You are about to learn another of my guilty pleasures! You already know about Jane Austen as well as Star Trek. Well, in addition to these, I take great pleasure in reading, and rereading, Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels! There, I’ve said it.
Ms Heyer’s Regency novels among the best researched stories about the period that I have encountered. I like reading about the clothing, the manners, and the customs of that time period. More gracious and gentile than ours, but with many more constraints and strictures placed on individuals, particularly those of the lower ranks of the peerage. The very elite could usually behave with much more license than those lower on the status scale, while the working classes had more pressing problems to deal with, like earning a living!
In her novel, Bath Tangle, Ms Heyer introduces us to a very well-born young woman, Lady Serena, the daughter of an earl (the third highest rank in the British Peerage. Because of the changes in her circumstances brought about by her father’s death, Serena and her step-mother, Fanny (who is in fact 3 years younger than Serena), go to Bath to live for a while. There, Serena meets a Major Hector Kirby, who had tried to court her 6 or 7 years prior to the opening of our story. The match was refused by Serena’s father as ‘unequal,’ as the then-Mr. Kirby was the younger son of a mere gentleman’s family – in other words, no rank or title.
But, it is neither in truth Serena nor Hector that interest us – it is Mrs. Kirkby, Hector’s widowed mother. She is described as “a valetudinarian of retiring habits and timid disposition.” I must confess, when I read this, I was trying to imagine what sort of high academic achievement Mrs. Kirkby had acquired! Then I reread the sentence! Oh, not valedictorian! Valetudinarian! What?
Naturally, I had to look up such a delicious sounding word. So I am please to share with you, dear readers, this word for Wordy Wednesday!
First from Dictionary.com: djective= 3. 4. 5.