Retro: June 12th – 19th

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.

Highlights for the period of June 12th – 19th include: the birthday of his closest friend, beginning his longest employment and an explanation of “an old textbook method” that the devils use.

The Splendid CenturyLewis was the youngest in his family. His only sibling was his brother, Warren who was nearly three-and-half years older. Born on the 16th in 1895, the elder brother became close friends with his junior over the years. This doesn’t mean they had the same interests, in fact, a major difference in their tastes from their younger years turns out to be a pretty good summary of their most outstanding talents. Lewis from his early days was intrigued by fairy tales and fantasy stories. Warnie had more of an interest in history. While the younger brother is known more than for just his Narnia (fairy tale) stories, those familiar with Warnie point to his key contribution as his books on French history. Warnie is also known for editing the Lewis Family Papers. This unpublished document is eleven volumes and the originals are at the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Although not completed this week, the majority of Lewis’s last studies at Oxford was finished around this time in 1923 (his exams for English language and literature was from June 14-19). It might be easy to state that it took only two years before Lewis began his full-time work at Oxford, but to him it was a very long wait. Of course, some are not even aware that he had a “day job” as a tutor at the school. Being more known for his children’s stories and defense of the Christian faith can make one wonder how he had time to work at Magdalen College at Oxford. On the 15th in 1925 his official appointment began there. He was paid 500 pounds a year, plus rooms, a pension and dining allowance.

Present Concerns“Hedonics” is a little known short piece (less than 2,000 words) by Lewis that first appeared on the 16th in 1945 in Time and Tide. It was only republished after his death in 1986 in Present Concerns. The essay is more of a reflective work, as Lewis begins by describing his experience traveling the London Underground (the “tube”) train. Lewis defines “hedonics” as the study of pleasure from a philosophical standpoint. As noted, unlike his more straightforward selections, this article doesn’t attempt to draw strong conclusions, but is best viewed as a great conversation starter.

The seventh letter from Screwtape was initially released on the 13th in 1941 in The Guardian. Here Wormwood is advised how to approach the delicate subject of the existence of devils. Noting the advantages on each side, he states the policy is presently to deny they exist. He points out that some daydevil (maybe in our time?) “a Materialist Magician” would be created, which is someone who “not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls ‘Forces’ while denying the existence of ‘spirits’.” Until then the best way to keep humans from believing in devils is to use “an old textbook method” of having them think of the comical portraits of devils in red tights to assure their disbelief.

Finally, it was on the 18th in 1992 that a collection edited by Walter Hooper was published. When first released it was called Daily Readings with C.S. Lewis. A few years later it was reissued as C.S. Lewis: Readings for Meditation and Reflection. This later title is more fitting as it contains less than 100 readings. Another book (from 1984) edited by Hooper, The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C.S. Lewis actually has readings for EACH day. Another difference worth noting is the 1992 book contains longer selections. Both are good introductions to a range of material by Lewis, or can be used as reminders of his work.

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