RETRO: August 12th – 21st

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

Highlights for August 12-21 include: A final series of radio talks, the concluding book of a series, two more talks from his initial broadcast series and a never before published essay by Lewis becoming available in 1990.

CS Lewis RecordingsThe first scholarly book by Lewis was The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition. The theme of love in a broader sense is (obviously) of great importance to him and can be found in a large variety of his writings. So it is of no surprise that when Lewis finally agreed to return to the microphone for another series of radio talks this was the theme. These talks were recorded in London on the 19th and 20th in 1958, but they were not done for the BBC (as his previous radio work was). It was the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation from the United States who had made the request. Eventually the material from these talks were extended to become The Four Loves. At the time, however, they were simply known as “A Series of Ten Radio Talks on Love” and transcripts of these broadcasts were made available as pamphlets. The recordings are still available to purchase today from the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation in a collection called The C.S. Lewis Recordings. As you may already realize when Lewis published the book two years later it contain about twice as much material.

That Hideous Strength the third and final installment of a series of science fiction books happened on the 16th in 1945 (it became available in the U.S. nearly a year later). It is the only newly released book in the entire month of August. Many have described this novel (which Lewis referred to it as “a modern fairy-tale for grown-ups” in the original subtitle) as a “Charles Williams novel” because of that author’s tendency to create spiritual thrillers in That HSeveryday surroundings with regular people as characters. The story is very unlike Lewis’s first two books in the series in additional ways. The main new characters in the story are the Studdock’s, a married couple named Mark and Jane. We follow their lives as it drifts further and further apart, ending on the opposite sides of a major conflict that will impact countless others.

As noted in the last installment of this series, Lewis began what would be one of the most significant steps in his life by speaking on the radio. During this period two more talks were given on the BBC for what would be later known as being a part of Mere Christianity. On the 13th in 1941 he spoke on “Scientific Law and Moral Law,” but this is not the title given to the chapter in the famous 1952 book. When published there it is called “The Reality of the Law” and it is the third chapter (though it was actually the second radio talk). That’s because when he did this series originally he was only giving four speeches, but because of the volume of mail asking questions he agreed to address some of them by going before the microphone one more time. That talk is now the second chapter, but it was the fifth broadcast.

When Lewis spoke on the 13th he picked up on the points from the debut talk about “fair play;” that it was something we all wanted but had trouble doing. He explains his focus isn’t on finding someone to blame for this fact, but instead why it is true. The next week on the 20th his topic was “Materialism or Religion,” however in Mere Christianity this fourth chapter (but remember it was the third talk) is entitled “What Lies Behind the Law.” When he spoke on the radio Lewis contrasted the Materialist view vs. the Religious view. In print he added content by telling what he believed was an “in-between view.” A final additional note about this and all the talks in this series is that when the material was first released as Broadcast Talks in 1942 there were no chapter titles.

CSL Collection Faith and ChurchFew readers of Lewis’s works are aware that a previously unreleased essay was published for the first time in 1990. “Christian Reunion: An Anglican Speaks to Roman Catholics” came out on August 15th that year in Christian Reunion and Other Essays. The remaining pieces from that book were previously published and are still easily attainable. Yet, the namesake shorter work is no longer in print, even though used copies are currently available of the book online. But, the essay is also in another out of print edition that is usually less expensive and contains a much larger collection of shorter works. C. S. Lewis Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church is over 400 pages and contains fifty-five essays and a dozen previously published letters.

Two other essays were published during this highlighted period, along with another letter from Screwtape. This latter piece, the sixteenth letter, came out on the 15th in 1941 and is found in The Screwtape Letters. In it we find how Wormwood can cure his patient of attending church…convince him to do what is today called “church hopping.” On the 14th in 1948 Lewis did an article for Time and Tide for their “Notes on the Way” column. The selection is now known as “Priestessess in the Church?” when first reprinted in God in the Dock (it is also in the larger essay collection mentioned at the end of the last paragraph). Another “Notes on the Way” piece came out on the 17th in 1940. It became known as “The Necessity of Chivalry” when published after his death in Present Concerns. If you want more details on this essay you can listen to a chat I did with Dr. Bruce Johnson from my All About Jack Podcast.

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