The Mitre

We went to the Mitre; the Mitre came to us. We fell upon it, actually. A salvation on a chilly day. Inside, we looked for Lord Peter, tuned to that small part of our brains that believes, still, somehow, that it must, they must, he must be real. Don't you sometimes believe it too?

"Have I been asleep?"

"Getting on for two hours," said Harriet, with a pleased chuckle.

"Good Lord, what disgusting behaviour! I am frightfully sorry. Why didn't you give me a shout? What time is it? My poor girl, you'll get no dinner to-night if we don't hurry up. Look here, I do apologise most abjectly."

"It doesn't matter a bit. You were awfully tired."

"That's no excuse." He was on his feet now, extricating the punt-poles from the mud. "We might make it by double-punting — if you'll forgive the infernal cheek of asking you to work to make up for my soul-destroying sloth."

"I'd love to punt. But, Peter!" She suddenly liked him enormously. "What's the hurry? I mean, is the Master expecting you, or anything?"

"No; I've removed myself to the Mitre. I can't use the Master's lodgings as a hotel; besides, they've got people coming in."

"Then couldn't we get something to eat somewhere along the river and make a day of it? I mean, if you feel like it. Or must you have a proper dinner?"

"My dear, I would gladly eat husks for having behaved like a dog. Or thistles. Preferably thistles. You are a most forgiving woman."

Magdalen Bridge

The traffic made it impossible to actually photograph the bridge, but again: I did what I could! Anyway, we learned that it's pronounced "Maudlin," which seemed pretty important.

"It's a beautiful night—far too good to waste. Don't go back yet. Come down to Magdalen Bridge and send your love to London River."

— Lord Peter to Harriet in Gaudy Night, Chapter XXIII

Gaudy Night at The Millions

Props from a writer at one of my favorite book sites:

Another book I loved was Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. It’s a mystery set at Oxford University and follows Harriet Vane and the irrepressible Lord Peter Wimsey as they try to unravel the meaning behind a series of obscene and threatening notes someone has been leaving around Shrewsbury College. Harriet struggles with her attraction to Peter and her desire to remain independent, and actually there’s a lot of wry commentary about just that—the pressure to marry and make house and the desire to get an education and contribute to society. Also, it’s great to read about Oxford in the thirties because it just seems so different from here.

A Year in Reading: Emma Rathbone

One ivory chess set

This is actually marble, I believe, but we did the best we could.

"I'm sorry, Peter. That was ungenerous and beastly of me. You shall give me something if you want to."

"May I? What shall I give you? Roc's eggs are cheap today."

For a moment her mind was a blank. Whatever she asked him for, it must be something adequate. The trivial, the commonplace or the merely expensive would all be equally insulting. And he would know in a moment if she was inventing a want to please him...

"Peter — give me the ivory chessmen."

Bitch Book Club reads Gaudy Night

There's something amazing about that, isn't there? Reading a 75-year-old book for a feminist book club.

Our book club was pretty impressed with this story. We were excited to find a crime novel written in 1935 whose main detective, victims, and suspects were all women. Sayers used this novel to earnestly explore the role of women in British society. Her characters debate often over whether one has to choose between being an intellectual and being married, between having children and devoting oneself to the books. She paints thoughtful portrayals of women who have lost themselves in their marriages, in addition to creating characters like Phoebe Tucker, a college friend of Harriet's whose marriage has been successful due to her ability to maintain and share her hobbies with her husband. Throughout the book, Harriet struggles with her own identity as a single woman. She looks to old friends and teachers to determine whether she might be able to maintain her autonomy and career as a writer if she were to get married. While she repeatedly turns down Peter's proposals of marriage, she struggles with her feelings for him and with her desire to be truly recognized as his equal.

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Our Ultimate Gaudy Night Field Trip is right out there on the horizon—so close, so close!—so stay tuned...