A question out of the blue
- This is kind of a long and involved and obscure query, based on a good deal of supposition. But it's a question that has come up in a long-dormant Yahoo group about Dorothy L, Sayers, who was close to being an Inkling; and it involves Charles Williams, so this may be sufficiently on-topic to the group. And it might possibly interest somebody.
Sayers dated her interest in the Divine Comedy to the experience of reading it in a bomb shelter. (I suppose that would clarify the mind wonderfully, and with the possibility of being alive a week later, unlike Samuel Johnson's example). But certainly she was aware of the work before then, and ISTR some earlier comments of hers about the Comedy and Williams's approach to it.
In the Sayers essay "The Other Six Deadly Sins" (1941) there is a distinction between the cold-blooded and the warm-hearted sins, and of course she takes a much more gentle approach to the latter, and cites the Gospels in support of this attitude. (Lust, Gluttony, and Anger for the warm-blooded). But there is a 1936 reference to such a distinction in a very different place, a political speech in America! In this, the distinction is credited to Dante.
I don't know the specific Dante reference, and no one else has come up with it yet; but the person who gave that speech (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) had been exposed to some work by Sayers. Hypothesis: the distinction is at least implicit in Dante, which I think is uncontroversial; Williams picked it up and (perhaps) was the first to formulate it; Sayers picked it up from him, and published something in which she duly credited the idea to Dante; FDR got it from there, probably via his wife, and used it.
BTW, Williams was largely responsible for the first notable religious work by Sayers, "The Zeal of thy House", the Canterbury Play of 1937, for which commission she was recommended by Williams in 1936. So they were surely talking theology, and no doubt Dante, just at that time.
Anybody know more about the relations between them at that time, or about Williams writing anything like what I've mentioned?
Apologies if this is too long and off topic, but at least I warned you!
- On 10 Sep 2012 at 14:03, Dan Drake wrote:
> BTW, Williams was largely responsible for the first notable religious work byUnfortunately I don't
> Sayers, "The Zeal of thy House", the Canterbury Play of 1937, for which
> commission she was recommended by Williams in 1936. So they were surely
> talking theology, and no doubt Dante, just at that time.
> Anybody know more about the relations between them at that time, or about
> Williams writing anything like what I've mentioned?
> Apologies if this is too long and off topic, but at least I warned you!It is neither -- I just hope there is someone else who knows more about it
than I do!
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- On Sep 10, 2012, at 7:46 PM, Steve Hayes wrote:
>>Thanks. I was perhaps too apologetic, as the members of the group haven't shown any signs of disliking an obscure question.
>> Apologies if this is too long and off topic, but at least I warned you!
> It is neither -- I just hope there is someone else who knows more about it
> than I do!
In fact, some more research has debunked a major part of my bright idea. Details are more relevant to Sayers people than to Inklingites; but Dorothy L Sayers and Charles Williams seem not to have been in contact at all at the time in question, 1936. WIlliams's recommendation to the Canterbury board was based on what he had seen of her other work.
A simpler but obscure question remains for any Williams experts who missed the first one: Did Williams publish anything before mid-1936, in his Dante studies or his general Christian writings, about the idea of cold-blooded sins vs. warm-hearted? Or are there any references to such concepts known from anywhere?
My only sources for the concept are Roosevelt in 1936 and Sayers in 1941, a charmingly mixed group. But Williams seems just the person to have formulated up the idea that was implicit in the Divine Comedy.