Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

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'C. S. Lewis Overflow
Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, 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 3
Edited by Walter Hooper, Harper SanFrancisco, 2007, Part 2

It has been a very hectic week, so my reading was not as extensive as I'd like and my writing time even more shortened, leaving this week's page a relatively short one. I did, however, cover the ground missed last week, pages 38-65, and have added the notes for that section to last week's page, between the "dashed lines." To read that section, click here.

C. S. Lewis
 portriat by Val Craig Murray1951, continued

To Vera Mathews, March 27, p 103: "I have just got your letter of the 22nd containing the sad news of your father's death. But, dear lady, I hope you and your mother are not really 'trying to pretend it didn't happen.' It does happen, happens to all of us, and I have no patience with the high minded people who make out that it 'doesn't matter.' It matters a great deal, and very solemnly. And for those who are left, the pain is not the whole thing. I feel v. strongly (and I am not alone in this) that some good comes from the dead to the living in the months or weeks after the death. I think I was much helped by my own father after his death: as if our Lord welcomed the newly dead with the gift of some power to bless those they have left behind; His birthday present. Certainly, they often seem just at that time, to be very near us. God bless you all and give you grace to receive all the good in this, as in every other event, is intended you."

Same: "As to beef—it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good: I expect the bulls enjoy roaming the Argentine plains and really like that better than being eaten in England!"

To Warfield M. Firor, March 27, p 105, referring to the harsh winter in England when coal was in short supply: "many people have to spend most of their leisure at the cenema because it is the only warm place."

Same, referring to the passing of Mrs. Janie Moore: "She died without apparent pain after many months of semi conscious existence, and it wd. be hypocritical to pretend that it was a grief to us."

Same: "The whole difficulty with me is to keep control of the mind and I wish one's earliest education had given one more training in that. There seems to be a disproportion between the vastness of the soul in one respect (i.e. as a mess of ideas and emotions) and its smallness in another (i.e. as central, controlling ego). The whole inner weather changes so completely in less than a minute. Do you read George Herbert?...He's a good poet and one who helped to bring me back to the Faith."

To Mrs. Halmbacher, March, p 106: "The question for me (naturally) is not 'Why should I not be a Roman Catholic?' but "Why should I?' But I don't like discussing such matters, because it emphasizes differences and endangers charity. By the time I had really explained my objection to certain doctrines which differentiate you from us (and also in my opinion from the Apostolic and even the Medieval Church), you would like me less."

To Sheldon Vanauken, April 17, p 106, responding to Vanauken's report that he had become a Christian: "My prayers are answered."

Same: "Be busy learning to pray and (if you have made up your mind on the denominational question) get confirmed." I read Vanauken's A Severe Mercy in 1994 because it contained letters he had received from Lewis, and it became a favorite book immediately and the best true love story I ever read.

To Mary Van Deusen, April 18, p 107, mentioning that he had been writing "about 40 letters with my own hand: so much for Ivory Towers."

Same, p 108: "Strictly between ourselves, I have lived most of it (that is now over) in a house which was hardly ever at peace for 24 hours, amidst senselss wranglings, lyings, backbitings, follies, and scares. I never went home without a feeling of terror as to what appalling situation might have developed in my absence. Only now that it is over (tho' a different trouble has taken its place) do I begin to realize quite how bad it was." He is, of course, referring to Mrs. Moore's machinations. And the "differnet trouble," editor Hooper says in a footnote, is "Warnie's drinking."

To Sister Madeleva CSC, April 18, p 109: "I always tell my pupils that a 'convention' appears to be such only when it has ended."

To Miss Breckenridge, April 19, p 109, "if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him."

To Dom Bede Griffiths OSB, April 23, p 111: "All the beauty of nature withers when we try to make it absolute. Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things."

Same: "As to Man being in 'evolution,' I agree, tho' I wd. rather say 'in process of being created.'"

Same, p 112: "Also, I've had enough of it on the opposite flank lately, having fallen among—a new type to me—bigoted and proselytizing Quakers! I really think that in our days it is the 'undogmatic' and 'liberal' people who call themselves Christians that are most arrogant and intolerant. I expect justice and even courtesy from many Atheists and, much more, from your people: from Modernists, I have come to take bitterness and rancour as a matter of course."

To Warfield M. Firor, April 23, p 112: "And now to business...I feel twice the man I have been for the last ten years."

To Colin Hardie, April 24, p 114: "I think I told you before of the advice which old Macan gave me long ago, 'Don't put off writing until you know everything or you'll be too old to write decently.'"

To Mary Van Deusen, April 30, p 114: "I'm a terrible skeptic about all public affairs. I am inclined to think that your MacA [General Douglas MacArthur] and our Montgomery are specimens of a new, dangerous, and useful type thrown up by the modern situation—but it's only a guess."

To Mary Margaret McCaslin, May 25, p 117: "There is a great element of chance in fame."

To George Rostrevor Hamilton, May 17, p 117, agreeing to write an introduction to one of his favorite science fiction novels, The Worm Ouroboros (first published in 1922): "one doesn't always write best on what one most keenly and spontaneously enjoys. One writes best on the authors who are one's acquired tastes (as happy love produces fewer great poems than mess and fuss like Donne's or obsession like Catullus!)"

To Mary Van Deusen, May 25, p 118: "As Macdonald says, 'No one loves because he sees reason, but because he loves.'"

Same, p 119: "God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give."

Same, "My mind tends to move in a world of individuals not of societies."

To Nathan Comfort Starr, May 29, p 121, referring to the notorious firing of advanced faculty members at a Florida College so the young new president could make a "clean sweep": "The events at Rollins College seem to me to concentrate into one filthy amalgam every tendency in the modern world which I most hate and despise."

Same, "God help us all. It is terrible to live in a post-civilised age."

To Sister Penelope CSMV, June 5, p 123: "My love for G[eorge] MacDonald has not extended to most of his poetry. I have naturally made several attempts to like it. Except for the Diary of An Old Soul, it won't (so far as I'm concerned) do."

Same: "I realise that until about a month ago I never really believed (tho' I thought I did) in God's forgiveness. What an ass I have been both for not knowing and for thinking I knew. I now feel that one must never say one believes or understands anything: any morning a doctrine I thought I already possessed may blossom into this new reality. Selah!"

To Martyn Skinner, June 11, p 125, critiquing a work by Skinner, on the latter's request, on King Arthur and Merlin, "like the fig-leaf in sculpture, rather emphasizes than conceals the want."

To Mary Van Deusen, June 11, p 125: "My job has always been to defend 'mere Christianity' against atheism and Pantheism: I'm no real good on 'inter-denominational' questions."

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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God loves us not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.

—C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

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