09 October 2011

A Guide to Dorothy Sayers IV

I've been conducting a review of the allusions that Dorothy Sayer introduced in her plan for a hypothetical poem. These are references drawn largely, though not entirely, from British history of the late 19th and early 20th century.  I'm not going to finish this up this week, but let's see how far we can get.

the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of farm workers who were convicted in 1834 for swearing an oath of solidarity to one another. The prosecution was part of the broader anti-union backlash of the day, and the convicts were transported to Australia.

Brown and Kennedy, Both of these names are of course quite common, and it isn't obvious who Sayers meant. My first suspicion was an American one -- she was linking the two men who separately defeated Richard Nixon's political aspirations in the early 1960s!  But Says seems to have completed this introduction by 1949. My present suspicion, since this item comes right after the Tolpuddle Martyrs, is that the reference is to James Brown (1862-1939), the head of the National Union of Scottish Mineworkers from 1917 to1936. Perhaps Sayers is coupling Brown with an American counterpart,  Thomas Kennedy (1887- 1963), an important figure in the United Mine Workers (in the US) from at least 1925 until his death. If anybody has a better idea for what this pairing means in this context, please let me know.

the Dean of St Patrick's, this is an allusion to Anglo-Irish novelist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).  The St Patrick's in question is the Cathedral in Dublin.

the Dean of St Paul's, John Donne (1572 - 1631), the paradigmatic figure of what is nowadays called "metaphysical poetry." The author of the famous Meditation XVII, "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

Dean Farrar, Frederic William Farrar (1831-1903), an advocate of "Christian universalism," the idea that all human souls will in the fullness of time be reconciled with God -- i.e. that there is no everlasting damnation of the sort Dante vividly imagined.

Fred Archer,  Frederic Archer (1838-1901) An organist and composer whose career began in England but continued after 1880 in the United States, where he became conductor of the Orotorio Society in Boston, Mass.

Mrs Dyer, Louise Berta Mosson Hanson-Dyer (1884 - 1962) -- Sayers helpfully groups two of her musical referents together here.  Mrs Dyer was an Australian born woman, who founded a music publishing operation, Ã‰ditions de l'Oiseau-Lyre, in 1932.

Lord George Sanger (1825-1911), an English analog to P.T. Barnum.  Sanger ran a variety of shows and circuses and founded an association to lobby for the intrerests of such businesses, the Van Dwellers Protection Association.

Lord George Gordon, (1751-1793), a Scottish nobleman who converted to Judaism in 1787, at 36 years of age. Charles Dickens makes a favorable allusion to George Gordon in the novel Barnaby Rudge.

General Gordon,  Major-General Charles George Gordon (1833-1885), best known for his determined defense of the Imperial position at Khartoum, in the face of the Mahdi rebellion, (Islamism, one might say) and his death in that defense in January 1885.

Ouida, The pen name of the novelist Maria Louise Ramé (1839-1908). Her works, considered racy at the time, were quite successful, but she did not manager her money wisely and died in poverty. Jack London cited her as an important influence on his own writing.

William Joyce, (1906-1946), known as Lord Haw-Haw, he was born in New York, but his family returned to his parents' home country, Ireland, while he was a child. They were Unionists in the Irish context, and they moved to England soon after Ireland received its independence. Joyce would found the British Union of Fascists and would broadcast radio propaganda for Hitler during the war. Hence his execution for treason in January 1946.

James Joyce, (1882-1941), one of the defining figures of literary modernism, perhaps best known fo Ulysses (1922).

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.