Dorothy Sayers Essays

Dorothy Sayers Essays-34
Harriet must recognize her merits and failings, accept them, and respect her own uniqueness; only then can she achieve a satisfying relationship with another. An alumna of Shrewsbury, a women’s college at Oxford University, Harriet is invited by the dean to help discover the identity of an intruder who is disturbing the scholastic calm; after much wanton destruction, Lord Peter’s help is enlisted.In the essay “Gaudy Night” (not to be confused with the novel of that name) Sayers tells how her ideas of integrity influenced her writing: “Let me confess that when I wrote Strong Poison, it was with the infanticidal intention of doing away with Peter; that is, of marrying him off and getting rid of him.” But: “I could find no form of words in which she could accept him without loss of self-respect. In the senior common room one evening, when the topic of intellectual honesty comes up, a don recounts how a graduate student from another university deliberately suppressed evidence because it would invalidate his research and destroy the main argument of his dissertation.This theme of integrity in personal relationships is important in the novels that develop the romance between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane.

Work, she says, is not what one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. She understood the advertising milieu well, for in the ‘20s and ‘30s, while writing her novels, she had been employed as a copywriter in just such an advertising agency, Benson’s in London.

“It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.” She continues: We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay? In this novel, Lord Peter dashes off clever copy that delights his colleagues at Pym’s advertising agency without letting his unsuspecting associates know that he is actually hired to discover who is carrying on some nefarious scheme under cover of the agency. Upon my soul, I sometimes wonder why the long-suffering public doesn’t rise up and slay us.

“In nothing has the Church so lost Her hold on reality as in Her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation.

She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion. How can any one remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?

In Begin Here, a wartime essay on aspects of peace, she defines freedom as it was understood in medieval England: “Freedom . In the essay “Creed or Chaos,” she stresses that it is fatal to allow people to “suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling . The idea of maintaining right relationships with God, one’s neighbor and oneself is an important theme, for instance, in her third novel, Unnatural Death (1927).

Miss Climpson, the lovable, eccentric spinster who assists Lord Peter in his sleuthing, expresses her concern that young Vera Findlater is so infatuated with an older woman that she becomes her veritable slave.

To countless students, she was the scholar and translator who made Dante’s Divine Comedy not only readable but enjoyable, and surprisingly relevant to their own era.

At the time of her death in 1957, Sayers’s writings, aside from her best novels and short stories, were not well known outside England, but in the past ten years, particularly in the United States, her reputation as a Christian humanist has grown steadily. Sayers was the only child of Henry Sayers, headmaster of the Cathedral Choir School, Oxford, and Helen Leigh Sayers, great-niece of Percival Leigh, “the Professor” of Punch.

This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock. Sayers was known to many readers as the creator of that debonair, aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, who solved the mysteries in Murder Must Advertise, Gaudy Night and The Nine Tailors.

Despite her recent reputation as a Christian humanist, certain Christian themes recur in all of Sayers’s writings — detective novels, dramas, poems, essays and scholarly studies. To others, she was the dramatist whose radio serial, The Man Born to Be King, brought the words of Christ into their living rooms.


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