Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Gaudy Night - Dorothy L Sayers
The Gaudy reunites Harriet with old friends, some of whom she's happier to see than others. She finds she grown apart from Mary Stokes, the friend she came to meet, but is happy to be reacquainted with others, including the Dean, Miss Martin, & her English tutor, Miss Lydgate. Some of the other dons, including spiky Miss Hillyard, are less pleased at Harriet's return. When Harriet finds an anonymous letter in her gown, accusing her of murder, she thinks nothing of it. There have been many such letters & she returns to London after the Gaudy reflecting on how soothing a little time at Oxford pursuing some research would be.
A letter from Miss Martin, asking Harriet to visit Shrewsbury College for the opening of the new Library, awakens Harriet's desire to retreat to academe for a while. The Dean & the Warden of the College want to consult Harriet about a spate of unpleasant practical jokes & anonymous letters that have been sent to dons & students. The letters are explicit & very nasty, accusing people of disgusting crimes & unnatural acts. They all seem to be against the idea of women intellectuals, seeing an unmarried woman as an abomination against nature. Harriet realises that the letter she found was part of the same campaign & therefore the culprit could only be a don or one of the college servants as very few students were in college during the Gaudy.
April was running out, chilly and fickle, but with the promise of good things to come; and the city wore the withdrawn and secretive beauty that wraps her about in vacation. No clamour of young voices echoed along her ancient stones; the tumult of flying bicycles was stilled in the narrow strait of the Turl; in Radcliffe Square the Camera slept like a cat in the sunshine, disturbed only by the occasional visit of a slow-footed don; even in the High, the roar of car and charabanc seemed minished and brought low, for the holiday season was not yet; punts and canoes, new-fettled for the summer term, began to put forth upon the Cherwell like the varnished buds upon the horse-chestnut tree, but as yet there was no press of traffic upon the shining reaches; the mellow bells, soaring and singing in tower and steeple, told of time's flight through an eternity of peace; and Great Tom, tolling his nightly hundred-and-one, called home only the rooks from off Christ Church Meadow.
The pictures by Natacha Ledwidge are from my lovely Folio Society edition of Gaudy Night. I don't feel I'm done with Dorothy just yet though. In the middle of a hot Melbourne summer, maybe The Nine Tailors should be next or The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club?