • Clodpole
  • Stupid little looby
  • Rats in your garrett
  • Complete to a shade
  • Young stiff-ramp
  • Nipperkin
  • Of all the plumpers
  • City-mushroom
  • Dagger-cheap
  • Ape-leader
  • A flat
  • On-dits
  • “coming”
  • Flummery
  • Needle-witted
  • Prattle-box
  • Gabblemongering
  • Purse-pinched
  • Basket-scrambler
  • Young cawker
  • Mill
  • Gudgeon
  • Ninnyhammer
  • Rusticated
  • O’clock
  • Blunt
  • Bag-wig feeling out of curl…cut up stiff
  • Mawworm
  • Moulder
  • Sapskull
  • Chawbacon
  • Cawkers
  • Jobbernoll
  • In the seeds
  • Hip
  • Cockloft
  • Barques of frailty
  • Top-lofty
  • Chancery suit upon the nob
  • Lobcoble
  • Gibble-gabbing
  • Peel eggs
  • Havey-cavey
  • Thratchgallows
  • Bacon-picker
  • Dicked in the nob
  • Bumble broth
  • Nipperkin
  • Mull
  • Poke nose
  • Top sawyer driving
  • Nip-shot
  • Go into whoops
  • Roll of flimsies
  • Jackstraw
  • Game as a pebble
  • Nodcock
  • Ugly as bull-beef
  • Take a damper
  • A knock in the cradle
  • Curst addle-plot
  • Watering pot!

[ *Cutting one’s eye teeth = to become knowing, to understand the world ]

5 full inkwells [out of 5]  ~ Highly recommended ~

Further Reading on Regency Cant:

Further Reading on Frederica:

Posted by Deb

12 thoughts on “” Frederica ” ~ ‘Cutting One’s Eye Teeth’* on Georgette Heyer’s Regency Cant

  1. Loved this book too, Deb. The boys and London sights added such richness. Frederica, along with The Grand Sophy and Venetia, are my three Heyer favorites. The Reluctant Widow is a close 4th. Vic


  2. Hi Vic – thanks for your thoughts! – I owe it to you really that I have been diligently reading these Heyer books from Sourcebooks! [not to mention the great printings of these – just a delight to hold] – your reviews have been fabulous! So far, I most love Faro’s Daughter, The Grand Sophy, and Frederica – and other 2 you mention are on my TBR pile. I just finished Cousin Kate, which was a bit different, and though I liked her as a character, the whole madness thing and the gothic-like Aunt was a bit of a turn-off the way it all ended – certainly following the gothic “rules” – but troublesome all the same.

    So on to Venetia and the RW next! Have you read The Quiet Gentleman? or Friday’s Child? [also on my toppling TBR pile…] and if you haven’t read Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman, get it immediately – it reads just like a Heyer with the most satisfying ending of any book I have read in a long time…[hopeless romantic that I am…]

    Thanks for visiting!


  3. Thanks, Deb. I’ll get Jude’s book. I did not like Cousin Kate as much as GH’s other books. It’s been ages since I read The Quiet Gentleman and Friday’s Child, but I do not recall them as being among my top favorites. They weren’t at the bottom of the pile either. Hope that helps. Vic


  4. Thanks, Deb. I’ll get Jude’s book. I did not like Cousin Kate as much as GH’s other books. It’s been ages since I read The Quiet Gentleman and Friday’s Child, but I do not recall them as being among my top favorites. They weren’t at the bottom of the pile either. Hope that helps. Vic
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.


  5. Hi Deb,

    I read An Accomplished Woman after you recommended it at the June JASNA meeting. I went on to read an earlier book by Morgan: Indiscretion, which I also enjoyed. Both of these books reminded me so much of Heyer that it has started me on a Heyer-a-thon. I’ve re-read Sylvester and Sprig Muslin, and I read Faro’s Daughter for the first time. I also listened to Frederica as a book on CD. Itunes has a number of Heyer’s books on their site now. I’m currently listening to Bath Tangle as well, also from Itunes. I’ve been moderately happy with both of the readers on the audio downloads.

    While Heyer’s books are formulaic, she does a lovely job of creating and describing characters. I also enjoy the Heyer Regency slang. Thanks for starting me on my summer reading road. Bang up entry too!


  6. Hi Lynne – we are having parallel summers! – I too have been reading alot of Heyer – feel sort of dizzy with it all – [not to mention that I am flunking my regular book group!]

    So glad that you liked the Jude Morgan book I mentioned at the meeting – it really is the only book I have read that comes even close to Heyer- [I have not yet read “Indiscretion” but will do so on your recommendation…]

    I wanted to get the Sylvester audio book because it is read by Richard Armitage – but alas! it is ABRIDGED and I avoid those like the plague [I mean, why bother really – it’s like doing a Reader’s Digest Condensed book…] – even the velvet sounds of RA could not entice me – but will look into those you mention – Heyer would be great on audio.

    Thanks Lynne for visiting – you should also check out all the great reviews of Heyer’s books on the Jane Austen’s World blog – Vic is gradually doing them all as Sourcebooks publishes them…


  7. Ah, Friday’s Child! One of my favorites. Not particularly for the
    heroine, but rather for the fact that in this one Heyer dispenses with her traditional Male Lead I and Male Lead II characters and brings the cant-slinging, absolutely funny and delightful, young rattlers to the fore. (Not to say I have anything against ML I or ML II–adore them!) It’s also the one I think of when looking for an example of her ability to quickly draw sympathetic characters. When Hero runs away to bath she meets Mr. Tarleton. Poor, but lucky, Mr. Tarleton. Heyer creates him to advance the plot, causes him to fall in love, then snatches away the object of his affection so quickly. Yet in that brief interlude he is lucky enough to be the creation of writer who can make us care about him in so short a time.

    Have you read Cotillion yet? It’s another favorite of mine for the same reason as Friday’s Child: Freddie must be one of Heyer’s best characters, and the way she overturns the standard plot, yet reaffirms the basic structure, is a thing of beauty. I won’t give away the details but leave you to enjoy them.


  8. Thanks Hope for visiting! If I had known you were a Heyer fan, we could have talked for hours at the last meeting!

    I am liking Friday’s Child – but still prefer the ones with the strong feisty female lead who gives the pompous rake a bit of his own medicine. But I do like how silly Hero and the Viscount are with their ridiculous shopping escapades! – and do wonder where the story will lead… [you must love all the fashion talk!]

    I have Cotillion on my pile – had started a library book but alas! had to return it – … [and always interesting to note that any Heyer library book looks like it has been through the wars!]

    Thanks Hope – would welcome a review if you would like to do one of any of the books!


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