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Dorothy L. Sayers

" All things that were, and now are, and shall be / Graven upon thy heart, have made thee wise ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Op. 1 (1916)

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"There is no remedy for this: / Good days that will not come again."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Op. 1 (1916)

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" Herein is all the peace of heaven: / To know we have failed and are forgiven. "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Op. 1 (1916)

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"To-morrow, yes, those songs will break my heart, / But I am only very glad to-night."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Op. 1 (1916)

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"Sex is every man's loco spot ... he'll take a disappointment, but not a humiliation."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body? (1923)

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"There's nothing you can't prove if your outlook is only sufficiently limited."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body? (1923)

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"I often think when a man's once past a certain age, the older he grows the tougher he gets, and women the same or more so."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body? (1923)

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"... nothing is more vulgar than a careful avoidance of beginning a letter with the first person singular ..."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body? (1923)

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"Lawyers enjoy a little mystery, you know. Why, if everybody came forward and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth straight out, we should all retire to the workhouse."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness (1926)

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"She always says, my lord, that facts are like cows. If you look them in the face hard enough they generally run away."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness (1926)

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"When cats sat staring into the fire they were thinking out problems."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness (1926)

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" ... you can give it a long name if you like, but I'm an old-fashioned woman and I call it mother-wit, and it's so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness (1926)

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"[Did you] ever know a sincere emotion to express itself in a subordinate clause?"

Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness (1926)

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"Well-bred English people never have imagination ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness (1926)

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"Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness (1926)

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"I know what an Act to make things simpler means. It means that the people who drew it up don't understand it themselves and that every one of its clauses needs a law-suit to disentangle it."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unnatural Death (1927)

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"Miss Findlater spoke with the air of a disillusioned rake, who has sucked life's orange and found it dead sea fruit."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unnatural Death (1927)

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" ... Mrs. Henry Wood ... is a little too fond of calling in Providence to cut the knot of intrigue with the sword of coincidence ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Omnibus of Crime (1929)

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"... whereas, up to the present, there is only one known way of getting born, there are endless ways of getting killed."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Omnibus of Crime (1929)

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"There certainly does seem a possibility that the detective-story will some time come to an end, simply because the public will have learnt all the tricks."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Omnibus of Crime (1929)

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"... make no mistake about it, the detective-story is part of the literature of escape, and not of expression."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Omnibus of Crime (1929)

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"There are crimes which the Law cannot reach."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker," Lord Peter Views the Body (1928)

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" Very dangerous things, theories."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

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"I swear I've nothing to do with anybody following you about. Honestly, I haven't. I wouldn't employ a man, anyway, who'd let a bloke see that he was being followed. No. When I start huntin' you, I shall be as silent and stealthy as a gas-leak."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

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"And then, of course, so many of our little lot seem to be running love-affairs. And a continual atmosphere of hectic passion is very trying if you haven't got any of your own."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

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"It's very inconvenient being a sculptor. It's like playing the double-bass; one's so handicapped by one's baggage."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

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"Books ... are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

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"Birth is beastly -- and death -- and digestion, if it comes to that. Sometimes when I think of what's happening inside me to a beautiful suprème de sole, with the caviare in boats, and the croûtons and the jolly little twists of potato and all the gadgets -- I could cry. But there it is, don't you know."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

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"How true it is that men live for Things and women for People!"

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Documents in the Case (1930)

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"Unlike music or poetry or painting, food rouses no response in passionate and emotional youth. Only when the surge of the blood is quieted does gastronomy come into its own with philosophy and theology and the sterner delights of the mind."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Documents in the Case (1930)

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"There's ways and ways of dyin'. Some is took, and some takes French leave, and others is 'elped out of life ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Documents in the Case (1930)

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"Forgiveness is the one unpardonable sin."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Five Red Herrings (1931)

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"The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom. Much more efficacious are honest work, physical activity, and the sudden acquisition of wealth."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase (1932)

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"... there is undoubtedly something irritating about the favorites of fortune."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase (1932)

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"... I always have a quotation for everything -- it saves original thinking."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase (1932)

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"Because a person has monomania she need not be wrong about her facts."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Murder Must Advertise (1933)

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"Of course, there is some truth in advertising. There's yeast in bread, but you can't make bread with yeast alone. Truth in advertising is like leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal. It provides a suitable quantity of gas, with which to blow out a mass of crude misrepresentation into a form that the public can swallow."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Murder Must Advertise (1933)

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"He believed me all the time, simply because I was rude. Everybody suspects an eager desire to curry favor, but rudeness, for some reason, is always accepted as a guarantee of good faith."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Murder Must Advertise (1933)

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"Advertise, or go under."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Murder Must Advertise (1933)

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"He was so crooked, you could have used his spine for a safety-pin."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors (1934)

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"... of all devils let loose in the world there is no devil like devoted love ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors (1934)

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"... she had one of those small, summery brains, that flower early and run to seed."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"... Lambard may be a perverse old idiot, but it's more dignified not to say so in so many words. A bland and deadly courtesy is more devastating, don't you think?"

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"Learning and literature have a way of outlasting the civilization that made them. "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"... those who make some other person their job ... are dangerous."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"... to mention honor was to suggest its opposite."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"What is the use of acquiring one's heart's desire if one cannot handle and gloat over it, show it to one's friends, and gather an anthology of envy and admiration?"

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"I admit it is better fun to punt than to be punted, and that a desire to have all the fun is nine-tenths of the law of chivalry."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"She resented the way in which he walked in and out of her mind as if it was his own flat."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"Lord, teach us to take our hearts and look them in the face, however difficult it may be."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"The great advantage about telling the truth is that nobody ever believes it ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"... there is only one kind of wisdom that has any social value, and that is the knowledge of one's own limitations."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"... if it ever occurs to people to value the honor of the mind equally with the honor of the body, we shall get a social revolution of a quite unparalleled sort ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"The first thing a principle does is to kill somebody."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"Heroics that don't come off are the very essence of burlesque."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"If people will bring dynamite into a powder factory, they must expect explosions. "

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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" It is said that love and a cough cannot be hid."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"He was beautifully sozzled last night, and had one breakfast before he came out and another with me at the Mitre. I do not envy the heart of youth, but only its head and stomach."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"Passion's a good, stupid horse that will pull the plough six days a week if you give him the run of his heels on Sundays. But love's a nervous, awkward, over-mastering brute; if you can't rein him, it's best to have no truck with him."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"The young were always theoretical; only the middle-aged could realize the deadliness of principles."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"... the worst sin -- perhaps the only sin -- passion can commit, is to be joyless."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"To subdue one's self to one's own ends might be dangerous, but to subdue one's self to other people's ends was dust and ashes."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)

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"... I'm getting very old and my bones ache. My sins are deserting me, and if I could only have my time over again I'd take care to commit more of them."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon (1937)

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"It is impossible for human nature to believe that money is not there. It seems so much more likely that the money is there and only needs bawling for."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon (1937)

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"There's truth as far as you knows it; and there's truth as far as you're asked for it. But they don't represent the whole truth -- not necessarily."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon (1937)

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"... I can't see that she could have found anything nastier to say if she'd thought it out with both hands for a fortnight."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon (1937)

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"And what do all the great words come to in the end, but that? -- I love you -- I am at rest with you -- I have come home."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon (1937)

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"Paradoxical as it may seem, to believe in youth is to look backward; to look forward, we must believe in age."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Meat (1939)

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"... all conscious thought is a process in time; so that to think consciously about Time is like trying to use a foot-rule to measure its own length."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Meat (1939)

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"Every great man has a woman behind him ... And every great woman has some man or other in front of her, tripping her up."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Love All (1940)

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"I have never yet heard any middle-aged man or woman who worked with his or her brains express any regret for the passing of youth."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Begin Here (1940)

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"Nothing is more cruel to the young than to tell them that the world is made for youth."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Begin Here (1940)

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"Man is never truly himself except when he is actively creating something."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Begin Here (1940)

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"Thought is what changes knowledge into energy."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Begin Here (1940)

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"The popular mind has grown so confused that it is no longer able to receive any statement of fact except as an expression of personal feeling."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (1941)

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" The education that we have so far succeeded in giving to the bulk of our citizens has produced a generation of mental slatterns."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (1941)

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"... the autobiography is at one and the same time a single element in the series of the writer's created works and an interpretation of the whole series."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (1941)

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"There is one vast human experience that confronts us so formidably that we cannot pretend to overlook it. There is no solution to death. There is no means whatever whereby you or I, by taking thought, can solve this difficulty in such a manner that it no longer exists."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (1941)

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" The artist's knowledge of his own creative nature is often unconscious; he pursues his mysterious way of life in a strange innocence."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (1941)

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"... at no point have I yet found artistic truth and theological truth at variance. "

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Man Born to Be King (1943)

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"God was executed by people painfully like us, in a society very similar to our own ... by a corrupt church, a timid politician, and a fickle proletariat led by professional agitators."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Man Born to Be King (1943)

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"If we did not know all His retorts by heart, if we had not taken the sting out of them by incessant repetition in the accents of the pulpit, and if we had not somehow got it into our heads that brains were rather reprehnsible, we should reckon Him among the greatest wits of all time. Nobody else, in three brief years, has achieved such an output of epigram."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Man Born to Be King (1943)

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"There is perhaps only one human being in a thousand who is passionately interested in his job for the job's sake. The difference is that if that one person in a thousand is a man, we say, simply, that he is passionately keen on his job; if she is a woman, we say she is a freak."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"It is as dangerous for people unaccustomed to handling words and unacquainted with their technique to tinker about with these heavily-charged nuclei of emotional power as it would be for me to burst into a laboratory and play about with a powerful electromagnet or other machine highly charged with electrical force."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"... Britain possesses no climate, only weather."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"A passage is not plain English -- still less is it good English -- if we are obliged to read it twice to find out what it means."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"Variety, individuality, peculiarity, eccentricity and indeed crankiness are agreeable to the British mind; they make life more interesting."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"'A woman is as good as a man' is as meaningless as to say, 'a Kaffir is as good as a Frenchman' or 'a poet is as good as an engineer' or 'an elephant is as good as a racehorse' -- it means nothing whatever until you add: 'at doing what?'"

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"It is ridiculous to take on a man's job just in order to be able to say that 'a woman has done it -- yah!' The only decent reason for tackling a job is that it is your job and you want to do it."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"... a human being must have occupation, if he or she is not to become a nuisance to the world."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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" What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"The first thing that strikes the careless observer is that women are unlike men. They are 'the opposite sex' -- (though why 'opposite' I do not know; what is the 'neighbouring sex'?)."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"... the heaviest restriction upon the freedom of public opinion is not the official censorship of the Press, but the unofficial censorship by a Press which exists not so much to express opinion as to manufacture it."

Dorothy L. Sayers, Unpopular Opinions (1946)

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"One must not only die daily, but every day one must be born again."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "Strong Meat," Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore -- on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Greatest Drama Ever Staged," Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel-cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice. A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, "Why Work?" Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"Never think that wars are irrational catastrophes: they happen when wrong ways of thinking and living bring about intolerable situations ... the root causes of conflict are usually to be found in some wrong way of life in which all parties have acquiesced, and for which everybody must, to some extent, bear the blame."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "Why Work?" Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"... work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, "Why Work?" Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"... you cannot do good work if you take your mind off the work to see how the community is taking it ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, "Why Work?" Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"It was left for the present age to endow Covetousness with glamour on a big scale, and to give it a title which it could carry like a flag. It occurred to somebody to call it Enterprise. From the moment of that happy inspiration, Covetousness has gone forward and never looked back."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Other Six Deadly Sins," Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"... no share-pusher could vend his worthless stock, if he could not count on meeting, in his prospective victim, an unscrupulous avarice as vicious as his own, but stupider. Every time a man expects, as he says, his money to work for him, he is expecting other people to work for him ... "

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Other Six Deadly Sins," Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"We may argue eloquently that 'Honesty is the best Policy' -- unfortunately, the moment honesty is adopted for the sake of policy it mysteriously ceases to be honesty."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Other Six Deadly Sins," Creed or Chaos? (1949)

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"The Devil ... is much better served by exploiting our virtues than by appealing to our lower passions; consequently, it is when the Devil looks most noble and reasonable that he is most dangerous."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Poetry of Search and the Poetry of Statement (1963)

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"The Devil is a spiritual lunatic, but, like many lunatics, he is extremely plausible and cunning."

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Poetry of Search and the Poetry of Statement (1963)

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" As I grow older and older / And totter towards the tomb, / I find that I care less and less / Who goes to bed with whom."

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1953, in Janet Hitchman, Such a Strange Lady (1975)

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"Anythin' wrong leaves a kind of impression on the eye; brain trots along afterwards with the warnin'."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Footsteps That Ran" (1928), in Ellery Queen, ed., Masterpieces of Mystery (1976)

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"Advertising never sold a bad product twice."

Dorothy L. Sayers, in Ralph E. Hone, Dorothy L. Sayers: A Literary Biography (1979)

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"Do you solemnly swear never to conceal a vital clue from the reader? Do you promise to observe seemly moderation in the use of gangs, conspiracies, Super Criminals and Lunatics and utterly and forever to forswear Mysterious Poisons unknown to science? Will you honor the King's English? ... If you fail to keep your promise, may other writers steal your plots and your pages swarm with misprints."

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Oath of Initiation Into the Detection Club of London," in Elaine Budd, Thirteen Mistresses of Murder (1986)

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"... as regards artists of any kind the position is this: that all the self which they are able to communicate to the world is in their work, and is manifest in its best form in the work. To expect to get more out of direct contact with the man than one gets from his work is pretty well bound to lead to disappointment -- the work is his means of expression, and is his genuine self. What is left over is the discarded stuff, or the lumber-room of raw material, so to speak, out of which the next work is going to be made. People are always imagining that if they get hold of the writer himself and so to speak shake him long and hard enough, something exciting and illuminating will drop out of him. But it doesn't. What's due to come out has come out in the only form in which it ever can come out. All one gets by shaking is the odd paper-clips and crum[p]led carbons from his waste-paper basket."

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1941, in Barbara Reynolds, ed., The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, vol. 2 (1997)

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"What we make is more important than what we are, particularly if making is our profession."

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1940, in Barbara Reynolds, ed., The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, vol. 2 (1997)

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"We ought to recognise the profound gulf between the work to which we are 'called' and the work we are forced into as a means of livelihood."

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1941, in Barbara Reynolds, ed., The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, vol. 2 (1997)

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"... the truth and value of a theory does not depend on the number of people who are interested in it -- otherwise you might compare the number of people who follow the predictions of astrologers in the daily press with those who attend lectures by Einstein, and conclude that astrology was more valuable and true than physics."

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1943, in Barbara Reynolds, ed., The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, vol. 2 (1997)

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" To know one's own limitations is the hallmark of competence."

Dorothy L. Sayers, with Jill Paton Walsh, Thrones, Dominations (1998)

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"That there is a secret itself is a secret."

Dorothy L. Sayers, with Jill Paton Walsh, Thrones, Dominations (1998)

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"A person who tells a secret, swearing the recipient to secrecy in turn, is asking of the other person a discretion which he is abrogating himself."

Dorothy L. Sayers, with Jill Paton Walsh, Thrones, Dominations (1998)

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"The English language has a deceptive air of simplicity; so have some little frocks; but they are both not the kind that any fool can run up in half an hour with a machine."

Dorothy L. Sayers

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"The keeping of an idle woman is a badge of superior social status."

Dorothy L. Sayers

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"To make a precise scientific description of reality out of words is like trying to build a rigid structure out of pure quicksilver."

Dorothy L. Sayers

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"No, no, there must be a limit to the baseness even of publishers."

Dorothy L. Sayers

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"Lord Peter's large income ... cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet."

Dorothy L. Sayers, in Saturday Review (1935)

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"Detective stories keep alive a view of the world which ought to be true. Of course people read them for fun ... But underneath they feed a hunger for justice ... you offer to divert them, and you show them by stealth the orderly world in which we should all try to be living."

Dorothy L. Sayers, in Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh, Thrones, Dominations (1999)

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Dorothy L. Sayers, English writer
(1893 - 1957)

Full name: Dorothy Leigh Sayers Fleming.