The Remarkable Dorothy L. Sayers – page 1


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From the Summer 2018 issue of Knowing & Doing:

The Remarkable Dorothy L. Sayers

by Lindsey Scholl, Ph.D.
Educator and Writer, Trinity Classical School


traveler enjoying a roadside stroll on the outskirts of London in the 1920s wouldn’t have been surprised to hear the pop-pop-pop of a Ner-A-Car motorcycle approaching on a bright afternoon. Ner-A-Cars were a new and exciting development in the motoring world. Their owners enjoyed “the inspiration of flying on wheels” as they traversed their commute on this long, dark two-wheeled wonder.1 What might have surprised the observant traveler was that this Ner-A-Car was manned by a thirty-something woman “sitting bolt upright as if driving a chariot.”2 The observer might have been shocked to discover that the woman was six months pregnant. And who would have guessed that she was well on her way to becoming one of England’s most successful writers?
  Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957), author of sixteen novels, ten plays, six translations, and twenty-four works of nonfiction, was an accomplished writer in multiple genres. Many admirers of C.S. Lewis have heard of her; she usually merits a handful of page references in the index of his biographies. Another class of reader — the fan of paperback mystery novels — knows Sayers as the creator of the memorable, near-perfect Lord Peter Wimsey. Yet again, dramatists might have performed her play The Zeal of Thy House. It is a testament to the breadth of her career that so many different readers know her name, if not all her works. From 1916, when her first book of poems was published, to her death in 1957, Sayers seemed to be everywhere on the English literary scene: she worked in advertising, was one of the first women to graduate from Oxford, became a celebrated novelist, developed a fascinating but orthodox approach to the Trinity, wrote stage plays, wrote radio plays, wrote articles on writing, translated the first two books of Dante’s Divine Comedy and was toward finishing the trilogy when she passed away, perhaps ironically, in the middle of Paradiso.
  Sayers had a hard-hitting, humorous, competent style, and reading her would benefit many Christians today, particularly those inclined to use their faith as a cover for sloppy thinking. She had little patience for masking inability with piety, and her writing bears out her commitment to quality craftsmanship. My goal in this article is not only to introduce readers to the body of her work, but also to her colorful, confrontational personality. I have divided her writing under three headings: the Novelist, the Christian, and the Scholar. Naturally, each focus informs the other, and there never appears to have been a time when Sayers was not, at heart, all three. But one can’t properly take in forty years of writing without dividing such a banquet into digestible courses.


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