30 June 2023

ATTRIBUTION (2): did Dorothy Sayers have a soft spot for Frenchmen?

I think Sayers' admiration for peripatetic Lusitanians might have been limited: "As for da Soto, he looked harmless enough ... One never knew, of course, with these slinky people of confused nationality ..." (Have His Carcase Chapter xv.). Gracious!

Da Soto's figure is little better than a clowning caricature. So, perhaps, is the English Leila Garland ("It's a good thing there's a law in this country to protect girls like I".). But I think Antoine may have been different. Sayers is unable to resist placing upon his lips part of the sextet within a sonnet by the Middle French poet Pierre Ronsard. Ronsard tells us that he proposes to keep his door barred against everybody ... absolutely everybody ...  for three days, while he reads the Iliad. But 

"... si quelqu'un venoit de la part de Cassandre, 

Ouvre-luy tost la porte, et ne le fais attendre,

Soudain entre dans ma chambre, et me vien accoustrer."

Dorothy Sayers is aware that she is pushing things a bit by implying that a depressive French gigolo in a 1932 English watering place might have Ronsard so readily available in his memory: "Antoine smiled, and murmured unexpectedly ...".

But she simply cannot resist the temptation to bring into her narrative a poet and a genre which clearly had appealed to her: "Harriet smiled back at him". 

This is the author who, in Busman's Honeymoon, was to regale us with the choicest exotic and erotic Renaissance verbal imagery. 

Ultimately, she is the helpless, driven victim of her own reading and of her own inner world of fantasy. 

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