Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dorothy L. Sayers and Witham





It is "all go" at the moment, but I'd like to reflect on a truly enjoyable visit to Essex, a county I hardly know at all. I was invited to give the Dorothy L. Sayers annual lecture by the Dorothy L. Sayers Society at the library in Witham, the town where she lived. This was a real honour, and a marvellous occasion.

Witham struck me as a pleasant place, and the library is impressive. Standing opposite is a statue of Sayers, and inside the Society has a splendid research facility, which I explored happily for as long as I could. An excellent preamble to the lecture was a buffet at Seona Ford' delightful home in the town (I say in the town, but really it's in a delightful oasis of greenery). Among the Society's members who were present were Carolyn Caughey, a very good editor at Hodder, and the crime writer and critic Mike Ripley.


The topic of my lecture was "Dorothy L. Sayers and True Crime", a subject which was fascnating to research. I feel there is plenty of evidence that Sayers could have carved a distinct reputation as a true crime writer, had she wished to. Her interest in the famous Wallace case is just one example, while her novels illustrate, if sometimes only indirectly, how intrigued she was by real life cases.


The hospitality that I received both from the Society and Jane Wheeler and her team at the Library was terrific, and I was left with the overwhelming feeling that interest in Sayers is growing. There's no doubt the Society is thriving, and Seona organised everything brilliantly, although I was sorry that illness prevented Christopher Dean, the chairman, with whom I've often corresponded, from attending.


Such was the feelgood factor engendered by the evening that a few days later, I was tempted to buy the Folio Society edition of five of the Wimsey novels, and duly succumbed. A very attractive set to look at, though of course it is what lies between the covers that matters most of all. If only Sayers had continued to write crime in the last 20 years of her life!





9 comments:

seana said...

I am glad to hear that you succumbed to that particular temptation, Martin. It sounds like a lovely visit. Perhaps Sayers herself was overseeing the proceedings.

lyn said...

DLS is my favourite Golden Age writer. I can reread her books even when I know the ending because I love the way she shows me England in the 20s & 30s. I recently watched some of the Ian Carmichael TV series & loved that as well. I've listened to IC read nearly all the books on audio so I always hear his voice as Wimsey.

genagirl said...

Sounds very interesting. I think the 9 Tailors is my fave DLS book. We also have most of yours here in our little library! Mysteries, modern and the classics never go out of style, they are the most popular genre we check out. English mysteries, most of all, have a rabid fan base.

Martin Edwards said...

Nice comment, Seana, thanks!

Martin Edwards said...

Lyn, I've not seen that series for years. Must track down the DVDs.

Martin Edwards said...

Genagirl, good to hear from you. And to know that my books are in your library!

Sally Spedding said...

All very interesting, Martin. I had no idea she was associated with Essex, nor of her knowledge of Dante. I've been reading The Divine Comedy since Christmas and would love to discover her 'take' on him.
So, thanks for this.

J said...

Thanks, as always, for the report, but thanks especially for sharing the photos!

Martin Edwards said...

J and Sally, thanks for this.
I'm sorry to add that Christopher Dean, the Society's chairman, died today. He will be greatly missed.