Dorothy Sayers: "The dogma is the drama"
A gifted public communicator, Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) believed that those who slept through church had no idea what dynamite the gospel really was. Through her plays and essays, she tried to get people to see, as she said, that "the dogma is the drama." And she succeeded brilliantly—opening up the power and truth of orthodox Christianity for many who had abandoned the lukewarm cultural faith of England's religious establishment. CH&B senior editor Chris Armstrong talked recently with Sayers's friend, biographer, and collaborator in Dante translation, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, from her home in England.
An accomplished scholar in her own right—for 22 years lecturer in Italian at the University of Nottingham, a Dante translator, and general editor of The Cambridge Italian Dictionary—Barbara Reynolds is also the president of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society (with a membership around 500), author of the New York Times notable book Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, and editor of five volumes of Sayers's letters. Dr. Reynolds's 1989 book, The Passionate Intellect: Dorothy L. Sayers' Encounter with Dante, is one of this interviewer's favorite works of intellectual biography.
What was Dorothy L. Sayers like as a person? The portraits of her that I have read leave the impression of a person who was larger than life—even intimidating.
She radiated intellectual ardor. Dante called this "the mind in love"—it was a gift Dorothy possessed all her life. This passionate intellectual energy could sometimes be quite overwhelming. She would come and stay with me, and we would talk and go out to meet people and come back late at night; then she would start on some very difficult point in Dante, such as Ptolemaic astronomy, what the position ...