Retro: May 15th – 21st

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.

A couple of landmark events in Lewis’s professional life occurred this week. After holding a temporary position at Oxford teaching philosophy, he was elected a Fellow in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford on the 20th in 1925. Just over 10 years later, in 1936 on the 21st his first scholarly work was published. Regarding the first step, his fellowship at Oxford, it cannot be understated how excited both Lewis and his father was about this milestone. Albert, his father, who had supported him financially since 1919 recorded these words in his diary: “I went to his (Jack’s) room and burst into tears of joy. I knelt down and thanked God with a full heart.”

This same year (1925) was when Lewis’s former tutor, F. P. Wilson suggested to him that he should consider writing a book on some characteristic of Medieval thought. About two years later he began the task of creating something that would dramatically build his reputation as a first-rate scholar. The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition may not be read by many outside those interested in literary criticism, but it clearly shows that from his early days as a Christian Lewis didn’t see any conflict about being a person of faith who took his “secular” work seriously.

It’s interesting to note a connection about this first professional work and another more personal event happening in the mid-1940’s. It was just before the publication of The Allegory of Love in 1936 that Lewis made a connection with Charles Williams. Williams would go on to become a very close friend of Lewis and had such an influence on him that the final book of the Ransom Trilogy is viewed as a title clearly influenced by him. However, the connection to this week is a sad one, as Williams died without much warning at the early age of 58on the 15th in 1945. On a brighter personal note, Lewis’s mother was born this week, on the 18th in 1862.

In terms of speaking or having something else published this was a somewhat quiet week. The third letter from Screwtape was release in The Guardian and he gave a talk at the Oxford Socratic Club. On the 20th in 1946 he spoke at a regular meeting of the Socratic Club. “Religion without Dogma?” was Lewis’s choice for a topic. It was selected because he wanted to reply to Professor H.H. Price’s paper that was previously read at another of the club’s meeting. While first published the same year in the Phoenix Quarterly, it was also in the fourth issue of The Socratic Digest from 1948. The article version now available in God in the Dock contains a slightly revised version of the paper.

In “Religion without Dogma?” Lewis begins by summarizing Professor Price’s positions into four points and then takes the assertions one at a time. The first, which he disagrees with is “that the essence of religion is belief in God and immortality.” This is also addressed in a chapter in Reflections on the Psalms. One of the other points had to do with the miraculous, which Price stated as something that could not be accepted by those believing in science.

As noted the third Screwtape letter was released. It was on the 16th in 1941 and begins with presenting some perspective about why a believer’s behavior is often slow to change. Due to habits and thought patterns one “can practise self-examination for an hour without discover any of those facts…which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house.” The patient’s mother is indirectly introduced and another demon name Glubose is mentioned.

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