By Stephan P. Clarke
Yesterday, in an imposing carton that my kids are using up to create jewelry and photo mountings, my copy of the Lord Peter Wimsey Companion (LPWC, because I can be lazy if I want to, and have to take some care with my wrists) arrived. I don’t claim to have read its 773 pages yet, but I’ll be dashed if I don’t give it a notice.
- Compiler and editor: Stephan P. Clarke
- Publisher: The Dorothy L. Sayers Society
- Published: 2003
- Edition: Second, first printing
- Pages: 773
- ISBN: 0-9518000 8 6
A noble book is a like a song to my soul — the original, in Lord Peter Views the Body, the story of Uncle Meleager’s Will, has this about an old book. But a new book works just as well, if it’s a book like the LPCW.
Don’t be fooled by the meager pagecount — only 773 pages, which, surely, cannot do justice to all the allusions and context the Lord Peter Wimsey books contain. These are larger-than-A4 pages. And the print is very small.
Inside the book you find information on anything that might be obscure in the LPW books — books that since they were first published seventy years ago might be supposed to contain a lot that was clear at the time but is dark at present. There are maps (for instance of Talboys or Pym’s), explanations of the constant allusions that are the result of the novelist’s habit, notes on popular culture of the thirties and cross-references for characters, places and other items worty of note appearing in the books.
The latter I consider superfluous; I know the books by heart, so I don’t need to be reminded about Bill Thoday, for instance. But the maps are a delight. And, being comparatively (to DLS, that is) illiterate, I never knew how much was quotation, and whence the quotations came.
It’s a pity, though, that the contributors haven’t been able to trace some of the famous phrases that I’ve always considered quotes — phrases like ‘I have no information on that point’, that occur both in Gaudy Night and in the Unpleasantness in the Bellona Club have a ‘quoty’ ring to them.
Did I need the ten lines on Karl Marx — no — but I did need the explanation on ‘Marx said that man…’. (p. 385). And so the book is like a singularly rich beach, every ten grains of sand one of gold. I wish there were a like companion to Wodehouse. And to Martin Lodewijk’s Agent 327.