Dorothy Leigh Sayers, 17 December
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Julia Emery

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was an English writer and scholar, born at Oxford in 1893, the only child of an Anglican clergyman. She studied medieval literature at Oxford (Somerville College), being one of the first women to graduate (1915) from that university. Her first published writings were two volumes of verse,

Here (from memory) is the start of a poem from the former volume:

Christ walks the world again, his lute upon his back,
his red robe worn to tatters, his riches gone to rack.
The wind that wakes the morning blows his hair about his face,
and his arms and legs are ragged with the thorny briar's embrace,
for the hunt is up behind him, and his sword is at his side.
Christ the bonny outlaw walks the whole world wide,
singing: "Lady, lady, will you come away with me,
to lie among the bracken, and eat the barley bread?
We shall see new suns arise, in golden far-off skies,
for the son of God and woman has not where to lay his head."

She worked for several years writing advertising copy, until she was able to support herself by the sale of her books and stories.

In the following (selective) list of her works, I have made bold the ones that I think to be particularly good.

Detective Fiction

Miss Sayers's first commercially successful writings were detective fiction, and she eventually rose to the very top of that field. In Howard Haycraft's The Art of The Mystery Story, a collection of every notable essay on the detective story written before 1948, her name is mentioned more frequently than that of anyone except Sherlock Holmes. She wrote mostly about Lord Peter Wimsey, a wealthy gentleman and scholar, lover of rare books and fine wines, who solved detective cases because he enjoyed it, and was good at it, and because it was a job worth doing.

In case anyone is wondering what a writer of detective fiction is doing on a list of memorable Christian writers, I reply that a detective story can present the thoughtful reader with many observations and questions about the nature of good and evil, about difficult moral choices, and about ways of dealing with others. Detective stories, like books of any other kind, vary in quality. When you open a novel by Sayers, and find that the first words are

Thou blind man's mark, thou fool's self-chosen snare,
Fond fancy's scum, and dregs of scattered thought,
Band of all evils, cradle of causeless care,
Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought,
Desire, desire! I have too dearly bought,
With price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware.

you know that you are not reading a run-of-the-mill whodunit.

Her Wimsey books include:




Dorothy L. Sayers died 17 December 1957, leaving her translation of the Comedy unfinished. The last thirteen cantos and the notes and commentary to the Paradiso were supplied by her friend and fellow Dante scholar, Dr. Barbara Reynolds.

Books about Dorothy L. Sayers include the following:

written by James Kiefer


Prayer Almighty God, who gave to your servant Dorothy L Sayers special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.