RETROSPECT: July 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 period of July 11-21 include: the first book resulting from speaking on the BBC, an unusual meditation, and the death of Joy.

Broadcast Talks (2)When Lewis agreed to do talks over the radio he had no idea how well received they would be. After two successful series of talks that were each in five parts and another series scheduled to start in late September, the book Broadcast Talks was released on the 13th in 1942. Unlike the later books released after each of his last two series, this book contained no additional material. They were merely five chapters each to match what was on the air. The only difference had to do with the order of the chapters from the first series. Lewis had done a “Q&A” talk at the end of it, but in the book it is placed after the first chapter. The U.S. Edition was released about fourteen months later under a different title, The Case for Christianity, but it contained the exact same content.

Two books that were collections of essays came out in the 1980’s that are considered my most to be pointless. Not that what Lewis wrote wasn’t worth reading, but because all of the material was previously published. First and Second Things, released on the 11th in 1985, had material that is also found in God in the Dock. The other, Timeless at Heart, hit the market on the 16th in 1987 containing other essays from God in the Dock, except for one that is also found in The Weight of Glory.

One of Lewis’s most profound essays and typically among most people’s favorites is “Meditation in a Toolshed.” It was first published on the 17th in 1945 in The Coventry Evening Telegraph and is best found in the previously mentioned God in the Dock (which is a collection that all Lewis fans should have). In this essay we are told about how “looking along the (sun)beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” In 2012 I did an “essay chat” podcast on this shorter work with Dr. Bruce Edwards (listen here.)

IStudies in Medieval and Renaissance Literaturen 1956 Lewis gave a talk on the 17th and 18th entitled “Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages” to a group of scientists at the Zoological Laboratory in Cambridge. The lectures provide a “map” of how the universe was viewed by the Medieval person. It is found in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Lewis would later expand on these thoughts in his book The Discarded Image.

“Willing Slaves of the Welfare State” was a piece Lewis wrote that was part of a series by various authors addressing the question “Is Progress Possible?” It came out on the 20th in 1958 in The Observer and is best found in God in the Dock

The final shorter work published during this period is indeed a “shorter work.”  A mere four paragraphs (and less than 400 words), “It All Began with a Picture” described the imaginative process for Lewis creating the Narnian books. Radio Times published it on the 15th in 1960 and you can find the essay in On Stories.

Two letters from the eventual The Screwtape Letters book were first published in The Guardian during this time period. On the 11th in 1941 the eleventh letter debut telling about the four “causes of human laughter.” They are “joy, fun, the Joke Proper and Flippancy.” We learn from Screwtape that “the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy” (i.e., God). The twelfth letter came out on the 18th in 1941 and found Screwtape boasting to Wormwood about the “change of direction” that has happen in the patient that must be carefully guided lest he become aware of his drifting faith. Additionally, it was on the 20th, a year earlier, in 1940 that Lewis wrote an eleven paragraph letter to his brother and he spend just two mentioning how he got the idea for the now famous The Screwtape Letters.

Lewis with RAF Chaplains 1944In Lewis’s personal life several landmark events happen, but not all were good, especially those later in his life. On a positive note Lewis achieved his third and final First Class Honors on the 16th in 1923. This one was a First in English Language and Literature. Also significant during this span of time is the fact that Lewis gave his final Royal Air Force (RAF) talk on the 16th in 1945. It was to the No. 225 Maintenance Unit, Warminster, Wiltshire, England. Then on the 13th in 1960 Lewis’s wife, Joy lost her battle with cancer and died. He had known Joy for a little more than ten years, but she added so much to his life and help bring to life many of Lewis’s final published works. Finally, Lewis had a heart attack on the 15th in 1963 and it was feared he would die as he was also in a coma for a period of time. He recovered to live four more months.

Next time, for the final third of July you’ll find out about another book by Lewis that had been a radio series first and about a friend’s book that was published that might not have been without Lewis’s influence.

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