Dorothy Sayers profile for Zondervan Dictionary of Spirituality


Right now my San Diego colleagues Drs. Glen Scorgie & Jim Smith are doing yeoman duty pulling together a gazillion entries for the forthcoming Zondervan Dictionary of Spirituality. I’ve been given permission to share a couple of my own contributions here, which are on figures from my Patron Saints for Postmoderns. Here’s one:

Sayers, Dorothy L. (1893–1957). Literary “accidental apologist.” She was a British novelist, playwright, apologist, and translator. Best known for her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery stories (e.g. Gaudy Night), Sayers found a second career in writing apologetic essays and religious plays. Her B.B.C. serial, The Man Born To Be King (1941) rescued Jesus and the disciples from the fusty language of the KJV, initially scandalizing straight-laced Protestant groups and then delighting the nation—her friend C. S. Lewis read it every year during Holy Week. High Anglican in her own spirituality, Sayers wrote incisive apologetic essays such as “The Dogma Is the Drama,” clarifying the Great Tradition for layfolk and drawing many back to a moribund church. Her Penguin translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy reached millions and highlighted the down-to-earth humor and vivid storytelling of that classic—her notes explained the theology of the epic poem in clear, modern English. Sayers wrote effectively on the spirituality of work, vocation, creativity, and aesthetics, describing human creativity as a Trinitarian process (The Mind of the Maker) and insisting Christian artists work with quality and integrity. She was friends with G. K. Chesterton (with whom she helmed the still-active Detection Club) and Charles Williams (with whom she corresponded on Dante). Lewis called her one of the great modern letter-writers: her letters are published in 5 volumes.

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