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Dorothy L. Sayers Letters and Poems, 1913-1952
1 box
Collection number: MS 308

Abstract:
The letters and poems contains ten letters of Sayers to Catherine H. Godfrey ("Tony") and additional letters to business associates. The collection also includes two manuscript collections of poems (part of one published as Sayers's The last castle, and a preprint of another poem.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Mortimer Rare Book Room.

Restrictions on use:

The Dorothy L. Sayers Letters and Poems are the physical property of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors of the works or their legal representatives.

Mortimer Rare Book Room
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) was a British novelist, translator and apologist for the Christian faith. She was born in Oxford, England where her father, the Rev. Henry Sayers, was chaplain of Christ Church and headmaster of the Choir School. Sayers's mother was Helen Mary Leigh. Her father was subsequently posted to the village of Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire where he served as rector.

Sayers entered Somerville College, Oxford in 1912 and completed there with first-class honors in 1916. She graduated from Oxford in 1920 with the M.A.

After numerous relationships with men, she found herself pregnant by Bill White in 1923. She hid this fact from her parents and John Anthony was born January 3, 1924. He was promptly turned over to her aunt and cousin Amy and Ivy Amy Shipton with the understanding that her parents where never to find out John Anthony's origin.

On April 8, 1926 she married Captain Oswald Atherton "Mac" Fleming, a divorced Scottish journalist. They made their home at 24 Great James Street, St. Pancras, where both continued their writing careers. Sayers became a member of the Oxford group of writers that included C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkein (the "Inklings").

Sayers worked as a copywriter in S. H. Benson's advertising agency (1922-1931), as she began to pursue a writing career. Her first book Op. 1, a book of poetry, was published in 1916. During her years at Benson's she developed the character of Lord Peter Wimsey and in the subsequent years she published 15 novels and short stories based on his character. She also wrote other crime stories during this time.

The work that Sayers felt was her best work was her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. She completed translating the first two volumes (1949-1952) of the Dante work and had begun the translation work on volume three when she died in 1957. Barbara Reynolds completed the translation of the third volume.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Dorothy L. Sayers Letters and Poems are arranged chronologically in two series:

I. Letters

There are ten personal letters of Dorothy L. Sayers to Catherine H. Godfrey ("Tony"). In addition, there are letters to business associates and one to an American fan of Sayers's works.

II. Poems

There are two manuscripts of poetry and a pre-print of a published poem.

This collection is organized into two series:


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Mortimer Rare Book Room.

Restrictions on use:

The Dorothy L. Sayers Letters and Poems are the physical property of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors of the works or their legal representatives.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Dorothy L. Sayers Papers, Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

History of the Collection

The Dorothy L. Sayers Letters and Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 1913-1952 were purchased (with one exception) between 1979 and 1987 with funds of the McConnell-Bohning Bequest from various manuscript dealers.

The letter of Ms. Sayers to Mary Elizabeth Clark (Smith College Class of 1926) was found in Ms. Clark's inscribed copy of Sayers's The Mysterious English (London: Macmillan, 1941).

Processing Information

Processed by Melvin Carlson, Jr., 2008


Additional Information
Contact Information
Mortimer Rare Book Room
William Allan Neilson Library
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2906
Fax: (413) 585-2904

Email: mrbr@smith.edu
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/rarebook

Language
English
Bibliography

A bibliography of work by Dorothy L. Sayers can be found on the Dorothy L. Sayers Society website (http://www.sayers.org.uk/). The following listing of the published letters of Sayers is provided. In the contents listing of this collection when a given letter is published-in whole or in part-citation is given to these volumes.

The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, chosen and edited by Barbara Reynolds. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996-2002. 5 v. For a complete publishing description of The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, see the Dorothy L. Sayers society website noted above.


Contents List
SERIES I. LETTERS



Letter, Friday in Easter Week [1913 Apr., Blumtisham Rectory] to Tony [Catherine H. Godfrey].

Published, in part, in v. 1 of The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, ed. by Barbara Reynolds, p. 72-73.
Sayers comments on the C.U. (Christian Union) and discusses events at Somerville College including her coursework and friends.


[8] p.
Box 1: folder 1
Letter, 1913 Jul. 11, Bluntisham Rectory to Tony.

Published, in part, in v. 1, p. 76-77, with the date 1913 Jul 22.
Sayers confesses she has been lazy and that she misses Oxford, even if in one exam she was the only woman taking the exam and was "isolated like a leper."


[12] p.
Box 1: folder 2
Letter, 1913 Jul. 29, Bluntisham Rectory, to Tony.

Published, in part, in v. 1, p. 77-80.
Sayers acknowledges the receipt of a letter from "Tony" and then tells of her working on an epic entitled "Encaenia." In red pen she writes: "Warning!!! This whole letters is a fearful yarn about the Encaenia & has nothing else in it-so I wouldn't be bored to read it if I were you." She notes falling in love with Maurice Roy Ridley (Chaplain of Balliol), but notes that "my loves are always unsatisfactory." Sayers discourses at some length on various persons associated with Oxford.


[20] p.
Box 1: folder 3
Postcard, [1913?], Bluntisham, to C. H. Godfrey.

1 British postal postcard (with George V half-penny)
The text of the postcard reads: I have found such a ripping motto for the C.U. (at least, the Bible Circles) in Thomas à Kempis: "I teach without noise of words, without confusion of opinions, without the pride of honour, without the scuffling of arguments." Don't you think "the scuffling of arguments" is a gorgeous phrase? Dorothy.



Box 1: folder 4
Letter, [1914] Jul. 28, Bluntisham Rectory, to Tony.

Sayers takes note of her planned trip to France and comments on various social engagements of recent time.


[12] p.
Box 1: folder 5
Letter, [1915] Jan. 5, Bluntisham Rectory, to Tony.

Sayers writes of the war and her poems about Oxford.


[4] p.
Box 1: folder 6
Letter, 1915 Jan. 6, Bluntisham Rectory, to Tony.

A letter of poems, the first of which is entitled: Term-Thoughts in Vacation.


[6] p.
Box 1: folder 7
Letter, [1915] Jul. 19, Bluntisham, to Tony.

Sayers writes about her classmates at Oxford.


[4] p.
Box 1: folder 8
Letter, [1915?] Sep. 22, Bluntisham Rectory, to Tony.

Sayers writes about choir practice and various friends at the Front.


[8] p.
Box 1: folder 9
Letter, [1915] Nov. 23, Bluntisham Rectory, to Tony.

Published in v. 1, p. 115-117.
Sayers informs Tony of her decision to teach and comments on her interviews. She discusses her choice of a position in the Hull High School under the headmistress of a Miss Elliott (Ethel Mary Linda Elliott).


[8] p.
Box 1: folder 10
Letter, 1934 Apr. 30, 24 Newland Street, Witham, Essex, to "Dear Aunt Ann," (Nancy Pearn)

Nancy Pearn was Sayers's literary agent. The letter concerns a "Queen Elizabeth party" and some literary matters.


[2] p.
Box 1: folder 11
Letter, 1934 Sep. 6, 24 Newland Street, Witham, Essex, to Mr. Larkin.

Sayers writes asking that she be allowed to review John Carter and Graham Pollard's An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets (London: Constable; New York: C. Scribner's, 1934). Two newspaper clippings on the Carter and Pollard book are included.


[2] p.
Box 1: folder 12
Letter, 1935 Nov. 13, 24 Newland Street, Witham, Essex, to Mr. Hopkins.

Likely to Gerard Hopkins, nephew of Gerard Manley Hopkins, thanking him for his gift and letter. She also discusses "the Harriet-Peter situation" and comments on what her time at Oxford meant to her.


[2] p.
Box 1: folder 13
Letter, 1937 May 9, 24 Newland Street, Witham, Essex, to Nancy Pearn ("Dear Bun").

Sayers discusses her plans for getting them to the Coronation of George VI. (1937 May 12).


[1]leaf
Box 1: folder 14
Postcard, 1937 Sep. 30 London (postmark), to Nancy Pearn.

1 postcard
The postcard is a playbill for Busman's Honeymoon, a play by Sayers and Muriel St. Clare Byrne. The text of the postcard reads: Dear Bun - Here is a new poster for your wall - up to date! Doing very well so far - Love D.L.S.



Box 1: folder 15
Letter, 1939 Sep. 27, 24 Newland Street, Witham, Essex, to M. E. Clark.

This letter to Mary Elizabeth Clark, Smith College Class of 1926, was in response to a letter Clark had written Sayers. The letter was in Clark's inscribed copy of Sayers' The Mysterious English (London: Macmillan, 1941. Macmillan warm pamphlets, no. 10). The inscription reads: With greetings from England & Dorothy L. Sayers.


[1]leaf
Box 1: folder 16
SERIES II. POEMS



Poems to real people, by D. L. S. [1914?]

These poems (never published) are copies of poems Sayers had written to historical individuals and friends, such as Sir Ernest Shackelton. They are dated in the manuscript, 1908-1912.


[18] leaves
Box 1: folder 17
[Poems], C. H. G. from D. L. S., Oxford 1915.

Eleven poems, entitled "The last castle," were published in her Op. 1 (Oxford: B. H. Blackwell, 1916).


[24] p.
Box 1: folder 18
Poem "Pussydise Lost".

Print (pre-print) of the poem with illustration surrounding the text. The poem is mounted on brown paper that has on it: Press D. L. S. The poem appeared in Everybody's weekly (1952 Jun. 7), p. 22.


[1] leaf
Box 1: folder 19

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Sayers, Dorothy L. (Dorothy Leigh), 1893-1957
  • Women authors, English-20th century-Correspondence

Contributors
  • Godfrey, Catherine H.


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