sea-change asked about scholarly works on Sayers’s detective fiction a while back, so here’s a selection of the best stuff I’ve found. Please note that they’re all full of spoilers. Finish the books first.
- Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey by Robert Kuhn McGregor and Ethan Lewis. A brief, highly readable study of the world Peter lived in (would have lived in, right) and how it wove itself into Sayer’s work. I found the historical context to be a lot more effective than the literary analysis, but it was worth reading. I posted a few very short excerpts here and here.
- The Science of Mysteries posts: Leave Us The Counterpoint, Instructions For A Deadly Dinner, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and Shock, Trauma, and the First World War.
- Sayers on the writing of Gaudy Night (available online at the link), from Howard Maycraft’s Art of the Mystery Story (1946). Great and excellent and wonderful.
The book also contains a 40-page article by Sayers called The Omnibus of Crime about the history and status of the detective genre and how she approaches it; It’s quite interesting. Note that there seems to be a larger collection or expanded version of The Omnibus of Crime (listing Sayers as editor), but there isn’t much information about it online.
(Maycraft, by the way, also includes an article from 1941 hypothesizing that the reason for the apparent intimacy between Holmes and Watson is that Watson was in fact a woman.)
- Dorothy L. Sayers: The Centenary Celebration (1993), edited by Alzina Stone Dale. A variety of essays on the whole of Sayers’s career, including her detective fiction. I’ve read most of these, and the quality varies. There’s an essay on Gaudy Night and one on Peter and Harriet, but they basically retell the books and didn’t seem to add much.
- As Her Whimsey Took Her: Critical Essays on the Work of Dorothy L. Sayers (1979), edited by Margaret P. Hannay. I haven’t read this one yet, but looking through the table of contents makes me really want to. It’s divided into sections and covers her whole body of work, including theology, translations, and poetry.
- The Wimsey Family: A Fragmentary History compiled from correspondence with Dorothy L. Sayers (1977), by C. W. Scott-Giles, Fitzalan Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary. A wonderfully insane little book best described by this Amazon review, or by Sayers herself (see Gaudy Night, above): The course of English history is disturbed by the antics of dead-and-gone Wimseys, who leap from its waters like so many salmon in the mating season. My friends have become infected with my own madness; they wrestle valiantly with dates and genealogical trees and armorial bearings; they assist me to write spoof pamphlets about eighteenth century Wimseys, adorned with plausible excerpts from from Evelyn and Bubb Dodington and Horace Walpole; they embellish these fantasies with family portraits and contemporary views of Bredon Hall; they accept the existence of a poetical Wimsey who was a friend of Sir Philip Sidney, and meekly sit down to set his songs to music, while the local chemist prepares ink from an Elizabethan recipe wherewith I may forge the original manuscripts in a fair secretary hand. We discover Wimsey ciphers embedded in the plays of Shakespeare, and retrieve Wimsey common-place books from remote corners of Australia; we sally forth in a team to foist these discoveries upon bewildered literary societies in respectable universities.
- Sayers wrote a series of letters between various characters during WWII, which is collected in The Wimsey Papers (online here).
- The Sayers Society offers an online database of comprehensive annotations to the books, but it looks like it’s members-only; however, Bill Peschel did some impressive annotations of his own that are available at his website.
- via theadoradove: On 8 January 1954, the BBC broadcast a programme entitled “A Tribute to Sherlock Holmes on the Occasion of his 100th Birthday,” from a script by Sayers. In it, Lord Peter recounts the story of how his eight-year-old self consulted the famous detective in the pressing matter of a missing kitten. Read a transcript here.
- Edit: melodysustainin just pointed out that the Dorothy L. Sayers Society offers a lot of articles. (Thanks!)
If any of you can suggest things that I’ve missed, please let me know!
As we pray for increase of strength or virtue, let us remember that the answer is likely to take the form of opportunity to exercise it, like the lady who prayed for patience and was provided with an ill-tempered cook.
Archbishop William Temple (1881-1944). The Hope of a New World. (via jondrowe)
Good words(via myadventuresinoddity)