I recently paid approximately $10 to get a copy of a chapter that Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in the book Titles To Fame, which is an anthology book in which “Ten eminent novelists … give us the ‘biographies’ of their most successful books” (supposedly, according to the forward). I applied to and filled out a form with the Marion E. Wade Center to get the copy of that chapter. It was a most curious feeling, finding a document mostly forgotten that sheds insight into a subject which is not forgotten.
There was even a certain fitting aspect to this, in that the chapter is about the book Gaudy Night, which is about scholarship, and its plot even turns on a document which was found and stolen in a remote library. Further, Harriet’s cover story for her presence in Oxford is research into the life of the victorian era novelist Sheridan Le Fanu. (Le Fanu was an Irishman best known for ghost stories; I’ve only been able to find a little bit about his mystery stories, and I’m not sure, from the descriptions I’ve seen, that they’re really in the same sort of genre as what we commonly call mystery, i.e. where there is a detective and an explanation to which the reader comes to know. I suppose I will need to find some of his works and actually read them to find out for myself. That said, as an interesting tidbit, Le Fanu was writing primarily from the 1830s to the 1870s; Harriet investigating him in 1935 is actually rather like me researching Dorothy L. Sayers now, that is, in the year of our Lord 2020.)
I’m going to write at least one post and possibly several on the contents of the chapter. For the moment, I just wanted to mention the curious feeling that accompanies digging up things which have been mostly lost to time. It’s got a certain exhilaration to it which is often rendered accurately in golden age mysteries which feature Egyptologists and archaeologists more generally.