'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.
of Narnia, Prince Caspian, a mini-review
(played by Ben Barnes)
I attended a screening of The Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, sponsored
by the C.S. Lewis Society of California in San Francisco. Though the reviews have
been mixed, I lean toward the side that says it's better than the film of The
Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and even with Frederica Mathewes-Green's
in the National Review Online, that the movie is better than the book.
Chattaway's argument (in
his two-and-a-half-star Christianity Today review) that the omission
of Aslan's meeting with Bacchus is a major slight on Lewis's intention in the
work doesn't win me over to the naysayers. The subtext of pagan subdeities being
in the service of the True King still comes through, and any addition to the script
to introduce Bacchus would have, I suspect, seemed contrived.
My main quibble
is that when Lucy spots Aslan in the woods and her siblings can't see him, we
can't see him either. In the book, the reader sees him with even more confidence
than Lucy herself does. Beyond that, Prince Caspian is portrayed as older and
larger than I'd seen him in my imagination, and Trumpkin the Dwarf is under-developed,
but other aspects of the move make up for these slight disappointments. I was
greatly moved by it, repeatedly, and highly recommend it: 8.5 on my 10-point scale.
from the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3
Edited by Walter Hooper,
Harper SanFrancisco, 2007, Part 12
Jonal entry 1052 | May
The mission of these extensive notes is set out in the introduction
of Part 1 of the notes for Volume 1, here.
To Sister Madeleva,
CSC, March 13, p 1030, a lengthy footnote recreates a section of the nun's memoir,
My First Seventy Years, in which she praises Lewis as her tutor despite
her inability at the time (in 1934) to matriculate at Oxford.
Greeves, March 25, p 1033: "We have just been financially knocked flat by
a huge surtax on royalties earned two years ago, which was a bumper year, long
since forgotten and of course spent. I think we shall weather it alright, but
we shall have to go very carefully not perhaps for always but certainly
for 18 months or so. Joy and I were talking it over only yesterday and agreed
that the Irish holiday will almost certainly have to be given up this year."
Arthur Greeves, April 1. p 1037: "Are you and I a pair of humbugs? We now
miss her [Jane McNeill, who had recently died] dreadfully: while she was alive
what a lot of time we spent evading her!
"W [Warnie] says 'I must be
like a cat who loves places more than people. What really hurts is the idea of
never being in that house again."
A follow-up note two days later (p
1038) tells Arthur that his tax problem has been resolved and they are now again
hoping to visit Ireland that year.
To Mary Van Deusen, April 10, p 1038-39,
responding to Van Deusen's reported diagnosis of having cancer: "what helped
Joy and me through it was 1. That she was always told the whole truth about her
own state. There was no miserable pretence. That means that both can face it side-by-side,
instead of becoming something like adversaries in a battle-of-wits. 2. 'Take it
day by day and hour by hour (as we took the front line). It is quite astonishing
how many happy even gay moments we had together when there was no
hope. 3. Don't think of it as something sent by God. Death and disease
are the work of the Devil. It is permitted by God: i.e. our General has
put you in a fort exposed to enemy fire. 4. Remember other sufferers. It's fatal
to start thinking 'Why should this happen to us when everyone else is so
happy.' You are (I was and may be again) one of a huge company.
Lancaster, April 4, p 1040, referring to poems she had sent him: "Never exaggerate.
Never say more than you really mean."
Same, "I am so glad you
like Till We Have Faces, because so few people do. It is my biggest 'flop'
for years, and so of course I think it my best book."
envy you your tour. It must be a wonderful car to climb a fire tower! or
have I misunderstood. Nor do I know what a fire tower is. But as we hae water-towers
here, I suppose other countries may have fire-, earth-, and air-, towers."
Nathan Comfort Starr, April 22, p 1040: "There is still a weekly meeting
at the Bird and Baby: but whether you can call it the Old Group when there is
a new landlord and Charles Williams is dead and Tolkien never comes is almost
a metaphysical question, and one you will discuss much better on the spot."
Mary Van Deusen, April 27, p 1042: "No, I won't comment on what you say!
Where one has never met the people concerned, where one has heard only one side,
and where all the terms used are indefinable, it is so easy to go wrong."
Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB, April 30, p 1042, "About the Semitic genius, my
wife, who is a Jewess by blood, holds two views which wd. interest you."
He goes on to elaborate that Joy considered the only living Judaism as Christianity
and that Christian interpreters of the Old Testament miss much of the humor Jewish
scholars have long assumed to be in it.
Same, p 1043: "The man (Peter
Bide) who laid his hands on my wife and she recovered, writes to me that his own
wife is now struck down with the same disease. Would you mention him in your prayers?"
Vera Gebbert, May 8, p 1047: "very few of us get a really good education,
whether in England or America, and I feel pretty sure that if fate had sent you
to one of our 'good' girl's schools, you would have found quire a few holes in
your stock of learning when you had finished. I was at four schools, and learnt
nothing at three of them; but on the other hand I was lucky in having a first
class tutor after my father had given up the school experiment in despair."
wrote a letter to Arthur Greeves on May 12, p 1048, in which she says, in part:
"I'll be a surprise to you this year I can walk a mile without tiring
now! I hope you feel as well as I do."
To Charles Moorman, May 15,
p 1049: "No one ever influenced Tolkien you might as well try to influence
a bandersnatch. We listened to his work, but could affect it only by encouragement.
He has only two reactions to criticism: either he begins the whole work over again
from the beginning or else takes no notice at all." bandersnatch = a fictional
creature in Lewis Carroll's poems
Same: "Dorothy sayers was not living
in Oxford at the time and I don't think she ever in her life met Tolkien. She
knew Charles Williams well, and me much later. I am sure she neither exerted nor
underwent any literary influence at all."
To Elizabeth Vinaver, May
19, p 1050, thanking her for her hospitality on a recent visit: "Your husband
is a dangerous man, though. Far from impressing on me the fact that he is a very
learned man and a brilliant talking, he gave me the illusion that I was both!
Courtesy and skill cannot go further and it feels grand but I can't
believe it is good for me."
To Mary Willis Shelburne, May 19, p 1053:
"There is no way out of it: either one must die fairly young or else outlive
To Joan Bockelmann, May 29, p 1054: "why is it
tid-bits in American and tit-bits in England?"
Ladborough, June 3, p 1055: "Each of us, no doubt, is a bore to some people."
Mary Willis Shelburne, June 7, p 1056: "What a state we have got into when
we can't say 'I'll be happy when God calls me' without being afraid one will be
thought 'morbid.' After all, St. Paul said just the same. If we really believe
what we say we believe if we really think that home is elsewhere and that
this life is a 'wandering to find home,' why should we not look forward to the
arrival. There are, aren't there, only three things we can do about death: to
desire it, to fear it, or to ignore it. The third alternative, which is the one
the modern world calls 'healthy' is surely the most uneasy and precarious of all."
Vera Gebbert, June 16, p 1058: "I wish our ministry of education would realise
that a school with good teachers is a good school even if it meets in a tin shed,
and a school with bad teachers is a bad one even if it meets in a palace."
p 1059 in a letter to T. S. Eliot, Lewis recommends Gervase Mathew OP as a judge
of a version of Lady Julian (presumably Eliot had asked Lewis to do it or recommend
someone). Gervase Mathew is described in a footnote on that page as "one
of the creators of Byzantine studies in Oxford."
A footnote on p 1062
recommends the travel book, David Bleakley's C.S. Lewis At Home in Ireland
(Bangor, Strandtown Press, 1998).
To T. S. Eliot, June 29, p 1063: "My
wife and I would like nothing better than to dine with Mrs. Eliot and yourself,
and since you leave us a choice of dates, we prefer Tue 21st. Thank you very much."
Whether the date was kept or not, I haven't been able to ascertain.
Cruikshank, July 2, p 1063: "I do wish we could get some more heroic romances
out of Tolkien. But he is over 65 I'm over 60 and a very slow worker."
A footnote says that a statement in that letter, "I liked nearly all my books
less than Screwtape," "almost certainly meant 'I liked nearly
all my more books more than Screwtape."
To Mary Willis Shelburne,
"I can see why you describe it as 'looking into the face of death': but who
knows whether that face, when we really look at it, will be at all like that?
Let us hope better things. I had a tooth out the other day, and came away wondering
whether we dare hope that the moment of death may be very like that delicious
moment when one realises that the tooth is really out and a voice says 'Rinse
your mouth out with this.' 'This' of course will be Purgatory."
Mary Van Deusen, July 7, p 1065: "I discovered during our terrible time two
years ago, the great thing, both for the patient and for the lover of the patient,
is to live it day by day, in the present endurance and the present case, giving
as little of one's mind as possible to fears or hopes (hopes beget fears)
as animals live, and soldiers, and, I expect, saints."
To Mary Willis
Shelburne, July 11, p 1066: "Not that I know what a pediatrician is
any more than a boojum!"
To Francis Warner, July 15, p 1069: "So
many people, when they begin 'research,' lose all desire, and presently all power,
of writing clear, sharp, and unambiguous English. Hold onto your finite transitive
verb, your concrete nouns, and the muscles of language (but, though,
for, because etc.). The more abstract the subject the more our language shd.
avoid all unnecessary abstraction. Write mysteriously and elusively about a drawing
room if you please: but write about mysteries as like Cobbett (or Hume) as you
To Michael Edwards, July 20, p 1070, the reply address is the
first I've noticed with a telephone number listed.
A footnote on p 1070
refers to a biography by Greville MacDonald of George MacDonald and His Wife
with an introduction by G. K. Chesterton.
To Mary Willis Shelburne, August
3, p 1072, "though I get no more tired now than I did when I was younger,
I take muich longer to get un-tired afterwards."
To Joan Lancaster,
August 11, "What a droll idea in Florida, to give credits not for what you
know but for hours spent in a classroom! Rather like judging the condition of
an animal not by its weight or shape but by the amount of food that had been offered
Same: "Sorry the previous page is such a mess. I mistook
a piece of ordinary paper for blotting paper!"
To Chad Walsh, August
21, p 1077, a reference to Lewis's "library agent" was probably meant
to be "literary agent"...? Or perhaps it was a typesetter error in the
To Eugene Vinaver, August 22, p 1081: "ordonnance"
= "the arrangement of elements in a literary or artistic composition"
p 1082, postscript: "disputation is not the same as quarrelling."
Eugene Vinaver, August 26, p 1084: "None of this expects an answer
I'm 'just talking.'"
To Edward Lofstrom, September 20, p 1089: "I
think your comparison between the self and the telescope is singularly accurate.
The instrument vanishes from consciousness just in so far it is perfected. But
until then we must attend to it: otherwise we shall be like the man who
mistakes a smudge on the glass for a gigantic animal on the Moon."
Father Peter Milward, SJ, September 24, p 1090: "I don't think, you know,
that our two minds communicate at all easily. We always misunderstand one another.
You are in my prayers and I hope I am in yours. That is much better than postal
correspondence!" I noticed throughout the correspondence between Lewis and
Milward that Lewis always seems a bit "off" or "put off,"
as though perhaps Milward wanted more of Lewis than he was ready to give.
Jocelyn Gibb, October 14, p 1091, a blurb he wrote for his new book The Four
Loves: "Three quotations used by the author indicate the principles that
govern his survey: from St. John, 'God is love,' from Donne 'That our affections
kill us not nor die,' and from Denis de Rougemont 'Love ceases to be a demon when
he ceases to be a god.'"
Same: "Dr. Lewis's power of expressing
easily thoughts not very easy in themselves has never been more fully exhibited."
Mary Willis Shelburne, October 18, p 1092, "bed-sitter" = an efficiency
or one-room apartment
Same: "Will you redouble your prayers for us?
Apparently the wonderful recovery Joy made in 1957 was only a reprieve, not a
pardon. The last X Ray check reveals cancerous spots returning in many of her
bones. There seems to be some hope of a few years life still and there are still
things the doctors can do. But they are all in the nature of 'rearguard actions.'
We are in retreat. The tide has turned. Of course God can do again what He did
before. The sky is not now so dark as it was when I married her in hospital. Her
courage is wonderful and she gives me more support than I can give her.
dreadful thing, as you know, is the waking each morning the moment at which
it all flows back on one."
To Jocelyn Gibb, October 22, p 1094: "bat's
eyed" = an adjective in Sir Walter Scott's novel, Kenilworth, undefined,
but perhaps meaning blind and keen-eared. "A bat's eyes are its ears,"
one source elaborates.
To Roger Lancelyn Green, November 25, p 1101: "In
a sense it might be said that Joy 'is' not ill at present. But the last X ray
check revealed that the canser in the bones is awake again. This last check is
the only one we appraoched without dread her health seemed so complete.
It is like being recaptured by the giant when you have passed every gate and are
almost out of sight of his castle. Whether a second miracle will be vouchsafed
us, or, if not, when the sentence will be inflicted, remains uncertain. It is
quite possible she may be able to do the Greek trip next spring. Pray for us."
Sir Henry Willink, December 3, p 1102: "I have learned now that while those
who speak about one's miseries usually hurt one, those who keep silence hurt more.
They help to increase the sense of general isolation which makes a sort of fringe
to the sorrow itself. You know what cogent reason I have to feel with you:
but I can feel for you too. I know that what you are facing must be worse
than what I must shortly face myself, because your happiness has lasted so much
longer and is therefore so much more intertwined with your whole life. As Scott
said in like case 'What am I to do with that daily portion of my thoughts which
has for so many years been hers?" The letter continues for five more paragraphs
a masterpiece of grief and comiseration shared.
To Dan Tucker, December
8, p 1104: "In every age those who wish to be our masters, if they have any
sense, secure our obedience by offering deliverance from our dominant fear. When
we fear wizards the Medicine Man can rule the whole tribe. When we fear a stronger
tribe our best warrior becomes King. When all the world fears hell the Church
becomes a theocracy. 'Give up your freedom and I will make you safe' is, age after
age, the terrible offer. In England the omnipotent Welfare State has triumphed
because it promised to free us from the fear of poverty."
Same, p 1105:
"A hundred years ago we all thought that Democracy was it. Neither you nor
I probably think so now. It neither allows the ordinary man to control legislation
nor qualifies him to do so. The real questions are settled in secret and the newspapers
keep us occupied with largely imaginary issues. And this is all the easier because
democracy always in the end destroys education. It did so for you some time ago
and is now doing so for us (see a speech of Screwtape's wh. will soon qppear in
the Sat. Evening Post). I am, you see, at my wit's end on such matters.
Only a power higher than man's can really find a way out. Odd to compare humanity's
political inefficiency with its wonderful success in the arts."
"P.S. Has a book called The Phenomenon of Man by a more or less renegade
Jesuit (de Chardin) come your way yet? Sir J. Huxley gives it a preface as if
it was an absolute new Gospel. It seems to me both commonplace and horrifying."
Mary Van Deusen, December 8, p 1105: "Have we ever heard of a miracle repeated?"
"Forgive me for writing so egotistical a letter. One of the drawbacks about
living in a tragedy is that one can't very well see out of the windows."
Thomasine, a seventh grade school girl, a letter giving eight tips on writing,
p 1108. Lewis begins by telling her to turn off the radio and read as many books
as she can, and avoid magazines.
To Don Luigi Pedrollo, December 15, p 1109:
"For now, after two years' remission, my wife's mortal illness has returned.
May it please the Lord that, whatever is His will for the body, the minds of both
of us may remain unharmed; that faith unimpaired may strengthen us, contrition
soften us and peace make us joyful."
To Jocelyn Gibb, December 15,
p 1110, referring to negotiations about the proper wording of the title of a new
edition of Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes A Toast: "Sorry
if I seem to be trying to teach you your own business, but you know what authors
say that whatever else publishers may be right about they are never
right about titles!"
To Lance Sieveking, December 18, p 1111: "I
am absolutely opposed adamant isn't in it! to a TV. version. Anthropomorphic
animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into
buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney
did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wd. be another matter. A human,
pantomime, Aslan wd. be to me blasphemy." A footnote describes how the first
dramatized version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe "utilized
people in animal costumes."
To Mary Willis Shelburne, December 22,
p 1112, "Let us, however, make a compact that, if we are both alive next
year, whenever we write to one another it shall not be at Christmas time.
That period is becoming a sort of nightmare to me it means endless quill
Same, p 1113: "amidst all this ghastly commercial racket
To Sophia Storr, December 24, p 1113: "In The
Magician's Nephew Aslan creates Narnia. In Prince Caspian the old stories
about Him are beginning to be disbelieved. At the end of the Dawn Treader
He appears as the Lamb. His three replies to Shasta suggest the Trinity. In The
Silver Chair the old king is raised from the dead by a drop of Aslan's blood.
Finally in the Last Battle we have the reign of anti-Christ (the ape),
the end of the world, and the Last Judgement."
To Jocelyn Gibb, December
25, p 1115: "I've also an old grudge against the Clarendon Press for making
me call my first book The Allegory of Love when I wanted a sober academic
title like The Allegorical Love Poem.
To Father Peter Milward SJ,
December 25, p 1116: "In youth we conduct (at least I did) long and deep
disputations through the post. It is indeed a most valuable part of our education.
We put into it quite as much thought and labour as wd. go to writing a book. But
later, when one has become a writer of books, it is hard to keep it up. One can't
fill one's leisure with the v. same activity which is one's main work. And in
my case not only the mind but the hand needs rest. Penmanship is increasingly
laborious, and the results (as you see) increasingly illegible!"
"Perhaps a book ought to have more meanings than the writer intends? But
then the writer will not necessarily be the best person with whom to discuss them."
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