Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors

Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors - Tea Tonic & Toxin Book Club and Podcast
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Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors
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Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors

Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, published in 1934, may well be her masterpiece. The murder method in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery was unique. The idea came from a sixpenny pamphlet that explained bell-ringing.

The novel’s title refers to the nine strokes of the passing bell, rung for the deceased. The story begins when Wimsey’s car breaks down in the small English village of Fenchurch St. Paul on New Year’s Eve. Wimsey is asked to fill in as a bell ringer for the church’s nine-hour peal, a traditional ringing of the church bells.

The plot takes a sinister turn when a body is found in a newly dug grave. Wimsey is drawn into a decades-old mystery, including a missing emerald necklace and a cryptic code within the church’s ancient bell-ringing patterns.

Read: Buy it used or new on Amazon.

Reflect: Check out the conversation starters.

Weigh In: Share your thoughts about Lord Peter Wimsey and The Nine Tailors.

Learn about our guest, Dan Drake, here.

Check out the transcript below!

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Transcript: Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors

Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.

Carolyn Daughters 0:35
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic, …

Sarah Harrison 0:40
… but not a toxin …

Carolyn Daughters 0:44
And join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.

Sarah Harrison 0:55
Carolyn, we’re back with Dan Drake.

Carolyn Daughters 0:56
I’m so excited to talk more about Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors and learn more about Dan.

Sarah Harrison 0:58
I am, too. But before we jump back into that, we want to mention our sponsor today. It’s a fabulous sponsor, Linden Botanicals. Linden Botanicals is a Colorado-based company that sells the world’s healthiest herbal teas and extracts. Their team has traveled the globe to find the herbs that offer the best science-based support for stress relief, energy, memory, mood, kidney health, joint health, digestion, and inflammation. U.S. orders over $75 ship free. To learn more, visit lindenbotanicals.com. And use the code MYSTERY to get 15% off your first order. Thank you, Linden Botanicals. And I want to also thank our listener for the episode. That’s Lisa Mahoney from Littleton, Colorado.

Carolyn Daughters 2:00
She has been active just generally. She’s been to our site, she found a link to purchase a copy of The Nine Tailors on our site, and she found a potential problem with the link and pointed it out.

Sarah Harrison 2:17
Thank you, Lisa.

Carolyn Daughters 2:18
Super helpful. And yeah, I think she’s going to be listening to the episode on Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors.

Sarah Harrison 2:25
Welcome, Lisa, and we want to welcome you with a beautiful, stunning Tea Tonic & Toxin sticker. You, too, dear listener, can be a listener of the episode and get a gorgeous sticker for yourself. To get a sticker and an on-air shoutout, share a comment on our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. You can share your thoughts on our website or on Facebook @teatonicandtoxin and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.

Carolyn Daughters 2:51
I want to introduce our guest. It’s the second episode we’ve done with Dan Drake. Dan Drake was born in Los Angeles two months after Pearl Harbor, a year or so after his family moved to the Bay Area where he’s lived since with notably rare exceptions, those exceptions being Portland, Oregon, where he took a degree in Biology at Reed College, UC San Diego for studies in biology and San Diego State at UC Berkeley studied in the newly renamed Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, where he earned an MS and worked at a couple of computers jobs. In 1982. He and some very sharp programmer started a software company you may have heard of it. It was for those fashionable new personal computers, companies called Autodesk and that venture succeeded and has gone on succeeding for more than 40 years under the same name. Now Dan’s parents were Sherlock Holmes fans and Dan grew up in a home filled with homes Yana his father belong to a local affiliate of the Baker Street irregulars, for which he wrote a few pieces of Sherlockian fanfic. Dan found a book by Dorothy L Sayers, I believe when you were growing up called unpopular opinions. And then he read Whose Body?, by good fortune Dan read the Lord Peter Wimsey books more or less in order. Dan eventually joined a new news group dedicated to Lord Peter. When he learned about the Lord Peter, I’m sorry the Peter Wimsey companion, he gave up his production of notes on the Wimsey corpus. Dan also collect Sayers Jana, and on a few occasions he has attended conventions of the Dorothy L Sayers society and England along with one held at Wheaton College in Illinois. Today, Dan lives in Mill Valley, California under redwood trees on a steep hillside with his wife of many years, and he also has two adult children.

Sarah Harrison 4:41
Welcome, Dan.

Dan Drake 4:44
Thank you. Very glad to be back.

Carolyn Daughters 4:47
We have a lot to talk about in this episode, because we just scratched the surface in the last one. To make sure we’re all on the same page, I’m going to read a short summary of The Nine Tailors. Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors is the ninth mystery novel featuring her detective Lord Peter Wimsey. The novel is titled The Nine Tailors refers to the nine strokes of the passing bell rang for the deceased. The story begins when Wimsey’s car breaks down in a small English village called Fenchurch St. Paul, it’s New Year’s Eve. Wimsey is asked to fill in as a bell ringer for the church’s nine hour appeal traditional ringing of the church bells the plot takes a sinister turn when a body is found in a newly dug grave. Wimsey is drawn into a decades old mystery including a missing emerald necklace and a cryptic code within the churches. Ancient bell ringing patterns. Dorothy Sayers novel The Nine Tailors is a quintessential example of the golden age of detective fiction, and is celebrated for its compelling plot, richly drawn characters and unique incorporation of the art of bell ringing into a murder mystery. Today we’re excited to talk about Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors with our guest, Dan Drake. It’s our final book selection of 2023. You can find more information about all our 2023 and 2024 books selections at teatonicandtoxin.com, and on Facebook and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. Also be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.

Sarah Harrison 6:19
Welcome back, Dan Drake.

Dan Drake 6:23
Thank you. Glad to be here.

Sarah Harrison 6:25
Dan, when we were emailing back and forth before the episode, you said several things that cracked me up and reminded me of Lord Peter himself. I don’t exactly know where to start. But maybe one of them is about rare book auctions. You mentioned going to a rare book auction in London. I thought that was such a Lord Peter Wimsey thing to do. That was one of his first hobbies we were introduced to in Whose Body? And then you told me about an even more Lord Peter moment. Would you share that here on the podcast?

Dan Drake 7:02
Ah yes.

Sarah Harrison 7:02
When you forgot your catalog. It’s a scene exactly out of the book Whose Body?, which we read before Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors.

Dan Drake 7:09
Right, so I had bought things at a San Francisco auction house before, so I had had the experience of going to the auction house and bidding on things. I began to have a feel for the particular subjects that I was buying things in, which was not rare books at the time. Anyway, I saw an announcement on the Lord Peter interest group of an upcoming auction. So I checked out Sotheby’s website in London and bought their catalog. The whole process is fairly simple. You walk in looking respectable. And you can go in and examine the goods before the auction. And then at the auction time, you simply register and get a numbered paddle. When the auctioneer calls out a number for the item that you want with the bid price, you raise your paddle if you want to bid. And, of course, if three hundred people do, then the first one gets to bid that much. And then bids go up in increments. The mechanics of are not particularly good. Sometimes you get interesting things, by the way. I was in the lobby once at Sothebys in London and have watched on closed circuit TV an auction that was going on a couple of rooms. They sold Shakespeare’s first folio for about 5 million pounds. There was only one bidder. That’s the mechanics of it. Specifically, the thing that brought me there was that they had a lot of Dorothy L Sayers possessions from, I think, the liquidation of the estate of her son’s widow at the time. No offspring. I did buy several things of great interest there. I also spoke with the chief of the way Marian E Wade Center at Wheaton College, which we’ll probably talk about later, which was very interesting. I did require quite a pile of documents and several first editions. And also, I think a couple of other first editions I have were from a group of dealers who bought a whole pile of assorted books, which were too large for me to try to want to bid on. That’s how I got some Sayers first editions, which, incidentally, go nicely with my father’s collection of Holmes goods, which includes bound editions of some of the Strand magazines, which contain earliest poems and stories in their first printing. So it’s a nice little library.

Sarah Harrison 11:18
That’s awesome. Yeah, I have major library envy. I love old books like Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, but I don’t own anything as significant as any of that. You mentioned an interesting aspect of that. You are able to purchase unpublished works, but you’re not at liberty to publish them, though. You don’t own the copyright. Who owns the copyright if you own the work?

Dan Drake 11:45
That’s an interesting story involving my getting legal advice from an expert in copyright law in the United States, who could not tell me anything about copyright law in England. But he could hint at it because he was qualified to give legal advice on it. So yes, the story is unpublished. First of all, the copyright lasts for a certain number of years. They vastly expanded that amount around 2000. Big copyright acts made things more uniform, and in some ways more sensible, and also extended everybody’s copyrights for a long time so that Disney wouldn’t lose any copyrights for long time. But the unpublished works have their own copyright law, which is more stringent. First of all, the timeline is much longer. Dorothy L Sayers works are beginning to come into the public domain now, because it has been a long enough time since their publication. (Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, however, is not yet in the public domain.) And since she died, which is a key piece of it. But her unpublished works are not out of copyright. They’re tightly bound by copyright. I own the pieces of paper, but I don’t have a right to publicize or reproduce them. Those are the kinds of restrictions I’m talking about. I do have a collection of papers from a big controversy she was in about antisemitism. The fact is, if you look up antisemitism in Wikipedia or anywhere else, you will not get an authoritative statement because the really authoritative stuff is buried in copyright. I did make a polite request to get some very small rights regarding that. Their agents took a long time to answer, but the owners of the copyright wouldn’t allow any of this. You cannot legally make a xerox copy for your own use, much less a xerox copy for somebody else, of the unpublished works.

Sarah Harrison 14:34
You said she didn’t have any offspring after her and her son’s wife? Who owns the copyright now?

Dan Drake 14:44
It passed presumably to her son, of course, and then to his wife. There were no heirs after that. The rumor says that it went to a school in England. So they own that copyright, and they will gladly license it to you at a considerable cost to republish the published works. But not the unpublished ones.

Sarah Harrison 15:35
Fascinating. That’s, that’s really cool. It says sound like very Lord Peter pastime.

Dan Drake 15:44
Yes, well, I can’t pick up the phone and call the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sarah Harrison 15:48
No, maybe not that.

Carolyn Daughters 15:50
Well, I mean, have you tried?

Dan Drake 15:55
Lord Peter, of course, did it.

Carolyn Daughters 15:59
Yeah, he had a lot of inroads to high ups, for sure. One thing that’s really interesting to me about Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors is its structure. The first fifth or even quarter of the book is really setting up a story. It’s setting up bell ringing, it’s setting up the setting, introducing us to a variety of characters. But we don’t know that there is any murder or crime or anything to investigate until quite far into the book. And this blew my mind, right. I was reading this and thinking, Okay, this is the longest stable context. I kept waiting for it to be destabilized. And so at first it bugged me. But there are certain things about Dorothy Sayers that throw me, and so I’ve got to sit with them and think about it. I stuck with the book. And by the end, she does as she has done with me to date. She won me over. This is a really unconventional way to write a story where you’re reading it really for the story without understanding that it’s a mystery for a substantial amount of time. I mean, Dan, in your experience is Dorothy Sayers really playing with the mystery form, the story form? Would she have been like cognizant, she was so educated she must have been, of what she was doing here and how this is not a typical way to start a story.

Dan Drake 17:48
Well, it’s true. It is very atypical. It’s very different from Whose Body?, which starts with a phone call about a body in the bath. It’s very apparent, for a long time, before strange things start happening, and more or less macabre concepts. I can’t really say. She did an experiment. She decided to do a classic railroad timetable mystery. And that worked, except I’m bored by railroad timetables. And she experimented. I think this is distinctly the slowest start, the longest setup for the situation before anyone knew what strange thing might have happened?

Carolyn Daughters 18:54
I was reading the story around Thanksgiving, and I knew this story started on New Year’s Eve. I felt like I was embracing the holiday element of it, the New Year element of it, and the foreignness of the campanology, and what these characters were doing for nine hours, which is incredible. And another thing she does, and I noticed it in Whose Body? and also The Nine Tailors, is she has a very interesting or very strange manner of death. The treatment of the body, the movement of the body, the way the character died. There’s an entire mystery around, how did this character end up in a bathtub in Whose Body? Or how did the character end up in this grave in The Nine Tailors. And then the manner of death. How did they die? In Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, it’s very interesting. One might argue that the bells did it, right?

Sarah Harrison 20:05
Definitely. The bells did it.

Carolyn Daughters 20:07
Is she doing this in multiple novels, where she’s coming up with these super creative, out there manners of death and manners of treatment of the dead body?

Dan Drake 20:20
It does have a lot of very strange things. There are a lot of unnatural deaths and mysterious deaths and mysterious not deaths. In the Scottish tale, there’s a challenge to indicate that the person who fell down into a canyon and died. Why do we know something is fishy about that. Which, of course, the police didn’t, but Peter immediately picked up on. Dorothy Sayers does have rather bizarre things. Even in the the last of the books, The Busman’s Honeymoon, there’s a rather strange, mysterious, dramatic murder method there. No spoilers here. But she was noted for out of the way types of death and types of evidence.

Sarah Harrison 21:57
Carolyn, you reminded me in both those stories as well there’s this element of obscuring the identity. That was similar. In Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, they smash the face in, and in Whose Body? the murdered man is decapitated because he’s going to be dissected at the medical school.

Carolyn Daughters 22:16
There was something like that, too, in The Nine Tailors, where the hands were removed.

Sarah Harrison 22:21
They cut off his hands, and then in Whose Body? for the replacement body they shaved his beard and put a monocle on him. There was all of this identity confusion. Like, not only is this going to be a weird body, but we’re going to obscure the identity in these surprising ways as well.

Dan Drake 22:43
In Whose Body?, he leaves a telltale clue for Lord Peter Wimsey to pick up very rapidly to know that the guy had been posthumously shaved.

Sarah Harrison 22:58
Yes.

Dan Drake 23:01
In Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, we get interesting clues from the start. It’s a long time before we know how it all happened.

Sarah Harrison 23:07
Yes, he kind of gave up.

Carolyn Daughters 23:11
He gives up, but also time passes. We come back around, he comes back into town. So for all intents and purposes, the story is over. But of course it’s not, because there’s this apocalyptic event, this flood, that’s about to happen. At one point, the bells are being rung to inform everybody in the village that they need to gather together, the water is coming. And Lord Peter Wimsey, I believe, runs up the bell tower and gets dangerously close to the bells.

Sarah Harrison 23:48
Yeah, he goes in the bell chamber while they’re ringing, and it gives him a bloody nose. And he almost passes out. He was like, Oh, these things can kill you.

Dan Drake 24:00
Yeah, yes. It is presented as, and it is, a mind destroying thing.

Carolyn Daughters 24:13
Lord Peter WImsey climbs to the ringing chamber, and “all the blood of his body seemed to rush to his head swelling it to bursting point, such as sick giddiness overcame him that he swayed ready to fall. It was not noise. It was brute pain, a bludgeoning in tolerable torment. He felt himself screaming, but could not hear his own cry. His eardrums were cracking. His senses swim away. It was infinitely worse than any roar of heavy artillery.” And we know he’s been in the war, so he has a point of comparison. “That had beaten and deafened but this unendurable, shrill clanger was a raving madness, an assault of devils.” And, like you said, blood is running from his nose and ears. So you get the sense of the power of these bells, which, I think, helps him realize at the end that the bells in their own way, we can argue, are meting justice. The bells can kill.

Sarah Harrison 25:16
Yeah, they refer to that, like. I can’t remember if it was Batty Thomas or Taylor Paul. These are bell names I’m referring to. But they mentioned other people that the bell killed. The bell won’t abide a murderer being around. The bell was very much kind of a person. And it’s like a holy person or a biblical person that’s gonna do justice and not allow for criminals like Deacon to go unpunished.

Dan Drake 25:50
Lord Peter Wimsey says something to the effect that the three things are really, really spooky are mirrors and bells and I think he mentioned cats. I’m not sure.

Carolyn Daughters 26:09
Would you say, Dan, that Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors gave a literary respectability to the mystery form, that she lent a weight or a gravity but also a wit? Almost like she took a form that writers could easily replicate once they understood the structure and they could knock out books. But Dorothy Sayers is really such an intellectual writer. Her books feel different. What would you say about that?

Dan Drake 26:48
I think that’s quite true. It was written on a more educated level than most than most mysteries, even in England. And she, of course, did write an essay called “Aristotle and Detective Fiction,” talking about the Aristotelian virtues of detective fiction, which, of course, is that law and order is supposed to win. She talked more than once about that aspect? Not many people who write mystery stories evoke Aristotle.

Sarah Harrison 27:37
That’s true.

Carolyn Daughters 27:38
And when she stopped writing mysteries, I believe she worked on the translation of the Divine Comedy.

Dan Drake 27:45
Yes, that’s right. She published Inferno and Purgatorio and never had time to finish. So her friend and biographer finished it up. And all three volumes are available now. She was very fond of Dante. More so than I. I’m not that enthralled to learn serious Medieval Italian and do a translation of it. It never fascinated me nearly as much. The theological ideas are fine. She was praised, by the way, by the Royal Astronomer of England, by what a good rendition she gave up of medieval ideas of astronomy. Talking about respectable.

Sarah Harrison 28:56
Yeah, she goes deep. She goes deep into everything that she’s doing. That’s one of the most fascinating things to me about her. Particularly in Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors.

Dan Drake 29:11
I don’t know if you’ve run into an essay by Dorothy L Sayers called The Lost Tools of Learning. If you look it up, you will find it. It’s an essay on how education ought to be done. It has received lots of criticisms, most of which I think are wrong for this approach, and I don’t hold to her consideration that theology is the queen of the sciences. Nonetheless, she had a lot of respect for the lost tools.

Sarah Harrison 29:50
Dorothy L Sayers wrote The Lost Tools of Learning?

Dan Drake 29:57
I think it was published in the National Review in her lifetime, which to me is not a very good omen. But anyway, a very interesting essay that I recommend, because it goes through her ideas of the stages of mental growth in people, and what sorts of stuff they ought to be taught and these stages to take advantage of that.

Sarah Harrison 30:32
Now, I definitely want to read that. And if I find it, listeners, I’ll post a link. For those of you that have been listening, you know I have a four year old and a two year old. And so I actually do a lot of thinking about the education of children and a lot of reading, read a lot of like, classical children’s literature with them. So that’ll be really interesting. And you touched on something that I wanted to ask you more about — theology. You said something about the queen of sciences.

Dan Drake 31:15
The queen of science, yes.

Sarah Harrison 31:19
In Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, one thing that struck me was the society of the village was so centered around the church. Everyone had roles in the church. If you were part of a charity, that was at the church. Education was very church centered. Guests stayed at the rectory. At the end, the whole emergency situation was managed by the church. The alarm was rung by the church.You had bell ringers, you had sextons. People, they all had a role to play. And the whole community was around that. Many of Wimsey’s quotes are biblical quotes. Was Sayers a religious person, or was this just a sign of the times and just part of like daily culture at that time?

Dan Drake 32:22
Yeah, Dorothy L Sayers was a seriously religious person. She was not entirely Orthodox in all ways.

Sarah Harrison 32:31
Neither is Lord Peter Wimsey.

Dan Drake 32:34
That’s right. Well, yes. Right. As I recall him, she was offered an honorary doctorate in theology by the Archbishop of Canterbury. She declined, because she figured it would be politically her idea. She did actually get some lesser award. But she was a very, very serious Anglican. She did not want to pick fights with any Christians. She mocked the low-church people who said, “so and so is practically a Roman Catholic.”

Sarah Harrison 33:12
Yeah, I saw there was some mention of — I forget what they call them in Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors — the nonconformists or something like that. They said, “we will take you as well, during the flood. You can still come in.”

Carolyn Daughters 33:24
There were multiple religious groups all housed in Fenchurch St. Paul.

Dan Drake 33:33
The Lost Tools of Learning is the foundation of a movement called Christian classical education, which is very popular among evangelicals. That would not be my choice of where to educate kids. But she did write a bunch of theological works, not to mention a cycle of radio plays on the life of Jesus Christ.

Sarah Harrison 34:11
Oh, really? That’s interesting.

Dan Drake 34:13
If you like her writing, you’ll probably like this, even if you don’t believe the theology in it. It’s a book that C.S. Lewis said he read every year.

Sarah Harrison 34:24
Really? I find it a little hard to imagine going from the Lord Peter flippancy to the life of Jesus Christ.

Dan Drake 34:35
Sayers always had a sardonic eye for things. There are some mockable characters in her stories. There are in the biblical stories as well.

Sarah Harrison 34:47
Yes, that’s true.

Dan Drake 34:49
But that was an important part of her being. She was very serious about theology. That’s one reason why she did the Dante translation.

Sarah Harrison 34:59
It’s fascinating. I didn’t realize that aspect of her.

Dan Drake 35:04
Well, I went to a conference in about 2000. It was a conference at Grove City College, which is a very conservative Christian College in Pennsylvania. I went there because they had a weekend symposium on Dorothy L Sayers. I met interesting people there. It covered various aspects of hers and did not leave aside her Christian teachings, of course. It was a very significant part of her life.

Sarah Harrison 36:07
Interesting. And when I asked you to be a guest on our episodes on Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, I learned you are super involved in the Dorothy L. Sayers community. You mentioned the Grove City weekend symposium. And you also mentioned in our conversations Wheaton College having a lot of Dorothy L Sayers and even — was it a convention that you went to there?

Dan Drake 36:32
Wheaten College is a very interesting place. It’s a very Christian College. It is formerly evangelical. As far as I know, I believe that you cannot teach there unless you at least self-identify as evangelical. It doesn’t have an official church to belong to. That’s the good thing about it. It was really interesting to me. I visited there numerous several times and quite felt quite comfortable there. They have a subsidiary there called the Marion E. Wade Collection of north of English Christian writers. Apparently there’s one Scotsman in the group. He’s an honorary Englishman there. Dorothy L Sayers and C.S. Lewis and J R R Tolkien are three of the specialties that are favored there. But they are not your media stereotype evangelicals. They’re not out to evangelize everybody all the time. They are not narrow minded. I have really enjoyed meeting with people there. Lots of live wits there and serious scholarship. And the people at the college, of course, with their midwestern courtesy sometimes cause incredulity among coastal visitors.

Sarah Harrison 38:23
All right, yeah. I married a Californian, and sometimes he tells me about culture shock things that he has run into in his life.

Dan Drake 38:32
It’s a very interesting place. And one year only, 2017, they held a Dorothy L Sayers convention, which was very good. It’s a nice town, it’s a very comfortable place. Everyone wishes they could do it again. But to do a big thing like that, somebody has to take hold of it. Nobody’s ever done that.

Sarah Harrison 39:37
Didn’t you say you presented some songs there? Did you sing the songs? They’re not songs from Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, right?

Dan Drake 39:46
Right. I was going through quite a lot of papers, as I say, miscellaneous collections, and I was going through them one time a few years ago, and I noticed something I hadn’t really paid attention to before. There were a couple of sheets of musical manuscript paper with music written on them. And they were apparently written as a presentation to Dorothy L Sayers by a composer named Richard Dixon. He took two shorts songs. I don’t think I’ll sing them. There’s a poem in Busman’s Holiday, the last of the novels. Lord Peter recites it to Harriet Vane. I will say that Lord Peter and Harriet and Dorothy were fans of John Donne, who wrote really complicated, generally religious, sometimes salacious poetry.

Carolyn Daughters 41:10
My favorite poet is John Donne.

Sarah Harrison 41:12
Oh, really?

Carolyn Daughters 41:13
John Milton’s my second, but I love John Donne, I studied him a lot.

Sarah Harrison 41:17
Very cool.

Dan Drake 41:19
I believe in the first part of the last century, John Donne was in considerable vogue, after a couple of centuries of being totally ignored. People like T.S. Eliot were very, very interested. Anyway, one of the songs is a verse of John Donne that occupies an important scene in that novel. Not Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors — Gaudy Night. And in the other song, the words are half of a sonnet written by Lord Peter Wimsey in Gaudy Night. Harriet Vane had written in her notebook. She did an investigation of Oxford as a place of serious study. And on the on the figure of the steel center of the turning world, which is a T.S. Eliot. She wrote that, she finished all the eight lines of it, this sonnet with eight and six structure, and she couldn’t figure out how to get the contrast that goes to the six. So she wrote it in her notebook. Then when Lord Peter Wimsey shows up, she lends him her notebook so he can read all her notes about the investigation she’s been doing. And when he returns it to her the next morning, she finds that he has completed the last six lines. I will attempt to sing the first line of it, which is just the thing that a man who has been chasing a woman for five years to try to persuade her to marry him. This is the thing you send to your lady love.

Sarah Harrison 43:54
That’s awesome.

Dan Drake 43:58
He of, course, takes everything she did and breaks it into John Donne style. So anyway, those two songs I did sing to the group. Conceivably the first time they’ve ever been sung in public.

Sarah Harrison 44:14
I am sure they are. That’s awesome.

Dan Drake 44:18
First time in the century that they had been sung in England or anywhere else. That’s the kind of thing you find when you get a lot of fine writers’ odd effects.

Carolyn Daughters 44:40
Thanks for sharing some of the singing with us.

Sarah Harrison 44:44
As in Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, you go deep. Deep into it.

Carolyn Daughters 44:49
Yeah, I can see why I can see why you like Dorothy Sayers as you’re both very interested in academic study and really embracing a topic and learning everything you can about it.

Dan Drake 45:05
Conversely, the things that things like railroad timetables and most of the details of bell ringing, I can just ignore them.

Carolyn Daughters 45:17
There are exceptions.

Sarah Harrison 45:18
That cracks me up.

Carolyn Daughters 45:25
I think your background is so interesting. And you bring this great perspective. We will be reading more about Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night in 2024. That’s the only exposure Sarah and I have to her.

Sarah Harrison 45:45
And that was my first exposure to Dorothy Sayers. I definitely didn’t go in order when I started reading. I feel like I’ll have a much better perspective now. I may be able to take your advice and read Strong Poison first to get my introduction to Harriet. Yeah, I love the going in order aspect. As a book club, we’re going in historical order of great books, starting with Edgar Allan Poe. But then, this subplot of going in order on a particular author as well, I think, brings so much to understanding and the development of these stories.

Carolyn Daughters 46:33
One of my favorite characters — and Sarah one of yours, I believe — is Bunter.

Sarah Harrison 46:37
Oh, I love Bunter. He’s the best.

Carolyn Daughters 46:40
Bunter is a master of many trades. He can jump in and do all of these different things. And Lord Peter Wimsey calls him, I think, an enigma at one point like, oh, there’s so much I don’t know about Bunter, you could write a book about everything. I don’t know about Bunter. In this chronology of books, do we get a more three-dimensional story of Bunter, or is he always a fascinating enigma?

Sarah Harrison 47:09
Yeah, how does Bunter develop throughout the canon?

Dan Drake 47:14
I’d have to give some thought to that. I don’t think he does very much. Lord Peter is the one and then Harriet Vane are the ones really being followed there. The others are kind of accessories. Bunter is a remarkable fellow. You’ll find he has numerous talents. Actually, in Whose Body? he was pretty good at extracting information. He befriended the butler.

Sarah Harrison 47:45
I love those parts where he just opened up, and suddenly he went from Silent Bunter to funny, chatty Bunter. He got all this information he was pumping people for. In Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, you didn’t really see that. You only saw when he got mad at one of the housemaids. You just kind of hear that he’s extraordinarily good at music hall imitations. But we don’t get to see him in that state.

Dan Drake 48:14
We get a little more of them, especially in Busman’s Holiday, the final book that she wrote all of. Bunter comes through more. I’m not going to do a spoiler. He gives a little presentation to his fellow servants at one point and drinking a toast, etc. And Lord Peter is very amused by the account of this. Bunter says his mother told him, “My old mother always used to say that facts are like cows. If you stare them in the face hard enough, and they generally run away.” And Wimsey says to Bunter, “I didn’t know you had a mother.”

Carolyn Daughters 49:41
I think that’s a fair statement. I wouldn’t have known he had a mother either. He just emerged whole and fully formed.

Sarah Harrison 49:50
Mysterious.

Carolyn Daughters 49:52
Amazing Bunter, yes.

Sarah Harrison 49:55
Unbelievably, Dan, we are almost at time, but I do have two questions. Maybe three. I want to ask you. They’re quick ones though. First, do you have a favorite Dorothy Sayers book? Is it Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors? As a variation on that theme, if someone is only going to read one Dorothy Sayers book, what do you recommend?

Dan Drake 50:25
That’s a very good one. I think my favorite is one that is not highly favored, which is Murder Most Advertised. Lord Peter is at his very best. He also was super topical, he was involved in busting up a drug ring. And if I just say read one, maybe it would be that one because in some sense it’s bigger than the others of work. Lord Peter is going incognito for most of it.The playboy who knows all the rich people and can crash rich parties without difficulty and partly the diligent, highly educated copywriter. The fact that he was highly educated is a sticky point in the plot. He was overeducated for his job as a copywriter working undercover. That’s probably my recommendation.

Sarah Harrison 51:50
So there you have it, folks. And if people want to find you, are you on social media?Are any of your sort of Dorothy Sayers projects? I’ll of course post the link to the original notes where I found. Do you have any other projects on the internet where people might find you?

Dan Drake 52:15
Not really. I’m off social media. I subscribe to a couple of political blogs and things. The things that can be found at the site are there for anybody to see. I don’t think there’s any complication about getting those. And also, I do hang out, to the extent that it exists, in the Lord Peter group, which is a group on groups.io. But, as I say, it’s got lots of good archives, but it’s not very active.

Sarah Harrison 53:03
There you have it, folks. Dan Drake, a mystery himself and hard to find.

Carolyn Daughters 53:09
We’re so appreciative to have had you as a guest on two episodes talking about Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors. This has been a great conversation. And, folks, we have a 2024 new list of books up on the website. We’ve got 12 of them. It’s a good time to start reading.

Sarah Harrison 53:29
One of them is a Dorothy Sayers.

Carolyn Daughters 53:31
Yeah, we’re gonna do Gaudy Night. I think it’s our sixth book or so. But our next book up for January is the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, published in 1934. The novel is known for its timeless intrigue, clever plot twists, and blend of crime and comedy. We also meet the wonderful detective duo of Nick and Nora Charles, who I love — I love these two people — along with their dog, Asta. You can learn more about Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, and all our 2023 and 2024 book selections on our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. You can share your thoughts on our website or on Facebook @teatonicandtoxin and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. And if you’re interested in sponsoring this labor of love, please do reach out!

Sarah Harrison 54:35
We would love it. And, Dan, we loved having you on this episode about The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers. An absolute wealth of knowledge, especially about someone who really needs a wealth of knowledge, Dorothy Sayers.

Dan Drake 54:39
Well, thank you I’ve been quite charmed by the chance to do this.

Sarah Harrison 54:43
All right. And listeners until next time, please stay mysterious.

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1 comment

  1. Sorry I didn’t know about this earlier. I would have been happy to answer any questions about change ringing including the cryptic message. I am the public relations officer for the North American Guild of Change Ringers

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