Many of you may not recognize the title of this novel as that of one written by Georgette Heyer. The Transformation of Philip Jettan was indeed written by Heyer, though initially published under a pseudonym. When the novel was re-released a few years later, under Heyer’s own name, her new publisher changed the title to Powder and Patch. But that was not all that was changed when the book was republished. Something else went missing. It is very fitting that Susan McDuffie, a writer of historical mysteries, and a talented sleuth, has tracked down the missing bit and provided visitors here with the means by which to view it.
As always, visitors are welcome to share their views about this book in comments to this article.
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Georgette Heyer wrote her third published novel, The Transformation of Philip Jettan, in three weeks. Mills and Boon published the book under the pseudonym of Stella Martin. When Heinemann re-released the book in 1930, under Heyer’s own name as Powder and Patch, the original final chapter was deleted.
A confession of sorts. When the Beau Monde first broached the idea of a series of writings celebrating Heyer’s writings and her Regencies, in honor of the 80th anniversary of Regency Buck’s publication, I eagerly choose Powder and Patch. I could clearly see the cover of my old paperback in my mind, although I had not read it for years, and I distinctly remembered thinking at that time what a fine film it would make. After volunteering for Powder and Patch I happily ran to my "keeper bookshelf," where my collection of Heyer’s books sit stored for dreary days, and pulled out the book. The cover of that book, however read The Masqueraders! Slightly chagrined, I rummaged a bit more in the bookcase and found Powder and Patch. I don’t believe I’d ever read it before—one of those rainy day ‘safety books’ I imagine many of us have on our shelves. So I have now had the immense pleasure of acquainting myself with Philip, Cleone, Tom, Maurice and Sally Malmerstoke for the first time.
Written twelve years before the 1935 publication of Regency Buck, Powder and Patch hints at the delightful tone of Heyer’s later Regencies. At age twenty-one she already wrote a delightful comedy of manners, a charming farce with clever dialogue and a host of well-drawn characters, both primary and secondary, who entertain and amuse.
Cleone Charteris rejects her country love Philip Jettan with the cruel words "I do not want a-a-raw-country-bumpkin." Philip, stung, leaves Sussex and his home with his father, Sir Maurice, grimly intent on obeying her wishes and become more the type of "prancing ninny" he thinks she admires. This feat he miraculously accomplishes in only six months in Paris. We are talking fiction, after all. Heyer herself said of a later book, "I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense. … But it’s unquestionably good escapist literature and I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter or recovering from flu."
At any rate in Paris Philip acquires a bit of polish—and a sad tendency to write poetry.
Into the room came, Philip, a vision in shades of yellow. He carried a rolled sheet of parchment tied with an amber ribbon. He walked with a spring, and his eyes sparkled with pure merriment. He waved the parchment roll triumphantly.
Saint-Dantin went forward to greet him.
"But of a lateness, Philippe," he cried, holding out his hands.
"A thousand pardons, Louis! I was consumed of a rondeau until an hour ago."
"A rondeau?" said De Vangrisse. "This morning it was a ballade!"
"This morning? Bah! That was a year ago. Since then it has been a sonnet!". . .
"I weep for you," said Philip. "Why do I waste my poetic gems upon you?"
Saint-Dantin took him by the elbow and led him to the door.
"Parbleu, Philippe, it’s what we wish to know. You shall expound to us at dinner."
Philip eventually returns to London, accompanied by his French valet, powdered, patched and determined to win his Cleone, who has ventured to London for the season. The romance between Philip’s uncle Tom and Cleone’s aunt Lady Malmerstoke provides a more mature foil to the youthful and romantic dilemmas faced by Philip and Cleone.
"Not that I don’t sympathize with the child," continued her ladyship inexorably. "Of course she is a fool, but so are all girls. A woman of my age don’t inquire too closely into a man’s past—we’ve learned wisdom. Cleone knows that you have trifled with a dozen other women. Bless you, she don’t think the worse of you for that!"
"She does! She said—"
"For goodness’ sake, don’t try to tell me what she said, Philip! What’s that to do with it?"
"But you don’t understand! Cleone said—"
"So she may have. That does not mean that she meant it, does it?" asked her ladyship in great scorn.
"Don’t start talking French at me, child, for I can’t bear it! You should know by now that no woman means what she says when it’s to a man."
It is curious that when the book was reprinted in 1930 Heyer omitted the final chapter. "Madame de Chauceron Brings Down the Curtain." Well worth a read, this brings a frothy and different denouement to the book, one that satisfies the reader in a slightly different way than the published conclusion of Powder and Patch.
I found it easily online at http://www.shelaghlewins.com/other_stuff/cleone.php
In her biography of Georgette Heyer, Jane Aiken Hodge wrote of the alteration "In the first version, he wins her and takes her to Paris, to become exquisites together. In the second they will retire to Sussex and become a country gentleman and his wife, very much like the Rougiers." During the seven years between the first edition and second edition of the book, Georgette Heyer married Ronald Rougier and quite possibly that changed ending reflects her own changed view of life. By 1930 she had spent time living with her husband in Macedonia, where she nearly died during a dental procedure, and in a grass hut in Tanganyika. Perhaps homey Sussex looked better to Georgette Heyer by 1930 than exotic Paris. But whichever ending you prefer, I hope you will enjoy, as I so thoroughly did, the chance to revisit this wonderfully fun read, or to discover it for the first time.
Susan McDuffie writes historical mysteries set in medieval Scotland and has written Regency short stories.