The Letters of Dorothy L Sayers by P D James (preface), Barbara Reynolds (ed) - review by Jessica Mann

Jessica Mann

Life After Crime

The Letters of Dorothy L Sayers


Hodder & Stoughton (Vol 1 £20), The Dorothy L Sayers Society with Carole Green Publishing (Vols II £20, III £25, IV £25, V £15) order from our bookshop

DOROTHY L SAYERS'S detective novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey remained in print and popular longer the work of her more 'serious' contemporaries had been forgotten. Generations of unliberated girls were educated by their undisguised feminism, enchanted by the fantasy of a very rich lord falling in love with a plain bluestocking, and inspired (by Gaudy Night) to aim for Oxbridge. The novels seem dated now, and few of the younger generation seem to read them, but many people are still interested in the work Sayers turned to in middle age, when she abandoned the Me of crime. Enquirers were told that she was sick to death of the subject. For the rest of her life she worked as a poet, critic, playwright, translator and Christian apologist. It seems extraordinary that this versatile and productive author also had time to write thousands of essay-length letters, containing pages of trenchant comment and uninhibited exhortation.

Sayers said that she wanted her life to be private, her secrets concealed and her juvenilia and correspondence destroyed. She should have got rid of her papers herself. On her sudden death, from a coronary thrombosis at the age of sixty-four, Sayers's heirs ignored her stated wish. This ought to

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