Retro: April 17th – 23rd

April 17th – 23rd

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

Christian Behaviour: A Further series of Broadcast Talks tops the list of a very busy week over the years in the life of Lewis. It was first published on the 19th of April in 1943 in the U.K. (and nine months later in the U.S.).  As you may be aware, it was the second book printed of three that eventually became part of Mere Christianity. What gets confusing to some is that when you examine that book, Christian Behavior  is stated as being “Book III.” That’s because the first two series of radio broadcasts were combined into a single book. Christian Behaviouraddresses the faith more directly than the debut book, specifically examining the traditional moral teachings. Unlike the first book it contained totally new material not given on the radio. They were these chapters: 2.) The Cardinal Virtues, 6.) Christian Marriage, 9.) Charity and 10.) Hope.

Perelandra is also a “middle” book from a trilogy that brings confusion to some, though it is for different reasons. The potential puzzlement has to do with what to call the series itself. Informally it’s been called the “Science Fiction Trilogy” and the “Ransom Trilogy.” However, when published, on the 20th in 1943, it has had two different group titles, the “Space Trilogy” and “The Cosmic Trilogy.” Hardcore fans tend to prefer “Ransom Trilogy” because Ransom is a central character in each story. In Perelandra he visits Venus to help save that world from impending corruption. On some occasions in his life Lewis considered this novel to be his best (this was also said of Till We Have Faces). Perelandra was dedicated “To Some Ladies at Wantage,” as in Wantage, Berkshire where his friend Sister Penelope was a nun at the Community of St. Mary the Virgin.

The next group of books that came out this week all happen after Lewis had died in 1963. Just three years later,Letters of C.S. Lewis was released on the 18th. It was edited by Lewis’s brother Warren (a.k.a. “Warnie”) and contains a memoir at the start. The book was first begun as a biography on Lewis, but the editor found the collection of letters and diary entries that Warnie gathered more to their liking. Another book of letters came out this week. On the 19th in 1979 They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves was published. As obvious from the subtitle, they are letters just to one individual. Arthur Greeves was Lewis’s best friend from his teen years and they corresponded from 1914 to 1963. The final book for the week, All My Road Before Be: The Diary of C.S. Lewis, 1922-27 came out on the 18th in 1991. Again, the subtitle clearly describes the content. Both of these last two books were edited by Walter Hooper. The first book, by Lewis’s brother was revised and enlarged by Hooper in 1988.

There were two different occasions that Lewis spoke before a group this week. In 1942 on the 22nd he gave the annual Shakespeare Lecture before the British Academy in London. This talk, “Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?” was published that same year in The Proceedings of the British Academy and later in Lewis’s They Asked for a Paper and also in Selected Literary Essays (both are out of print). As you can tell from the setting and the title, this was an academic speech where Lewis shared his thoughts on one of Shakespeare’s well known plays. The other talk, two years later, on the 18th (some sources suggest it was the 19th) is a questions and answers session that was part of a “One Man Brains Trust” held at the Electric and Musical Industries Christian Fellowship in Hayes, Middlesex. “Answers to Questions on Christianity was first published by the organization in 1944 and after his death in God in the Dock. While the talk was given before a lay audience, they were individual working in Industry and so Lewis opened with comments noting “Christianity does not replace the technical.” In reply to a question of obtaining happiness Lewis humorously replies “the religion of worshipping oneself is the best” (though it is short-lived).

A very significant event in Lewis’s personal life occurred this week. On the 23rd in 1956 he was married to Joy Davidman in a civil ceremony (less than a year later he married her again, but in an ecclesiastical ceremony).  This first time Lewis essentially considered Joy to be a friend who, as not a British citizen, but wanting to stay in England, needed a way to legally stay in the U.K. Few individuals were even aware they became married. The latest book by Dr. Alister McGrath on Lewis, C.S. Lewis – A Life,  provides some interesting thoughts on the topic.  It should also be noted that Joy’s birthday is also this week, as she was born on the 18th in 1915.

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