The Mystery Of Dorothy Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, by Barbara Reynolds (St. Martin’s, 398 pp.; $25.95, hardcover). Reviewed by Alzina Stone Dale, who is the author of Maker and Craftsman: The Story of Dorothy L. Sayers (Harold Shaw).

Two special church services were held on June 13 to commemorate Dorothy L. Sayers, now best known as the author of the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery stories. One was a highly traditional, high-church ceremony at Oxford’s medieval Christ Church Cathedral, sponsored by the Sayers Society under the patronage of the former archbishop of Canterbury, with the bishop of Chichester preaching. The other had a more progressive and feminist flavor. Held in Chicago at the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint James, the service used the modern Rite Two from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and was celebrated by a woman priest with women lay readers and a woman preacher. Taken together, these events aptly symbolize the ongoing religious appeal of Sayers, who would have been 100 years old that day.

In her writing, which includes detective stories and novels, poetry, theological essays, literary criticism, a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and plays, including The Man Born to Be King (the popular BBC play cycle of the life of Christ), the British Sayers was somehow able to combine a continuity of tradition with a contemporary approach to important issues. As a result, Sayers attracts audiences with widely differing agendas. Even among Christians, some see her as a champion of Christian feminism, while others love her witty defenses of orthodoxy, seeing her as having a similar mission as her Oxford friends C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams; still others appreciate her leadership as a Christian artist.

The ...

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