Fantastic collection of 21 letters from Sayers to various recipients, consisting of six ALSs and 15 TLSs, comprising over 30 pages, dated between 1914 and 1954. Most have excellent content, including discussions of her own work, other detective stories and writers of the genre, and the impact of World War II on Great Britain.
A selection from the letters follows:
To an enthusiastic reader seeking recommendations, 1931: "Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage is a great improvement on her former books as regards actual writing, & of course one can always rely for a good yarn upon Anthony Berkeley, John Rhode, or G. D. H. & M. Cole, though I did not personally care for the Coles' latest, The Great Southern Mystery. No doubt you read Henry Wade's last book: The Dying Alderman—very good, as all his stuff is."
To Walter Klinefelter, 1937: "I am afraid I am not really very learned in the higher criticism of Sherlock Holmes, but the man who can, I am sure, give you the information…would be Mr. H. W. Bell…who wrote 'Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson,' and who is engaged on an elaborate and careful research into Conan Doyle's sources."
To a bibliophile, 1936: "Very many thanks for your kind letter about Gaudy Night; I am glad to know that in spite of its very 'British' setting the book is doing well in America…You were very lucky to get a first edition of the Red Thumb Mark so reasonably. There certainly seems to be a bibliographical boom in detective stories, but I wish I had thought to start collecting them years ago, now it is too late to begin. No; the New York edition of Whose Body? preceded the London edition."
To an American admirer, 1941: "England, I assure you, is still standing; obstinately where she did, a good bit battered but still obstinately cheerful and cheerfully obstinate. It is good to know that America understands so completely what we are up against, and the assurance that supplies and arms will come quickly is a great encouragement."
To an admirer, 1944: "Lord Peter, as you rightly suppose, is engaged on a secret mission somewhere or the other, and in fact I have heard nothing of him since the beginning of the war. In the meantime I have turned to other work, feeling that with so much violence and sudden death about, a few private corpses are something of a superfluity!"
To a reader, 1950: "It is so long since I read up the subject of Change-ringing for writing The Nine Tailors, that I fear I cannot remember very much about it, and I have not kept in touch with the exercise since."
To a reverend, 1951: "I haven't written any other Wimsey books since Busman's Honeymoon, having been occupied with more exciting things, such as plays and radio and the translation of Dante."
To R. Stephen Talmage, 1954: "I have already tentatively set on foot a conspiracy to inveigle Miss Kathleen Nott to St. Anne's, Soho, there to defend her thesis in this presence of Mrs. T. S. Eliot, Dr. C. S. Lewis, myself and others—the lion to be thrown to the Christians at 8 p.m. sharp…In the meantime, I must beg leave to remove the springes, mantraps and mines so ingeniously (or perhaps merely ingeniously) set in my way…I am not a philosopher, and I most certainly will not talk about Logical Positivism, of whose technical vocabulary I am ignorant. It is true that a total ignorance of the technical vocabulary of theology seldom deters scientists and secular philosophers from rushing into theological disputation; but that is no reason for imitating their foolhardiness. It is better to know one’s limitations. Not only am I not a philosopher; I am not a trained theologian. I am an ordinary instructed Christian, with just so much specialised knowledge as is necessary for writing intelligible popular footnotes to Dante; i.e. some acquaintance with dogmatic theology. In any case, from what I do know of Logical Positivism, it would seem to relegate poetry and poetic language to a Fool’s Limbo. About language, however, I do know something and might say something; though I am not quite sure what is supposed to be involved in 'Linguistic Analysis.' I suspect that it is hoped to entangle me in this highly-specialised matter of 'Epistemology,' which is at present so fashionable. There again, I should find myself on very uncertain ground."
Also includes a vintage matte-finish 4 x 5 photo signed in black ink; three ink signatures on small cards; and Sayer's 'National Service' questionnaire, four pages on two adjoining sheets, 8 x 13, filled out in her own hand with her personal details, contact information, education and work experience, and lists of some of her characters and books. In overall fine condition. All together, this collection of correspondence is a terrific representation of Sayers's life and work.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.