Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Lord Peter Wimsey
Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey is a fictional character in a series of detective novels and short stories by Dorothy L. Sayers. He is the main character in those works, in which he solves mysteries — usually murder mysteries. The tales all take place in a setting contemporary to when they were written, from the 1920s to the 1940s.
Lord Peter's fictional life starts in 1890. His elder brother Gerald holds the (fictional) title Duke of Denver; their sister Lady Mary marries Peter's friend, police detective Charles Parker, several years after they meet when her fiancÚ dies violently in Clouds of Witness. Lord Peter was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a "double first" in history. He served in World War I and got a bad case of shell shock, which causes him occasional problems throughout the books. He has a manservant, Mervyn Bunter, whom he met when he served with him in the war. Bunter is a man of as many talents as Lord Peter: Photography is one of them. When Bunter finally finds a wife, in Thrones, Dominations, she is a professional photographer; their son Peter Meredith Bunter is born in December 1937. During World War II Lord Peter serves in military intelligence, and his nephew the Viscount St. George is a fighter pilot.
In Strong Poison Lord Peter meets Harriet Deborah Vane and falls in love with her. Harriet is a mystery writer on trial for the murder of her ex-lover. She finally accepts his proposal in Gaudy Night, and they marry, on October 8, 1935, in Busman's Honeymoon and then find a murder victim in Talboys, a home she had loved from childhood, often passing it when out with her doctor father on his rounds, and which Lord Peter has bought as a wedding present for her, to be their country house. They have three children: Bredon Delagardie Peter Wimsey (born in October 1936 in the story "The Haunted Policeman" and featured in the 1942 story "Talboys"); Roger Wimsey (born 1938), and Paul Wimsey (born 1940). Note that in A Presumption of Death the second son is called Paul, because in the wartime publications of The Wimsey Papers Dorothy L. Sayers called him that.
Among Lord Peter's hobbies, apart from criminology, is collecting incunabula, and he is an expert on matters of food (especially wine) and male fashion, as well as on classical music. He is quite good at playing Bach's works for keyboard instruments on a piano he babies even more than his books, wines, and cars. One of Lord Peter's cars is a 12-cylinder ("double-six"), 4-seated 1927 Daimler named "Mrs. Merdle" after a character in Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens.
with year of first publication
- Whose Body?, 1923
- Clouds of Witness, 1926 (Carmichael tv movie)
- Unnatural Death, 1927
- The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, 1928 (Carmichael tv movie)
- Strong Poison, 1931 (Petherbridge tv movie)
- The Five Red Herrings, 1931 (Carmichael tv movie)
- Have His Carcase, 1932 (Petherbridge tv movie)
- Murder Must Advertise, 1933 (Carmichael tv movie)
- The Nine Tailors, 1934 (Carmichael tv movie)
- Gaudy Night, 1935 (Petherbridge tv movie)
- Busman's Honeymoon, 1937 (Montgomery film)
- Thrones, Dominations, 1998 (not finished by Sayers -- completed by Jill Paton Walsh)
- A Presumption of Death, 2002 (written by Jill Paton Walsh, based loosely on The Wimsey Papers)
Short story collections
- Lord Peter Views the Body, 1928
- Hangman's Holiday, 1933 (also contains non-Wimsey stories)
- In the Teeth of the Evidence, 1939 (also contains non-Wimsey stories)
- Lord Peter, 1972 [See this article for complete list of stories.]
Stage, movies & television
The novel Busman's Honeymoon was originally a stage play by Sayers and her friend Muriel St. Clare Byrne.
Some of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels were made into two very successful television series by the BBC. Lord Peter Wimsey is played by Ian Carmichael during the seventies series of five novels and by Edward Petherbridge in the later series of three, in which Harriet Vane is played by Harriet Walter . Both series are now available on videotape and DVD.
There was a 1935 British movie of The Silent Passenger in which Lord Peter solved a mystery on the boat train crossing the English Channel, but the film does not seem to be available on videotape, at least in the United States. Sayers disliked the film; James Brabazon describes it as an "oddity, in which Dorothy's contribution was altered out of all recognition."
The 1940 movie The Haunted Honeymoon (American) or Busman's Honeymoon (British), starring Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings as Lord and Lady Peter, is available on videotape in generic boxes on the secondary market; any resemblance of its characters and events to those in Busman's Honeymoon is more than coincidental but less than satisfactory to Sayers's fans. (In the film Murder Must Advertise, a movie poster of Robert Montgomery is prominently visible on the wall in the secretaries' office.) Sayers refused even to see this movie.
Books about Lord Peter by other authors
- The Wimsey Family (1977) by C. W. Scott-Giles ISBN 0-06-013998-6
- Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook (1981) by Elizabeth Ryan ISBN 0899190324
- The Lord Peter Wimsey Companion (2002) by Stephan P. Clarke ISBN 0951800086 published by The Dorothy L Sayers Society.
As a footnote, Lord Peter Wimsey has also been included by the science fiction writer Philip JosÚ Farmer as a member of the Wold Newton family; and Laurie R. King's detective character Mary Russell meets Lord Peter at a party in the novel A Letter of Mary.
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