Retro: March 5th – 11th

March 5th – 11th

The following is part of a weekly series reflecting on the life of C.S. Lewis. This is accomplished by summarizing various events or happenings during his lifetime for the noted week and may include significant events related to him after his death.

Material from Mere Christianity has been mentioned just about every week lately. This week, however, there are two events related to the famous book that occurred in the same year. On the 7th in 1944 the third broadcast was made. However, it became the fourth chapter when first published in book form inBeyond Personality a year later and the landmark book nearly ten years after. That’s because Lewis added four chapters afterwards of related content. This talk was called “Good Infection” and has Lewis encouraging listeners to be infected with something good, God! He also foreshadows some thoughts later developed in The Four Loves by noting “the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons.”

Then on the 9th in 1944 The Listener printed a replied Lewis wrote to answer issues raised by W.R. Childe the previous week. Childe had read the transcript from Lewis’s first broadcast from the fourth series that was printed in The Listener two days after it was on the air (the talks being published like this was noted in a previous weekly). Childe disagreed with Lewis’s assertion that one cannot gain eternal life simply by feeling the presence of God in flowers or music and accused Lewis of being in favor of religious compulsion. In his reply Lewis defended his earlier statement and vehemently denied the charge of religious compulsion. His letter is available in God in the Dock, listed as “Mr C.S. Lewis on Christianity.”

By the mid 1940’s Lewis’s fame just kept on growing. As a result of this he had been asked many times to speak in America. One such occasion happened around this time, as on the 7th in 1945 he wrote to Mr. McClain to turn down an offer to “tour in America.” He stated it was “out of the question at present” due to having “a very old invalid mother” he was taking care of. Lewis also asked the gentleman to share this fact with others so his repeated rejections wouldn’t have “sinister interpretations.”

The final third of the 11th chapter from The Great Divorce was published as the eighteenth episode in The Listener on the 9th (review the first and second parts). It contains the conclusion of what happen with the red lizard and Lewis draws a contrasting point with it and the mother mentioned in the sixteenth installment. We are told that it wasn’t excessive love that the mother had, but defective and that the change in the lizard came only after it was killed (which was only done after permission was given).

Reform in education is nothing new and can often be helpful. However, if it is done without careful consideration it might produce worse results. Writing in Time and Tide on the 11th in 1944, Lewis presented an essay related to the theme of educational reform; it is available in On Stories under the title “The Parthenon and the Optative”. In the essay, Lewis uses these terms to symbolize two types of education; Lewis explores which type of education can achieve greater appreciation of literature. One type of education begins with appreciation but fails disastrously; the other type commences “with hard, dry things like grammar, and dates, and prosody” but still has the possibility of achieving the ultimate goal of literary appreciation.

A variety of personal experiences stand out in Lewis’s life over the years from this week. While still only nine years old, on the 5th in 1908, Lewis recorded in his diary that he had read Milton’s Paradise Lost. Of course, later in his life he gave a series of lectures on the epic poem that became the foundation for his book A Preface to Paradise Lost. On the 10th in 1949 Lewis met with his former student Roger Green, who is also known for his own writings. They dined together and Lewis read to him two chapters form the forthcoming The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Green enjoyed what he heard and gave Lewis much encouragement. By the end of this month the complete manuscript was finished! Finally, on the 11th in 1936 Lewis first wrote to Charles Williams. The occasion was Lewis expressing to him how much he liked one of Williams’s books. This led to them becoming friends and Williams getting involved in The Inklings before his untimely death in 1945.