19 February 2023

Only for those interested in Dorothy L Sayers (1)

 DLS used to spin 'mysteries' for her living ... and for the amusement of her devotees. But she herself left behind a mystery, in the form of a detec-fiction narrative which she gave up, incomplete, after writing six chapters.

Thrones and Dominations ... so ... whodunnit ; and why?

DLS's literary executors commissioned the late Jill Patton Walsh to "finish" the book ... to solve the mystery. The solution JPW came up with was: Laurence Harwell strangled his wife Rosamund because he erroneously believed that she had arranged an adulterous tryst with another man.

Incidentally, I do not subscribe to the claim advanced in several of the 'blurbs', that the junction between DLS's chapters, and JPW's 'completion', is seamless

Nobody, unfortunately, has published surviving materials which may have led JPW to her conclusion. There exists a diagram ... there are alternative versions of some parts of he story ... there is, apparently, a description of Peter Wimsey's 'initiation' into sex ... which have all been kept from us (was JPW a prude? Sayers certainly wasn't). Given DLS's deserved distinction as a Christian thinker, a stylist, and a writer, I feel that this is unfortunate. Moreover, even in the chapters which DLS wrote, there are one or two solecism which suggest to me that JPW tampered with the text.

And there is another embedded mystery. Why did DLS give up writing her novel? Was it because the unfolding Abdication Crisis threw up some disconcerting parallels between a sexuality described (graphically) in her typescript, and the passion of 'Edward VIII' for the dominant Mrs Simpson?

Very possibly. But, next time, I shall offer an alternative hypothesis. I shall not repeat great swathes of text, because these pieces are directed at the interests of Sayers-enthusiasts who will know her published texts anyway.

1 comment:

gsk said...

I think Lord PW’s “initiation” into sex would figure near the top of my list of Things I Don’t Want To Know. It doesn’t take a prude to decide to leave such things on the cutting room floor. I think, under the circumstances, JPW did an admirable job.