Don’t you say Freddy to me!
One of my favorite romantic heroes of all time is also one of the most unlikely. Freddy Standen, hero of Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion, lacks the usual qualities necessary for a romantic lead.
At first glance, Freddy’s cousin Jack appears much more heroic and even Lord Legerwood, Freddy’s own father, has his doubts about his son’s mental capacity. Heyer doesn’t assist the reader to overcome our first impression of Freddy. We meet a Dandy who lacks the intelligence to be aware of subtleties and undertones. His value among his peers is as a graceful dancer, a reliable source of decorating advice, and he is such safe company for the ladies that not even the most jealous of husbands could resent Freddy Standen’s attentions to his wife. “Neither witty nor handsome; his disposition was retiring; and although he might be seen at any social gathering, he never (except by the excellence of his tailoring) drew attention to himself.”
Even Freddy himself doesn’t value his abilities particularly highly. Speaking of his brother, Charlie, Freddy tells his father, “I ain’t clever, like Charlie, but I ain’t such a sapskull as you think!”
Yet, Freddy Standen is the most charming, endearing hero I have ever encountered. I re-read his and Kitty’s story regularly and it delights and amuses me every time.
As for Kitty, she explains to Freddy’s sister, Meg, part of the reason for her brother’s appeal: “I daresay Freddy might not be a great hand at slaying dragons, but you may depend upon it none of those knight-errants would be able to rescue one from a social fix, and you must own, Meg, that one has not the smallest need of a man who can kill dragons!”
Whatever fix Kitty gets into, she discovers that Freddy will go to any lengths to get her out of it. And therein lies his charm. Freddy, isn’t a typical hero. But he loves her. He has resourcefulness, intelligence, and his own unique wit and he will never let her down. Despite his appearance, he is strong and dependable and that’s what made Kitty (and me) fall in love with him.
There are so many laugh out loud scenes from Cotillion featuring Freddy. This is one of them:
The Egyptian Hall, which had been erected four years previously, was otherwise known as Bullock’s Museum, and contained curiosities from the South Seas, from North and South America; a collection of armoury, and works of art; and had lately received, as an additional attraction, the Emperor Napoleon’s travelling-carriage. Its cognomen was derived from the style of its architecture, which included inclined pilasters ornamented with hieroglyphics. It was an imposing edifice, but it had not previously tempted Mr Standen to inspect its many marvels. Nor, when he had penetrated beyond the vestibule, did he waste time in studying the exhibits tastefully arranged around the walls. The only object in which he was interested was found seated primly upon a chair, a catalogue in her gloved hands, and her gaze fixed thoughtfully upon the model of a Red Indian chief in full panoply of war. Of Lord Dolphinton there was no sign, a circumstance which caused Mr Standen to exclaim, quite contrary to his intention: “Well, if this don’t beat the Dutch! First the fellow brings you to devilish place like this, and then he dashed well leaves you here!”
“Freddy!” cried Miss Charing, jumping almost out of her skin.
“And don’t you say Freddy to me!” added Mr Standen severely. “I told you I wouldn’t have it, Kit, and I dashed well meant it! Have the whole town talking!”
Kitty looked very much bewildered, but as it was plain that Mr Standen was filled with righteous wrath she refrained from protest, merely saying in a small, doubtful voice: “Frederick? Should I, in public, call you Mr Standen?”
“Call me Mr Standen?” said Freddy, thrown quite out of his stride. “No, of course you should not! Never heard such a silly question in my life! And it ain’t a bit of use trying to turn the subject! Not one to take a pet for no reason, but this is the outside of enough, Kit!”
“I wasn’t trying to turn the subject! You said I must not call you Freddy!”
Mr Standen stared at her. “Said you wasn’t to call me Freddy? Nonsense!”
“But you did!” replied Kitty indignantly. “Just this moment past! I must own, I think it was very unkind in you, for I had no notion it was wrong!”