Archive for the ‘Dante Alighieri’ Tag

Feast of Dorothy Sayers (December 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Dorothy Sayers

Image in the Public Domain

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DOROTHY LEIGH SAYERS (JUNE 13, 1893-DECEMBER 17, 1957)

Anglican Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Translator, and Theologian

December 17 is the feast day of Dorothy Sayers in The Episcopal Church.

Sayers was the only child of the Reverend Henry Sayers, headmaster of the Christchurch Cathedral Choir School, Oxford, England.  Our saint, born in Oxford on June 13, 1893, grew up singing hymns and playing the violin and the piano.  When she was four years old, the family moved to Bluntisham-cum-Earith, Huntingdonshire, in the Fens.  She started studying Latin at the age of six.  She had mastered French by age thirteen.  Then she began to study German.  She spent two unhappy years (1909-1911) at a boarding school (Godolphin School for Girls, Salisbury) then matriculated at Somerville College, Oxford, in 1912.  She became one of the first women to receive academic degrees from Oxford–in her case, a B.A. and an M.A.

Sayers built her literary reputation on a solid foundation.  She published her first novel (the debut of Lord Peter Wimsey) in 1923 and plays.  Our saint began to build that literary reputation while working other jobs.  She taught in 1916-1922, first in Hill High School for Girls then at a boys’ school in France.  She found the time to co-edit Oxford Poetry (1917-1919) while working as a reader at Blackwell’s.  In 1922-1931 Sayers worked as a copywriter at Benson’s, an advertising firm in London.

In 1923 Sayers conducted an affair with William “Bill” White, who kept a secret:  he was married.  Sayers gave birth to John Anthony (adoptive surname = Fleming) in January 1924.  Sayers kept her maternity a secret for a long time.  A relative raised John Anthony.  Sayers publicly referred to her son as her nephew.  She also provided for him financially, took pride in his academic progress, and left her literary estate to him.

Sayers married Captain Oswald Atherton Fleming (d. 1950), a journalist, in 1926.  His hobby was painting miniatures.  The couple had no children.

Sayers, having left the advertising agency, focused on Christian apologetics and drama.  She was an apologist on par with G. K. Chesterton and her friend, C .S. Lewis.  Sayers expressed her low regard for plays composed to edify or evangelize.  As she entitled an essay from 1955, “Playwrights Are Not Evangelists.”

If he writes with his eye on the spiritual box-office, he will at once cease to be a dramatist, and decline into a manufacturer of propagandist tracts…He will lose his professional integrity, and all his power–including his power to preach the Gospel.”

–Quoted in Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way:  Voices of Anglicanism (Cincinnati, OH:  Forward Movement Publications, 1991), 99-100

(That is my main critique of most Christian movies.)

This attitude did not prevent her from composing religious plays.  She wrote plays for the Canterbury Festivals in 1937, 1939, 1946, and 1951.  In 1938 she wrote He Who Must Come, about the birth of Christ, for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).  The Man Born to be King (1940), a series of twelve short plays about Jesus she wrote for the BBC, was controversial.  Many conservatives objected for various reasons, including the use of modern English.

Conservative objections to works of Sayers were ironic, for she was an orthodox Christian.  During and shortly after World War II, she lectured and wrote about Christian doctrine.  Her most important work of apologetics was The Mind of the Maker (1941).  Sayers. true to her Anglicanism, revered both faith and reason without placing excessive emphasis on rationalism.  She did not care about systematic theology, but about the creative experience and activity of God, as revealed in the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation.

Sayers, from 1952 the church warden of St. Anne’s Church, Soho, began an ambitious project when she translated Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.  She published between 1949 and 1955, but died before completing the work.  Friend and Dante scholar Dr. Barbara Reynolds published the final portion in 1962.

Sayers died in Witham, England, on December 17, 1957.  She was 64 years old.

Her literary and theological legacies continue to enrich people, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2019 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN AND PEACEMAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SERVANT OF THE POOR AND OPPONENT OF FASCISM

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Incarnate God, who gave your servant Dorothy the grace of eloquence to defend your truth to a distressed church,

and to proclaim the importance of Christian principles for the world;

may we too, assisted by her prayers and example,

be given the same grace of passionate conviction to teach right doctrine rightly;

We ask this in your name, who lives and reigns with the Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 19

John 21:1-25

Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018

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