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 2

1936 Continued

To Dom Bede Griffiths, September 14, p 204: "I daresay even Hindooism is a step upwards (at least if it is better to worship false gods than not even to care whether gods exist or not) and — who knows — by some long way round he may be led home in the end. The more one sees the confusion in which young men's minds grow up now-a-days, the more cause we have to be thankful on our own part."

C. S. Lewis portriat by Val Craig MurraySame, footnote, usquebaugh = Irish Gaelic for "whiskey"

1937

To Arthur, March 28, p 213, footnote mentions the handy man at the Kilns, Paxford: "This inwardly optimistic, outwardly pessimistic man became the model for Puddleglum in The Silver Chair (1953).

To Daniel Neylan, May 5, p 214, "the hot-gospeller in me...."

To Arthur, June 10, p 215, "Your suspicion that I was fuming with wrath during the lunch is a sad commentary on my previous character, and coming from one who knows me so well, it must (I fear) be correct. This time, however, tho' of course I would have preferred to see you alone, I quite liked it."

To Owen Barfield, September 2, p 218, mentions that his first science fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet, is complete.

1938

To Frank Percy Wilson, one of the editors of the Oxford History of English Literature, January 25, p 222: "Do you think there's any chance of the world ending before the O HELL appears?" O HELL was the nickname for the Oxford History of English Literature among those working on it. Lewis was responsible for the volume entitled English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama, which, despite his finding it difficult to deliver, was one of the most successful in the set.

To Janet Spens, April 18, p 223-24: "I think it is not uncommon to find atheists perpetually angry with God for not being there. Perhaps it is a laudable trait!"

To Dom Bede Griffiths, April 29, p 226, "About our differences: I feel that whenever two members of different communions succeed in sharing the spiritual life so far as they can now share it, and are thus forced to regard each other as Christians, they are really helping on re-union by producing the conditions without which official reunion would be quite barren. I feel sure that this is the layman's chief contribution to the task, and some of us here are being enabled to perform it."

To Charles Williams, June 7, p 228: "Damn you, you go on getting steadily better ever since you first crossed my path: how do you do it? I begin to suspect that we are living in the 'age of Williams' and our friendship with you will be our only passport to fame. I've a good mind to punch your head when we next meet."

To Owen Barfield, June 10, p 229: "They keep sheep in Magdalen grove now...and one of my colleagues has been heard to ask why sheep have their wool cut off. (Fact)"

To Owen Barfield, September 12, p 232: "Be thankful you have nothing to reproach youself about in your relations with your father (I had lots) and that it is not some disease."

To Dom Bede Griffiths, October 5, p 233: "As to whether reason can rigorously prove God and immortality, what is one to say? I do not remember to have seen a proof that appeared to me absolutely compelling, but that may be only my reason or the writer's reason: At any rate it is obvious that pure reason, in human beings, is very often in fact not convinced. I shd. suppose that the truths imbedded in Paganism owe at least as much to tradition and divine guidance as to ratiocination." ratiocination = logical thinking

Same, footnote quotes St. Augustine: "War's aim is nothing but glorious peace. For what is victory but a suppression of resistants, which being done, peace follows? And so peace is war's purpose, the scope of all military discipline, and the limit at which all just contentions aim. All men seek peace by war, but none seek war by peace."

Same, p 234: "I take the dicta in the Sermon on the Mount to be prohibitions of revenge, not as a counsel of perfection but as absolutely binding on all Christians. But I do not think punishment inflicted by lawful authorities for the right motives is revenge: still less, violent action in the defence of innocent people. I cannot believe the knight errant idea to be sinful. Even in the very act of fighting I think charity (to the enemy) is not more endangered than in many necessary acts which we all admit to be lawful."

To Roger Lancelyn Green, December 28, p 236: "letters to authors in praise of their works really require apology for they always give pleasure."

1939

To A.K. Hamilton Jenkin (friend from undergraduate days), January 11, p 241, describing a planned hike with others: "You'll probably be the only atheist present, by the way, but we will respect your susceptibilities."

Same, p 242, he mentions Snow White...presumably the Disney movie of that name, which was released in 1937: "the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated—or even brought up in a decent society?"

Footnote on p 243 refers to a translation of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans as being "Englished by Sir Thomas North 1579." Not sure if that is part of the title of the book, but it seems to be.

To A.K.H. Jenkin, January 22, p 245, describes a poem of his beloved friend Charles Williams as "about a perfect bitch of a female researcher called Damaris who is writing a doctorate thesis on the relation between 'ideas' in Plato and Angels in Abelard...." Suggests a connection with Lewis's That Hideous Strength which also has a "perfect bitch" as a central character and has much to do with angels.

Same, on why "good" characters in fiction are harder to create than flawed ones, p 246: "ideally good characters have to be made 'from outside' and accodingly look like puppets."

Letter for publication to the editor of Theology, February 27, p 250: "Granted that capital punishment is compatible with Christianity, a Christian may lawfully be a hangman; but he must not hang a man whom he knows to be innocent. But will anyone interpret this to mean that the hangman has the same duty of investigating the prisoner's guilt which the judge has? If so, no executive can work and no Christian state is possible." (Published in the magazine in May that year under the title, "The Conditions for a Just War.")

Same, p 251: "the ultimate decision as to what the situation at a given moment is in the highly complex field of international affairs is one which must be delegated."

Same: "if war is ever lawful, then peace is sometimes sinful."

Same, p 252: Christendom has made two efforts to deal with the evil of war—chivalry and pacifism. Neither succeeded. But I doubt whether chivalry has such an unbroken record of failure as pacifism."

To Alec Vidler (editor of Theology), March 11, p 253: "The hint in Brother Every's paper that good taste is essential to salvation seemed to me precisely one of our greatest enemies in this age of intellectual converts—there is a danger of making Christianity itself appear as one more highbrow fad."

To Joan Bennett (a reader-critic of The Pilgrim's Regress), March 23, p 253: "There will be a faint melancholy because you'll all know that you have missed the bus, but that will provide a subject for poetry," as part of a description of Lewis's view of "limbo."

To Dom Bede Griffiths, May 8, p 258: "Military service, to be plain, includes the threat of every temporal evil: pain and death wh. is what we fear from sickness: isolation from those we love wh. is what we fear from exile: toil under arbitrary masters, injustice and humiliation, wh. is what we fear from slavery: hunger, thirst, cold and exposure wh. is what we fear from poverty. I'm not a pacifist. If it's got to be, it's got to be. But the flesh is weak and selfish and I think death wd. be much better than to live thorugh another war."

Same: "every generation starts from scratch."

To Sister Penelope, CSMV, August 9, p. 262: "What set me about writing the book [Out of the Silent Planet] was the discovery that a pupil of mine took all that dream of interplanetary colonisation quite seriously, and the realisation that thousands of people, in one form or another depend on some hope of perpetuating and improving the human species for the whole meaning of the universe—that a 'scientific' hope of defeating death is a real rival to Christianity."

Same: "of about 60 reviews, only two showed any knowledge that my idea of a fall of the Bent One was anything but a private invention of my own. ...any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people's minds under cover of romance without their knowing it."

Same: "it was through almost believing in the gods that I came to believe in God." Cf. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man on pagan mythology.

A footnote on p 263 quotes Sister Penelope's book God Persists: "in the humanity of Jesus God sat again for his portrait, and this time it was a perfect likeness."

Pp 263-64: "Though I'm forty years old as a man I'm only about twelve as a Christian, so it would be a maternal act if you found time sometimes to mention me in your prayers."

A footnote on p 265 says that Chapter 1 of Sister Penelope's Leaves from the Trees "almost certainly served as the inspiration for Lewis's similar treatment of the subject in The Problem of Pain," about the relationship between human beings and animals and between human beings and God.

In a letter to Barfield, August ?, p. 266, Lewis speaks of the "perfect man." i.e., a saint.

Same, p 268: "Ordinary men have not been so much in love with life as is usually supposed: small as their share of it is they have found it too much to bear without reducing a large portion of it as nearly to non-life as they can: we love drugs, sleep, irresponsibility, amusement, are more than half in love with easeful death." "Easeful death" is from John Keats.

A footnote on p 270 reports: "In 1936 Warnie had acquired a twenty-foot motor boat named the Bosphorus, which he named after a similar boat in the Boxen stories." Birthed on the river in Oxford, it was Warnie's escape from the Kilns when he needed one.

A footnote on p 271 quotes from a London Times review of a talk Jack had given in Stratford-Upon-Avon: "A person who wished to parody the lecture might, Mr. Lewis said, give it its true title, 'How the Renaissance didn't happen and why Shakespeare was not affected by it.' ...Renascentia had originally meant the revival of classical studies; it had then been extended to cover contemporary developments in music, painting, and vernacular literature, with a tacit assumption that these were due to the Renascentia; and finally, to cover Copernican astronomy, the discovery of America, and even the Reformation. The Renaissance could be defined as 'an imaginary entity responsible for everything we happen to like in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.'"

P 273: geboren = German, "born"

To Arthur, September 15, p 274, referring to the start of World War II: "I have no doubt that all this suffering will be for our ultimate good if we use it rightly...but I can't help wishing one could hibernate till it's all over!"

Jack sent Warnie many long letters during the war, to help keep his morale up. To Warnie, September 18, p 277: "Of course one must not forget that the outbreak of war is presumably producing similar transformations all over Germany too. Everyone seems much better here since it began: and I do so agree with you about the relief of no longer hanging on the wireless and the infernal speeches."

Footnote on p 278 quotes a prayer by Thomas Cranmer that "encapsulated Lewis's beliefs about war between nations."

To Warnie, November 5, p 283: "the most distressing text in the Bible ('narrow is the way and few they be that find it') and whether one really could believe in a universe where the majority were damned and also in the goodness of God."

A footnote on the same page quotes an explanation by Henry Latham about why (in Lewis's words) "Our Lord's replies are never straight answers and never gratify curiosity, and...its purpose was certainly not statistical."

Same, p 284: "Doesn't he know that the real 'social benefits' will never appear by such a test, because they are going on by twos or threes in bed-sitting rooms and public houses among people who have something better to do than join the big official societies?" The "he" here is David M. Paton, a labor organizer and author of a book Lewis had been reading.

Same, in closing: "I was interested in your account of the staterooms for a two hour daylight passage—and can think of only one purpose for which they'd be useful. But who, however libidinous or however rich, would choose a cross-channel boat for that?" But of course he was writing before the discovery of the water bed.

To Sister Penelope, November 8, p 285: "I'm still not what you'd call high [church]. To me the real distinction is not between high and low but between religion with a real supernaturalism and salvationism on the one hand and all watered-down and modernist versions on the other. I think St. Paul has really told us what to do about the divisions with the Ch. of England: i.e. I don't myself care twopence what I eat on Friday but when I am at table with High Anglicans I abstrain in order not 'to offend my weak brother.'"

To Warnie, November 11, p 286, Westward Ho! may be an allusion to a well-known rail line between London's Paddington Station and Minehead.

Same, kedgeree = a popular breakfast dish in Victorian times, combining fish, eggs, and other ingredients

Same, p 288, refers to a meeting of the Inklings in which Warnie was missed: "the subject matter of the three readings formed almost a logical sequence, and produced a really first rate evening's talk of the usual wide-ranging kind—'from grave to gay, from lively to severe.' I wished very much we could have had you with us."

Same: "I was awake for some time coughing in the night and woke with a baddish cold, so have not gone to Church this morning."

A footnote on the same page is the first reference in his correspondence to The Problem of Pain, referring to it as Lewis's first theological book.

Another footnote mentions Ford Lewis Battles, a pupil of Lewis who later became a well-known professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

To Warnie, November 19, p 293, describing Charles Williams: "it really is remarkable how that ugly, almost simian, face, becomes transfigured."

Same, p 294 describes a game he and several Inklings did with writings of Amanda McKittrick Ros, "known as the world's worst writer" who had been an acquaintance of Lewis's father in Belfast.

To Warnie, December 3, p 300: "some author whom I've forgotten says the anxiety that parents have about children 'being a credit to them' is a mere milk and water affair beside the anxiety of children that their parents should not be an absolute disgrace."

A footnote on p 301 quotes St. Francis de Sales: "As mountain hares become white in winter because they neither see nor eat anything but snow, so by adoring and feeding on beauty, purity and goodness in the Eucharist you will become altogether beautiful, pure, and good."

Same, p 302, "N.B. If you are writing a book about pain and then get some actual pain as I did from my rib, it does not either, as the cynic wd. expect, blow the doctrine to bits, nor, as a Christian wd. hope, turn into practice, but remains quite unconnected and irrelevant, just as any other bit of actual life does when you are reading or writing."
N.B. = Latin, nota bene, "note well"

Same, p 303: "The Imperial News Bulletin asks me to renew my subscription. I think I shall not. What's the use of paying 2/ a month to be tormented by prophecies wh. if false are needless misery and if true can't be averted by us.

To Warnie, December 18, p 304, about the realization that many of the books they loved in their youth were actually about Christian ideas: "how on earth did we manage to enjoy all these books so much as we did in the days when we had really no conception of what was at the centre of them? Sir, he who embraces the Christian revelation rejoins the main tide of human existence!"

Same, p 305: "I suppose there has never been a war till now in which people at home were getting news of distant naval actions only a few minutes after the event."

Same, p 306, says that Kipling's "stories, of course, are ... even now admitted to be good by all except a handful of Left idiots."

To Warnie, December 24, p 308, discussing the commercialization of secular Christmas, "You can't find anything more preposterous in Gulliver." See footnote 198.

To Warnie, December 31, p 312, "on Christmas Day I read [Robert Louis] Stevenson's Lay Morals in a little cheap edition which has been about the house for some years. I can't remember if you know it: if not, shall I send that copy out to you? It seems to me not only the best (non-fiction) book of his, but one of the best books by anyone, I've ever read."

Same, p 315, in closing: "Is there any point in wishing each other a happy New Year! Well, yes, I suppose there is—a hell of a point!"

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Procedural: These Jonals will appear sporadically, on Wednesdays. Please check the Home Page crawling marquee, click "Latest Post," or check the Jonals Index for updates. To have Jonals sent directly to your email or to reply to a Jonal, please write to jrk@nantyglo.com.

 

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Today's chuckle

It's important to recycle your Christmas tree. In fact, we recycle the ornaments. We let the cat lick the tinsel off the tree, then when he coughs up those Brillo fur balls, we use them to clean the grill.

— Jay Leno


Thought for today

If war is ever lawful, then peace is sometimes sinful.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)


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