Born on 13rd of June 1893
Died on 17th of December 1957
Though we know Dorothy L Sayers today almost solely for her Lord Peter Wimsey (and Harriet Vane) novels and stories, she also wrote poetry, made extremely well regarded translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy and the old French Song of Roland, was a talented essayist and playwright, and a noted writer on religion.
Sayers was the daughter of a clergyman and teacher who began her classical education at an early age. She was born in Oxford on June 13 1893, a city to which she returned as a student at Somerville after her schooling in Salisbury. She received her MA (rather belatedly as when she completed her course in 1916 with a first in modern languages women could still not be awarded degrees) in 1920.
A passionate affair ended with the birth of her son John Anthony, whose existence was kept secret from her parents, and whom Sayers, though she fostered him with relatives and provided for him, never acknowledged publicly, though she left her money to him. She married WWI veteran Atherton Fleming, who suffered from ill-health for much of their time together. His fortunes as a journalist dipped as hers rose – she was able to leave her work in advertising to write full time and in effect keep them both. Fleming died in 1950, and Sayers seven years later on December 17 1957 at their home in Witham in Essex.
Less tricksy than Agatha Christie and far more literary, and more consistent than Margery Allingham, Sayers created one of the great detectives in Lord Peter Wimsey, a character with whom it is easy to believe she was in love after the first few novels, introducing her alter-ego Harriet Vane to marry him, albeit after some resistance. Her grasp of detail and wonderful scene setting – never better than in The Nine Tailors – make the novels and stories worth reading even were they not mysteries.
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