In this chapter we turn our attention to the life and wisdom of the amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.
It is useful to start by considering what we know about Lord Peter as a character. The following bibliographic entry, written in the style of the Who’s Who directories of the time, comes from his creator:
WIMSEY, Peter Death Bredon, D.S.O.; born 1890, 2nd son of Mortimer Gerald Bredon Wimsey, 15th Duke of Denver, and of Honoria
Lucasta, daughter of Francis Delagardie of Bellingham Manor, Hants.
Educated: Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford (1st class honors, Sch. of Mod. Hist. 1912); served with H. M. Forces 1914/18 (Major, Rifle Brigade). Author of “Notes on the Collecting of Incunabula,” “The Murderer’s Vade-Mecum,” and so forth. Recreations: Criminology; bibliophily; music; cricket.
Clubs: Marlborough; Egotists’. Residences: 110A Piccadilly, W.; Bredon Hall, Duke’s Denver, Norfolk. Arms: three mice courant, argent; crest, a domestic cat couched as to spring, proper; motto: As my Whimsy takes me.
What stories do we use as sources in understanding the methods of Lord Peter? The following books by Dorothy L. Sayers document his cases:
Clouds of Witness—1926
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club—1928
Lord Peter Views the Body—1928—anthology
The Five Red Herrings—1931
Have His Carcase—1932
Murder Must Advertise—1933
The Nine Tailors—1934
In the Teeth of the Evidence—1939—anthology
Thrones, Dominations—1998—with J. P. Walsh
A Presumption of Death—2002—J.P. Walsh & D. L. Sayers
The books noted as anthologies contain twenty-one short stories about Lord Peter and some about other characters of Dorothy L. Sayers’s invention. The other works are complete novels. The last two novels were completed by completed by Jill Paton Walsh based on material from Sayers.
Ian Carmichael starred in video versions of five of the Lord Peter adventures. These were originally aired in the United Kingdom and subsequently in the United States on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater. Edward Petherbridge starred in video versions of three other Lord Peter Mysteries, which were aired first on the BBC and later on PBS’s Mystery! series. Both of these series have recently become available on videocassette and DVD.
Dorothy L. Sayers was born in Oxford, England, in 1893, the daughter of a clergyman. She was fluent in Latin, French, and German and was one of the first women to earn an Oxford degree in 1915. She was a scholar of medieval literature. After World War I, she worked for the largest British advertising firm. In 1926, she married the famous World War I correspondent, Capt. O. A. Fleming. After writing the last Lord Peter novel, she spent the rest of her life translating medieval literature and writing plays and academic studies. She died in 1957.
There are a couple of important points to observe about Dorothy L. Sayers. She was educated at Oxford, a scholar of history and of literature. Despite her academic training, she was capable of earning her living first in the business world and later as a writer. In these respects, the detective that she created was made in her own image.