RETROSPECTIVE: December 21st – 31st

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 the final third of December (21st – 31st) include: An essay about happiness, a special preview of a forthcoming book and two more installments of the eventual The Great Divorce.

Lewis had articles published in a large variety of places during his life. The final shorter work he wrote came out in The Saturday Evening Post less than a month after his death. “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’” first appeared in their combined December 21-28, 1963 edition. The only other essay he wrote for them was the encore Screwtape piece mentioned last time. This article specifically attacks sexual happiness and was written at the invitation of the editor, Thomas Congdon. It begins with Lewis describing a comment by someone he calls “Clare” that defended the actions of others by stating “they have a right God In The Dockto happiness.” This comment stuck in his head and he shares his reflections on what the lady really meant. Her comment was about two individuals that were married to other people but in love with each other. They divorced their spouses to marry each other and she didn’t think it was wrong. Lewis contends that in pursuing happiness we can’t do whatever we want. This article is found in God in the Dock.

It was also just after his death that a special preview came out of one of Lewis’s final books. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer didn’t come out until January, 1964, but on the 25th in 1963 a limited edition title containing chapters 15, 16 and 17 was printed as Beyond the Bright Blur. It was given as a “New Year’s greeting” to close friends of Lewis and the publisher. The complete book of letters to the fictional Malcolm ultimately had twenty-two chapters.

The seventh and eighth installments of “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce” came out on the 22nd and 29th in 1944 in The Guardian. As noted previously, these segments are not the same as the chapters in the eventual The Great Divorce. The part from the 22nd contained the last half of the fifth chapter and the material from the 29th included all of the sixth chapter. The former concludes the interaction observed between a Spirit talking with an Episcopal Ghost about his unbelief, while the latter describes another Ghost named Ikey who tries to take a very small (but heavy) golden apple back with him.

Present ConcernsThere are three other shorter works worth noting. The earliest came out on the 29th in 1944. “Private Bates” was initially published in The Spectator and is now best found in Present Concerns. In it Lewis uses his firsthand knowledge of being a soldier in France in WWI to address belief by some that stories of atrocities by soldiers serving in WWII were “propaganda.” The next was in a journal simply called Twentieth Century and found in their December, 1957 issue. “What Christmas Means to Me” is most easily found in God in the Dock and finds Lewis providing four reasons he condemns the commercialism of Christmas. The final piece is from the Christmas, 1959 issue of Good Work (formerly Catholic Art Quarterly). “Good Work and Good Works” is a highly quotable essay. One of the points Lewis makes is the importance of what one does and that it should be done with excellence and not in a sloppy manner. You can find this shorter work in The World’s Last Night.

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