Dorothy L. Sayers Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207114-Sayers.jpg Dorothy L. Sayers. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Born in Oxford, England, on June 13, 1893, Dorothy Leigh Sayers (SAY-urz) was the daughter of the Reverend Henry Sayers and Helen Leigh Sayers. Her father was a classical scholar and, at the time of her birth, headmaster of Christ Church Cathedral Choir School. Her mother was the grandniece of Percival Leigh, one of the founders of Punch. Sayers always included the initial “L” in her name.

As often happened in the 1890’s, Sayers’s father was financially responsible for his mother, two unmarried sisters, and a brother who had been crippled by a stroke. He probably also considered himself responsible for their moral and spiritual well-being. When their Brewer Street house could no longer contain them all, they moved to Lincolnshire, where the Reverend Sayers took up the position of a country clergyman.

Sayers lived most of her childhood in an isolated rectory in the Fen Country. Her mother settled happily into the life of a country minister’s wife. Her father believed that a good Christian helped others, and he often used his own funds to help his parishioners, even opening his house when necessary. Bluntisham Rectory was enormous but, even in those times, somewhat primitive. While candles and oil lamps lit the rooms, they also threw strange shadows on the wall. Hot water had to be hauled upstairs and then back down again. The entire family found it quite a change from their house in Oxford, where they had running water and gaslights. Nevertheless, Sayers had plenty of fresh air and large lawns on which to play whenever her friends came to call.

Her early schooling took place at home. Her father usually taught boys and saw no reason to teach Sayers differently from the way he taught them. By the age of four, she could read; by six she had begun to learn Latin. She was taught French by a governess, and she also mastered German. Sayers entered the Godolphin School when she was sixteen. Her only knowledge about boarding school had come from books, and Godolphin did not quite fit her preconceived notions. Girls, however, were allowed some freedom there, and one of her essays was published in the school magazine. Measles, complicated by pneumonia, forced her to leave Godolphin for a time. She did return to school but chose to continue her studies at home. She won the Gilchrist Scholarship to Somerville College in Oxford.

Oxford challenged Sayers. She made friends and was able to expand her heretofore limited social opportunities with men. Of course, the rules governing behavior between the sexes were strictly enforced, but even so, she developed an...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dorothy L. Sayers played with words just as a poet does. Indeed, some of her first published works were poems. No doubt the discipline of this art form helped her construct the settings and dialogues that make her novels so memorable. Her fascination with the ways in which people use words differently shows up in the conversations she wrote for her fictional characters. She suggested using imagination—giving thought to the reader’s situations and evaluations—in interpersonal communication so that better understanding could take place. She knew her tools and used them well.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dorothy Leigh Sayers (SA-uhrz) is one of the world’s most admired mystery writers and her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, one of its most celebrated fictional sleuths. Sayers was the only child of an Anglican clergyman and his wife; her childhood was spent in Oxford and in England’s bleak Fen country, both of which would later serve as settings for her novels. Educated at home until she was fifteen, she attended the Godolphin School in Salisbury and later entered the University of Oxford, where she studied modern languages and became one of the first women to receive a degree. In the years that followed, she worked as a teacher and as a reader and editor for Blackwell’s, an Oxford company that published two volumes of her religious poetry, before taking a job in 1922 with a London advertising firm. She continued to work as an advertising copywriter for nearly a decade, until the success of her novels permitted her to devote herself full-time to her writing.

In 1923 Sayers embarked on her career as a mystery writer with Whose Body?, the first of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. Wimsey is an amateur sleuth; the witty, brilliant second son of the fifteenth Duke of Denver, he wears a monocle, collects rare books, quotes liberally from the classics, and occasionally undertakes a bit of detective work, assisted by his manservant, Bunter. Yet Wimsey’s outwardly frivolous manner masks an inner depth of character that Sayers would develop as the series continued, allowing him to grow and change in a manner unlike most fictional detectives. Although Wimsey initially undertakes crime solving as little more than a diverting hobby, by the third book, Unnatural Death, Sayers is exploring her detective’s moral qualms over the resolution of the case. Later books find Wimsey, who suffered a nervous breakdown following his service in World War I, falling into deep depression after bringing a criminal to justice.

Sayers herself was living a far from conventional life during the early years of the Wimsey series; as a member of London’s bohemian artistic society, she entered into several brief love affairs and secretly bore an illegitimate son,...

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(Short Stories for Students)

Dorothy Sayers was born in Oxford, England, in 1893. Until the age of fifteen, she was tutored at home, and she had a mastery of Latin,...

(The entire section is 431 words.)