RETROSPECT: January 1st – 10th

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.

At the start of 2013 I began a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death that involved doing a monthly column for the official C.S. Lewis blog and a more detailed version on my own site. Then in late May last year my site began being hosted on the Middle Earth Network. Thus, many of you reading this never saw around twenty articles I posted from this project. Back then I was doing a weekly version, but have since changed it to three times a month. So, with these factors in mind I decided to continue posting my retrospective column. Besides learning a few new facts that I’m including here, as just noted, instead of focusing on seven days I’m examining one-third of a month at a time (usually ten days) and so the material is revised even if it were for that reason alone.

Highlights for the first third of January (1st – 10th) include: Two books published for the first time (one posthumously), two paperback debuts, and initial US versions of two of his books.

If you’ve been reading this series for any three month span, you likely noticed he wrote a good variety of books (some being published after his death). Sometimes I’ve noted when Lewis’s books were released in the US for the first time or when debuting in paperback editions. During this short period a total of six books became available in one of these forms or another.

Abolition of Man (from Arend Smilde)It was on the 6th in 1944 that The Abolition of Man was released. This is the only book of totally new material during this third segment of January. The content was initially presented as three talks in February of 1943. Most sources site the publication as the same year of the lectures, but it was actually first released in 1944. The original addresses were given to a mainstream audience, so it doesn’t contain any overt Christian content. Rather it defends the existence of an objective moral code without appealing to the Bible. I’ll provide more details about them when examining the final third of February.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast, a book collecting various essays features the title article and seven more selections. Released posthumously on the 4th in 1965, it’s a title that Lewis himself put together before his death. Now out of print, all of the essays can be found in other collections (the lead essay is frequently found in some editions of The Screwtape Letters).

Two books that Lewis wrote later in his life were initially available in paperback for the first time in January. Reflections on the Psalms was released on the 2nd in 1961, and The Four Loves on the 7th in 1963. The former was originally published in 1958 and is the only book he wrote devoted to an entire book of the Bible. This work wasn’t an exhaustive study on the Psalms (as the title clearly states). The Four LovesThose who have only read his material defending the Christian faith will notice that this book is meant for those already walking with the Lord. The Four Loves had been published in 1960 and it expands on a ten-part radio series that only discussed the four Greek words for love.

The US edition of Spirits in Bondage and Till We Have Faces made their debuts this month. Bondage had never been published in the United States until after Lewis’s death. On the 6th in 1984 it was released with a preface by Walter Hooper. I’ll give more details about this poetry book in late March. Faces was Lewis’s last fictional work; it came to the States on the 9th in 1957 after being first available the previous September in the UK.

During his life Lewis wrote many essays on a range of topics for Christian and non-Christian publications. If you were a subscriber to The Coventry Evening Telegraph in 1945 you would have found an article by him in their first issue that year on the 3rd. “Religion and Science” presents an imaginary dialogue between Lewis and a friend who has a skeptical view of miracles, especially the Virgin Birth. It is now best found in God in the Dock collection of essays.

On the 8th in 1955 Time and Tide Lewis presented his literary critic side. “George Orwell” was a review that dealt with both 1984 and Animal Farm. In it Lewis discusses why he believes Animal Farm is better than 1984. Lewis felt Animal Farm essentially communicated its message more concisely. This selection is available in On Stories.

God In The DockOn the 10th in 1941 Lewis wrote on politics, a topic he rarely approached. “Meditation on the Third Commandment,” published in The Guardian presented his views concerning what he thought about the formation of a Christian political party. You can find out what they were by reading the piece in the collection of essays book God in the Dock.

Another short selection by Lewis appeared this week for the first time. On the 5th of January in 1945 in The Guardian the ninth installment of a new fictional work was published. The series was called “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce.” It had begun in late November, 1944. Later it became better known as material now found in The Great Divorce.

A major event occurred in Lewis’s life on the 7th in 1955. The previous year he was elected as Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge’s Magdalene College. On this date he spent his first night in his new rooms (although his appointment officially began on the 1st that year).

Next time learn about something from Mere Christianity that occurred, an event related to WWI and a significant death of someone close to Lewis.

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