RETROSPECT: January 11th – 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 the second third of January (11th – 21st) include: The start of his second series of BBC broadcasts, the publication of a fictional serial as a book and the death of a person Lewis lived with for the longest period of his life.

Mere Christianity pt.1Lewis began the second series of talks on the BBC at the start of this period. “What Christians Believes” was the overall theme of the messages.  The initial broadcast was on the 11th in 1942 and before it became better known as content from Mere Christianity it was included in the first published collection of talks, Broadcast Talks (AKA The Case for Christianity in the US).  While not originally having a title, this chapter was later called “The Rival Conceptions of God” when it appeared in that famous book. He kicked off the address by stating something “Christians do not need to believe” that makes them more liberal than believers in atheism.

The second broadcast from the series was given on the 18th in 1942. At the time it didn’t have a title either, but later when it was included in Mere Christianity it became known as “The Invasion.” He told about why the complex world we live in is something true Christianity presents. He also noted why Dualism’s explanation of reality may seem adequate but it actually falls short. He closed the talk by stating we live in territory occupied by the enemy and pointed out that “the rightful king has landed” (hence the title finally given to the talk).

On the 14th in 1946 The Great Divorce was published. This imaginative work had be serialized in The Guardian beginning in late 1944 over a twenty-three week span. What’s interesting to note is that there were only fourteen chapters when the book version came out. No material was cut, rather some parts were combined.  This fictional story presents the experiences of several individuals who are visiting Heaven and nearly all don’t like what they find.

Janie King MooreSomething on a more personal level occurred during this middle third of January. On the 12th in 1951 Mrs. Janie Moore died and on the 15th her funeral was held. Paddy Moore (Lewis’s roommate during Officer’s Training for World War I) was her son. The precise truth of the relationship Lewis had with Mrs. Moore, who was 79 years old when she died, is not known. Lewis shared a house with her almost thirty years and he often referred to her as his mother to others (if he referred to her at all) and she was just over 25 years older than Lewis. While it remains unclear if there ever was a sexual relationship between them, some more recent biographies suggest that it is likely there was, but that this would have changed after Lewis’s conversion.

Lewis experienced another more personal event in his life during this period. On the 13th in 1919 he returned to Oxford after being demobilized from military service the previous month. Many are unaware the he even served in World War I. In fact, he was a Second Lieutenant and was wounded during his service (more about that in April). Interestingly it was because of his participation in the war that he was able to study at Oxford (but more about that another time).

There is more news related to The Great Divorce mentioned above. The tenth and eleventh segments that were originally published as “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce” came out in The Guardian on the 12th and 19th  in 1945. The former part depicted a Ghost that was full of shame and the latter piece The Great Divorcepresents a fourth of what we now know as the ninth chapter of The Great Divorce. This is the part where George MacDonald is introduced and he provides much insight into what is going on. One of the many quotes I enjoy from the book overall is in this section: “Ye cannot fully understand the relations of choice and Time till you are beyond both.

“Occurring during the month of January without any particular date was two prose works. “Ministering Angels” was a science fiction short story first available in 1958 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Available in either The Dark Tower and Other Stories or Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, it is one of only two short stories by Lewis that was published in his lifetime. “The Efficacy of Prayer” appeared in the January 1959 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. This article is presently best found in The World’s Last Night collection of essays. While drawing you in with the question of how can one know that prayer is effective, Lewis reveals it is the wrong way to approach the subject and goes on to explain why, while making other helpful points.

Another shorter piece was published during this timeframe. In 1955, on the 21st, “Prudery and Philology” appeared in The Spectator. It’s a piece where Lewis shares his view on the use of words in literature when describing “those parts of the body which are not usually mentioned.” Of course, today standards are very different. That article can be found in Present Concerns.

It’s worth noting that a couple of books by Lewis were released during this period that were not for the first time. Christian Behavior came out in the US on the 18th in 1944 (and will be discussed in April, the month it was initially published). The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature came out in paperback on the 11th in 1968 (and will be explored in May).

Among the noteworthy happenings for next time are his last sermon, the first book published after his death and the release of a book that was one of the earliest collection of Christian-themed essays collected posthumously.

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