Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a noteworthy British author, poet, translator and copywriter who had a particular interest in writing mystery, thriller and non-fiction novels. She was also a renowned crime writer, playwright, Christian humanist and an essayist. Dorothy used to love studying modern and classical languages during her growing years. As far as her career as a novelist is concerned, Dorothy L. Sayers best known for writing her mystery novel series, which were a series of thriller novels and short stories set between the 1st and 2nd World Wars. The mysteries written by Dorothy feature the main character in the form an amateur sleuth and English aristocrat named Lord Peter Wimsey. The character sketch of Lord Peter Wimsey was done in such an interesting manner by Dorothy that it still remains one of the popular characters in a mystery series. However, according to her, the translation of Divine Comedy by Dante is her best work of her career. Apart from writing novels and short stories, Dorothy also used to visit plays and literary shows. Dorothy was born on 13 June 1893 in Oxford, United Kingdom and died on 17 December 1957 at the age of 64 in Witham, Essex, United Kingdom. She was the only child of her parents and was born in the Christ Church Cathedral where her father, Henry Sayers was a chaplain. He was also the headmaster of the Choir school. Dorothy began learning the Latin language from her father at the age of 6.

When her father was asked to move to the village of Bluntisham in Huntingdonshire in order to work as a rector, Dorothy also had to go along with them. As a result, she had to spend most of her growing years in the small village of Bluntisham. She went to develop the plots of her mystery novels around the real life locations in her vicinity such as the River Great Ouse and the Fens. She took the names of most of her characters from the church graveyard next to her home in the village. From the year 1909 onwards, Dorothy was made to attend a boarding school named The Godolphin School in Salisbury, while her father moved to Christchurch in Cambridgeshire. Dorothy L. Sayers won a scholarship in the year 1912 that allowed her to a join the Somerville College in Oxford. She studied medieval literature and modern languages at the college and passed out with first class honors in the year 1915. During that time, women were not meant to be awarded with degrees. However, she fought for her rights and graduated with an M.A degree in the year 1920. One of the mystery novels written by her is based on the experiences of her college life.

After her graduation, Dorothy indulged into an affair with a Russian poet named John Cournos, however, it turned out to be an unhappy affair for her. She left him after some time after knowing that she was cheating on her. In the year 1924, Dorothy became the mother of an illegitimate son and named him John Anthony, later John Flemming. John was raised by her aunts. Two years later, Dorothy married a Scottish journalist named Captain Ostwald Atherton Fleming. Dorothy was aware of the fact that Fleming was a divorcee and had a couple of children, but still she believed in his love and fully accepted him as her husband. After the marriage, the couple moved into a flat in Bloomsbury, which was owned by Dorothy all her life after the death of Fleming. Fleming began working as a journalist and author while Dorothy supported him through her copy writing and novel writing works. Later, Fleming went on to serve in the First World War and as a result, his health worsened. Eventually, he died in the year 1950 followed by Dorothy in the year 1957. She was buried in Soho, London, beneath the tower of St. Anne’s Church, while Fleming was cremated in Ipswich.

The well known mystery novel series written by Dorothy Sayers was the Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, which consisted of a total of 15 novels published between the years 1932 and 1973. The series is based on the life and works of the main character named Lord Peter Bredon Wimsey. Author Dorothy has described Lord Peter Wimsey as a bon vivant sleuth in the series, who always tried to solve the mysteries around him and occasionally deals with murder cases too. The novels of the series are particularly set in Britain as the author hails from there itself. The first novel of the series was published under the title ‘Whose Body?’. It was published by the Harper Torch publishing house in the year 1923. The plot of the novel opens up with a murder case which involves a stark naked dead body lying in a bathtub. The body is discovered in an unusual and irregular position. It could be easily seen that the murderer had used a pair of gold pince-nez for perching the eyes of the victim and murdering him. It was also found out that the face of the victim was shaved by the murderer after his death. Upon initial investigation, the police assumed that the victim was one of the prominent financiers. After that, Lord Peter Wimsey is introduced, who examines the crime scene and the dead body and concludes that there is something more in the case.

Before this case, Lord Peter used to work as a sleuth out of passion and did not consider it more than a hobby. But, after coming across his first actual case, he decided to take the matters more seriously. He strives hard and used all his tactics to untangle the mystery of the dead body in the bathtub. The second novel of the series was published in the year 1926 under the title ‘Clouds of Witness’. This novel was published by the Harper Paperbacks. The plot of the novel opens up with the introduction of the Riddlescale Lodge, which was a rustic and old lodge frequently used by the Wimsey family for a family retreat. They used to enjoy the thrill and the country pleasures. However, things take a different turn when one of the members of the Wimsey family is found dead. It is discovered that the future brother-in-law of Lord Peter Wimsey has been murdered and his dead body is found lying on the chrysanthemums and had a dinner jacket around it with slippers. The accused is Lord Peter’s own brother. Other than this shocking event, Lord Peter Wimsey also seemed particularly disturbed because of the vanishing of a midnight letter mysteriously from Egypt and his sister who was in a lot of grief. Lord Peter is required to solve the murder case as soon as possible before the killer takes the life of the members of his family.

Books in order of publication by series:

Peter Wimsey Books

Whose Body?(1923) 
Clouds of Witness(1926) 
Unnatural Death(1927) 
Lord Peter Views the Body(1928) 
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club(1928) 
Strong Poison(1930) 
The Five Red Herrings(1931) 
Have His Carcase(1932) 
Hangman’s Holiday(1933) 
Murder Must Advertise(1933) 
The Nine Tailors(1934) 
Gaudy Night(1935) 
Busman’s Honeymoon(1937) 
In the Teeth of the Evidence(1939) 
Lord Peter: The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories(1972) 
Striding Folly(1972) 

Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Books

Thrones, Dominations(1998) 
A Presumption of Death(2002) 
The Attenbury Emeralds(2010) 
The Late Scholar(2013) 

Standalone Novels

The Documents in the Case(1930) 

Short Story Collections

Ask a Policeman(1933) 
A Treasury of Sayers Stories(1958) 
Dorothy L. Sayers: The Complete Stories(2002) 
Two Plays about God and Man(2004) 


The Emperor Constantine: A Chronicle(1951) 


The Man Born to Be King(1943)

Non-Fiction Books

The Mind of the Maker(1941) 
Unpopular Opinions(1946) 
Creed or Chaos?(1947) 
Further Papers on Dante(1957) 
Are Women Human?(1959) 
The Days of Christ’s Coming(1960) 
Wilkie Collins: A Critical and Biographical Study(1977) 
The Whimsical Christian: 18 Essays(1987) 
Spiritual Writings(1993) 
The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers: 1899-1936(1995) 
The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers: 1937-1943(1998) 
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