Friday, February 22, 2008

The Real Dorothy

I am greatly enjoying a collection of essays by the great Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of the aristocratic English detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. A woman as large and jolly as Chesterton, who, of course, also created a great detective, she enjoyed a good debate - and a good cigar! Like Chesterton, her debates, even with obvious heretics, kept Othello's maxim: "Nor set down aught in malice," advice the Owl attempts to follow, even when lampooning soft-rock crooner's from the 1970's. She has Lord Peter Wimsey say in 'Gaudy Night,' - "A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought" - with that out of the way, and not an original thought in my head, I'll quote some goodies from the real Dorothy.

"We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him 'meek and mild,' and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates' and pious old ladies."

"Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ."

"It is the dogma that is the drama - not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death - but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe."

"Nothing is more intoxicating than a sense of power: the demagogue who can sway crowds..... the parliamentary candidate who is carried to the top of the poll on a flood of meaningless rhetoric...are all playing perilously and irresponsibly with the power of words, and are equally dangerous whether they are cynically unscrupulous or (as frequently happens) have fallen under the spell of their own eloquence and become the victims of their own propaganda." ......yes, we can....!


Kimberly said...

Thank you for the quotes, they are good food for thought. Hope all is well.

gemoftheocean said...

:-D Gaudy Night is a particular favorite of mine. I think she was miles and miles ahead of Agathe C.

There are so many of hers I like, Nine Taylors, Murder Must Advertise, and so on.

I was surprised to read in the more recent bios of her that she had an illegitimate son and was rather successful at covering that up = her dad was an Anglican priest.

Liz said...

I am a huge Dorothy L. Sayers fan myself (in fact I own as many Sayers critical studies and biographies as the UVM library and at least one selection of her letters which they do not. I'm currently reading her work on Dante as I "do" Purgatorio with a couple of homeschooled high school students. I love Sayers translation of Dante, I love her non-fiction, and I love her mysteries. I agree with Gemoftheocean that Gaudy Night is a particular favorite. My first encounter with Sayers, however was The Nine Tailors (after seeing the BBC production of it on Masterpiece Theater back in the 1970's.

My students have frequently been subjected to adventures in Sayers because of my love of her. We've read together The Man Born to Be King, The Nine Tailors, and all 3 books of Dante's Comedy (although my current students are only on book 2). I've introduced my daughter and my nieces to her as well.

Anyone who is interested in her life story would do well to read Barbara Reynolds biography. Having read a number of biographies of Sayers I think that Reynolds is the best. I also highly recommend The Mind of the Maker as a look into th creative process as Sayers saw it.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Anyone who could think up the coat of arms of the Wimseys is alright in my book, even without the good writing.

gemoftheocean said...

Hi Liz, I think I first came to DS via that BBC production as well. I think I first saw ?Nine Tailors. I also remember in that same "set" they did Clouds of Witness, 4 red Herrings (I forget what that one's called in the UK -- it's the one set it Scotland) and it seems to me there was another about the same time.

I quite like Edward P. in the later series as well. He was exactly the sort of type I'd conjured.

I was surprised she wasn't overly fond of Murder Must Advertise.