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The Man Born to be King Archive

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Wade-A-59

Scope and Contents

The Man Born to be King archive contains materials relating to the religious play of the same title by Dorothy L. Sayers. Printed copies of the play are found in folders 1-16, 40, and 42, and in the book listed under separated materials. The book, while remaining part of the archive, is now stored in the Wade Center book holdings, and may be retrieved by the archival staff upon request.

The archive is divided into 5 series: Play Scripts and Notes, Play-Related Correspondence and Fan Mail, Play-Related Press Cuttings, Heinz Geck Correspondence, and Book Photocopies. The Play Scripts and Notes series (folders 1-16) contains several scripts from the radio play The Man Born to be King (arranged chronologically), as well as production notes and directives. Some notes were handwritten by Sayers herself.

Correspondence and Fan Mail (folders 17-34) includes letters and fan mail relating to The Man Born to be King, generally arranged by correspondent’s last name. Carbon copy replies from Sayers are often included next to the corresponding letters, as are enclosures such as press clippings and other items which are clearly related to certain letters. Miscellaneous notes and unrelated enclosures discovered amongst the correspondence are placed at the beginning of the series. Backs of letters may contain unidentified letters or works by Sayers.

The Press Cuttings series (folders 35-39) contains letters to the editor, book reviews, performance reviews, and topical articles which appear to have been gathered by news clippings services specifically for Dorothy L. Sayers. The clippings remain in the order they were found. More articles and reviews relating to The Man Born to be King can be found in the Wade Center article file. Consult the archivist for assistance.

The Heinz Geck Correspondence (folders 40-41) spans four years (1946-1949) and primarily includes letters between Sayers and Geck. Heinz Geck was a German prisoner of war who requested permission to translate The Man Born to be King into German. Sayers assisted him by answering questions, making suggestions, and providing notes on the play. The letters are arranged chronologically and notes that could not be linked to individual letters were placed at the back of folder 41.

The final series, Book Photocopies, (folder 42) contains copies of the cover and the inscription from the presentation copy of The Man Born to be King which Sayers gave to her husband, Mac. The book is stored in the Wade Center book holdings and may be retrieved upon request.


  • Created: 1940-1953, 2017
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1942-1944


Conditions Governing Access

Copies or publication of materials by Dorothy L. Sayers require permissions from the Sayers Literary Executor.

Biographical or Historical Information

After the success of Sayers’s earlier nativity play for radio, He That Should Come, which was broadcast in 1938, the Director of Religious Broadcasting for the B.B.C., J.W. Welch, wrote to Sayers in 1940 asking if she would consider writing a series of plays on the life of Jesus Christ. She agreed, and The Man Born to be King was written as a series of 12 plays spanning from Christ’s birth to his death. The play cycle was first broadcast as a radio drama in 12 parts on the B.B.C. between December 1941 and October 1942.

Due to the subject matter and the use of “modern” dialogue in the plays, they were met with some opposition from various sectors. In contrast to the critics, however, were scores of individuals from many walks of life who related their appreciation of the plays in hundreds of letters to Sayers and the B.B.C. The play cycle remains one of Sayers’s most significant works. The Man Born to be King was first published in book form by Victor Gollancz in 1943, shortly after its first broadcast. Several new productions of this play cycle have been broadcast over BBC radio in subsequent years.

The material in this archive was acquired at auction from Sotheby’s in London by the Wade Center in 2000. The original Sotheby’s lot(s) included in this archive are: Lot 290 iva-e and Lot 292 ix (fol. 21, p. 66a). Lot 290 ivb included the book in the listing of separated materials.


1.00 box : 42 folders – 2,266 pages, 1 book

1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Man Born to be King archive contains materials relating to the religious play cycle of the same title by Dorothy L. Sayers including: drafts and scripts of the 12 dramas, production notes, correspondence and fan mail, press cuttings, and correspondence between Sayers and Heinz Geck, who translated the play into German.

Source of Acquisition


Related Materials

Researchers interested in this archive may also wish to consult the following resources in the Wade Center holdings:

"About the BBC radio broadcast of The Man Born to Be King." Glasgow Herald; the Weekly Review; Daily Telegraph (April/May 1942) AF-12458

"About the BBC radio broadcast of Man Born to Be King." Daily Telegraph (January/February 1942) AF-12461

"B.B.C. Life of Christ: Broadcast to Proceed." The (London) Times (9 January 1942): 2. AF-5960

Drakakis, John. British Radio Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Fairman, Marion Baker. THE NEO-MEDIEVAL PLAYS OF DOROTHY L. SAYERS. Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 1961. Dissertation

"Following Protest has been lodged with the B.B.C." Lord's Day Observance Society). (n.d.) AF-12627

Frieseke, Angela. DOROTHY L. SAYERS' "THE MAN BORN TO BE KING' SEINE STRUMTUR UND SEINE GESTALTUNG ALS HORSDIELZYKLUS. Ph.D., Westfalischen Wilhelms - Universitat zu Munster (Westf.), 1966. Dissertation

Gielgud, Val. "Years of the Locust." Years of the Locust. (London: Nicholson & Watson). (1947): 10-13, 44-45, 72-73, 78-79, 88-89, 92-93, 110-111, 142-43, 176-81, 196-97. AF-15920

Hampel, Michael Hans Joachim. DOROTHY L. SAYERS: CREATIVE MIND AND THE HOLY TRINITY. M.A., St. Chad's College, University of Durham, 2002. Dissertation


THE MAN BORN TO BE KING : Title pages, Dedicatory : "The Makers," Introduction, and First Play - Second Play. Incomplete. (ca. 1940-1942) 137 pp. AMs. in 116 lvs. (DLS manuscript #128)

THE MAN BORN TO BE KING : Third Play - Fifth Play, with Biblical references. (ca. 1940-1942) 146 pp. in 107 lvs.: 145 pp. AMs., 1 p. TMs. (DLS manuscript #129)

THE MAN BORN TO BE KING : Sixth Play - Eighth Play. Incomplete. Incomplete version of "Blood Sacrifice" (MS-250) found on versos of TMs. pages. (ca. 1940-1942) 172 pp. in 99 lvs. with revisions: 160 pp. AMs., 12 pp. TMs. (DLS manuscript #130)

THE MAN BORN TO BE KING : Ninth Play - Twelth Play. Fragment of "Holmes' College Career" (MS-114) and a title page from "Studies in Sherlock Holmes" (MS-212) found on versos of some cc. TMs. pages . (ca. 1940-1942) 201 pp. in 118 lvs. with revisions. (DLS manuscript #131)

"Production Notes on The Man Born to be King ." BBC Features and Drama (1967 or 1975): 14PP. AF-6022

Reviews of the book and the performance of The Man Born to be King, see the Wade Center article file, Dorothy L. Sayers review section.

Sayers, Dorothy L. Related correspondence and miscellanea in the Dorothy L. Sayers Papers folders: 314, 321-325, and 520a &b.

Wood, Bethany. Incorporation of the Incarnation: Dorothy L. Sayers’s The Man Born to be King and the Wartime BBC. Master’s Thesis. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008. Dissertation collection.

See also the Religious Illustrated Cards and Booklets Archive, folder 1.

Other materials in the Wade Center holdings may relate to the topics in this archive. See the archivist for further research assistance.

Separated Materials

(ask the archivist for retrieval):

Sayers, Dorothy L. THE MAN BORN TO BE KING. Forward by J.W. Welch. London: Victor Gollancz, 1943. 1st edition, inscribed by DLS to her husband, Mac.

Other Descriptive Information

There is an acquisition file for this collection. Materials in this archive are also described in the Sayers Manuscripts collection: DLS / MS-51, 99, 114, 250, 275-277, and the Wade Center book holdings. There is a research copy of this collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Laura Schmidt

The Man Born to be King Archive
Laura Schmidt
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Marion E. Wade Center Repository

Wheaton College
501 College Ave.
Wheaton IL 60187-5593 US