RETROSPECT: March 22nd – 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 March (22nd – 31st) include: Publication of The Four Loves, his first essay collection and republication of a landmark professional work.

The Four LovesDuring the last decade of Lewis’s life his Christian-themed titles had less to do with defending the faith and more with sharing his understanding of a variety of aspects of it. The Four Loves, released on the 28th in 1960 is one of those works where he shares his wisdom on a topic related to the faith he had gained a greater understanding of over his life. Many individuals are not aware of the fact that two years prior to the book release Lewis had given ten radio talks on this theme. Those original broadcasts are actually available and worth getting, but the book contains nearly twice the amount of material. It includes an interesting introduction and a chapter on “Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human.” Lewis also chose to focus on using the English words for love in the book instead of Greek words for love that he emphasized on the radio.

Years prior to this Lewis released his first collection of shorter writings in Rehabilitations and Other Essays. This group of nine pieces from the 23rd in 1939 focused on his professional work (English literature). Over half of them had not been published prior to being included in that book. Even though the title is out of print now it helped to show Lewis’s understanding of his field to his peers when it was released. Many were reprinted later in 1969’s Selected Literary Essays that was also out of print until re-released as an eBook in 2013.

Poetry and ProseSpeaking of writings related to Lewis’s profession, the 29th shares the distinction of being a release date and a reprint date for the same book that presents different titles. Confused? It was nearly ten years after his death, on the 29th in 1973 that a paperback version of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century: Excluding Drama came out. This work is from September 1954 and was something that took nearly twenty years to complete. Also after his death, on the 29th in 1990 the publisher reprinted the book as Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century.

The BBC series of talks on Beyond Personality continued on the 28th in 1944 with Lewis addressing the question “Is Christianity Hard or Easy?” Interestingly it was one of the few times the talk was not given live. It had been recorded the week before, along with the final broadcast that I’ll explore next time. This next to last recording did not survive. In the talk (that was published in The Listener two days later) Lewis stated that the Christian faith was both “hard” and “easy.” It is “easier” for those who give themselves completely to God and let him work through you; but doing this is “harder” in some respects. This content is now the eighth chapter of Mere Christianity, but was actually the sixth broadcast in the final series.

The twentieth installment of what is better known as material found in The Great Divorce was published on the 23rd in 1945 in The Guardian. It is the last half of the twelfth chapter of that book. The story picks up with the characters introduced at the end of the previous week’s segment. A lady is talking to a dwarf ghost even though it was a (larger) Tragedian who was speaking. The Tragedian is trying to get pity from the lady because he has a warped understanding of love. The interaction was continued on the 29th in material that became the first half of the thirteen chapter. We find that the Tragedian had misused pity which is actually “meant to be a spur that drives joy to help misery.”

Dogma and the UniverseSpeaking of shorter works, there were several others published in a variety of places during this period. “Dogma and the Universe” is an essay now found in God in the Dock that had actually been published in two parts in The Guardian. The initial piece actually came out on the 19th in 1943 and the second (under the title of “Dogma and Science”) on the 26th.  The two articles show (among other things) Lewis’s familiarity with Modern Physics that was seeing many changes over the two decades before his article was written. The essay deals with a frequent objection (seen even more today) that because the Christian faith has beliefs that do not change (“dogmas”) how can it deal with the fact that “human knowledge is in continual growth”? Lewis also cautioned that even though there are some aspects of scientific theories that support Christianity we shouldn’t rely too heavily on them because theories change.

“Must Our Image of God Go?” initially appeared in The Observer on the 24th in 1963. It was a response by Lewis to “Our Image of God Must Go,” an article published just the week before by Bishop Dr. John Robinson. The Bishop’s piece was actually a summary of a book he had written that year. Lewis’s reply starts by underscoring a key point made by the Bishop that was a false assumption. Lewis states that a “belief in a God who sits on a throne in a localized heaven” was “long abandoned.”  The essay is also available in God in the Dock.

Another essay by Lewis also now found in God in the Dock was first published in Time and Tide on the 29th in 1941 in their “Notes on the Way” column. When “Bulverism” was initially printed there it was shorter than the piece we find available today. It would later become a talk at The Socratic Club in February 1944 and then expanded and published in The Socratic Digest in June of the same year.

Finally there are a couple of secondary releases that happen after Lewis’s death. An article we know now as “Unreal Estates” came out in the March, 1965 issue of Encounter, but had previously been published as “The Establishment Must Die and Rot…” in SF Horizons the previous spring. You can find it best in On Stories. Then on the 25th in 1987 the US edition of Present Concerns, a collection of eighteen essays, became available. All of those shorter works had never been reprinted previous to the initial release in the UK the previous July.

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