'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.
the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2
Edited by Walter Hooper, Harper
SanFrancisco, 2004, Part 4
Jonal entry 1035 | January 23 2008
See here for the introductory
number of these notes, describing the perennial "cast of characters,"
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."
Same: 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!"
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
"Treat 'Love' as a god and you in fact make it a fiend."
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."
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?"
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."
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?)
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
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
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.
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."
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."
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."
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?"
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.
Hayes, March 3, p 560: "We outgrow youth far sooner than childhood."
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
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.'"
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
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."
he mentions "undergoing my initiation into the mysteries of lumbago."
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?"
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."
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
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
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."
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"
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."
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!"
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
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!"
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."
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
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.
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."
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.
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."
editor's note on the same page gives details about Lewis's talk at EMI.
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."
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
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.
(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."
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
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."
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."
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...."
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
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."
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
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."
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."
"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."
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."
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.
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."
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,
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."
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
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."
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
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.
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."
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."
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