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 4

See here for the introductory number of these notes, describing the perennial "cast of characters," etc.

1941, Continued

To Arthur, December 23, p 504. Uses the word "vacation." British writers more commonly use "holiday," and throughout these letters Lewis has often used "vac," which presumably is short for vacation, but this is my first notice of his using "vacation."

C. S. Lewis
 portriat by Val Craig MurraySame: In "the aftermath of those Broadcast Talks I gave early last summer I had an enormous pile of letters from strangers to answer. One gets funny letters after broadcasting — some from lunatics who sign themselves 'Jehovah' or begin 'Dear Mr Lewis, I was married at the age of 20 to a man I didn't love' —
but many from serious inquirers whom it was a duty to answer fully. So letter writing has loomed pretty large!"

Same, p 505: "How little you and I guessed when we first knew one another what life had in store for us! And how little we guessed that in this war you were going to see (up to date) so much more of it than I. But I'm beginning to twaddle — why is it that things one feels and thinks extremely deeply sound so platitudinous when they are written down."

1942

To Mary Neylan, January 20, p 506: "one wants to be careful about the word 'believing.' We too often mean by it 'having confidence or assurance as a psychological state' — as we have about the existence of furniture. But that comes and goes and by no means always accompanies intellectual assent, e.g. in learning to swim you believe, and even know intellectually that water will support you long before you feel any real confidence in the fact. I suppose the perfection of faith wd. make this confidence invariably proportionate to the assent."

Same, p 507: "There is danger in making Christianity too much into a 'Law.' Let yourself off something. Relax."

Same: "No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep picking ourselves up each time."

Same: "It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the v. sign of His presence."

P 508, editor's note: The Screwtape Letters was published by gteoffrey Bles of London on 9 February 1942.

Same page, he asks Eric Fenn of the BBC to send the fees he would have received for five radio talks to a list of beneficiaries.

To Daphne Harwood, March 6, p 510, Lewis tells her that everything but God and the Devil are better in some ways and worse in others.

Same, p 511: "the intention to obey God's will by entering into an indissoluble partnership in all virtue and mutual charity for the preservation of chastity and the admission of new souls to the change of eternal life is better even that Being-in-love."

Same: "Treat 'Love' as a god and you in fact make it a fiend."

To Daphne Harwood, March 25, p 514: "All these things, on my view, are capable of receiving spiritual value but can't give it: and the moment they forget their creaturely status they become demons."

To Sister Penelope CSMV, April 8, p 516, he says the Odyssey "is the best novel in the world."

To Joy Parsons, wife of an Anglican bishop who invited Lewis to stay with them when he was in the area to give a talk to an R.A.F. camp, April 12, p 517: Nissan huts = a shelter made from a semi-circle of corrugated steel. "Actually it's more correctly known as a Nissen Hut, and was developed by a Canadian engineer in world war I," according to http://www.zyra.org.uk/nissan.htm.

To Mary Neylan, Aprl, p 517: "I'm not much good with children."

Same, p 518: "I have um-teen letters to get through."

To Sister Penelope, May 15, p 520: "I am establishing quite a friendship with one of the rabbits wh. we now keep along with the deer in Magdalen grove. It was done by the discovery that he relishes chestnut leaves which grow too high for his reach. He doesn't yet allow me any familiarities but he comes and eats from my hand. If my jaws were as strong in proportion to my size as his I'd be able to pluck down the pinnacles of the tower with my teeth. But oh!, the great lollipop eyes and the twitching velvet nose! How does He come to create both this and the scorpion?"

To Mrs. Percival Wiseman (nothing is known about her, according to the editor), May 26, p 521: In the Gospel accounts of the temptations in the wilderness (which, by the way, must come from His own life for they are temptations no mere human has and none cd. have invented) it is the temptation to work miracles — i.e. to set up His own deity in independence of His Father."

To Lewis John Collins, a curate high in the Anglican church, July 12, p 524: "I shouldn't not like to address an audience that had been (even indirectly and by velvet glove methods!) coerced. This means, of course, that I am prepared to risk getting no audience: which, indeed, has often happened to me."

To Sister Penelope, July 29, p 525: "The Rabbit and I have quarrelled." Lewis says he doesn't know why but "he has cut me dead several times lately."

To Owen Barfield, August 1 (?), p 528: "tell me what to think about Martin Buber I and Thouj (publishers T & T Clark)."

To Eric Fenn of the BBC, discussing the next round of radio talks, he discusses what title to use for the talks on ethics, concluding, "Or, wd.they like The Xtian Technique of Living?" (Shades of Schaeffer's How Then Shall We Live?)

To Mr H. Morland, August 19, p 529: "My own greatest debt is to George Macdonald, specially the three vols of Unspoken Sermons (out of print but often obtainable second hand).

To Owen Barfield, August 20, p 530: "Have you read Esmond lately? What a detestable woman is Lady Castlewood: and yet I believe Thackeray means us to like her on the ground that all her actions spring from 'love.' This love is, in his language 'pure' i.e. it is not promiscuous or sensual. It is none the less a wholly uncorrected natural passion, idolatrous and insatiable. Was that the great 19th century heresy — that 'pure' or 'noble' passions didn't need to be crucified and reborn but wd. of themselves lead to happiness! Yet one sees it makes Lady C. disastrous both as a wife and a mother and is a source of misery to herself and all whom she meets. This is all irrelevant but I've been reading Esmond all day and it rose to the surface."

To Dom Bede Briffiths, OSB, October 13, p 531: "War and Peace is in my opinion the best novel."

P 535, editor's note, Tudor = the period headed by the Tudor monarchs, beginning with Henry VII, 1485 - 1603. Lewis corresponded for some time with an author expert in the period, E.R. Eddison, in the kind of English used in the period.

Same, p 536, snibbe = one of Lewis's "Tudor English" terms, probably, var. of snib, to latch, lock, or secure

To Eric Fenn of the BBC, November 30, p 538: "Thanks for letting me know about the 'Daily Mirror' — damn their impudence." An editor's footnote explains that "The Daily Mirror had somehow managed to obtain a copy of Lewis's talk on 'Sexual Morality' and published it on 13 October under the headline 'This Was a Very Frank Talk — Which we Think Everyone Should Read.'"

To Arthur, December 10, p 539, referring to some of their "old favorite haunts": "when we can both revisit them together again, as I dearly hope we shall, will they be the same? or shall we be the same?"

Same: "What a series of rediscoveries life is. All the things which one used to regard as simply the nonsense grown-ups talk have one by one come true — draughts, rheumatism, Christianity. The best one of all remains to be verified — "

Same, p 540: "I did read Lord Elton's book: quite good, I expect, but I'm no judge of that kind of thing." The book was St. George or the Dragon: Toward a Christian Democracy.

1943

To Douglas Bush, Professor at Oxford and a co-author with Lewis in the Oxford History of English Literature, January 20, p 548: "The frontier of the OHEL volume settles itself v. comfortably by the mere fact that you have finished your work before me: that gives me a defined hole to fill up and I can shape my piece of putty accordingly."

To Arthur, January, p 549: "As you will have noticed I've been having great luck with my books lately, and it wd. be affectation to pretend I hadn't got much pleasure out of it: but the catch is it increases the amount of letters one has to write almost beyond endurance."

Same, p 550: "Writing, writing, writing — letters, notes, exam papers, books, lectures. I've enough rheumatism in my right hand now to prevent me from sleeping on that side." He began to sign this one C.S. Lewis, struck it out, and added "(Nearly did it wrong!) Jack."

To Mary Neylan, January 31, p 550: "Have you noticed that nearly all writers describe childhood (when it is in the first person) well? Jane Eyre is also best at the beginning: and almost every autobiography. But is it also due to the convention whereby Victorian novelists are not allowed to attribute to their heroes peccadilloes (or worse) in respect to chastity?"

To Sister Penelope, February 20, p 554: "I have been putting off my answer to your first letter from day to day in the hope that I shd, be able to send Perelandra with it: but tho' the publisher said it wd. be out in Jan. there is no sign of it yet."

Same, p 555, uses "Englishing" as a verb for translating and interpreting a text into English.

Same: "Writing a book is much less like creation than it is like planting a garden or begetting a child: in all three cases we are only entering as one cause into a causal stream which works, so to speak, in its own way. I wd. not wish it to be otherwise. If one cd. really create in the strict sense wd. one not find one had created a sort of Hell?"

To T. S. Eliot, February 23, p 556. After many years of criticizing Eliot in reviews, books, and in letters (and no doubt in verbal statements), Lewis became a correspondent with his contemporary, partly because Charles Williams, who Lewis loved, was a friend of both.

P 557: "Charles Williams is always promising (or threatening) to confront us with each other [to] hammer all these matters out.

To Gerald Hayes, March 3, p 560: "We outgrow youth far sooner than childhood."

Same, p 558: "It has given me again what I have not had for years and years, the old pleasure in a 'present.'" Hayes, a cartographer, had sent Lewis a map he had created to illustrate The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison (his "Tudor English" correspondent-friend), a "high fantasy" novel that Lewis cherished.

To Martyn Skinner (poet), March 4, p 561: "The relation between the Tao and Xtianity is best seen from Confucius' remark 'There may be someone who has perfectly followed the way: but I never heard of one.'"

To Sister Penelope, March 25, p 565: "What they do not understand at the time will go into their semi-conscious mind and help them to understand the cross years later."

Same, p 566: "One other small point: somewhere (I can't find the place) a character says 'I know whom you mean.' Whom may be good grammar but it's not how people talk."

To Karl Young (an American professor of English who wanted Lewis to visit the United States for lectures), April 7, p 568: "I'm like a tea pot that is always pouring out cups and never getting any more tea put in. You'd only get 'dish-wash' if I did come."

Same, he mentions "undergoing my initiation into the mysteries of lumbago."

To Eric Fenn of the BBC, May 7, pp 571-2: "Sorry again. But a talk to the general public on 'Paradise Lost' would be an absolute waste of time. What's the good of telling them they'll enjoy it, when we both know they won't?"

To Walter Ogilvie Field, a frequent participant in the walking tours that Lewis and various friends took together, attempting to persuade Field not to bow out of the next tour, he refers to "my bow-wow dogmatism" as one of the unique features of the walks and their accompanying talks. He also mentions that "Owen [Barfield] is the only one who is never out of his depth."

To Dorothy L. Sayers, May 17, p 573, a footnote referring to one of Lewis's statements in the letter says "It is likely that Sayers's observations about the lack of books on miracles was exactly the encouragement Lewis needed to write his own book on the subject."

To Owen Barfield, May 17(?), p 574, refers to "the novel at present in progress" as "bosh." The novel in progress was That Hideous Strength.

To Dorothy L. Sayers, May 20, p 575: "providential cats."

To Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB, May 26, p 576: "Quite a number of pious people are at present attempting what they call 'Christian criticism' and really committing the same sort of absurdities as 'Marxist criticism' did."

Same, Perelandra may have been taken too seriously, "it is primarily a 'yarn.'"..."I hadn't thought of myself as a rival to Dante!!"

Same, p 577: "The decay of friendship — owing to the endless presence of women everywhere — is a thing I'm rather afraid of."

To Arthur, June 1, p 580: "Perhaps you'll find that I've become a golfer, or a bridge player, or a politician. I sometimes like to think in optimistic moments that you may find me better tempered — heaven knows you well might!"

And editor's note on page 582: "While there was a shortage of paper everywhere the BBC was astonished at the effect of this on Lewis. Most of his letters were written on thin strips of paper. 'If I may say so,' wrote Fenn in his letter of 18 June, 'your passion for paper economy exceeds anything my imagination can grasp!'

"Lewis replied on 1 July — not on a thin sliver of paper, but an entire sheet, leaving four inches by six of blank paper."

To Eric Fenn, BBC, July 1, p 583: "P.S. You may use the margin of this letter for any purpose you like."

To Margaret Carlyle, July 7, p 583: "I am very glad to hear you are coming back to Oxford and hope that in quieter times we shall all go on meeting till we are grown into elderly Oxford oddities (the Deneckes and Beneckes and Walkers and Miss Rogers of the 1970's) and tell one another in cracked voices thro' ear trumpets that there are no characters in Oxford now."

To J. B. Phillips (the Bible translator-interpreter into modern English): "I hope very much you will carry out your plan of doing all the epistles. Of course you'll be opposed tooth and nail by all the 'cultured' asses who say you're only spoiling 'the beauty of the A.V. — all the people who objected to Green Pastures and The Man Born to be King and who are always waffling about reverence. But we must kill that!"

P 587, note 136, Paxford had been "seconded" seconded = "contracted"

P 589, bedesman = one enlisted (or paid) to pray for another; more literally (but less used), anyone who prays

To Sister Penelope, September 24, p 591: "One never knows what one's in for when one starts thinking."

To Sister Penelope, October 5, p 592, referring to a "domestic crisis": "It was a bad time but I almost venture to say I felt Christ in the house as I have never done before — but alas, such a house for Him to visit!"

To Arthur C. Clarke (the famous science fiction author), December 7, p 594, referring to Perelandra: "I don't of course think that at the moment many scientists are budding Westons [the nemesis in the book]: but I do think (hang it all, I live among scientists!) that a point of view not unlike Weston's is on the way. Look at Stapledon (Star Gazer ends in sheer devil worship), Haldane's Possible Worlds and Waddington's Science and Ethics. I agree Technology is per se neutral: but a race devoted to the increase of its own power by technology with complete indifference to ethics does seem to me a cancer in the universe. Certainly if he goes on his present course much further man can not be trusted with knowledge."

To Arthur Greeves, December 20, p 595, gimcrack = gaudy or worthless

invigilating = keeping watch

"Things are pretty bad here. Minto's varicose ulcer gets worse and worse, domestic help harder and harder to come by. Sometimes I am very unhappy, but less so that I have often been in what were (by external standards) better times."

Same, p 596: "One's stock of love turns out, when the testing time comes, to be so very inadequate: I suppose it is well that one should be forced to discover the fact!"

"We've had hard frosts — very beautiful on moonlit nights in Oxford now that there are no lighted windows or street lamps to spoil it. The black out is certainly one of the pleasanter results of the war as far as I'm concerned."

1944

To Delmar Banner, January 7, p 600, referring to Perelandra: "I am always like other cats glad to be stroked (I take it one shows even more pride by not liking praise than by liking it) but this was specially welcome because that is miles and away my own favourite among my books and has had a very bad reception from reviewers."

To Eric Fenn, BBC, February 10, p 602: "If you know the address of any reliable firm of assassins, nose-slitters, garrotters and poisoners I should be grateful to have it.

"I shall write a book about the BBC — you see if I don't! Gr-r-r-r-r!"
Lewis was upset by the network's decision to put the latest round of talks on at 10:20 p.m.

To Sister Penelope, February 19, p 603: "I have not yet had time to read more than your introduction. It gives me real pleasure to have it dedicated to me, though i wd. have deprecated 'witness' if you had given me the opportunity. Apart from the suggestions of martyrdom (!) it carries implications which are rather overwhelming. But I am pleased and grateful all the same."

To J.S.A. Ensor, February 26, p 604. A footnote identifies the recipient as an employee of Electric and Musical Industries, Ltd., EMI, which has for generations been the "studio" handling many of Britain's top recording "artists." Lewis was invited to speak at an EMI factory, which he did.

To J.S.A. Ensor, March 13, p 606: "I've announced myself as a one-man Brains Trust on moral and religious questions."

To Mrs. Percival Wiseman, March 20, p 608: "Those who try to escape the crucifixion fall in either with charlatans or with delusions from hell: spiritualism often drives people mad. Of course we should pray for our dead as I'm sure they do for us."

To Eric Fenn, BBC, March 25, p 609, a postscript: "No paper to be found anywhere to-day!" Footnote 15 says Lewis's letter was written on the back of Fenn's to him.

To J.S.A. Ensor, March 31, p 610: "I am tall, fat, clean shaven, don't wear glasses, and shall be in corduroy trouseres, probably with a walking stick. I will look for you at the entrance to Paddington Hotel, just beside the entrance to the Underground."

An editor's note on the same page gives details about Lewis's talk at EMI.

To E.R. Eddison, April 21, p 613: "Many thanks for your pleasant letter of the 17th: — Can you come on June 8th. for dinner, bed, and breakfast."

On the same page an editor's note mentions a humorous letter Lewis received from "the Society for the Prevention of Progress, of Walnut Creek, California," inviting him to join, to which he said he would be honored, and added (p 614): I shall hope by continued orthodoxy and the unremitting practice of Reaction, Obstruction, and Stagnation to give you no reason for repenting your favour." And he added to his signature, "Beverages not Beveridges (my motto)." Lord William Henry Beveridge was the architect of England's socialist welfare state.

To Thomas Wilkinson Riddle, May 17, p 614: "The higher critics will use it to prove that the book was really written 200 years later by five different 'Hands' as they appropriately call them!" Referring to a perceived "gaffe" Riddle found in The Screwtape Letters.

A footnote (34) mentions that in Spenser's The Faerie Queene, one of Lewis's favorite works of all time, a damsel in distress "is protected by a lion."

To Edith Gates, May 23, p 616: "Certainly I cannot love my neighbour properly till I love God. As George Macdonald says in his Unspoken Sermons (long out of print but if you can get a 2nd hand copy by any means short of stealing, do! It is beyond price).

P 617, same letter, is a rather detailed "testimony" of Lewis's faith.

To Dom Bede Griffiths, May 25, p 617: "Thanks for your letter. I too was delighted with our meeting. About the past, and nothing being lost, the point is that 'He who loses his life shall save it' is totally true, true on every level. Everything we crucify will rise again: nothing we try to hold onto will be left us."

To Violet Mary Toy, August 1, p 620, he refers to the "Act to Restrain Abuses of Players" (1606) as a reason Shakespeare's plays had been rewritten to skirt the penalty for breaking the act. He also says "the presuppositions of Cymbeline are really Xtian."

Same, p 621: "Rejection by T.L.S. [Times Literary Supplement] had nothing to do with its merits: I expect they don't read MSS except for their own gang — and it's a rotten paper now anyway."

To Owen Barfield, August 22, p 622: He arranges for Barfield to send a contribution to a supplicant who has written for help. "I twice determined not to [contribute anything]: but there was something so miserable and naggingly miserable about it that I found I couldn't." He instructed the supplicant to send a clear and concise description of his needs (and doubted that he would follow through).

To Sister Penelope, September 6, p 624: "I've had an operation for the removal of a piece of shell I got into me in the last war, which, after lying snug and silent like an unrepented sin for 20 years or so, began giving me trouble."

Same, footnote 63 quotes Sister Penelope's Windows on Jerusalem: "'The Eternal Son began at the beginning with the single cell and, as we all do, recapitulated the entire evolutionary process on the way to birth, touching and renewing life on every level.' Lewis drew on this for his chapter 'The Obstinate Toy Soldiers' in Beyond Personality and Mere Christianity, Book IV, ch. 5, p. 149: "The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a woman's body.'"

Same, p 625: "when Christ tells us to be perfect is it because only He knows how very small an addition to our present efforts wd. break the enemy's line completely?"

To Charles A. Brady (English professor at Canisius College, Buffalo, NY), October 29, p 631: "Tolkien (and Charles Williams, whom I wish you'd do, specially his novels) is most important. The Hobbit is merely the adaptation to children of part of a huge private mythology of a most serious kind: the whole cosmic struggle as he sees it but mediated through an imaginary world. The Hobbit's successor, which will soon be finished, will reveal this more clearly. Private worlds have hitherto been mainly the work of decadents or, at least, mere aesthetes. This is the private world of a Christian. He is a very great man. His published works (both imaginative and scholarly) ought to fill a shelf by now: but he's one of those people who is never satisfied with a MS. The mere suggestion of publication provokes the reply 'Yes. I'll just look through it and give it a few finishing touches' — wh. means that he really begins the whole thing over again."

1945

To Sister Penelope, January 3, p 635: "Indeed it would be difficult to express my full feeling on the subject without seeming actively to tempt you to those very emotions which, no doubt, you are in process of successfully knocking on the head! (This is, by the bye, a very ticklish business in social life, isn't it? At least I often catch myself in a moment of sympathy, or vicarious indignation, encouraging in others the passions which, were their case mine, I shd. know it was my business to mortify). O.U.P. is separate from Clarendon Press and you should write to Charles Williams, O.U.P., Southfield House, Southfield Rd., Oxford."

To Arthur, February 5, p 640: "Isn't Xtianity separated from the other religions just by the fact that it does not allow one to exclude or reject matter? But the whole question is too big to go into by letter."

To Mr McClain (a "fan"), March 7, p 641: "I'm afraid a tour in America is out of the question at present, as I have a very old invalid mother to look after and can't be away from home for more than a few days at a time. I'd be glad if you would circulate this to all who are interested, for my continued refusal of offers from U.S.A. is beginning to be given sinister interpretations."

To Michael Thwaites, April 22, p 644: "If you usually keep two books of widely different period and type going together (e.g. Faerie Queene and Tom Jones) you won't get bored. I myself always index a good book when I read it...."

To Dr. Warfield M. Firor (a physician and professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore), April 23, repeats his earlier noted claim that Perelandra is "my own favourite."

To H. Lyman Stebbins (an American asking Lewis's reasons for choosing Anglicanism over Catholicism), May 8, p 646: "What I am most confident in accepting is that interpretation wh. is common to all the Platonists down all the centuries what Aristotle and the Renaissance scholars and Paul Elmer More agree on I take to be Platonism. Any purely modern views wh. claim to have discovered for the first time what P. meant, and say that everyone from Aristotle down has misunderstood him, I reject out of hand.

"But there is something else I wd. also reject. if there were an ancient Platonic Society still existing at Athens and claiming to be the exclusive trustees of P's meaning, I shd. approach them with great respect. But if I found that their teaching in many ways was curiously unlike his actual text and unlike what ancient interpreters said, and in some cases cd. not be traced back to within 1000 years of his time, I shd. reject these exclusive claims: while still ready, of course, to take any particular thing they taught on its merits."

..."Mere 'modernism' I reject at once."

To Mary Neylan, May 20, p 652: "I also have become much acquainted with grief now through the death of my great friend Charles Williams, my friend of friends, the comforter of all our little set, the most angelic. The odd thing is that his death has made my faith ten times stronger than it was a week ago. And I find all that talk about 'feeling he is closer to us than before' isn't just talk. It's just what it does feel like — I can't put it into words. One seems at moments to be living in a new world. Lots, lots of pain but not a particle of depression or resentment."

To Florence (Michal) Williams (widow of Charles Williams), May 22, p 653-4: "I believe in the next life ten times more strongly than I did. At moments it seems almost tangible. Mr. Dyson, on the day of the funeral, summed up what many of us felt, 'It is not blasphemous,' he said 'To believe that what was true of Our Lord is, in its less degree, true of all who are in Him. They go away in order to be with us in a new way, even closer than before.' A month ago I wd. have called this silly sentiment. Now I know better."

To Sister Penelope, May 28, p 656: "Although they cannot have faith in Him (I suppose) they certainly have faith in us, wh. is faith in Him at one remove: and there is no sin in them to impede or resist. I am glad it happened." Referring to her mention in her letter to him that she had healed a dog.

Same, p 657: "The truth is we shall never get on till we have stamped out 'religion.' 'Religion' as it is called — the vague slush of humanitarian idealism, Emersonian Pantheism, democratic politics and material progressiveness with a few Christian names and formulae added to taste like pepper and salt — is almost the great enemy."

Same, "The title Who Goes Home? has had to be dropped because someone has used it already. The little book will be called The Great Divorce and will appear about August. That Hideous Strength is due in July. The Miracle book is finished but will not come out till next year."

To Anne Ridler (in response to a memoriam she published to Charles Williams), June 3, p 659: "I never knew the death of a good man cd. itself do so much good."

To Miss Gladding, June 7, p 660, a postscript: "Be sure your Communions are frequent and regular."

To Dorothy L. Sayers, July 6, p 663, he closes with a verse of repentance: "Best quality Sackcloth and Ashes/in sealed packets/delivered in plain vans at/moderate charges/Mssrs M. Cato and R.E.Morse."

To Harold Arthur Blair, July 24, p 666, footnote 72 reports that at a talk he gave at a girls' school "the school-marms got at him in a school-marmish sort of way with questions about bringing up children, which he would not answer as he had none of his own. Then a girl asked him what hell would be like, and he said, 'Very much like what I'm going through now.'"

To Roy Lee of the BBC, August 31, p 667, he deflects Lee's mention of a report that he had been offered a chair in English literature at Cambridge University: "The Cambridge Chair is a nwspaper rumour and untrue."

To Owen Barfield, September, p 669, agapargyrometrical = no online use of the word, or of agapar or gyrometical found. It may be an example of a coined term Lewis and Barfield used as part of a "private language" they are said to have used.

To Cecil and Daphne Harwood, September 11, p 669, referring to That Hideous Strength: "All reviewers so far (except Punch) have damned the book: comfortingly for different reasons — I mean it can hardly be bad in so many different ways as all that."

To John Beddow (an Anglican canon), October 7, p 673: "I am nearly forty-seven. Where are my successors? Anyone can learn to do it if they wish. It only involves first writing down in ordinary theological college English exactly what you want to say and then treating that just as you treated a piece of English set for Greek prose at school (The parallel is v. close. Popular English differs from 'scholarly' English in v. much the same way as Attic does: i.e. more verbs and particles and fewer abstract nouns). It is also a v. good discipline because nine times out of ten the bit you can't turn into Vernacular turns out to be the bit which hadn't any clear meaning to begin with."

To Harry Blamires, October 12, p 675. Blamires, a former student of Lewis, is famous for a short, sweet, and profound book: The Christian Mind, but that was still far in the future when this, the first letter to him from Lewis in the collection, was penned.

Same, p 676: "I also dislike your use of the word 'Materialism.' That word shd always be used in its strict philosophical sense. You use it to mean 'utilitarianism' or 'worldliness' or egoism': all those wd. be better words." The letter on the whole is a critique (requested by Blamires) of a manuscript he had written on Sir Walter Scott. Lewis recommended many changes but said it had the makings of a good book. Though Blamires has written many books, this one has not been published.

To Herber Palmer, November 8 (?), p 678: "It's in Shakespeare that characters first start apologizing for tears."

To Dorothy L. Sayers, December 6, 681: Lewis thanks her for her kind remarks about That Hideous Strength and observes that "Apparently reviewers will not tolerate a mixture of the realistic and the supernatural. Which is a pity, because (a) It's just the mixture I like, and (b) We have to put up with it in real life."

Same, referring to a tame bear that plays a part in the novel: "Mr. Bultitude is described by Tolkien as a portrait of the author, but I feel it is too high a compliment."

To Dorothy L. Sayers, December 14, p 682: "Although you have so little time to write letters you are one of the great English letter writers...But I'm not."

Same, p 683: "Yes, I'm all for little books on other subjects with their Christianity latent. i propounded this in S.C.R. at Campion Hall and was told it was 'Jesuitical.'" Campion Hall is the Jesuit college at Oxford.

To Herbert Palmer, December 15, p 684: "I am with the Muse now as an old lecher in whom desire outruns performance. I have to watch for favorable moments."

To Cecil Harwood, December 26, p 692, a verse from Lewis's poem, The Atomic Bomb: "This marks no huge advance in/The dance of death. His pincers/Were grim before with chances/Of stroke, fire, suffocation, Ogpu, cancer." This strikes me as a counter to those who suspect Lewis had the atomic bomb in mind in describing "the deplorable word" in The Magician's Nephew.

To Arthur, December 26, p 694, referring to the death of his Uncle Gussie, Augustus Warren Hamilton: "I think he illustrates the enormous difference between selfishness and self-centredness. He had plenty of the first: he pursued his own interests with v. little regard to other people. But he had none of the second. I mean, he loved outside himself. His mind was not occupied with himself but with science, music, yachting etc. That was the good element and it was (as I think all good elements are) richly rewarded in this life. Let's hope and pray that it will carry him through where he is now. It may be the little spark of innocence and disinterestedness from which the whole man can be reconstructed."

Same, p 695: "You and I were immensely fortunate in growing up during a period when the supply of good books in cheap editions was practically inexhaustible. Indeed we were fortunate in many ways: in finding one another, in delightful country, in having enough money but not too much."

1946

To Herbert Palmer, January 26, p 700: "Thank you also for your overwhelming compliment to me in the preface. But I shd. feel much happier if you would tone it down a bit. As it stands I think it may do me harm, and if it does me harm it will do you harm too. I am just at that stage when people begin to be a little tired of my name — and the slightest touch of over-praise would raise the groundswell of hostility into a hurricane." A footnote guesses that Lewis is referring to a draft of a preface to Palmer's Sword in the Desert: A Book of Poems and Verses for the Present Time.

To N. Fridama (a "fan," writing from New Jersey), February 15, p 702: "I was baptised in the Church of Ireland (same as Anglican). My parents were not notably pious but went regularly to church and took me. My mother died when I was a child."

Same: "I abandoned all belief in Xtianity at about the age of 14, tho' I pretended to believe for fear of my elders. I thus went through the ceremony of Confirmation in total hypocrisy. My belief continued to be agnostic, with fluctuation towards pantheism and various other sub-Xtian beliefs, till I was about 29.

"I was brought back (a.) by Philosophy. I still think Berkeley is unanswerable [on his argument for the existence of God, a footnote adds]. (b.) By increasing knowledge of medieval literature. It became harder and harder to think that all those great poets and philosophers were wrong. (c.) By the strong influence of two writers, the Presbyterian george Macdonald and the R.C., G. K. Chesterton. (d.) By argument with an Anthroposophist. He failed to convert me to his own views (a kind of Gnosticism) but his attack on my own presuppositions smashed the ordinary pseudo-'scientific' world-picture forever.

"On Calvinism. Both the statement that our final destination is already settled and the view that it still may be either Heaven or Hell, seem to me to imply the ultimate reality of Time, wh. I don't believe in. The controversy is one I can't join on either side for I think that in the real (Timeless) world it is meaningless."

To Jill Flewett, April 17, p 707: "Quoth C.S.L."

To Mr. Talbott, April 18, p 707: "One point of fact you must allow me to correct: it is certainly not 'liberal-minded' religious people who like my books in England. On the contrary it is precisely among them that I find (next to Marxists) my most hostile critics."

—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

My broker called me this morning and said, "Remember that stock we bought and I said you'd be able to retire at age 65?"
"Yes, I remember," I said.
"Well," my broker continued, "your retirement age is now 108."


Thought for today

If there is an eternal world and if our world is its manifestation, then you would expect bits of it to "stick through" into ours. We are like children pulling the levers of a vast machine of which most is concealed. We see a few little wheels that buzz round on this side when we start it up — but what glorious or frightful processes we are initiating in there, we don't know. That's why it is so important to do what we're told.

—C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)


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