Monday, October 29, 2012

Clouds of Witness Ch 6 continued



Over his tea Mr. Parker drew out the photographs of Lady Mary and Denis Cathcart from his breast pocket. He stood them up against the teapot and stared at them, looking from one to the other as if trying to force a meaning from their faintly smirking, self-conscious gaze. He referred again to his Paris notes, ticking off various points with a pencil. “Damn!” said Mr. Parker, gazing at Lady Mary. “Damn—damn—damn——”
                The train of thought he was pursuing was an extraordinarily interesting one. Image after image, each rich in suggestion, crowded into his mind. Of course, one couldn't think properly in Paris—it was so uncomfortable and the houses were central heated.

Some buildings in the Roman Empire used central heating systems, conducting air heated by furnaces through empty spaces under the floors and out of pipes in the walls—a system known as a hypocaust.  A similar system of central heating was used in ancient Korea, where it is known as ondol. It is thought that the ondol system dates back to the Koguryo or Three Kingdoms (37 BC-AD 668) period when excess heat from stoves were used to warm homes.

In the early medieval Alpine upland, a simpler central heating system where heat travelled through underfloor channels from the furnace room replaced the Roman hypocaust at some places. In Reichenau Abbey a network of interconnected underfloor channels heated the 300 m² large assembly room of the monks during the winter months. The degree of efficiency of the system has been calculated at 90%.

In the 13th century, the Cistercian monks revived central heating in Christian Europe using river diversions combined with indoor wood-fired furnaces. The well-preserved Royal Monastery of Our Lady of the Wheel (founded 1202) on the Ebro River in the Aragon region of Spain provides an excellent example of such an application.

The Roman hypocaust continued to be used on a smaller scale during late Antiquity and by the Umayyad caliphate, while later Muslim builder employed a simpler system of underfloor pipes.

By about 1700 Russian engineers had started designing hydrologically based systems for central heating. The Summer Palace (1710–1714) of Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg provides the best extant example. Slightly later, in 1716, came the first use of water in Sweden to distribute heat in buildings. Martin Triewald, a Swedish engineer, used this method for a greenhouse at Newcastle upon Tyne. Jean Simon Bonnemain (1743–1830), a French architect, introduced the technique to industry on a cooperative, at Château du Pêcq, near Paris.

Angier March Perkins developed and installed some of the earliest steam-heating systems in the 1830s. The first was installed in the home of Governor of the Bank of England John Horley Palmer so that he could grow grapes in England's cold climate.

Franz San Galli, a Polish-born Russian businessman living in St. Petersburg, invented the radiator between 1855–1857, which was a major step in the final shaping of modern central heating.

                Here, where so many problems had been unravelled, there was a good fire. Cathcart had been sitting before the fire. Of course, he wanted to think out a problem. When cats sat staring into the fire they were thinking out problems. It was odd he should not have thought of that before. When the green-eyed cat sat before the fire one sank right down into a sort of rich, black, velvety suggestiveness which was most important. It was luxurious to be able to think so lucidly as this, because otherwise it would be a pity to exceed the speed limit—and the black moors were reeling by so fast. But now he had really got the formula he wouldn't forget it again. The connection was just there—close, thick, richly coherent.
                “The glass-blower's cat is bompstable,” said Mr. Parker aloud and distinctly.

Bompstable is not an actual word…Parker was dreaming and said the first thing that came into his head.

                “I'm charmed to hear it,” replied Lord Peter, with a friendly grin. “Had a good nap, old man?”
                “I—what?” said Mr. Parker. “Hullo! Watcher mean, nap? I had got hold of the most important train of thought, and you've put it out of my head. What was it? Cat—cat—cat——” He groped wildly.

“You said 'The glass-blower's cat is bompstable,'” retorted Lord Peter. “It's a perfectly rippin' word, but I don't know what you mean by it.”

“Bompstable?” said Mr. Parker, blushing slightly. “Bomp—oh, well, perhaps you're right—I may have dozed off. But, you know, I thought I'd just got the clue to the whole thing. I attached the greatest importance to that phrase. Even now—No, now I come to think of it, my train of thought doesn't seem quite to hold together. What a pity. I thought it was so lucid.”
                “Never mind,” said Lord Peter. “Just back?”
                “Crossed last night. Any news?”

Parker crossed the English Channel from France to England.

                “Lots.”
                “Good?”
                “No.”
                Parker's eyes wandered to the photographs.
                “I don't believe it,” he said obstinately. “I'm damned if I'm going to believe a word of it.”
                “A word of what?”
                “Of whatever it is.”
                “You'll have to believe it, Charles, as far as it goes,” said his friend softly, filling his pipe with decided little digs of the fingers. “I don't say”—dig—“that Mary”—dig—“shot Cathcart”—dig, dig—“but she has lied”—dig—“again and again.”—Dig, dig—“She knows who did it”—dig—“she was prepared for it”—dig—“she's malingering and lying to keep the fellow shielded”—dig—“and we shall have to make her speak.” Here he struck a match and lit the pipe in a series of angry little puffs.
                “If you can think,” said Mr. Parker, with some heat, “that that woman”—he indicated the photographs—“had any hand in murdering Cathcart, I don't care what your evidence is, you—hang it all, Wimsey, she's your own sister.”
                “Gerald is my brother,” said Wimsey quietly. “You don't suppose I'm exactly enjoying this business, do you? But I think we shall get along very much better if we try to keep our tempers.”
                “I'm awfully sorry,” said Parker. “Can't think why I said that—rotten bad form—beg pardon, old man.”
                “The best thing we can do,” said Wimsey, “is to look the evidence in the face, however ugly. And I don't mind admittin' that some of it's a positive gargoyle.
                “My mother turned up at Riddlesdale on Friday. She marched upstairs at once and took possession of Mary, while I drooped about in the hall and teased the cat, and generally made a nuisance of myself. You know. Presently old Dr. Thorpe called. I went and sat on the chest on the landing. Presently the bell rings and Ellen comes upstairs. Mother and Thorpe popped out and caught her just outside Mary's room, and they jibber-jabbered a lot, and presently mother came barging down the passage to the bathroom with her heels tapping and her earrings simply dancing with irritation. I sneaked after 'em to the bathroom door, but I couldn't see anything, because they were blocking the doorway, but I heard mother say, 'There, now, what did I tell you'; and Ellen said, 'Lawks! your grace, who'd 'a' thought it?'; and my mother said, 'All I can say is, if I had to depend on you people to save me from being murdered with arsenic or that other stuff with the name like anemones—you know what I mean—that that very attractive-looking man with the preposterous beard used to make away with his wife and mother-in-law (who was vastly the more attractive of the two, poor thing), I might be being cut up and analysed by Dr. Spilsbury now—such a horrid, distasteful job he must have of it, poor man, and the poor little rabbits, too.'” Wimsey paused for breath, and Parker laughed in spite of his anxiety.
                “I won't vouch for the exact words,” said Wimsey, “but it was to that effect—you know my mother's style. Old Thorpe tried to look dignified, but mother ruffled up like a little hen and said, looking beadily at him: 'In my day we called that kind of thing hysterics and naughtiness. We didn't let girls pull the wool over our eyes like that. I suppose you call it a neurosis, or a suppressed desire, or a reflex, and coddle it. You might have let that silly child make herself really ill. You are all perfectly ridiculous, and no more fit to take care of yourselves than a lot of babies!—not but what there are plenty of poor little things in the slums that look after whole families and show more sense than the lot of you put together. I am very angry with Mary, advertising herself in this way, and she's not to be pitied.' You know,” said Wimsey, “I think there's often a great deal in what one's mother says.”
                “I believe you,” said Parker.
                “Well, I got hold of mother afterwards and asked her what it was all about. She said Mary wouldn't tell her anything about herself or her illness; just asked to be let alone. Then Thorpe came along and talked about nervous shock—said he couldn't understand these fits of sickness, or the way Mary's temperature hopped about. Mother listened, and told him to go and see what the temperature was now. Which he did, and in the middle mother called him away to the dressing-table. But, bein' a wily old bird, you see, she kept her eyes on the looking-glass, and nipped round just in time to catch Mary stimulatin' the thermometer to terrific leaps on the hot-water bottle.”
                “Well, I'm damned!” said Parker.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ken Gruebel: Mystery novels from England and Canada

From Sun Journal:  Ken Gruebel: Mystery novels from England and Canada

Something old and something new this morning. This stems from the reprinting of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Harper Collins in soft cover. This novel was first copyright in 1932 when I was in the first grade reading the adventures of Dick, Jane and Sally.
The full title to this Lord Peter Wimsey story adds “with Harriet Vane.” It may be Wimsey that solves most of the mystery but it is Harriet Vane, a mystery writer in her own right, who discovers the body and sounds the alarm. The story is written in the first person by Harriet. The setting is the beautiful but rugged coast of England, peopled with farmers, barbers and, of course, policemen.
When Harriet finds a body on a rock at the water’s edge she tries to “assist the police in their enquiries,” as the saying goes. It is only with the arrival of Wimsey that the case outlines begin to clear and the actions of the many suspects can be grouped into possible or impossible capabilities and time lines.
A good read but of course rather dated. When have you last heard someone talk about getting “a new frock for the afternoon tea dance,” or a woman who wore a hat that “was absolutely disappointing.” Dorothy Sayers is full of these rather dated remarks. But a good read, non-the-less. Guessing the culprit becomes very difficult. I was way off the mark. I guess that’s one reason I’m not a detective.

 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Clouds of Witness, Chapter 6



CHAPTER VI
MARY QUITE CONTRARY
“I am striving to take into public life what any man gets from his mother.”
Lady Astor


Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor, CH, (19 May 1879 – 2 May 1964) was the first woman to sit as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) in the British House of Commons.She was the wife of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor.


On the opening day of the York Assizes, the Grand Jury brought in a true bill against Gerald, Duke of Denver, for murder. Gerald, Duke of Denver, being accordingly produced in the court, the Judge affected to discover—what, indeed, every newspaper in the country had been announcing to the world for the last fortnight—that he, being but a common or garden judge with a plebeian jury, was incompetent to try a peer of the realm. He added, however, that he would make it his business to inform the Lord Chancellor (who also, for the last fortnight, had been secretly calculating the accommodation in the Royal Gallery and choosing lords to form the Select Committee). Order being taken accordingly, the noble prisoner was led away.

· · · · · · · · · ·
                A day or two later, in the gloom of a London afternoon, Mr. Charles Parker rang the bell of a second-floor flat at No. 110a Piccadilly. The door was opened by Bunter, who informed him with a gracious smile that Lord Peter had stepped out for a few minutes but was expecting him, and would he kindly come in and wait.
                “We only came up this morning,” added the valet, “and are not quite straight yet, sir, if you will excuse us. Would you feel inclined for a cup of tea?”
                Parker accepted the offer, and sank luxuriously into a corner of the chesterfield.

A couch or sofa, is a piece of furniture for seating two or more persons in the form of a bench, with or without armrests, that is partly or wholly upholstered, and often fitted with springs and tailored cushions. Although a couch is used primarily for seating, it may be used for reclining.

In homes, couches are normally found in the family room, living room, den, sitting room or the lounge. They are also found in hotels, lobbies of commercial offices, waiting rooms, furniture stores, etc.

The term 'couch' is used in North America, Australia, New Zealand,[4] and Ireland whilst the term 'sofa' is generally used in the United Kingdom. The word originated in Middle English from the Old French noun couche, which derived from the verb meaning 'to lie down'.[5] It originally denoted an item of furniture for lying or sleeping on, somewhat like a chaise lounge, but now refers to sofas in general.

Other terms synonymous with the above definition of couch are sofa, settee, chesterfield, divan, davenport, and canapé. The word sofa is from Turkish derived from the Arabic word suffa for 'carpet' or 'divan', originating in the Aramaic word sippa for 'mat'.[8] The word settee comes from the Old English word, 'setl', which was used to describe long benches with high backs and arms, but is now generally used to describe upholstered seating  


After the extraordinary discomfort of French furniture there was solace in the enervating springiness beneath him, the cushions behind his head, and Wimsey's excellent cigarettes. What Bunter had meant by saying that things were “not quite straight yet” he could not divine. A leaping wood fire was merrily reflected in the spotless surface of the black baby grand; the mellow calf bindings of Lord Peter's rare editions glowed softly against the black and primrose walls; the vases were filled with tawny chrysanthemums; the latest editions of all the papers were on the table—as though the owner had never been absent.

In grand pianos, the frame and strings are horizontal, with the strings extending away from the keyboard. The action lies beneath the strings, and uses gravity as its means of return to a state of rest.

There are many sizes of grand piano. A rough generalization distinguishes the concert grand (between 2.2 and 3 metres long, about 7–10 feet) from the parlor grand or boudoir grand (1.7 to 2.2 metres long, about 6–7 feet) and the smaller baby grand (around 1.5 metres (5 feet)).

All else being equal, longer pianos with longer strings have larger, richer sound and lower inharmonicity of the strings. Inharmonicity is the degree to which the frequencies of overtones (known as partials or harmonics) sound sharp relative to whole multiples of the fundamental frequency. This results from the piano's considerable string stiffness; as a struck string decays its harmonics vibrate, not from their termination, but from a point very slightly toward the center (or more flexible part) of the string. The higher the partial, the further sharp it runs. Pianos with shorter and thicker string (i.e. small pianos with short string scales) have more inharmonicity. The greater the inharmonicity, the more the ear perceives it as harshness of tone.

Inharmonicity requires that octaves be stretched, or tuned to a lower octave's corresponding sharp overtone rather than to a theoretically correct octave. If octaves are not stretched, single octaves sound in tune, but double—and notably triple—octaves are unacceptably narrow. Stretching a small piano's octaves to match its inherent inharmonicity level creates an imbalance among all the instrument's intervallic relationships, not just its octaves. In a concert grand, however, the octave "stretch" retains harmonic balance, even when aligning treble notes to a harmonic produced from three octaves below. This lets close and widespread octaves sound pure, and produces virtually beatless perfect fifths. This gives the concert grand a brilliant, singing and sustaining tone quality—one of the principal reasons that full-size grands are used in the concert hall. Smaller grands satisfy the space and cost needs of domestic use.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dorothy Sayers biography

From WIkipedia

 Dorothy Leigh Sayers ( 13 June 1893 – 17 December 1957) was a renowned English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Christian humanist. She was also a student of classical and modern languages. She is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, that remain popular to this day. However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy to be her best work. She is also known for her plays, literary criticism and essays.

Biography

Childhood, youth and education


Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, where Dorothy's father was headmaster of the Choir School
Sayers, an only child, was born on 13 June 1893 at the Head Master's House, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, her father, the Rev. Henry Sayers, M.A., being a chaplain of Christ Church and headmaster of the Choir School. (When she was six he started teaching her Latin.)She grew up in the tiny village of Bluntisham-cum-Earith in Huntingdonshire, after her father was given the living there as rector. The Regency rectory is an elegant building, while the church graveyard features the surnames of several characters from her mystery The Nine Tailors. The proximity of the River Great Ouse and the Fens invites comparison with the book's vivid description of a massive flood around the village.
From 1909 she was educated at the Godolphin School, a boarding school in Salisbury. Her father later moved to the less luxurious living of Christchurch, also in Cambridgeshire.
In 1912, she won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, and studied modern languages and medieval literature. She finished with first-class honours in 1915.Although women could not be awarded degrees at that time, Sayers was among the first to receive a degree when the position changed a few years later, and in 1920 she graduated as a MA. Her experience of Oxford academic life eventually inspired her penultimate Peter Wimsey novel, Gaudy Night.
Her father was from a line of Sayerses from Littlehampton, West Sussex, and her mother (Helen Mary Leigh – whence Sayers' second name) was born at "The Chestnuts", Millbrook, Hampshire to Frederick Leigh, a solicitor, whose family roots were in the Isle of Wight. Dorothy's aunt Amy, her mother's sister, married Henry Richard Shrimpton.

Career

Poetry, teaching, and advertisements

Dorothy Sayers' first book, of poetry, was published in 1916 as OP. I[7] by Blackwell Publishing in Oxford. Later Sayers worked for Blackwell's and then as a teacher in several locations including Normandy, France, just before World War I began.
Sayers' longest employment was from 1922 to 1931 as a copywriter at S.H. Benson's advertising agency in London. This was located at International Buildings, Kingsway, London. Sayers was quite successful as an advertiser. Her collaboration with artist John Gilroy resulted in "The Mustard Club" for Colman's Mustard and the Guinness "Zoo" advertisements, variations of which still appear today. One famous example was the Toucan, his bill arching under a glass of Guinness, with Sayers's jingle:
If he can say as you can
Guinness is good for you
How grand to be a Toucan
Just think what Toucan do
Sayers is also credited with coining the slogan "It pays to advertise!" She used the advertising industry as the setting of Murder Must Advertise, where she describes the role of truth in advertising:
. . . the firm of Pym’s Publicity, Ltd., Advertising Agents . . . “Now, Mr. Pym is a man of rigid morality—except, of course, as regards his profession, whose essence is to tell plausible lies for money—“
“How about truth in advertising?”
“Of course, there is some truth in advertising. There’s yeast in bread, but you can’t make bread with yeast alone. Truth in advertising . . . is like leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal. It provides a suitable quantity of gas, with which to blow out a mass of crude misrepresentation into a form that the public can swallow.”

Detective fiction


1st edition cover of the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Murder Must Advertise
Sayers began working out the plot of her first novel some time in 1920–21. The seeds of the plot for Whose Body? can be seen in a letter Sayers wrote on 22 January 1921:
My detective story begins brightly, with a fat lady found dead in her bath with nothing on but her pince-nez. Now why did she wear pince-nez in her bath? If you can guess, you will be in a position to lay hands upon the murderer, but he's a very cool and cunning fellow... (p. 101, Reynolds)
Lord Peter Wimsey burst upon the world of detective fiction with an explosive "Oh, damn!" and continued to engage readers in eleven novels and two sets of short stories; the final novel ended with a very different "Oh, damn!". Sayers once commented that Lord Peter was a mixture of Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster, which is most evident in the first five novels. However, it is evident through Lord Peter's development as a rounded character that he existed in Sayers's mind as a living, breathing, fully human being. Sayers introduced detective novelist Harriet Vane in Strong Poison. Sayers remarked more than once that she had developed the "husky voiced, dark-eyed" Harriet to put an end to Lord Peter via matrimony. But in the course of writing Gaudy Night, Sayers imbued Lord Peter and Harriet with so much life that she was never able, as she put it, to "see Lord Peter exit the stage".
Sayers did not content herself with writing pure detective stories; she explored the difficulties of World War I veterans in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, discussed the ethics of advertising in Murder Must Advertise, and advocated women's education (then a controversial subject) and role in society in Gaudy Night. In Gaudy Night, Miss Barton writes a book attacking the Nazi doctrine of Kinder, Kirche, Küche, which restricted women's roles to family activities, and in many ways the whole of Gaudy Night can be read as an attack on Nazi social doctrine. The book has been described as "the first feminist mystery novel."
Sayers's Christian and academic interests are also apparent in her detective series. In The Nine Tailors, one of her most well-known detective novels, the plot unfolds largely in and around an old church dating back to the Middle Ages. Change ringing of bells also forms an important part of the novel. In Have His Carcase, the Playfair cipher and the principles of cryptanalysis are explained. Her short story Absolutely Elsewhere refers to the fact that (in the language of modern physics) the only perfect alibi for a crime is to be outside its light cone, while The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will contains a literary crossword puzzle.
Sayers also wrote a number of short stories about Montague Egg, a wine salesman who solves mysteries.

Translations


Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above
Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy to be her best work. The boldly titled Hell appeared in 1949, as one of the recently introduced series of Penguin Classics. Purgatory followed in 1955. Unfinished at her death, the third volume (Paradise) was completed by Barbara Reynolds in 1962.
On a line-by-line basis, Sayers's translation can seem idiosyncratic. For example, the famous line usually rendered "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" turns, in the Sayers translation, into "Lay down all hope, you who go in by me." As the Italian reads "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", both the traditional and Sayers' translation add to the source text in an effort to preserve the original length: "here" is added in the first case, and "by me" in the second. It can be argued that Sayers' translation is actually more accurate, in that the original intimates to "abandon all hope". Also, the addition of "by me" draws from the previous lines of the canto: "Per me si va ne la città dolente;/ per me si va ne l'etterno dolore;/ per me si va tra la perduta gente." (Longfellow: "Through me the way is to the city dolent;/ through me the way is to the eternal dole;/ through me the way is to the people lost.")
The idiosyncratic character of Sayers's translation results from her decision to preserve the original Italian terza rima rhyme scheme, so that her "go in by me" rhymes with "made to be" two lines earlier, and "unsearchably" two lines before that. Umberto Eco in his book Mouse or Rat? suggests that, of the various English translations, Sayers "does the best in at least partially preserving the hendecasyllables and the rhyme."
Sayers's translation of the Divine Comedy is also notable for extensive notes at the end of each canto, explaining the theological meaning of what she calls "a great Christian allegory." Her translation has remained popular: in spite of publishing new translations by Mark Musa and Robin Kirkpatrick, as of 2009 Penguin Books was still publishing the Sayers edition.
In the introduction to her translation of The Song of Roland, Sayers expressed an outspoken feeling of attraction and love for:
"(...) That new-washed world of clear sun and glittering colour which we call the Middle Age (as though it were middle-aged) but which has perhaps a better right than the blown rose of the Renaissance to be called the Age of Re-birth".
She praised "Roland" for being a purely Christian myth, in contrast to such epics as Beowulf in which she found a strong pagan content.

Other Christian and academic work


Cover of Are Women Human?, which contains two of Sayers' feminist essays
Sayers's most notable religious book is probably The Mind of the Maker (1941) which explores at length the analogy between a human creator (especially a writer of novels and plays) and the doctrine of The Trinity in creation. She suggests that any human creation of significance involves the Idea, the Energy (roughly: the process of writing and that actual 'incarnation' as a material object) and the Power (roughly: the process of reading/hearing and the effect it has on the audience) and that this "trinity" has useful analogies with the theological Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In addition to the ingenious thinking in working out this analogy, the book contains striking examples drawn from her own experiences as a writer and elegant criticisms of writers when the balance between Idea, Energy and Power is not, in her view, adequate.She defends strongly the view that literary creatures have a nature of their own, vehemently replying to a well-wisher who wanted Lord Peter to "end up a convinced Christian". "From what I know of him, nothing is more unlikely... Peter is not the Ideal Man".
Creed or Chaos? is a restatement of basic historical Christian Doctrine, based on the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, similar to but somewhat more densely written than C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity; both sought clearly and concisely to explain the central doctrines of Christianity to those who had encountered them in distorted or watered-down forms, on the grounds that if you are going to criticize something you had best know what it is first.
Her very influential essay The Lost Tools of Learning has been used by many schools in the US as a basis for the classical education movement, reviving the medieval trivium subjects (grammar, logic and rhetoric) as tools to enable the analysis and mastery of every other subject. Sayers also wrote three volumes of commentaries about Dante, religious essays, and several plays, of which The Man Born to be King may be the best known.
Her religious works did so well at presenting the orthodox Anglican position that, in 1943, the Archbishop of Canterbury offered her a Lambeth doctorate in divinity, which she declined. In 1950, however, she accepted an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Durham.
Although she never describes herself as such, her economic and political ideas, rooted as they are in the classical Christian doctrines of Creation and Incarnation, are very close to the Chesterton-Belloc theory of Distributism.

Criticism of Sayers

Criticism of background material in her novels

The literary and academic themes in Sayers's novels have appealed to a great many readers, but by no means to all. Poet W. H. Auden and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein were critics of her novels, for example.[18][19] A savage attack on Sayers's writing ability came from the prominent American critic and man of letters Edmund Wilson, in a well-known 1945 article in The New Yorker called Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?He briefly writes about her famous novel The Nine Tailors, saying "I set out to read [it] in the hope of tasting some novel excitement, and I declare that it seems to me one of the dullest books I have ever encountered in any field. The first part is all about bell-ringing as it is practised in English churches and contains a lot of information of the kind that you might expect to find in an encyclopedia article on campanology. I skipped a good deal of this, and found myself skipping, also, a large section of the conversations between conventional English village characters..." Wilson continues "I had often heard people say that Dorothy Sayers wrote well... but, really, she does not write very well: it is simply that she is more consciously literary than most of the other detective-story writers and that she thus attracts attention in a field which is mostly on a sub-literary level."
The academic critic Q.D. Leavis, in a review of Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon published in the critical journal Scrutiny, criticises Sayers in more specific terms. The basis of Leavis' criticism is that Sayers' fiction is "popular and romantic while pretending to realism." Leavis argues that Sayers presents academic life as "sound and sincere because it is scholarly", a place of "invulnerable standards of taste charging the charmed atmosphere". But, Leavis says, this is unrealistic: "If such a world ever existed, and I should be surprised to hear as much, it does no longer, and to give substance to a lie or to perpetrate a dead myth is to do no one any service really." Leavis suggests that "people in the academic world who earn their livings by scholarly specialities are not as a general thing wiser, better, finer, decenter or in any way more estimable than those of the same social class outside", but that Sayers is popular among educated readers because "the accepted pretence is that things are as Miss Sayers relates". Leavis comments that "only best-seller novelists could have such illusions about human nature".
Critic Sean Latham has defended Sayers, arguing that Wilson "chooses arrogant condescension over serious critical consideration" and suggests that both he and Leavis, rather than seriously assessing Sayers' writing, simply objected to a detective-story writer having pretensions beyond what they saw as her role of popular-culture "hack". Latham claims that, in their eyes, "Sayers's primary crime lay in her attempt to transform the detective novel into something other than an ephemeral bit of popular culture". All writers of hugely popular detective fiction have been roundly criticized at various times and for various reasons; what makes Sayers' case perhaps unusual are the sources of many of the criticisms: literary and academic figures. But in fact there is nothing remarkable in this: Sayers' fiction touches on a number of controversial topics relating to academia and the literary community, so vociferous criticism of her work must be expected.

Criticism of major characters

Lord Peter Wimsey, Sayers' heroic detective, has been criticized for being too perfect; over time the various talents he displays grow too numerous for some readers to swallow. Edmund Wilson also expressed his distaste for Lord Peter in his criticism of The Nine Tailors: "There was also a dreadful stock English nobleman of the casual and debonair kind, with the embarrassing name of Lord Peter Wimsey, and, although he was the focal character in the novel... I had to skip a good deal of him, too."On the other hand, this characterization of Wilson's omits some of the complexities of Lord Peter's character, and these same complexities are what have endeared him to readers fond of protagonists who transcend the standards of the genre.
Wimsey is rich, well-educated, charming, and brave, as well as an accomplished musician, an exceptional athlete, and a notable lover. He does, however, have serious flaws: the habit of over-engaging in what other characters regard as silly prattling, a nervous disorder (shell-shock) and a fear of responsibility. The latter two both originate from his service in World War I. The fear of responsibility turns out to be a serious obstacle to his maturation into full adulthood (a fact not lost on the character himself).
The character Harriet Vane, featured in four novels, has been criticized for being a mere stand-in for the author. Many of the themes and settings of Sayers's novels, particularly those involving Harriet Vane, seem to reflect Sayers's own concerns and experiences. Vane, like Sayers, was educated at Oxford (unusual for a woman at the time) and is a mystery writer. Vane initially meets Wimsey when she is tried for poisoning her lover (Strong Poison); he insists on participating in the defence preparations for her re-trial, where he falls for her but she rejects him. In Have His Carcase she collaborates with Wimsey to solve a murder but still rejects his proposals of marriage. She eventually accepts (Gaudy Night) and marries him (Busman's Honeymoon).

Alleged racism and anti-Semitism in Sayers's writing

Biographers of Sayers have disagreed as to whether Sayers was anti-Semitic. In Sayers: A Biography,James Brabazon argues that Sayers was anti-Semitic. This is rebutted by Carolyn G. Heilbrun in Dorothy L. Sayers: Biography Between the Lines. McGregor and Lewis argue in Conundrums for the Long Week-End that Sayers was not anti-Semitic but used popular British stereotypes of class and ethnicity. In 1936, a translator wanted "to soften the thrusts against the Jews" in Whose Body?; Sayers, surprised, replied that the only characters "treated in a favourable light were the Jews!"

Personal life


Blue plaque for Dorothy L. Sayers on 23 & 24 Gt. James Street, WC1
On January 3, 1924, at the age of 30, Sayers secretly gave birth to an illegitimate son, John Anthony [later surnamed Fleming, though his father was Bill White], who was cared for as a child by her aunt and cousin, Amy and Ivy Amy Shrimpton, and passed off as her nephew to friends.[30][31][32] Two years later, after publishing her first two detective novels, Sayers married Captain Oswald Atherton "Mac" Fleming, a Scottish journalist whose professional name was "Atherton Fleming." The wedding took place on 8 April 1926 at Holborn Register Office, London. Fleming was divorced with two children. Sayers and Fleming lived in the flat at 24 Great James Street in St Pancras, London that Sayers maintained for the rest of her life. Both worked, Fleming as an author and journalist and Sayers as an advertising copywriter and author. Over time, Fleming's health worsened, largely due to his World War I service, and as a result he became unable to work.
Sayers was a good friend of C. S. Lewis and several of the other Inklings. On some occasions, Sayers joined Lewis at meetings of the Socratic Club. Lewis said he read The Man Born to be King every Easter, but he claimed to be unable to appreciate detective stories. J. R. R. Tolkien read some of the Wimsey novels but scorned the later ones, such as Gaudy Night.
Fleming died on 9 June 1950, at Sunnyside Cottage, Witham, Essex. Sayers died suddenly of a coronary thrombosis[34] on 17 December 1957 at the same place, aged 60. Fleming was buried in Ipswich, while Dorothy's remains were cremated and her ashes buried beneath the tower of St Anne's Church, Soho, London, where she had been a churchwarden for many years. Upon her death it was revealed that her nephew, John Anthony, was her son; he was the sole beneficiary under his mother's will. He died on 26 November 1984 at age 60, in St. Francis's Hospital, Miami Beach, Florida.

Legacy

Some of the character Harriet Vane's observations reveal Sayers poking fun at the mystery genre, even while adhering to various conventions.
Sayers' work was frequently parodied by her contemporaries. E. C. Bentley, the author of the early modern detective novel Trent's Last Case, wrote a parody entitled "Greedy Night" (1938).
Her characters, and Sayers herself, have been placed in some other works, including: