The Tuesday Night Club is an informal group of crime fiction fans choosing a new author to write about each month – and the finger has pointed at Dorothy L Sayers for February. We’ll all be producing pieces about her and her books on Tuesdays: new and occasional writers always welcome to join in – just send one of us the link to your piece.
Last week’s links are here
Week one links are here.
I looked at the first four books in this entry, at THAT romance in week 2. Now read on….
Last week’s entry for Tuesday Night bloggers turned out to be surprisingly controversial and brought readers in droves to tell me I was wrong about what Lord Peter meant by one short passage in Busman’s Honeymoon. I really enjoyed all the discussion, and the certainty with which people told me I was wrong, though nobody has yet given me any possible meaning for this line:
‘If you had had to live through that night, Harriet, knowing what was coming to you, I would have lived through it in the same knowledge…’What does ‘in the same knowledge’ mean? He can’t possibly mean ‘I would know if you were going to be hanged the next day’ because – of course he would know, it wouldn’t be a surprise. So WHAT is the knowledge? Still asking.
Anyway, all that inspired me to assemble some other key Sayers questions that interest me, though I think they will be less controversial.
I have framed them as an exam in Wimsey Studies for you. We know Sayers, with her very great respect for academia, would surely approve. No prizes – knowledge is its own reward. But I will be very happy if some of these questions can be resolved:
The Wimsey Exam Paper
b) Do you think Sayers made it up because it was fun to imagine, and because the clue of the wrong pub was nicely done?
2) What did that chess set in Gaudy Night (ch 13) actually look like?
There was a set of carved ivory chessmen for which she had conceived an unreasonable affection. They were Chinese, and each piece was a complicated nest of little revolving balls, delicate as fine lace.Either draw a diagram, or find a picture of such a chess set.
(Helpful counter-example: This is plainly what it didn’t look like - it’s a chess queen in walrus tusk from the Walters Art Museum)
3) Who posted the letters from Eastern Europe in Have His Carcase?
4) Was the Dowager’s name Lucy (see Whose Body?) or Honoria Lucasta (everywhere else)? Subsequent to the first Wimsey book did Sayers fancy something more fancy, then give her the second name Lucasta in order to explain away the first reference?
5) Consider this passage about Helen, Duchess of Denver, at her own party (Murder must Advertise, ch 11):
Her own dress, she thought, became her… One must be fashionable, though one would not, of course, be vulgarly immodest. Helen considered that she was showing the exact number of vertebrae that the occasion demanded. One less would be incorrect; one more would be over-modern.What IS the correct number of vertebrae to display in an evening dress? (Unlike Helen herself, you can have one either way.)
6) Sayers seems to dislike the character of Helen, despite the poor woman marrying into such an impossible family and then getting the difficult Harriet for a new sister-in-law (-in-law).
Name any character who was remotely bothered on her behalf about her husband being unfaithful to her. (Clouds of Witness)
Supplementary: Would a gold cigarette lighter have been a very reasonable present? (Busman’s Honeymoon)
7) ‘To me, ‘Bunter’ will always be the overweight schoolboy Billy Bunter, shouting ‘Yarooh!’ and waiting for a postal order, and first appearing in print in 1908.’ Discuss.
8) Did young women in Oxford in the 1930s really sunbathe in their underwear in public places (Gaudy Night)? You will be expected to reference this key earlier discussion on the blog and this one in the Guardian, but this is a summary of the facts:
Even the Dean, who is so broad-minded, thinks a brassiere and a pair of drawers rather unsuitable for sun-bathing in the quad. It isn’t so much the male undergraduates – they’re used to it – but after all, when the Heads of the men’s colleges come to call on the Warden, they really ought to be able to get through the grounds without blushing.
9) In Gaudy Night again, Sayers’ alter ego Harriet Vane is questioned closely by an academic about something scientific in one of her previous books –
‘I was discussing it with Professor Higgins… Tell me, what did you have to go upon?’Assuming this was based on an actual experience Sayers may have had at a social event, do you think she was being called on to defend the murder method in a) Unnatural Death or b) The Nine Tailors? Both have been called into question. Give reasons for your choice.
‘Well, I got a pretty good opinion,’ said Harriet, feeling a hideous qualm of uncertainty and cursing Professor Higgins from the bottom of her heart.
Answers on one side of the paper please, with your name clearly printed at the top. Or alternately, put them in the comments.
The top picture is (unexpectedly?) by Edward Hopper. Although Wimsey doesn’t wear his harlequin outfit to the event in question 5, the general tenor of the picture demanded it be used. It is from the Athenaeum website and could be an illo from Murder Must Advertise.