Is Peter Wimsey Bisexual? Some brief thoughts on innuendo

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For some time now, I’ve been reading Jem Bloomfield’s excellent, speculative posts about Dorothy Sayers’ novels. And I’ve enjoyed them – they coincided with me discovering her work – but until now, I’ve not felt able to add anything much. But, recently, I took a break from writing my current article on Chaucer to think about modern innuendo, and found myself led to the passages in one of Sayers’ less well-rated novels, Clouds of Witness, and so, to the burning and perhaps unexpected question: is Peter Wimsey bisexual?

Wimsey is famous in certain (admittedly, small) circles for his erudite romanticism and for being, we tend to agree, really rather nicely feminist despite being a fictional character born in the late nineteenth century. I’ve heard more women than I’d like to admit – and me included – exude a little sigh over the idea of an academic-gowned proposal taking place in starlit Oxford streets and crowned with “Placetne, Magistra?” as the phrasing of the time-honoured question. And so, perhaps I need some justification for what might seem an alarming suggestion.

My first exhibit for the jury is not Wimsey himself, but his good friend and oftentimes colleague, the dashing lawyer Sir Impey Biggs, of whom the Dowager Duchess of Denver once remarked:

‘”Sir Impey Biggs is the handsomest man in England, and no woman will ever care twopence for him.” He was, in fact, thirty-eight, and a bachelor, and was celebrated for his rhetoric and his suave but pitiless dissection of hostile witnesses. The breeding of canaries was his unexpected hobby, and besides their song he could appreciate no music but revue airs.’

The Dowager Duchess is, as readers of Sayers will know, not always the most reliable or systematic observer, but she does have a much-cited talent for understanding people, and for hitting on the crucial detail. And here, she’s speaking in fluent code. Biggs is a ‘confirmed bachelor’. The music he appreciates is ‘revue airs’ – that is, the currency of the Music Halls, which often featured cross-dressing acts and innuendo-laden songs.

Sayers goes on to describe her hero, Peter Wimsey, meeting this famous figure:

“He answered Wimsey’s greeting in his beautiful, resonant, and exquisitely controlled voice. … Wimsey expressed himself delighted to see him in a voice, by contrast, more husky and hesitant even than usual.”

On one reading, the scene is a knowing cliché: two people, conscious of the precise tones of each others’ voices; the one ‘controlled’ as if against betrayal of unseemly emotion, the other deepening into ‘husky’ tones. But, before we fan ourselves hastily, there’s another reading. On the surface, Sayers clearly means, also, to indicate that, in the presence of the great lawyer, Wimsey appears more diffident even than normal, less artificial in his control, more uncertain. This is a quality consistently associated with Wimsey, and it’s a quality Sayers takes great trouble to present as part of his appeal, as a counterweight to his frequent flashes of arrogance and self-assurance. And so, we can’t be certain this scene is to be read in the light of innuendo, especially if we’re anticipating the introduction of Wimsey’s unlikely love-interest, Harriet Vane. And yet … we’re soon treated to another telling scene, as Wimsey sits in the firelight setting the world to rights with his friend:

“Lord Peter watched his statuesque profile against the fire; it reminded him of the severe beauty of the charioteer of Delphi and was about as communicative.”

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The Charioteer of Delphi (detail)

On the surface, Wimsey’s thoughts suggest his irritation with Biggs’ discreet refusal to speculate too much on a current murder case, but the suggestiveness of the image Peter evokes is telling.

The Charioteer of Delphi is an Ancient Greek statue, portraying a young man. It was discovered in 1896, the year after the trial of Oscar Wilde, in which Wilde expounded at length on the nature of what he called ‘Greek love’, and in which the phrase (coined by Wilde’s lover Bosie) ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ was first popularised as a byword for homosexuality. In short, Wimsey recognises Biggs as a ‘Greek’ figure, an uncommunicative figure (or a figure who ‘dares not speak’) – and he phrases his recognition to himself in terms of aesthetic appreciation of another man’s Classically captivating appearance.

From this, it’s a short step to the ditty the rather rattled Wimsey comes out with when, hauled up to the witness stand before a surprised and blushing Biggs, he sings out:

“Biggy and Wiggy
Were two pretty men,
They went into court 
When the clock –“

The rest is silence: the ditty is cut off, the judge demands obedience, and Sayers rapidly retreats to a less subversively suggestive hero and, eventually, to a conclusion of impeccable Oxford courtship and ensuing matrimony.

This could all be taken as a fun parlour game – and reading books against the grain is one of my favourite things to do. But, perhaps there’s more to it than that. When I first suggested, to devoted fans of Sayers, that Impey Biggs might be a covertly homosexual character, they were willing to run with the ball. And when other readers have raised the point that Eiluned Prince, Sayers’ quite obviously lesbian character, is ‘a type to keep her hands in her pockets’, I’ve seen very little dissent. But for us to imagine Peter Wimsey as bisexual requires more of a shift of readerly attitudes, because of our own contemporary assumptions about fiction and sexuality.

It’s a truism that we are, even today, liable to imagine bisexual men are fictional – ‘in the closet’ – and that men who are truly attracted to women cannot also be attracted to men. And we tend, too, to assume that the subtle reach of innuendo in 1930s England could not possibly have denoted a sufficiently widespread tolerance of homosexuality such that Dorothy Sayers might possibly have penned a bisexual central character. But, as I hope I’ve shown by keeping one eye on the subtext, anything is possible.

Update: I can’t believe I never checked this when I first wrote the (more controversial than I was expecting) original, but apparently, ‘canary’ is theatre rhyming slang for homosexual (‘fairy’). Not sure how much I trust this, nor how it would work in terms of chronology, but I leave the suggestion here. 

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65 thoughts on “Is Peter Wimsey Bisexual? Some brief thoughts on innuendo

  1. I think the “Biggy and Wiggy” may be excusable residual adrenaline from the transatlantic flight, but (as we discussed on Twitter) given Clouds of Witness is a novel about illicit and hidden sexuality (including the subversive-for-1923 sub-plot of the woman who isn’t just not punished for adultery, but effectively rewarded with her freedom) it makes sense not merely that it’s the book which introduces Biggs but has the scenes you mention (there’s a lot of tense cat-and-mouse between Biggs and Wimsey over what Biggs thinks Wimsey knows, too.)

    It’s also worth throwing into the mix (particularly in the early novels and for someone who’s better at symbolism and subtext than me) the numerous times Wimsey is described as “nervous” “sensitive” or having “almost feminine delicacy” (including the “bloody little fool” shellshock scene in Whose Body? which has distinct echoes of distraught heroines of melodramas having to be comforted by rugged, protective heroes).

    And then, finally, there are the hints of his time at Eton, when he emerges from being a bullied, nervous and withdrawn child into the ultimate object of desire in the context of the late 19th/early 20th century boys school story, namely the Captain of the Eleven!

    • Oh, yes, I think ‘Biggy and Wiggy’ is pure nervous tension coming out! But I agree with you about the cat-and-mouse effect. And mightn’t this be the conclusion to that? Peter is rambling, but maybe not entirely without relevance.

      I agree with you that Sayers very often presents Wimsey as less-than-stereotypically masculine. But it stops in Gaudy Night, and I do wonder if that rather overdone gender-paradigm scene of Harriet and Peter with the dog collar is supposed to convince us (while protesting a bit too much)?

  2. I think any overt or covert bisexuality in Wimsey is of no importance whatsoever.
    But you’re looking for obscure references; please don’t overlook the blindingly obvious–the original rhyme Peter is parodying:
    Robin and Richard
    Were two pretty men;
    They stayed in bed
    Till the clock struck ten.
    Then up starts Robin
    And looks at the sky:
    “Oh, brother Richard,
    The sun’s very high.
    You go before
    With the bottle and bag,
    And I will come after
    On little Jack nag.
    & many variants. It’s Mother Goose. And very well known.

    • Oh, that’s delightful! And no, I didn’t know it at all.

      I always feel as if people looking for English Lit to ‘matter’ may be the sort who are secretly rather irritated we’re not all out there curing cancer, landing on Mars, and other things that don’t involve noses in books and the Waste of the Taxpayers’ Money (TM). Sometimes, it’s just nice to have a little fun and be light-hearted about these possibilities, whether they matter tremendously or not.

  3. Pingback: A question to which the answer is no | armsandthemedicalman

  4. I actually couldn’t deal with this post at all because you’re hooked up with Jem and recommending someone’s mutual book fetish…
    Jem’s married I guess…(?) and has a daughter so he thinks he cares about women… but he didn’t care much when a “reader-troll” named Curiosetta inserted their hatred of women and of bisexual people and others on a long ago post… and then he accommodated another troll Merlin who wasn’t serious about Jem’s article but took up all the room about feminism and Jem figured women were perfectly capable of defending themselves without his interference… so all was good in HIS world and HE didn’t moderate or help at all…
    He edited some women’s comments and kept supporter-fan-girls of his man-feminism while saying thus taking all “fun” out of any reading serious or otherwise… so that I won’t read his blog or trust his “care”.

    I realize I’m just one of your inferiors… tho. So whatever. 😦

    • I don’t really know what to say. Jem is someone I know through blogging, and chatting about work, yes. I’m not ‘hooked up’ with him in the slightest. I’ve never actually met him in the flesh and yes, he’s definitely married.

      I can’t comment on his procedures for moderating his blog comments, and don’t understand why you’re angry with me about them (if that is what you are saying). And I certainly don’t follow why you think I’m treating you as my ‘inferior’. I’m really sad to read that. But also pretty bemused.

      • Bemused? Wow, what a terrible response after all my legitimate support of your work(s).

        Nevermind.

        good luck.

        Certainly have fun.

        and I wish you well.

    • Tabby… what are you doing?????? This is an important writer and also she should have time and space to have fun and read whatever she wants and be a reader of whomever she wants!!!! I don’t mean to get in the middle of this… but I love this blog and she’s helped me without even knowing how much and it’s deep for me and you’re my artist model… and I love you too… and you know why… so I’m butting in!

      peace to everyone and I’m soooo sorry if I caused any chaos or bad feelings.

      • I very much appreciate all of that support. I just can’t fathom what’s prompted this response to a month-old post that wasn’t written in a particularly serious vein. If there’s something I’ve overlooked that is offensive in it, I’m very happy to update with an discussion or retraction, but I’m not clear what the problem is.

      • You’re not doing anything wrong!!!! I will attempt to clear this up. You’re very kind to offer that and PLEASE do not carry ANY of this. It’s some old “baggage” and getting personal and not at all about or “on” you.
        You’ve always been an excellent teacher and you’ve never evaded the problems when brought to your attention.
        I’m going to handle the rest of this conversation (hopefully) via email with Tabby because I just think there’s a big misunderstanding. I obviously handled past blogging experiences in a sloppy manner… and I don’t mean to incite anyone to my defense or whatever. I am blogging anew and the work carries itself so I don’t want to battle in comment sections. I do love your writing and recommendations and absolutely recommend your blog… not because I need mutual affection or attention or a conflict. You’re an awesome teacher. You should be teaching and writing and speaking and being a feminist…
        Okay… I gotta go and again, I’m so sorry for this confusion or bad feeling.

      • I’m not going to forget or forgive what happened on Jem’s blog, Kate. It sucked. I was too casual before I knew what was happening, but Jem sucked. I do know why you love this blog by Ms. Jeanne… uh… Lucy…and why the writer helped you because you and a lot of others. She can hold her own, and doesn’t brag about it…but I’m still completely turned off by this post and the connected internet reality and I Am loyal to you. to YOU. Not this. Not this silliness about bisexuals. It’s bisexuality all pent up to talk about it in this format and clique silliness. This doesn’t matter. Fuuuun never really mattered…
        Homosexuality and bi-sexuality (big news flash!!!!) isn’t about sex.
        It’s about who you love.
        The sisters aren’t being supported by men or each other ultimately. Online trolling almost killed YOU.
        And it’s clear when and where and how they (we) choose to blog about ignoring the truth for FUN. They (we) all blog about it after all.

        No offense to you Ms. a.k.a Jeanne-Lucy. I learned a lot and couldn’t keep up with your brains even if I wanted to. I’m not as well read and I am ever your intellectual inferior. I do love your big brain and meant to be supportive. Thanks for allowing my comments tho and I do wish you all the best.

      • Naw… I mean you can email me, but ya’ll are just “wifing” me. I ain’t yo bitch, bitches.

        Jem sucks.

        a.ka. Jeanne is brilliant and beautiful and OH WELL that.

        I’m thinking you’re just doin’ on line damage control when really you should RULE.

        xo,
        tabs

      • Huh???
        Ok. Sorry you don’t feel so good. I don’t know what you’re saying anymore.

        Jeanne is a teacher online and we don’t “know” her personally. She has always (always!!!) defended women against online trolls. She has taught how to strengthen language to help advocate for survivors of rape.

        This post is about something different and its not about you or me!

        I’ll talk to you sometime soon.

        Peace to all.

      • Well, okay so I made it personal.
        nevertheless, Jem uses his readers, and doesn’t care.

        And this post helped me decide once and for all that I’m just gonna stop blogging altogether.

        It’s a MAN’s WORLD. You can have it. on line predators win.

      • I’m sorry I made you feel like I wasn’t considering your feelings, Tabby. I hope you don’t stop blogging and pick it up again sometime as your voice matters too and as you have helped stop online bullies many times in the past. I don’t mean to minimize anything, but I don’t think Lucy knows at all what happened over a year ago in on a totally different blog and subject and so she shouldn’t be held accountable. I’m not trying to create a hierarchy. (I emailed this to you btw but I don’t know if my writing is clearing things up or just making it worse.) I thought we dealt with the past stuff actually and let go of all that and even made peace with Jem. Was I mistaken? I don’t read his blog but I wasn’t left feeling like he’s was a bad man tolerating abuse. I just found him focused on his own blog style and inviting anyone to comment that was willing to expose themselves. I think that’s fair.
        Anyhow, I am sorry for my part in any of this “divide” and I hope you’ll see how no one meant you harm.
        Books are supposed to be enjoyable.

      • You are considering my feelings. I’m not mad at you.

        When Jem edited your voice out of his blog way back when but left all ugly troll comments that’s what made me realize he was using women for his “I’m a male feminist” agenda and he set himself up as a voice that could help the dumb(er) guys. You had questioned him on the blog about why he was asking his questions the way he was because it felt like a set up and he got very male and defensive and kept the flirty-worshipper girl’s comments who couldn’t fathom why anyone would disagree or question him. YUCK. now I suppose I got kinda worshippy and flirty with Ms. Lucy from time to time… and who we always backed in the past for sane reasons, but I didn’t mean any thing inappropriate by it or to throw myself away. I just liked how I wanted to learn. Now she’s been caught up in the holidays for a long time and reading books for fun after the trauma of the racism starkey campus stuff (I am presuming… perchance arrogantly? I am being a snob? Nutshelling? I dunno, I just don’t have the “time” for this either.)

        I won’t bug this author anymore with this. And I apologize for being the party pooper… definitely thank you for teaching me a lot to Lucy and best of luck.

        Thanks for the email, Kj.

      • Well Tabby, I’m not offended by Jem’s “handling” of my question (at least anymore) actually… My question to him was in fact a direct attack on his “feminist-angle” and so mostly rhetorical. I already saw the “set up” and trap his blog presented to women so I was pretty much there to call him out at that point and didn’t pay him real respect as a legitimate ally. The “flirty girl” was from a family of men as I recall, and she said she was “conditioned” by them to just put up with things and so Jem’s blog was her a-ha moment that not all men were like that. I think Jem might have felt to lead an uneducated woman to feminism was his primary goal and he protected her from me rather than her be turned off to it all by a “radical woman” like me. Of course Jem told you and or me (I can’t remember) he felt women could all stand up for themselves against the trolls, and so that’s why he was allowing their feeding and it was up to us to kick as or step aside. That’ was his stance on equality. So yes, he has a double standard.

        All that being said, I trust Lucy’s voice and her work after reading her blog for two or three years now. She isn’t bothered by Jem and finds value in his blog, so I can respect that.

        I’d rather you keep blogging about feminism and what it’s like being bisexual as a woman than for you to stop because of one parasitic man-blog. I always felt he was saying he’s a male-feminist in order to attract the ladies while appearing to the fellas like he’s The MAN.
        You, Tabby are an Ursula Le Guin reader… not a Peter Wimsey inquiring mind. Ursula says NEVER obey a husband. Certainly love and cherish, respect etc. him, if you find a good one but never “obey.” Women need to reserve their right to disobey. So You don’t need Jem’s “father tongue” or his “head of a family” and you’re not british. So Down with kings.

        I don’t plan on critiquing Jem here any further because it’s too “behind the back” feeling.
        I also feel like we are using Lucy’s space and not focused on the intention of her post… like she should be a blog-cop or something. So I’d like to stop doing that.
        Anyhow, I see you took your blog down. Rethink it.

      • Um, no we aren’t “using” Lucy’s space inappropriately at all.
        You’re feeling extra protective of her. And I understand that. We are guests on her blog.
        But… I for one am helping her be “bemused” as she thinks me an idiot. So… I am “usable” for her work. She said so more or less in her next post about moderation. Plus if she doesn’t have the “time” she isn’t feeling this at all. She can laugh this all off and go on about her work.
        I’ve given her links and recommended poets she liked in the past and I alerted her to trolls with you before and I followed her blog and read her work loyally and passed it on to others enthusiastically and everyone loves Lucy. So I ain’t “Using” the space wrong.
        I did literally trigger on Jem being so connected to her… so that was surprising how strong of a BAD reaction I had. Who knew “Jem” needed a trigger-warning?!
        I took my blog down because if I keep it up, I’m just going to go dark-mode on people and I don’t feel like being a perpetual rant any longer. It’s exhausting and non productive at this point.
        So I’ll try to stop commenting to you here, but I just don’t think we are “using” Lucy’s space wrong.

        It’s okay if she knows what hurts and where things veered.

      • I don’t think of you as an idiot, Tabby. I just don’t understand what is clearly a big context.

        If it helps, I’ve written a longer post trying to explain how I approached this topic originally, and where I stand on it. I’m not at all sure I’m right, but it’s where I would put my money at the moment. It’s absolutely not that I am mocking homosexuality or bisexuality. This post was light-hearted, yes, but (as I try to explain in my new post), I don’t intend that as mockery. I tried to explain something about the way, to me, it feels celebratory to enjoy some of these hints and possibilities.

        I hope that all makes some sense.

      • Hi, Lucy… this came to my comment box and I’m not sure if Tabby has read it, but I will pass the message on to her and I’m sorry I interfered. I thought I would be helpful, but it got messier… and I don’t think I have been helpful to either of you at all.
        -kate

      • Thanks Kate.

        It was very good of you to post as you did. Please don’t worry or feel bad.

  5. I didn’t at all mean my post to come across as mocking, or offensive towards, bisexuals. I’m really sorry about that. I can see that it might sound that way, and I can only apologise, and explain that when I wrote it, it was on the back of a fairly light-hearted discussion about whether or not certain canonical heterosexual male characters can ever be read as bisexual. But I do also think about the serious side of it all.

    I certainly don’t think bisexuality is all about sex, or homosexuality, and I apologise to you and to anyone else who got that impression.

    • nevermind… I’m over this. You don’t know Jem and what he allows, Lucy. You’re helping an asshole for the sake of a book that is fetish for you. Good luck. And I’m sorry to Kate. She loves your blog and values you and your work immensely.

      • I don’t agree with this Tabby. It’s actually (no offense intended) just a book. It doesn’t matter who is sharing it or how intimately or correctly or how intended. Good art gets a reaction. Who cares good or bad? Artists are true to their craft. It’s not high or low. Readers don’t even register. There isn’t a between the lines that makes it the best or a straight forward that makes it truer. There is the voice that speaks and those who come to it. I think Lucy is wonderful and you do too. Don’t let yourself block Jem.

      • NO sweetheart, you are the feminist NOT jem. He cut YOU out. And there was no reasonable reason for it when he allowed troll men to abuse women on his sites. The book has nothing to do with it. Common interests have nothing to do with this. I know Lucy rocks and defends women. I have no problem with her. But she’s foolin’ around with Jem and he’s a dick.

        I love you Kate. You are all heart and service even when you pretend different. You’ve never been weak. Only generous. Your’e the reason to fight. I want Lucy to know that. I want her to know who has her back. It is NOT Jem.

      • Oh my… um… okay.. first of all my darling… I CAN paint. I don’t NEED words. I am good at what I do and don’t need believers. Stop fighting for me. I love you. Lucy’s bog shares much of what interests me and I don’t want to take it over. You are a wonderful person to go to bat for me. But I’m okay. I don’t know Jem and I don’t think about this… I just want Lucy to feel supported because her work matters. Her voice has helped. If this connects to Jem that is good and we should see that bridge and not a reason to sever ties. Lucy is a real leader of all people. She is capable of what I am not. I love her blog. so does Jem. So do you. What could be better???? Honestly? WOW! Good job Lucy!

      • You’re being too nice. You are the work. You are being siphoned and given no credit. You are the one. Not Jem not Lucy not this dumb book. You pay attention. You listen. You’re up. These people may have followeres but they got nuthin on you. No soul, baby. None. And they are all cowards. Vain cowards. You give up material planes. You don’t go for the fame. You’re real and beautiful and honest. Jem IS a dick And lucy allied with him. NOT you. She doesn’t follow your blog. like or comment on your blog. She follows a man. She wouldn’t understand your art if she tried. She’s got “Good” art all summed up between her own lines. She’s not listening anymore and she thinks I’m an idiot because I didn’t go to the same schools. Woman doesn’t want to save the planet. Doesn’t check in with Global warming. She wants support for backing off, Kate. For taking a vacation while YOU keep carrying it all. While you keep watch and notice. While you listen. And you know about the history. You do. And they take your work and give YOU no credit. You move worlds. You paint. You were there. You aren’t a fucking housewife.

      • What? I don’t really know Jem, Tabby. What you’re going on abut happened over a year ago. If you think him stuffy, okay… don’t read him. Lucy isn’t that. You love lucy’s blog. So why block your own interests? I’m sorry past comment sections made this difficult but when I was a new blogger I took things more personally and didn’t understand how impersonal the exchange would actually be. I’m sorry if I added to the fight and the confusion. I currently post my own work not to even bring followers, believers, or buyers… but because people kept asking me where they could see my work. My blog is not of high quality because I don’t pay for it. WordPress is an generous place to show when people ask. I am okay if people do not understand or show interest. I know what I’m doing. And Lucy helped my work.

        If Jem helps her, why should I have a problem? If I don’t understand why should I care? They didn’t exclude me. They invited me into a book and left it to my choice.

      • You do too know jem. You can judge ’em a mile away when everyone else is stalling. You’re just being careful with Lucy. And you don’t need to be. He’d never never take a bullet for her. You would. Jem is a fake with a wife to hide behind. Don’t you bother pretending. You know the work. NoONE can take away your work. You were and are THERE. Not empty words.

      • Hmmm…. This is weird.
        I think that it’s a book.

        Thank you for caring about me. I am okay. And You matter too. Lucy is a great teacher, YES! and she knows Jem a little online.

        I think we can move on. I know we can. No excuse or explanations high or mighties gulties or what have yous. just simple moving into the next moment. I know Jem doesn’t reach your bench mark. He doesn’t want to. If we discuss political strategy it’s be different. Remember, thatcher was no feminist. She baked cookies and ruled with an iron fist. There are things we have no idea about and should not presume.

      • The british are actually helping repression and status quo… they are not pro-bisexuals just by coming out. This is wrong book reviewing. Jem can not be here. He can not help. He wants men and women both and is acting like a husband. He wants to control Lucy like his own wife and act like a feminist if he can con them thru bluster and that’s what we know by his association thru Lucy’s blog but he’s using her.

        You want to be connected to Lucy… so you’re tolerating this. That’s real. That’s what I know. You like her work and are trying to make it work. It doesn’t work here. Jem is a dick.

      • I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…. um…
        Jem does sound like a dick after reading his pompous contribution on Lucy’s latest update/clarification. It was so funny how he avoided ME/ us and went into his own DOMAIN. Allow Lucy to accommodate this man and the reader Deborah to fangirl her. Oh it makes such perfect sense to me and do go on!!!!!
        LOL!
        Lucy is smart though Tabby so no bruises. She’s not looking at it from our perspective… and Jem has a book club.
        Best wishes to all. Jem is but a simple man… and when he speaks to me directly… oh yes, I shall include him in the big boy table. Until them NO pants.
        Thank you Lucy. SOOOOO not your fault. Delete as you see fit. Choose as you wish. It has gotten PERSONAL. and I want no ego involved.

      • Okay… Jem is just books. no ego…
        Lucy doesn’t want me going on and I made her uncomfortable. I’m sorry. Sorry men are dicks and the women who want to “lightly” defend them are so uncomfortable!

        You all need REAL SCHHOL. Street don’t pander or coddle. Kate was good and you didn’t recognize her. You suck Jem. And Lucy you rock. Because you are a smart lady who has heart.
        I’m going my way now… promise.

      • cry!!!!! jem is winning book club. women are satus QUO, and Lucy can’t handle it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! just wants a normal! In this day and age she demand a normal? Comfortable ain’t no option BRITISH people. WAKE UP!

      • Really? Jem is winning feminism? I don’t know him… I never think about this man. How could he be so important? Tabby… Let Lucy work and stop venting here. Jem was hurthful. We can move on. He’s just a human being.

      • Nope, I’m going after Jem Kate… I’m on a mission in my own way. You and Lucy don’t have any fault in this. I’m on my own. Jem is a dick. I’m his curse. I’m the witch gonna vex him. He don’t no pass. Not on Lucy’s back and not on yours. He’s mine now ladies. ya’ll don’t worry none.

      • really? Jem’s worth it? You think he matters, because of the past blog experience?

        I’m okay Tabby. Women who have suffered because of what Jem did is for them to figure out and cease, and I cannot be the blanket for Jem or the ladies. I don’t want you using me for the “cause”.

        I think Jem is wishy washy unclear and non committal.
        Lucy is clear and re-clarifying and empowering. Why not draw from the strength and not batter the past? Lucy is strength even when she feels ill equipped to deal with us or when she can see the merits in Jems works. She’s caring and true to her reading-teaching and we shouldn’t place the burden on her of whatever else. She’s smarter than we are… she allowed our sloppy times and still made us matter. Don’t give up on her or this blog. Allow Jem to contemplate life and books and honor Lucy. He should honor Lucy. Not me.

      • No my beautiful Kate, I started blogging ONLY to pick up on YOUR work which was stopping trolls trying to undermine women and LGBTQ people. JEM allows abuse. It stimulates him. It fuels his works to play Man of the “woman champion” and ask stupid set up questions.

        Lucy does not do this quiteirregular boring performance and so we love her easily. I don’t have to pretend when it hurts. Jem does. He’s still hiding. Notice that? Dumb lunk Jem is a coward.

      • Oh. Um well my work is in my art made for years and not in online tiny exchanges or silly misunderstood comment sections. I don’t gotta prove my merit, sweetie. I paint nine hours in a row without need of anyone so… You are sooooooo wonderful going to bat for me. I need to look at what you are saying and figure out what’s going on…
        I honestly don’t think about Jem anymore… and if he’s hurt you or me in your perception, and you need me to look at that I will. I will try to navigate this… I think Lucy should be absolved however and her readers released from punishment tho, before we proceed.

      • You’re good as gold Kate, but Jem is a coward and won’t respond years ago or now and he’s a DICK. A dumb ASS DICK!!!! I would never never spend time on this about Jem’s dick… if that wasn’t true.

        I’m not undermining you or Lucy. I’m in love with you both!!!! You’re big brained better leaders than Jem. I want you both to realize how he’s taking you for granted. He is NOT a leader of women. He’s user. His wife is absentee. His daughter a tool.

      • I don’t want to talk to Jem about now or years ago so whatever. Tabby. This blog post is about a BOOK, and a character…and I think the readers should critique it… not us. Thank you for your love and concern.

      • But what about online experiences for women? Quite Irregular (Jem) does NOT care about women. He’s finding his own place for him. There wouldn’t be anything wrong in that but he won’t own it. He doesn’t won his eating feeding gleaning and recyling of WOMEN. He feeds off the feminist cause exploits the bisexual cause and rules his wife. go figure. I am rooting for you KATE and LUCY. do not allow jem roon. he’s not about you. He’s about HIM.

      • You’re totally loosing me on this. Please just stop. Leave Jem and lucy and their readers alone. I’m okay. Trolls aren’t here… not sure what the problem is. thank you for the love.

      • Not sure what the problem is? Or just ignoring it? Tolerating it?
        It’s about a man who is taking over a feminist blog and undermining women. We should not be exclusive but this man is not REAL. To cut YOU out is INSANE. You are the feminist not Jem. He’s a fucker. He’s a coward. Can’t let go until he comes forward in all humility to even wonder. To even say perhaps I’m sorry for the effect. He should own his stink. You Kate are REAL. Not this dumb book or Jem’s pomp pomp. Please know I am defending what’s right. Jem is a fucker. Lucy just doesn’t know this about his small balls. And yeah I’m fightin’ low and dirty. Like a man. cuz I matter. HIm’s don’t.

      • I don’t have time to do this really… I do have to work. Peace to all and I’m sorry for any neglect of the issue on my part or confusion… I really want the focus to go back on the book and not on the readers althoughI do understand why there is unresolved tension. Online interactions are different and sometimes not fulfilling in which case it’s okay to just move on. I love and recommend Lucy’s blog. That’s my bottom line.

      • Jem is NOT a dick. He’s a husband and a father and trying to learn about feminism best he can to teach. This was a post about a book and it’s not about feminism. Please stay focused on the topic and try not to make it personal.

  6. I see Lord Peter as part of a genre of apparently foppish, sensitive heroes who turn out to be brilliant at judo, or the Scarlet Pimpernel, or…

    • YY, I think that is absolutely in there – it’s part of what I love about the plot in Busman’s Honeymoon, that Peter’s less-than-statuesque masculinity is (literally) his saving grace.

  7. Pingback: Rocks, Hard Places, and the (Lesbian) Interpretation of Literary Texts | Jeanne de Montbaston

  8. I think I need to draw a line under this, for the sake of commentators who are not part of this argument and for myself.

    I think there is quite a bit of confusion. For the record, I have no links to Jem beyond the fact that he is a blogger I frequently read and respond to (many times on this blog, none of which have caused any controversy). So far as I understand, Jem is an academic in English Lit in England. He’s not a father to a daughter, and he’s never met me in real life.

    I wrote this post with some academic interest (I work on fiction), some casual interest (I like Sayers), and some ideological interest (I think people can resist interpretations of literary characters as bisexual, and this tells us something about attitudes to bisexuality). That’s the limit of my bias here. I certainly don’t have any other reason to support this reading, and I am finding the comments increasingly go beyond what I’m comfortable with moderating or responding to.

  9. Sorry for what has transpired and yet… You can’t just have an academic discussion with anyone… Jem fucked us over, Lucy. We discount him as an academic man. I am not uncultured. I am educated. I am a feminist. Jem cut me out of his blog a long time ago and so his views are really odd on your blog. You we love and endorse without question. seriously. It’s not just personal. Jem really chose non-feminst non radical women to endorse his blog and he allowed trolls. I am not anti man. I painted for Jeff Koons for crying out loud and worked for the Pollock Krasner Foundation and I am not a no body. I am not the art that is low. I recognize hip hop. I understand the real. Tabby is pissed you’ve condescended to a heavy hitter. I am getting USE to it. No boast, just I get why Tabby says, fuck Jem. He edited me. He cut me out.

  10. Hey Jeanne

    Interesting idea. There’s a passage about Biggs watching Wimsey’s mouth and hands in CoW too, which could be interpreted as loaded.

    Of course, Biggs defends Harriet in Strong Poison, when Wimsey loses his heart to Harriet (on fairly spurious grounds at the time…) – wonder if he was hurt?!

      • Sir Impey Biggs was accustomed to boast that no witness could perjure himself in his presence undetected. As he put the question, he released the other’s eyes from his, and glanced down with finest cunning at Wimsey’s long, flexible mouth and nervous hands. When he glanced up again a second later he met the eyes passing, guarded and inscrutable, through all the changes expressive of surprised enlightenment; but by that time it was too late; he had seen a little line at the corner of the mouth fade out, and the fingers relax ever so slightly. The first movement had been one of relief.

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