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Vol. II, 1937-1943, From Novelist to Playwright

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Pub Date: April 17th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18127-2
Publisher: St. Martin's

Lord Peter Wimsey’s creator turns her attention—and correspondence—to the Lord Himself. In this second volume of letters, Sayers switches roles from beloved detective novelist to an increasingly well-regarded if sometimes beleaguered Christian playwright. It’s a testament to her strength as a writer and thinker that Sayers confines her new role —not [to] prophet, but only sort of painstaking explainer of official dogma.— These letters include lively, substantive arguments with religious leaders, politicians, collaborators, and detractors. The war years were productive ones for Sayers, who wrote five plays for the stage and others for radio, lectured, wrote articles, and published two books, all concerning Christianity. Sayers commendably turns her pen’s power to the war itself, seizing the opportunity to connect religion with reality. On September 10, 1939, one week after Great Britain went to war with Germany, Sayers wrote to a Christian newsletter editor that the Church ought to “say something loud and definite” about what’s happening in the world. She’s at her finest when she corrects distortions of her work and responds to sincere inquiries, which in turn inspire thoughtful explication. With humility, intelligence, clarity, and an occasional barb, she eschews ignorance. Her task is to imaginatively explain Christian doctrine, which, she reminds her correspondents, isn’t her creation: “I didn’t think it was ‘my’ theology exactly; I thought it was the Church’s.” The price of this isn’t zealotry but monotony. With the exception of a scattered reference to her husband and some letters to her adolescent “unacknowledged” son, her letters focus almost exclusively on Christianity. Interestingly, the mystery surrounding her son gets solved, though not in her letters—Reynolds appends to this volume particulars about Sayers’s son, thus filling in a gap in his biography Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul (1993). Followers of Wimsey’s sleuthing may not enjoy following Sayers’s prolix letters on Christianity.