Dorothy L Sayers – the brutalizing influence of theology (and Stephen Fry and the iPod Touch) 3


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Dorothy L Sayers

I have oft mentioned that I am a keen fan of DLS and Lord Peter Wimsey. For Christmas in addition to my iPod Touch I received a Best Buy card that I used to purchase the 3 DVD set of the 1987 production of 3 mysteries, starring Edward Petherbridge, Harriet Walter. From Amazon: Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries [The Lord Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane Collection – Strong Poison / Have His Carcass / Gaudy Night]. E and I spent three wonderful evenings (late, after the kids were asleep) enjoying these shows. Petherbridge and Walter are the best to play these roles, imho.

I found myself rejoicing again in the language of Sayers, something I could do because this particular series had many direct quotes in the dialogue. This reminded me in turn of a “podgram” (as he has coined it) I recently heard from Stephen Fry that I meant to share as well. In “Language” Fry talks about leaving behind his pendantry for grammar and instead enjoying the sexiness and gorgeousness of languange. A must listen for anyone with interests grammatical, philological, and linguistic (he has become quite the scholar actually). But I digress, as Fry would intone.

My joy at returning again to Lord Peter and Sayers beautiful language was increased when I found that “Whose Body?” is available in a free form for all the world (and to download from feedbooks to be read in the Stanza app on my iPod Touch). This is simply one of the best ebook readers I have used with a beautiful, clean interface and preset with a dozen or more online catalogues from which you may download (for free or fee) books, newspapers, and magazines. So I have been enjoying re-reading this classic. Today while waiting at the doctors (I am apparently a fairly talented boy having done what only 3% of folks seem to be able to do, fracture my trapezium, its in the wrist)  I came across this great passage. Peter’s old friend Inspector Parker is reading a “modern commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians” and Peter laments that he is not cut out for dective work. He likes it well enough at the outset when it is fun and fresh, but not at the end when someone is about to be hanged.

From “Whose Body?” by Dorothy L. Sayers

“Look here, Peter,” said the other with some earnestness, “suppose you get this playing-fields-of-Eton complex out of your system once and for all. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt that something unpleasant has happened to Sir Reuben Levy. Call it murder, to strengthen the argument. If Sir Reuben has been murdered, is it a game? and is it fair to treat it as a game?”

“That’s what I’m ashamed of, really,” said Lord Peter. “It is a game to me, to begin with, and I go on cheerfully, and then I suddenly see that somebody is going to be hurt, and I want to get out of it.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” said the detective, “but that’s because you’re thinking about your attitude. You want to be consistent, you want to look pretty, you want to swagger debonairly through a comedy of puppets or else to stalk magnificently through a tragedy of human sorrows and things. But that’s childish. If you’ve any duty to society in the way of finding out the truth about murders, you must do it in any attitude that comes handy. You want to be elegant and detached? That’s all right, if you find the truth out that way, but it hasn’t any value in itself, you know. You want to look dignified and consistent—what’s that got to do with it? You want to hunt down a murderer for the sport of the thing and then shake hands with him and say, ‘Well played—hard luck—you shall have your revenge to-morrow!’ Well, you can’t do it like that. Life’s not a football match. You want to be a sportsman. You can’t be a sportsman. You’re a responsible person.”

“I don’t think you ought to read so much theology,” said Lord Peter. “It has a brutalizing influence.”

 

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