A long piece about Dorothy L. Sayers's conservatism is best described as work in progress though a few short postings have gone up from time to time, covering various aspects of her work, often with critical comments.

She remains a fascinating and talented lady who has contributed to many aspects of literature. I have just finished reading another book about  her, Catherine Kenney's The Remarkable Case of Dorothy L. Sayers, which started too slowly, gathered interest but trailed off again with chapters that were too long for what they said. There were interesting matters discussed, for all of that, even if the author seemed far too enamoured with Gaudy Night and The Documents in the Case.

Early on  in the chapter about Sayers's life, Professor Kenney has this to say:
Sayers once said that it is by an author's assumptions, by what he or she takes for granted, that we can really know the writer. In addition to assuming that her readers are familiar with the literature she cherishes, she also assumes that they share a certain sympathy - or at least a tolerance - for her world view, a view that endorses the traditional values of order and civility, as well as the concepts of personal responsibility and justifiable limits to human behaviour. Whilst the great detective, as an amateur generally works outside the law, he does not work against it, or seek to rend the basic social fabric. 
That is not to say that it  is necessary to accept or to endorse every aspect of society as it exists. Very few detective story writers of the Golden Age did that, pace Julian Symons. It is the traditional and orderly values that might have been undermined by the existing society as well as by the criminal that are so important to the whole genre of detective stories.


  1. S.M. MacLean Says:
  2. I often recall what you wrote in ‘The Eternal Appeal of Whodunits’:

    ‘In most of its manifestations, the detective story is a modern morality tale with the heroes of good battling the forces of evil. The detective story is the conservative literary genre par excellence’.

  3. Helen Says:
  4. I have not changed my mind on that and nobody has managed to produce an adequate argument in opposition.

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