'C. S. Lewis Overflow'
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.
from the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2
Edited by Walter Hooper,
Harper SanFrancisco, 2004, Part 2
entry 1033 | January 9 2008
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."
footnote, usquebaugh = Irish Gaelic for "whiskey"
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,
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!"
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
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."
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
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
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."
Lancelyn Green, December 28, p 236: "letters to authors in praise of their
works really require apology for they always give pleasure."
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 educatedor 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."
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."
"if war is ever lawful, then peace is sometimes sinful."
p 252: Christendom has made two efforts to deal with the evil of warchivalry
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 convertsthere 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."
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."
"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 universethat 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
Same: "it was through almost believing in the gods that I
came to believe in God." Cf. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man on
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."
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.,
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
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"
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!"
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."
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 passageand 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
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.
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
To Warnie, November 19, p 293, describing Charles
Williams: "it really is remarkable how that ugly, almost simian, face, becomes
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."
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."
= 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."
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.
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 isa hell of a point!"
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