Although the later letters of Dorothy L. Sayers are a lot more heavy to go through, as she's answering a lot of mail on heavy theological topics, vol. four has proved, like the others, to contain a lot of interesting gems. First of all, Sayers is a brilliant writer whether she's producing a mystery novel, a play, a translation, letters, or something on a religious topic, so you get her wit and dash and verve throughout. I came across some of her observations on Narnia, and how Lewis wrote women, and thought people might be interested in hearing some of them whether you agree or disagree.
From a letter dated 21 December 1955, to Barbara Reynolds
"I'm glad you got hold of Lewis (C.S.). I like him very much, and always find him stimulating and amusing. One just has to accept the fact that there is a complete blank in his mind where women are concerned. Charles Williams and his other married friends used to sit round him at Oxford and tell him so, but there really isn't anything to be done about it. He is not hostile, and he does his best, and actually, for a person with his limitations I think he didn't do too badly with the Lady in Perelandra. What he suffers from chiefly, I think, is too much Romantic Literature, far too much Milton, and, as you can see from Surprised by Joy, a life bounded by school, the army, and the older universities. ...(Here, Sayers advises that no person should be allowed to be a don unless they've done time in a job that gets them out into the bustle of the world - she recommends backstage at a repertory theater specifically - to get a person loosened up and more emotionally free and also for gaining experience with the wide vagaries of humankind.) He is probably frightened at bottom, like most of these superior males, and, like Milton, is capable of being clumsy and even vulgar - a think you never find in Dante or Charles Williams, however eccentric or exaggerated their ideas about the sexes. Still, there it is - a defect, like a squint or bow-legs, which one has to put up with or ignore as well as one can."
She goes on to talk about his religious conversion and how they can be frightening things to experience and praises his gift for being able to invent new worlds "both beautiful and plausible" [she compares him to the "dreary mechanisms of the space-fiction merchants, and I wonder what she had read by them...something like The Cold Equations, perhaps?] and for letting girls have big active roles in the adventure stories.
From a letter dated 10 Feb. 1956, to Barbara Reynolds
"I'm glad you and Kerstin [Reynolds' young daughter] like the Narnia books. I can understand that the slaying of the Lion might be a bit frightening - though I was a very tough-minded beast of a child, and always insisted on having all the bloodthirsty bits read to me, to the great horror of my elders. ... And it is interesting that she should have felt the atmosphere of tension right from the start. All the books have that tension; I think it possibly comes from the writer's very strong sense of the reality of good and evil. The Silver Chair is a very good one, and so is The Voyage of the Dawn-Treader. And they all come out right in the end! Also, the girls, on the whole, are given as much courage as the boys, and more virtue (all the really naughty and tiresome children are boys); and they are even allowed to fight with bows and arrows, thought not with swords - a curious sex-distinction which I don't quite approve of; as though to kill at a distance were more feminine than to kill at close quarters! [Sayers then goes on to praise Marfisa, a female warrior in a text that continues the legend of Roland. Marfisa is apparently a really tough chick, and now I want to read these tales very badly.]"
From a letter dated 28 March 1956, to Barbara Reynolds:
"C.S. Lewis has just sent me the concluding Narnia Tale - The Last Battle. Don't think I should try it on Kerstin yet awhile - it really is rather terrifying. Everybody is killed in a railway accident, and they all go to Heaven - very apocalyptically. But that isn't so frightening as the earlier part, over which there broods a rather awful sense of the whole world being caught in a sort of totalitarian trap like a fairy-tale version of 1984. It would be all right for a toughish child who could get through it at one sitting, but if read slowly in bits might lead to anxiety and nightmares."
I really like the name Kerstin.