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Showing posts from January, 2012

Following her w(h)imsey

Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night opens with its heroine, the crime-novelist Harriet Vane, thinking back on her time as an undergraduate at Shrewsbury College, Oxford. Shrewsbury, a fictional college, is located on St. Cross Road. Vane thinks of the college fronted ‘by the trees of Jowett walk, and beyond them, a jumble of ancient gables and the tower of New College, with its jackdaws wheeling against a windy sky.’ Shrewsbury, then, is just across the road from my own college, also in the shadows of New; a propitious beginning to a book.

I read Gaudy Night while I should have been revising for my collections. Mischievously, each chapter is headed by an epigraph from a Renaissance work: prose by Burton, stanzas from Sidney or Spenser. I told myself it was revision, but it was a heady escaping plunge into the allure of golden age detection.

Harriet Vane, once accused of the murder of her lover, since liberated by the aid of Sayers’ gentleman-detective Lord Peter Wimsey, returns to Oxford to cel…