The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers. Chosen and edited by Barbara Reynolds. Vol. 1: 1899-1936: The Making of a Detective Novelist. London: Hodder & Stoughton; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. xix + 421 pp. £7.99/$26.95 (cloth). Vol. 2:1937-1943: From Novelist to Playwright. Cambridge: Dorothy L. Sayers Society and Carole Green Publishing; New York: St. Martin's Press. 1997. xxi + 450 pp. £20.00/$27.95 (cloth). Vol. 3: 1944-1950: A Noble Daring. Cambridge: Dorothy L. Sayers Society and Carole Green Publishing, 1998. xxi + 573 pp. £25.00 (cloth). VoI 4: 1951-1957: In the Midst of Life. Cambridge: Dorothy L. Sayers Society and Carole Green Publishing, 2000. xix + 449 pp. £25.00 (cloth).
Dorothy L. Sayers: Child and Woman of Pier Time: A Supplement to The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers. Edited by Barbara Reynolds. Cambridge: Dorothy L. Sayers Society and Carole Green Publishing, 2002. xxxii + 165 pp.
Dorothy L. Suyevs is well known as a writer of mysteries. Her novels and short stories, especially those featuring Peter Wimsey, are among the best produced during Britain's "golden age" of detective fiction.
Less commonly noticed, however, are Sayers s accomplishments as an Anglo-Catholic lay theologian. In poetiy, plays, speeches, one small prose volume (The Mind of the Maker), and the footnotes to her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, Sayers has succeeded in bringing alive the Christian faith for many people. Though she regarded herself as merely handing on, in accessible form, that which she had received, Sayers demonstrated a capacity for new theological insights. Her reworking of the psychological analogy to the Trinity is significant, as is her emphasis on the value oi drama for understanding the Incarnation.
Sayers was a letter-writer of a kind which has grown rare. Her tetters are both well written and informative. She maintained an impressive level of correspondence with family, Mends, and acquaintances. In addition, Sayers responded with long and thoughtful letters to those who wrote her seeking information about Christianity or merely deriding it.
These volumes are, as one might expect, helpful sources of biographical information. In her letters, Sayers comes alive in a way which no biographer (including the estimable Barbara Reynolds, editor of this series) can catch. Biography and background to Sayers s detective fiction are the focuses of the first volume (1899-1936), which sheds little light on Sayers s theology. The last volume (195 J-1957) adds extensive reflection upon the problems of translation, touching upon her work with the Diuine Comedy, The Song of Roland, and other pieces.
The two middle volumes are more likely to be useful to those interested in theology and Anglicanism. In the second (1899-1936), Sayers develops and enlarges upon a number of the central themes of her understanding of Christianity. …