The ancestral pattern of Wimseys

It is a curious fact that throughout the history of the family there have always been two Wimsey types, cropping up with extraordinary persistency. The commoner type is that of the present Duke and his father—bluff, courageous, physically powerful, honest enough, but rather stupid and entirely unimaginative, hearty eaters and swearers, grands coureurs de filles, and, if cruel, yet without malice or ingenuity. The other, occurring only sporadically and usually as the result of “breeding out” into a foreign strain, is physically slighter, subtler, more intellectual and sensitive, with enormous nervous vitality, and with lusts no less powerful but more dangerously controlled to the furtherance of a long-sighted policy. To this type have belonged the wily statesman and churchmen who have from time to time adorned the family tree; some of them have been notorious traitors, but here and there they have produced poets and saints.

How do you like this “dangerously controlled to the furtherance of a long-sighted policy” business? I mean, if that doesn’t just pin the tail on the donkey!

Anyway, this is Dorothy L. Sayers in a letter to C. W. Scott-Giles dated 25 March 1936, as quoted in the foreword to The Wimsey Family. The book is based on correspondence between the two outlining the backstory of the illustrious family that Sayers created to give breath and spine to her hero. Sort of an incestuous precursor to fan fiction, I guess.

In 1940, after penning a series of letters between her characters for the Spectator (known as “The Wimsey Papers”), Sayers abandoned Lord Peter altogether and turned her attention to other literary pursuits (woe). As Scott-Giles notes, “Indeed, nothing more about the Wimseys appeared in her lifetime.”