RETROSPECT: April 11th – 19th

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 April (11th – 19th) include: Publication of third BBC series; Publication of second book from BBC Talks; four posthumous books and the final installment about a bus ride to heaven.

Christian Behaviour - 1st CoverChristian Behaviour: A Further series of Broadcast Talks tops the list of happenings over the years in the life of Lewis. It was first published on the 19th in 1943 in the U.K. (and nine months later in the U.S.). As you may be aware, it was just the second book printed of three that eventually became part of Mere Christianity. What gets confusing to some is that when you examine the book from 1952 Christian Behavior is stated as being “Book III.” That’s because the first two series of radio broadcasts were combined into a single book, but the publisher felt it best to label them as if they were separate books because of each being a distinct broadcast series.

When examining the contents of Christian Behaviour in comparison to the previous material you become aware that it addresses the faith more directly. Specifically it defends moral behavior from the Christian perspective and explains what it looks like and how to apply it to one’s life. Additionally, unlike the first book it contained totally new material not given on the radio. They were these chapters: 2.) The Cardinal Virtues, 6.) Christian Marriage, 9.) Charity and 10.) Hope.

Four additional titles actually came out during this period and all happen after Lewis died in 1963. In fact it was just three years later that Letters of C.S. Lewis was released on the 18th. It was edited by Lewis’s brother Warren (a.k.a. “Warnie”) and contains a memoir at the start. The book was first begun as a biography on Lewis, but the editor found the collection of letters and diary entries that Warnie gathered more to their liking. Later, in 1988, it was revised and enlarged by Walter Hooper. Next was They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves. It came out on the 19th in 1979. As obvious from the subtitle, they are letters just to one individual. Arthur Greeves was Lewis’s best friend from his teen years and they corresponded from 1914 to 1963. It was edited by Hooper.

The third book was also a collection of Lewis’s correspondence; this one to children. On the 11th in 1985 Letters to Children was released. The editors were Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead. The letters were, for the most part, responses to questions he had received from younger fans of his works. It’s no surprise that the majority came as a result of his Narnia stories. In fact, a fairly well-known quote from this work is a letter that Lewis wrote in reply to a mother who wrote to him about her nine-year old son being concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. His response, in part, was “God knows quite well how hard we find it to love Him more than anyone or anything else, and He won’t be angry with us as long as we are trying. And He will help us.”  A paperback version of this book also came out this month in 1988. The final book for the this period, All My Road Before Be: The Diary of C.S. Lewis, 1922-27 came out on the 18th in 1991. Again, the subtitle clearly describes the content. It was also edited by Walter Hooper.

The Great Divorce2Something related to The Great Divorce occurred three times during this second third of April over a twelve year span for Lewis. On the 16th in 1933 he shared with his brother Warnie the idea for what first became the weekly series in The Guardian (although he got the initial thought in September of 1931). Then on the 13th in 1944 he read the concluding chapter of The Great Divorce at an Inklings meeting when Tolkien and Charles Williams was present. Finally, the twenty-third and concluding installment of “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce” appeared in The Guardian on the 13th in 1945. This segment raps things up with a few key points, namely the question about MacDonald being a Universalist and the reveal that all of what is described is from a dream. In fact, Lewis writes “make it plain that it was but a dream” and that he was making no claim to knowing what the afterlife is like.

On the 15th in 1945 Lewis preached a short sermon at St. Jude on the Hill Church in London. By the end of the month it was found in the April 27th issue of The Guardian. “The Grand Miracle” is not to be confused with a chapter later to be found in his book simply called Miracles, although the content is similar. To confuse matters, Lewis also had an article entitled “Miracles” and a letter he wrote in response to it is listed as “Miracles” in God in the Dock. That book is also where “The Grand Miracle can be best found. In his message, Lewis notes that Christianity is likely the only religion that cannot be stripped of its miraculous elements. He believed that the greatest miracle was Christ’s birth.

“Lilies that Fester” was an article appearing in the April, 1955 issue of a periodical called Twentieth Century. It was essentially a rebuttal to another article in that same issue. As a result, Lewis spends several pages answering a question raised by that other piece – namely, why some “go to such lengths to prove to us that really they are not intellectuals at all and certainly not cultured.” In the remaining part he explains why matter is important. Worlds Last NightThe title of the essay comes from one of Shakespeare’s sonnets that states ‘Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.” Within the article Lewis contrasts culture for the sake of enjoyment with culture for the sake of self-improvement and/or advancement. You can locate this shorter work best in The World’s Last Night. You can hear an essay chat I did on this essay at my PodOmatic podcast page.

The final event of interest comes from Lewis’s personal life. Many are unaware that Lewis served in World War One. He didn’t join the conflict until late this month in 1917. During several days in this second third of April in 1918 Lewis was in the middle of a clash in Mouth Bernenchon that is now known as the Battle of Arras. On the 15th he was wounded by “friendly fire” and pieces of the British shell remained in his chest for nearly the remainder of his life. Subsequently he was sent back to England to recover. Later in his life Lewis took part in another war in a much different way. He was asked to speak to the Royal Air Force (RAF). The first one was actually this month (the 9th) in 1941. It was at RAF Abingdon, Berkshire, England.

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