5 March 2023

Has it really come to this?

There is today [Saturday] ... and has been ... correspondence in The Times about alleged antisemitism in the writings of Dorothy Sayers.

I think DLS has been defended on the grounds that her thought-crime was simply that of her time, so she can be forgiven. 

I think this entirely, horribly, grossly misses the point. In DLS's first whodunnit, it turns out that the killer is an upper-class WASP intellectual with the socio-ethical assumpptions of his time. The victim is a Jew to whom Sayers ascribes every human virtue that the human mind can conceive.

 Modern 'critics' lack intelligence and subtlety. They are not fit to read or to comment on writers who had a capacity to use and to understand nuance or to handle the implicit.

And censorship of un-PC language in the children's books of Roald Dahl has recently been a News item. You're right: wokery rampant and horrible. I won't get onto Blyton ...

And Billy Bunter ... I recall wokery and the Modern Age getting their nasty little noses in there, too. I believe Bunter was censored so that the Kickings of the Fat Boy were eliminated. Moreover: the passages, some of them hilarious funny, which end with Henry Samuel Quelch M.A. flogging Bunter for comical errors in his construe of Latin, still make my nostrils twitch. The only intelligent member of the Greyfriars Remove seems to be an Indian aristocrat ...

Some readers may have noticed that I rather like reading well-written 1930s English ... Lewis, Sayers ... yesterday I was travelling in that Time Machine again, and noticed this in Mgr Knox's The Body on the Silo: "Wherever you went, there was noise; there a loudspeaker breathing out throaty inaccuracies about tomorrow's weather, there a gramophone, wallowing in the revolting eroticism of the American negro, and his still more revolting religiosity; nor did anybody seem inclined to hush these noises as a prelude to conversation."

In Waugh, we meet Chokey, who "though graceful of bearing and irreproachably dressed, was a Negro. ... 'What price the coon?' [Sam Clutterbuck] asked ... 'I've got a friend lives in Savannah ... he's told me a thing or two about niggers ... to put it bluntly, they have uncontrollable passions ' ... 'What a terrible thing!'said Grimes."

And Sayers: "'God bless my soul,' said Sir Charles, horrified, 'an English girl in the hands of a nigger. How abominable!' [An English girl] 'carried off for some end unthinkably sinister, by a black man ... [a newspaper] came out ... with a patriotic leader about the danger of encouraging coloured aliens." 

These last three writers were sophisticated commentators of the 1930s cultural scene; the absurdities they parody most certainly did not coincide with their own attitudes. In the novel by Sayers, the 'clues' were confected by the murderess herself, a very English and upper-class girl (the only actual negro in the story is totally innocent, harmless, admirable and decent). In Waugh, the loftily censorious Harrovian Captain Grimes is ... the reader has been very clearly told ... a disreputable paedophile.

Let me be clear about what I am saying.

The finest writers of that period, particularly those from a Christian stable, subverted the prejudices of their time by putting them onto the lips of disreputable or risible characters. 

Parody can be a profoundly elegant way of making social comments, and should cetainly not be illicit.

I think it is disgraceful ... and a bad genre-error ... to be blind (or do I mean deaf?) to nuanced writing.

Are we to be deprived of the opportunity of hearing the finest satirists of that period attacking the absurd prejudices of their dim contemporaries?

And all because their vocabulary, which neatly mirrors the bigotry of the time, happens to have fallen foul of some rule-book arrogantly imposed upon us by adolescent modern wokery?  


Michael Leahy said...


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. In America, of course, socialistic scribblers have made the same sort of charges against the great Flannery O'Connor.

These progressive progs are possessed of a virulent form of presentism.

A fun experiment is to read what Flannery wrote and compare it to the "quality" of the writing of her critics.

If one doesn't know this great short story writer, a good place to begun is "The River."


Banshee said...

Of course, one of the fundamental principles of the mystery novel is that one's worldbuilding, and the presentation of clues through dialogue and action, are supposed to be subtle. Science fiction and fantasy picked up this worldbuilding technique from mystery.

But nowadays, many authors in all these genres do not believe in subtlety, or have never heard of it. (Because a lot of young authors are afraid to read widely, lest they be contaminated by wrongthink.) They think that their English major gives them all knowledge, when they weren't taught anything in their English lit classes, either.

So of course they don't recognize these subtleties by past writers; but that doesn't matter, because they'll refuse to accept it even if they do see it. One can never do enough for the woke, which is why so many super-leftist authors are constantly attacked now.

The whole point is to complain, and thus to make money for the woke and take away money from the unwoke. It is all one giant grift, which is making millions of dollars for those in charge of it.

Taking our literary heritage away from the young and making them less competent readers? That's just a bonus.

william arthurs said...

I think the chief book-burners themselves know perfectly well that there is such a thing as fiction, in which the opinions expressed by various characters are not as such attributable to the author, and that there is such a thing as irony. Their aim is nothing other than to remove these (elegantly written/ conservative/ religious) works from circulation, and their method is to use all the resources of rhetoric available to them to persuade less acute readers of the contrary to the propositions above.

Simon Raven noted that the uneducated hate irony most of all because they assume it is aimed over their heads.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Likewise in the tv situation comedy “ ‘til Death is do Part” , never to be shown as a repeat, the censorious wokeys never seem to notice that the racist bigot is always worsted.

Albertus said...

Several years ago i bought a book of the Brothers Grimms' fairy tales in the original German. Alas, in the foreword (which i should better have read in the shop before buying the book), it is written, that all references to jews and gypsies have been removed from the stories. Thus this is not at all an edition of Grimms' Fairytales, but a censored and mutilated version thereof. How silly; how very much characteristic of our presnt age of neo-marxist barbarism.

Arthur H said...


I happened to find out in conversation with my niece and nephews that in their most prestigious public school, they have never been taught to diagram sentences.

Oh, the agony! After lunch and just come in from recess, we spent an eon every day diagramming sentences, and then showing our work on the board.

So the US public schools are not even teaching the basic skill of proper grammar analysis and sentence-building... And thus, not much chance of any of those future adults ever learning to think critically... Oh, and I admit, I'm not good at it!