Andrew: Six drachmas! Well, really, Philip!
Philip: I’m very sorry, everybody.
Simon: I daresay you are. But here’s me and Andrew and the Zebedees working all night with the nets to get a living for the lot of us — and then you go and let yourself be swindled by the first cheating salesman you meet in the bazaar —
Philip: I told you I’m sorry. Master, I’m very sorry. But it sounded all right when he worked it out.
Matthew: Fact is, Philip my boy, you’ve been had for a sucker.11
Partly because of the legacy of writers like Sayers, this passage may not seem controversial today. But at the time, it was explosive. Groups such as the Lord’s Day Observance Society and the Protestant Truth Society tried to get the radio drama banned. The protest went all the way to Parliament. But Sayers had an ally in the BBC’s director of Religious Broadcasting, who reminded her that all the protests were free publicity. Indeed they were: The Man Born to Be King was a remarkable success and a great encouragement to war-torn Britain.12
Sayers wrote Christian works outside of drama. Her Mind of the Maker, for example, is an innovative, orthodox comparison of the Trinity to human works of creation. Though she never claimed to be a theologian, The Mind of the Maker provides such ready accessibility to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that one of her biographers claimed that “she has managed, without any intellectual cheating, to bring God and man closer together.”13
Although as a young adult Sayers avowed that “I was never cut out for an academic career — I was really meant to be sociable,”14 she turned out to be a successful scholar. Her early language training in Latin, German, and French, her easy adoption of Italian, and her commitment to do a quality job as a writer made her a formidable translator and researcher. Her early affection for poetry, somewhat muted by the years of Wimsey novels and stage productions, returned in force toward the end of her life.
The Divine Comedy was to be the channel and the beneficiary of her zeal. It is odd that a woman so in love with poetry should have had so little exposure to perhaps the greatest poet of Europe, but until a 1944 air raid forced her underground with the first book that came to hand, Sayers and Dante had been poorly acquainted. According to her, it was love at first read:
However foolish it may sound, the plain fact is that I bolted my meals, neglected my sleep, work, and correspondence, drove my friends crazy, and paid only a distracted attention to the doodle-bugs which happened to be infesting the neighborhood at the time, until I had panted my way through the Three Realms of the dead from the top to bottom and from bottom to top.15
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