The Vicar’s Daughter & The Mustard Club

Dorothy Sayers’ Recipe Book for The Mustard Club, c. 1926.

Dorothy L. Sayers was a writer extraordinaire – a friend to C.S. Lewis – but who reaped success in many endeavors well ahead of Lewis and the other Oxford Inklings. Before Sayers took up a highly successful career in mystery crime novel writing, playwriting, film scripting and scholarly treatises, she started in poetry, publishing, and copywriting. Following her employment with Blackwell Publishing and her first two publications of poetry volumes – Op. I and Catholic Tales and Christian Songs – Sayers found success in advertising.

It Pays To Advertise

While working for London advertising agency S. H. Benson from 1922 to 1929, she helped to create some of the most memorable and long-running advertising campaigns of the time, including the famous Toucan from the Guinness “Zoo” series, as well as the Mustard Club for Colman’s Mustard. During her time at Benson’s, Sayers also published four of her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels, the first of which was Whose Body? in 1923. She later based the plot of her Lord Wimsey book Murder Must Advertise on her experience at Benson’s advertising agency.

A member’s badge for the Mustard Club, c. 1926.

The Mustard Club

Sayers’ writing heavily influenced the favorable outcome of this 1920s advertising campaign for Colman’s Mustard. Arguably one of the first successful uses of guerilla marketing, the campaign began with posters asking, quite simply, “Has Father joined the Mustard Club?” The Club quickly captured attention throughout Britain and centered on characters such as humorously named Miss Di Gester, Lord Bacon, and Signior Spaghetti. According to these tongue-in-cheek advertisements, Mustard Club meetings occurred “wherever a few people are mustered together at dinner.” The Mustard Club included rules, as well as pictured member’s badge and a recipe book.

In the PHC exhibit on CS Lewis & Friends, there is a kiosk computer with a 1926 silent spoof newsreel movie about the Mustard Club. Confusing the real with the fake, the newsreel was intended to run in movie theaters prior to the feature film. The newsreel was used with permission of the University of East Anglia Film Archives. The Mustard Club membership badge and recipe book were generously lent by the Hal Poe Collection. Dr. Poe is a professor at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

Today’s blog was written by PHC Executive Director, Ron Vinson.

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