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Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul
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Buddy reads > Dorothy L Sayers: Her Life and Soul by Barbara Reynolds

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
This is our thread for a buddy read of the Sayers biography by Barbara Reynolds. Please do post your thoughts about the book.

I've just started and found the introductions to later editions slightly confusing - I'll return to these after reading the rest of the book.

Now on to descriptions of Sayers' parents, and it's interesting to learn that her father was at Oxford with Oscar Wilde.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
I've now read the first couple of chapters, about the young Dorothy's childhood, and am up to her student days in Oxford. Really enjoying it so far - the way Reynolds writes is very readable, but even better are all the wonderful extracts from Sayers' letters. She was so witty even as a young girl!


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
I've just found a picture of the former rectory in Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire (formerly Huntingdonshire), where Dorothy lived as a child - it looks like a splendid building. Privately owned and not open to the public, though.

http://www.bluntisham.cambs.info/loca...


message 4: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1413 comments Thanks for the link, Judy. Looks like a wonderful house.

(Wonderful seems to be my word for the day)


message 5: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments I do enjoy her earliest letters. For a kid tehy are so well written and funny.


message 6: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments In another bio of Sayers, James Brabazon felt that DLS's rather isolated childhood made it hard for her to mix with people and turned her into someone who was happiest among her books and wrting. Do people think that this bio shows her as isolated? or is it more her intelligence that made her "stand out" from other children and made ti hard for her to mix with them?


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Nadine, that's an interesting question - I was surprised to see how isolated her childhood was, taught by governesses at home until she went to school as a teenager.

Reynolds thinks she enjoyed school, quoting cheery letters, but she says Brabazon thinks she was putting on an act to cover up her unhappiness, and quotes from an unpublished autobiographical novel where the heroine, Katherine, was unhappy at school.

She was clearly very intelligent - those childhood letters are amazing - so that might have made her "stand out" too, as you say.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Just remembered that I read Testament of Youth a while back, and I think Vera Brittain mentions Sayers as being quite jolly at university. Not 100% on this though.


message 9: by Nadine (last edited Jul 16, 2016 01:35PM) (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments I think she enjoyed Uni, because she was mixing with lot of girls who were like her, unusual and exceptionally clever..
But school I am not sure. Maybe ti was hard for her to adjust. Stilll, Im inclined to go with Reynolds.. I think that she wasn't "putting on an act" to please her parents.. and I think that the unfinished novel (Cat of Mary), isn't necessarily evidence of how she really felt at school. I think she problaby had mixed feelings, was a bit lonely for home, and didn't like some things about school, but over all I would say she had a fairly good time and her letters are reflecting that..


message 10: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments Judy wrote: "Nadine, that's an interesting question - I was surprised to see how isolated her childhood was, taught by governesses at home until she went to school as a teenager.

R..."

Im not sure if she was more isolated than many other middle class girls.. After all class barriers woudl keep many of them who lived in rural areas rather alone, and if educated by governesses, they might not meet many kids of their own age.. I suppose what made DLS more "alone" was her being an only child and not even having cousins of the same age living all that near by...


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Nadine, I agree it seems likely she had mixed feelings about school - even if she was putting a positive spin on things in letters home, this must be picking up on the aspects she did enjoy. But I haven't read the letters or the unpublished novel (shame it hasn't been published!) so am going on what Reynolds says.

I also agree a lot of girls would have been isolated if being educated at home, but as you say in her case this was more so because of being an only child. I know there were sometimes other children staying in the house as boarders, but it doesn't seem clear how long these arrangements were for.


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
The school she went to, Godolphin School, has an interesting history - there's a page about it on the school website:

http://www.godolphin.org/history-3/

Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be possible to see whole pictures on the page, but there's a nice picture from 1910 on a council website:

https://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/comm...


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Judy wrote: "The school she went to, Godolphin School, has an interesting history - there's a page about it on the school website:."

I love that "The original task of the school was to teach the girls to dance, work, read, write, cast accounts and become proficient in housewifery."

Everything a young woman needed to know!


message 14: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments Judy wrote: "Nadine, I agree it seems likely she had mixed feelings about school - even if she was putting a positive spin on things in letters home, this must be picking up on the aspects she did enjoy. But I ..."
I think that it has been published but it is unfinished, Cat of Mary.. I mean. From what I have read of it, it sounds like a bit of a retcon of Dorothy's younger life.. where she was very negative about her childhood self and saw herself as priggisih, spoilt and difficult.
I dont beleive that she hated school, i think she may have had bad bits of it, and perhaps later on, she was more criticial of herself and emphaised the bad bits where she was very much the odd man out, but as Bar Reynolds has said, at the time of her writing her letters etc to her parents from school, she does not come across as homesick or not fitting in or very unhappy


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
I've read a bit further now and was fascinated to learn that while working in France Sayers met Charles Crichton, an aristocrat with a butler, Bates, who served as his batman during WWI, helping to inspire the characters of Wimsey and Bunter. However, it says she and Crichton hated each other!


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
I did wonder if I might be able to find a picture of Charles Crichton, but all I can find is the film director of the same name... however, did find a nice portrait of Eric Whelpton, who Sayers was in love with according to Reynolds and who might also have contributed to Wimsey's character. There's a picture of him in the edition I'm reading, but this is a different one:

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/sea...


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Nadine wrote: "I think that it has been published but it is unfinished, Cat of Mary.. I mean. "

Thanks for that - just discovered it has been published in a supplement to her letters, edited by Barbara Reynolds, together with the autobiographical fragment 'My Edwardian Childhood'. Looks as if it could be a hard book to get hold of, though...


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Is anyone else reading this? What do you think of it? I'm enjoying it and it is really making me want to read Sayers' letters in the future.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "I love that "The original task of the school was to teach the girls to dance, work, read, write, cast accounts and become proficient in housewifery."

Everything a young woman needed to know!"


Yes, that's a great quote! It does sound from the biography, though, as if the education was somewhat more academic by the time Sayers got there.


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 540 comments Judy wrote: "Is anyone else reading this? What do you think of it? I'm enjoying it and it is really making me want to read Sayers' letters in the future."

I have it coming on ILL, but not here yet.


message 21: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1413 comments As per usual, I have fallen behind.


message 22: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments I think that Godolphin was a a very good school. Re Cat of Mary, it honeslty sounds a bit depressing, whether it is a portrait of Dorothy as a kid herself or just a portrait she found interesting to write about. Katherine sounds like a real pain, perhaps when DLS wrote characters that were partly based on herself, she seems to have emphaisised her worst characterisitics? I noticed this about Harriet, she's obviously a partial self portrait, yet she completely lacks the warmth and sense of Fun that DLS had.. she's got perhaps DLS's negative side, her intellectual snobbery, her sharp tongue, but not her nicer side..


message 23: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments I have been reading a chapter in a book about Life in literary parsonages.. which is about DLS's younger days in Bluntisham etc.


message 24: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments This book does emphasise the isolation of the Sayerses in their country parishes, and DLS's being rather spoiled by being the only child in a house full of adults, older ladies who made a fuss of her...and perhaps that did make her find girls of her own age a bit tiresome


message 25: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Ooh, this sounds like an interesting book, Nadine - what is the title of it? I am guessing that the Brontës feature?!


message 26: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments No, I tink they have been DONE I think too much. its called the wry hisory of hte Literary Rectory


message 27: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Thanks, just found the details -The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory. Looks interesting.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Now on to the part where she is writing Whose Body - the quotes from her letters show how hard she worked at this.


message 29: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments I dont recollect Whose Body, but she really really wroked hard on her second one, Clouds


message 30: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments ANyone still discussing this? I really like the book, and feel admiring of DLS and sad for her becuase I dont think she had a very happy life overall. One of her earlier Biographers, Brabazon, felt that perhaps she did have the life she wanted, or at least that her isolated upbringing had inured her to being alone.. and she minded less than some people might, that she had a lot of sadness in her personal relationships...


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
I'm still reading it but have been getting on a bit slowly... I'm just up to the part where she is involved with John Cournos, who inspired Philip Boyes in Strong Poison.

I'd be interested to read some of his work in future and it would also be interesting to read some non-fiction about the Russian emigres living in London at this period.


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Just to add, I really like the bio too and am only getting on slowly because it isn't easy to carry around with me on the bus etc - it is also making me admire Sayers even more. Is anyone else still reading this, or recently finished?


message 33: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments Judy wrote: "I'm still reading it but have been getting on a bit slowly... I'm just up to the part where she is involved with John Cournos, who inspired Philip Boyes in [book:Strong Poison|246225..."

He also I think inspired Paul Alexis in HHC, another rather tiresome character. He was a very big thing in her life, in her 20s, she was desperately in love iwth him, and then, it seems like (from her letters) she abruptly "stopped"....


message 34: by Judy (last edited Aug 08, 2016 02:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
I'm now halfway through this and have read all the part about her relationships with John Cournos, Bill White, the birth of her child and am now reading about the early years of her marriage. The extracts from her letters are wonderful and really show her personality.

She must have had to work so hard, being at the advertising agency in the daytime and then writing her books in the evening. Did she ever sleep?!


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
Seems I spoke too soon - I'm now up to the bit about her translation of the medieval poem Tristan, so she was doing scholarly work on top of her novels, advertising agency and teaching! So she was working even harder than I thought...


message 36: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9280 comments Mod
I've read a lot more today and now only have a little bit more to go. I was excited to learn that Sayers wrote a series of letters from and to members of the Wimsey family during the war which were published in the Spectator, and that these are online as The Wimsey Papers. Something else I will look forward to reading, or dipping into, after we finish the novels and stories.

I don't think all the theological books and plays would appeal to me much as I'm not religious, but it's fascinating to read about all the to-ing and fro-ing with the BBC over trying to get the play scripts accepted.


message 37: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Sutton | 197 comments She was a very hard worker, I wonder if it led to her premature death? Given that she was also very overweight...


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