Monday, June 13, 2011

Dorothy L. Sayers – Her Birthday and My Musings

Today, June 13, is the birthday of Dorothy L. Sayers, she was born in Oxford, England in 1893. She died on December 17, 1957. (Why did Sayers and Lewis and Williams go and die so young? Is this what writing does to one? Granted, 64 might not seem young to you, but it is increasingly young to me).

I just finished a biography of Sayers by Janet Hitchman, Such a Strange Lady. If you want a Sayers biography and haven’t read Barbara Reynolds’s, Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, read Reynolds first. Reynolds is a scholar who not only knew Sayers, she also completed Sayers’s work on Dante which was cut short by her death. Hitchman, on the other hand, reveals her lack of research throughout the book, often substituting her conjectures for substance. Hitchman wants us to know that her offering is an “introduction” to Sayers as if that gives her a pass on accuracy, she also must think she deserves a pass when she points out that she received no cooperation from the Sayers Estate in terms of access to letters and papers – sorry Ms. Hitchman, no cigar.

In one sense the fact that Hitchman’s work doesn’t have an index speaks volumes – how does one index inaccuracies and conjectures? (Though I admit biographers and historians have done it more than once). To me an index in a biography or history indicates order and attention to detail, as do footnotes or endnotes.

Here’s a sample of Hitchman, she is writing about Sayers’s correspondence with C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams:

“Dorothy corresponded with both of them, though these letters have not yet come to light, and they formed themselves into a kind of loosely knit club, referring to themselves as the Inklings because they thought they each had a glimpse of the meaning of God.” page 152.

If Hitchman is saying that Sayers was part of the Inklings she is wrong (I am confused by Hitchman’s writing here). Humphrey Carpenter in his book, The Inklings, quotes Lewis as saying that he didn’t think Sayers knew about the informal club’s existence. Furthermore, the Inklings was a literary club; its beginnings were literary and its continued life was literary – of course it contained wonderful Christian writers such as Lewis and Tolkien, and I think it's fair to say that Lewis became the hub of the wheel.

To be continued…

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