Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Click to enlargeJon Kennedy's
'C. S. Lewis Overflow
Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, due in stores in March 2008, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. This series of articles is thinking inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series.

Notes from the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2
Edited by Walter Hooper, Harper SanFrancisco, 2004, Part 6

This is the final installment of notes on Volume 2 of the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. Volume 3 is not yet available but will be reviewed once it is. Click here for the introductory number of these notes, describing the perennial "cast of characters," etc.


To Rhona Bodle, January 3, p 826. "It is the act of will (perhaps strongest where there is some disinclination to contend against) that God values, rather than the state of our emotions — the act being what we give Him, the emotions what He gives us (usually, I think, indirectly thro' the state of our body, health etc., tho' there are direct kindlings from Him too. There are presents, to be given thanks for but never counted on)."

Footnote 11, p 830: "Lewis was pictured on the cover of Time magazine (8 September 1947), which contained an article entitled 'Oxford's C.S. Lewis, His heresy: Christianity.'"

C. S. Lewis
 portriat by Val Craig MurrayTo Roy W. Harrington (a correspondent from Reedsbury, Wisconsin), January 19, p 831: "one of my favorite 'peeves,' I can't abide the idea that a man's books shd. be 'set in their biographical context' and if I had some rare information about the private life of Shakespeare or Dante I'd throw it in the fire, tell no one, and re-read their works. All this biographical interest is only a device for indulging in gossip as an excuse for not reading what the chaps say, wh. is their only real claim on our attention. (I here resist a wild impulse to invent some really exciting background — that I am an illegitimate son of Edward VII, married to a chimpanzee, was rescued from the practice of magic by a Russian monk and always eat eggs with the shells on)."

Much of the correspondence of 1948 and 1949 was letters of appreciation for "care packages" friends in the United States sent him, and which he shared with his household and his Oxford friends. The contents ranged from canned hams and Spam and other canned foods to note paper and stationery, all of which were in very short supply in England in the early days of its government's experiments with socialism (Mr. Attlee's Iron Curtain, as Lewis called it in one of his letters to an American correspondent).

To Don Giovanni Calabria, translated from the Latin original, March 27, p 844: "In the poor man who knocks at my door, in my ailing mother, in the young man who seeks my advice, the Lord Himself is present: therefore let us wash His feet."

To Margaret Fuller, April 8, p 849: "Yes, the Time article was ghastly: but I suppose no one of sense believes such things. I wouldn't hang a dog on a journalist's evidence myself. Who said I disliked women? I never liked or disliked any generalisations."

To Vera Mathews, one of the Americans who frequently sent "care packages," April 23, p 851: "what you folk call 'shortening'...." I had always heard it as "shortning" (lard, fat, vegetable oil like Crisco) but his spelling is the dictionary one.

To Edward A. Allen, another provider of "care" packages, May 3, p 852: "I believe that if it was not for you people, this country would starve through sheer incompetence."

To Warfield M. Firor, possibly the most generous of his American benefactors, "we are having the best May this country has had this century, and our rulers — very fortunately for us — have not yet been able to discover any satisfactory method of rationing the sunlight."

To Edward A. Allen, June 19, p 857: "as Lincoln said on the famous occasion, 'Well, I'm moved.'" The reference is to a story from Abraham Lincoln's youth when he moved all his earthly possessions on his back and in his saddlebags on a borrowed horse from New Salem to Springfield, Illinois (

Editor's note on Lewis's opposition to the ordination of women includes this passage from a letter he sent to the Anglican magazine Time and Tide, p 863:

Suppose the reformer stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins by saying that God is like a good woman. Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to "Our Mother which are in Heaven" as to "Our Father." Suppose he suggests that the incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, and the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son. Suppose, finally, that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this, as it seems to me, is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as a priest does. Now it is surely the case that if all these supposals were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion.

To Don Giovanni Calabria, translated from the Latin original, August 10, p 868: "Your Leftists — your Sinisters, to put it like that — declare their atheism. Even boast of it. Wolves they are and wolves they are seen to be."

To Edward A. Allen, August 10, p 869: "may I please ask you not to continue your generosity to me whilst you yourself have had a 50% cut in income? (And I am very sorry indeed to hear of it, and hope it will be for a short time only). It would make me very uncomfortable to think that you were denying yourself in order to feed me with luxuries; especially in view of your long continued and quite exceptional kindness in the past."

Editor's note, p 870: "Owen Barfield was greatly disappointed that, following his conversion, Lewis refused to argue about those things they had discussed in the days of their 'Great War' — one of which was Anthroposophy. In a talk given in 1985 Barfield said, 'What I wanted to do was to see what relation there was between his "stance" after his conversion and the kind of opinions he held before it, and also to see how far we were still in accord.' The following letter is one of the few instances where Lewis was willing to continue their argument."

Note from Ruth Pitter appended (twenty years lated) to her letter to Lewis of September 29, p 882: "his whole life was oriented and motivated by an almost uniquely-persisting child's sense of glory and of nightmare."

To Edward A. Allen, October 8, p 884: "Yes, I have always heard of the beauty of your [American] 'fall,' and the other day I was much impressed by its loveliness on the screen: having paid one of my rare visits to the cinema to see 'Bambi.'" Did he really dislike Disney?

To Warfield M. Firor, November 6, p 889: "We are still a bit bewildered by your Presidential election: having for months been assured that the only feature of interest in a very dull contest was what Dewey's majority would be. I gather that to the Americans themselves, the result was as unexpected as to the outside world."

To Chad Walsh (the American author of the first biographical book on Lewis) November 13, p 890, thanking Walsh for a package of gifts, "We shall now look forward with more equanimity to our eighth austerity Christmas."

To Edward Allen, November 20, p 892: "Over here, it is very difficult to make anything of the Presidential election. The Socialist press hails it as a triumph for socialism, and proclaims that the U.S.A.. has come over to'modern democracy,' i.e. state ownership, beaurocracy, and all the joys of present day English life. The Conservatives say that America has once more recorded an emphatic vote for true freedom etc, etc. So what have you?"

To Ruth Pitter, December 6, p 893: "I sometimes wonder whether we know anything about poetry."

Same: "It the horrible commercial racket and general nuisance of 'Xmas' allows it, I hope you will have a happy 'Christmas.'"

Same, footnote 95 (quoting Pitter): "And of course there are meanings in our own work that we have never seen, and when others point them out we are quite astounded."

To Ruth Pitter, December 11, p 895: "A flash of love-liking, a bird's song, a momentary depression, can hardly appear to age with that apparent isolation and self-sufficiency wh. they have in youth."

In reply, Pitter is quoted in footnote 99: "Being in love, to be sure, does get one airborne, but only in hops of varying length, and is not to be relied on for much more than half a century: and even for this, the chores make everybody so careworn and unresponsive after youth is past. Never mind, poetry has perhaps always been done against odds."


To Don Giovanni Calabria, translated from the Latin original, January 14, p 905: "I am now in my fiftieth year. I feel my zeal for writing, and whatever talent I originally possessed, to be decreasing; nor (I believe) do I please my readers as I used to. I labour under many difficulties."

Same, p 906: "ever bear in mind that profoundly true maxim: 'if you wish to bring others to peace, keep thyself in peace.'"

Same, "Perhaps it will be the most wholesome thing for my soul that I lose both fame and skill lest I were to fall into that evil disease, vainglory."

To Edward A. Allen, January 24, uses "this 'brave new world'" as an adjective for their times (using Huxley's phrase).

To Edward A. Allen, January 28, p 911, referring to news that the United States is going into an economic slump: "I hope however that this is mere 'dope' to keep us contented with conditions inside the 'Iron Curtain.'"

To Sister Penelope CSMV, January 31, p 911, responding for a request for suggestions for a "non de guerre," "I don't know. G. H. Pevensey, S. Claydon, are names that come into my head." Pevensey was the name Lewis used for the children in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Same, "'mustn't grumble'..."

To Edward T. Dell, February 2, p 914: "I cannot claim to have a clearly worked out position about the Bible or the nature of Inspiration. That is a subject on which I wd. gladly learn: I have nothing to teach."

To Thona Bodle, February 10, p 915: "Pascal's 'if you had not found me you would not seek me.'" He rings changes on this in the Narnian Chronicle, The Silver Chair, where Aslan tells Jill Pole: "You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you."

The same, p 916, he closes with "You are always in my prayers."

To Edward A. Allen, February 16, a thank-you for another "care" package, p 917: "The normal family in this country — the family in fact which has no Edward Allen to come to its rescue — eats fish as its main meal at least five times a week."

To Warfield M. Firor, March 3, p 920, wonders how France and Denmark can be better off than England in their current post-war economic reconstruction efforts. A footnote on this says that "Lewis did not read the newspapers, and this is one of those incidences where Warnie was not only typing a letter but expressing some of his own thoughts."

To Frank D. Lombar, March 3, p 921, thanks the relief manager for the National Association of Evangelicals (USA) for a "care" package they sent him.

To Warfield M. Firor, March 4, p 922: philoprogenitiveness = love of offspring; fondness for children

To Vera Mathews, March 7, p 923: "I take this opportunity to tell you how ashamed most of us are at the persistent refusal of our government to make any public acknowledgement of the debt we owe to America; as some one pointed out in a letter to the papers yesterday, every third meal we eat is 'on America': but this must be officially soft-pedalled in support of the theory that we owe our national 'recovery' to the Socialist government entirely."

Editor's note, p 923, referring to a diary entry by Roger Lancelyn Green on March 10 saying that after dinner with Lewis, Lewis had read him two chapters of a story for children: "Was this the beginning of Narnia, or a new start to another story? When Chad Walsh visited Lewis in the summer of 1948 he said Lewis talked 'vaguely of completing a children's book which he had begun 'in the tradition of E. Nesbit.'"

To Edward A. Allen, March 24, p 927: "Not that you are going to escape the adjectives, for as I said the other day, adjectives are all I have to offer you: what else can I send you? The good book tells us that 'it is more blessed to give than to receive'; but what the good book does not mention is that it is much harder to receive than to give!"

Same, "We have just had a pleasant surprise over here. The Government has published one of its innumerable 'White Books' on recovery etc. And, tucked away in small print in it, is an acknowledgement that we owe a 'large measure of our present prosperity (!)' to the generosity of the U.S.A. So far as I know this is the first time that our labour government has acknowledged that there is any American generosity."

To Edward T. Dell, March 28, p 929: "I hope some day to write an autobiography wh. will tell what I know (+ the experience) of my own conversion. But the real event, as known to God, will differ from this as much as the total event 'decaying tooth' differs from the pain."

To Owen Barfield, April 4, p 930: "Did I ever mention that Weston, Devine, Frost, Wither, Curry and Miss Hardcastle were all portraits of you? (If I didn't, that may have been because it isn't true. By gum, tho', wait till I write another story.)

To Edward A. Allen, April 5, p 931: "I have not at the moment a snap available to send you in return, but when I do, you will see that I am a global rather than a world figure!"

To Vera Mathews, April 6, p 932: "Try living in 'free' England for a bit, and you would realize what government interference can mean! And not only interference, but interference in a 'school marm' form which is maddening. For instance, one of our rulers the other day defended rationing, not on the only possible grounds, i.e. the economic, but on the ground that in the old days housewives bought the food which they knew their husbands and families liked: whereas now, thanks to the rationing, they are forced to provide their households with 'a properly balanced diet.' There are times when one feels that a minister or two dangling from a lamp post in Whitehall would be an attraction that would draw a hard worked man up to London!"

To Vera Mathews, April 9, p 933: "The difficulty about filming That Hideous Strength is the rarity of tame angels and bears in this country!"

To J. S. Goodridge, April 26, a letter about the recipient's son, a student of Lewis. The letter has excellent insights into the teaching task.

To Owen Barfield, May ?, p 938: "Ambivalent they call it now-a-days: a useful adjective for it applies to pretty well everything." Of course, knowing Lewis, he was no doubt adding the rest of the thought internally: "If it applies to everything, it applies to nothing."

To Edward A. Allen, May 9, "I saw in the press recently that one of our rulers had been making a speech in which she said that the British housewife now enjoyed a healthier and better balanced diet than in 1939. The speaker left the hall not only alive, but uninjured, which I regard as the finest testimony to British chivalry I've ever heard of."

To Edward T. Dell, May 5, p 940: "the first step is repentance, and after that, attempted obedience.

"I take it that what St. Paul means by Sanctification is the process of 'Christ being formed in us,' the process of becoming like Christ, so that the title of the medieval book (wh. I hope you read) The Imitation of Christ is a formula for the Christian life. And no doubt sanctification wd. be the correction both of our congenital or original sinfulness and of our actual particular sins. I haven't seen that the distinction is v. important, since the latter are the expression of the former.

"As you know, theologians have disagreed about the extent of our depravity. Need we know that as long as we know that it needs to be set right and are ready to submit to the cure? (The Doctor will know whether my broken leg is a simple or a compound fraction: all I've got to do is to turn up at the surgery and set my teeth.)"

Footnote 62 on the same page says that Dell had asked, "I'd also appreciate your thoughts on these questions: 1. What do you think St. Paul means by sanctification? 2. Is sanctification primarily related to sins men commit or the depravity of man? 3. How extensive is depravity in man? You indicate a stained spirit — yet there is the remaining tension or 'frontier' between nature and spirit in man. 4. What is the 'witness of the spirit' of Rom. 8:16?"

Back to the same letter from Lewis, p 941: "I'm not qualified to give the guidance you need. These things I need to learn, not teach."

To Rhona Bodle, May 28, p 941, referring to a Jewish friend of Bodle's questions: "she can then ask [her rabbi] how it is that there are still real Christians and no real Jews."

Same: "I quite agree with you about not using one's job for propaganda but once the pupil raises the qustion I think one has a free hand."

A footnote on p 942 says that because Barfield's wife was worried about children getting locked into wardrobes after reading his new book, Lewis added warnings to the text to the effect that no child would ever latch a wardrobe behind him or her.

To Arthur Greeves (the letters have been so sparse for some time that the last name must be added), June 21, p 945: "I am assuming that you wd. like to be with me as much as I wd. like to be with you! — I hope this is not vanity."

To Owen Barfield, in response to news that he is to be baptised: "I am humbled (I think that is the right word) by your great news.I wish I cd. be with you. Welcome and welcome and welcome." But he adds: "No, of course it won't mean the end of the Great War." Barfield was baptized June 25.

To Rhona Bodle, June 24, responding to a letter saying her own doubts had all disolved, p 947: "this has been a wonderful week, for I have just heard that my oldest friend is to be baptised on Saturday." Barfield had been the first close friend Lewis made at Oxford, but his bond with Arthur predated that by some years.

Same: "Poetry I take to be the continual effort to bring language back to the actual."

To Dom Bede Griffiths, June 27, p 948: "I sometimes have a feeling that the big mass-conversions of the Dark Ages, often carried out by force, were all a false dawn, and the whole work has to be done over again. As for the virtuous heathen, we are told that Our Lord is the saviour 'of all men' though 'specially of those that believe.' As there is certainly vicarious suffering is there not also vicarious faith?"

To Roger Lancelyn Green, June 28, p 950 (the letter is a numbered, page-by-page collection of notes on Green's new book): succubus = an evil demon in the form of an alluring woman

Editor's note on p 952 describes the origin of Lewis's ideas for Prince Caspian, his second Narnian Chronicle.

To Arthur Greeves, July 2, p 952, he confesses that Warnie is an alcoholic and affirms that even this can be used by God for good.

To Dom Bede Griffiths, July 5, he uses the word "world-picture" as a popular conception of philosophy or worldview and mentions Neo-Platonic Demonology which influenced him in his youth. "I don't think an acceptance of this was necessarily of religious significance any more than the modern background implies any real scientific spirit in most of those who hold it."

To J.A. Chapman, July 6, p 956: "my talents as a putter up of parcels are nil."

To Arthur, July 6, p 956: "The world is so made that the sins of one inflict suffering on another."

Same, p 957, refers to Warnie as "a dipsomaniac."

Same, "I've just finished re-reading War and Peace. The great beauty of long books is that however often you read them there are still large tracts you have forgotten."

To Vera Mathews, July 11, p 957: "My brother as a child took the words to be 'Hallow would be thy name,' and always wondered why, if the Almighty wanted to be called Hallow, He didn't call Himself Hallow."

To Arthur, July 27, p 959. he laments that their plans to meet on vacation may fall through because Warnie "shows some signs of getting ill with a nervous complaint he has had before."

To Arthur, July 27, p 960 (is he writing a second letter on the same day because he has, in the meanwhile, received one from Arthur?): "I think it wd. work with an ordinary temptation, but not with what is really a recurrent obsession — i.e. almost as much a medical as a moral problem. If we cd. get a 12 months' clean bill of health from him I shd. feel much freer." He is referring to Warnie's alcoholism.

To Vera Mathews, August 5, p 963, "I see from this morning's paper...I'm no great newpaper [sic] reader...." The sic is in the published version. Is this another example of Warnie's redaction?

To Mary Van Deusen, August 9, p 965: "I don't feel I could write a book on Prayer: I think it would be rather 'cheek' of my part."

Editor's note, p 966: "On 13 August 1949 Lewis signed a contract with Geoffrey Bles Ltd for the first Chronicle of Narnia. The book was to be called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

To Sister Penelope, August 16, p 988, referring to her manuscript, The Morning Gift: "The writing is generally satisfactory but I'd go through it for cliches."

To Mrs. Belle Allen, August 16, p 969, "I grew up close to [the ocean] but there's no chance of getting there now."

To Owen Barfield, August 29, p 975: "If even youth's stuff will not endure, how much less middle age?"

To "Mrs. Lockley," (a pseudonym created by Warnie for a woman who had written Jack about her husband's philandering) September 2, p 975: "I don't feel that I — an elderly bachelor and the most amateurish of theologians — can be useful."

To R. W. Chapman, September 6, p 976, "cap 1" = ? No reference found that seems to fit. Perhaps "chapter" or "lecture" in the series of lectures he was discussing with Chapman.

To Don Giovanni Calabria, translated from the Latin original, p 979: Accidia = "the breakdown of the soul, the disorientation of the mind, negligence of ascetic practice, hatred of monasticism, love of worldliness, irreverence toward God, forgetfulness of prayer," St. John Climacus.

Same: "Farewell, my Father; and of your fatherly charity cease not to make mention of me before our common Lord (true God and the only true Man — for all we others, since the Fall of Adam, are but half men)."

To "Mrs. Lockley," September 12?, p 980: "the trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as it nothing had yet been done . . . " (Elipses in original.)

To Vera Mathews, September 21, p 981: "If Man is defined as a tool-using animal, I am not human."

To Ruth Pitter (who made most of her income by creating painted trays sold in London stores, and one of which she sent to Lewis), September 22, p 982: "I detect already a tendency to call it The Good Tray and prevent its ever being used."

Same, "As a mere matter of interest — nothing to do with the poem — I think in my experience Despair belongs typically to childhood. I doubt if my enfeebled adult frame could bear the blacknesses which were quite common when one's age was still in single figures."

To Edward A. Allen, September 29, p 984, two misspellings: Stationary should be Stationery; burgular should be burglar. (Or are these the "British" spellings?)

To Warfield M. Firor, October 15, p 986: "the subject that is uppermost in my mind and has been for some days: Old Age."

Same: "Do you remember a time when every pleasure (say, the smell of a hayfield on a country walk, or a swim) was big with futurity and bore on its face the notice 'Lots more where I come from'? Well there's a change from that to a period when they all begin to say 'Make the most of me: my predecessors outnumber my successors.'"

Same: "I shall be compulsorily 'retired' in 1959, and the infernal nuisance (to put it no higher) of patching up some new sort of life somewhere." This is the only reference I've encountered of Lewis's facing compulsory retirement at age 59. Could this have been a factor in his still-future decision to leave Oxford for Cambridge?

Same, p 987: Trappists = members of a contemplative Roman Catholic religious order

Same, "We still hope for another visit from you. I shd. have many things to thank you for if you had not forbidden me."

To Rhona Bodle, October 24, p 988: "Pish! There's nothing to be proud about. The whole situation is that of being lent a dignity that doesn't belong to me — the child being allowed to give the penny to the bus conductor, the dog being given the newspaper to carry home." A footnote says that Miss Bodle had told Lewis she feared developing spiritual pride when she was asked to pray for others.

To Edward T. Dell, October 25, p 989: "Caveat — there's no question of 'seeking a positive gospel' for modern man: only of seeking how to make him understand the existing and immutable gospel."

To Rhona Bodle, October 26, p 989: "I am attracted by Pascal's saying that 'God has instituted prayer to lend to his creatures the dignity of Causality."

To J.R.R. Tolkien, October 27, p 990, is a personal review of The Lord of the Rings. "It will rank, along with the Aeneid as one of what I call my 'immediately sub-religious' books."

Same, ends (inexplicably) with "I miss you very much." Lewis quotes Horace, in Latin: "Indeed, when much glistens in a poem, I shall not be offended by a few blemishes."

To Vera Mathews, October 29, p 992: "English folk are in the habit of sending to Ireland for parcels of groceries...."

To Vera Mathews, October 31, p 992: a major statement on "Xmas."

To Rhona Bodle, November 9, p 994: "Caveat — don't count on any remarkable sensations, either at this or your first (or fifty first) Communion. God gives these or not as He pleases. Their presence does not prove that things are especially well, nor their absence that things are wrong. The intention, the obedience, is what matters."

To Dorothy L. Sayers, November 9, p 995: "No — I know (and care) little about the Existentialist nonsense. I wouldn't dream of writing a preface. I think it is mainly philosophical melodrama. (Do what you like, provided you make a fuss about it).

To Don Giovanni Calabria, translated from the Latin original, p 999: "I send greetings fraternal and filial respectively, especially those greetings which belong to this blessed time wherein we again seek Bethlehem and the Holy Child. Let us pray to Him that, weakened as we are by age and the long habit of sinning. He may make new persons of us and lead us into His Kingdom — that Kingdom into which there is no entry except in the likeness of a child. I rejoice that the Lord, who took upon Him all our other miseries, willed not to take old age: in the One True Man, lives youth everlasting."

To Warfield M. Firor, December 5, p 1005-6: "I grudged the passing years in childhood because they were bringing me nearer to School and I thought that to be a schoolboy wd. be much less pleasant than to be a child. And as it turned out, I was quite right. I did not grudge them as a young man because I thought having a job and acquiring a reputation wd. be nicer than wishing and hoping for them. I was right again. But don't let me pursue a useless and querulous line of thought."

Same, a line of one of his own poems: "And all our former pain | And all our surgeon's care | Are lost, and all the unbearable (in vain | Borne once) is still to bear."

Same, "That is why I think that Resurrection (what ever it exactly means) is so much profounder an idea than mere immortality. I am sure we don't just 'go on.' We really die and are really built up again."

Same, p 1007: "if a voice said to me (and one I couldn't disbelieve) 'you shall never see the face of God, never help to save a neighbour's soul, never be free from sin, but you shall live in perfect health till the age of 100, v. rich, and die the most famous man in the world, and pass into a twilight consciousness of a vaguely pleasant sort forever' — how much wd. it worry me?"

To Pauline Baynes, December 17, p 1009. Baynes became the illustrator of the Chronicles of Narnia. A footnote says she had earlier "embellished" Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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