RETROSPECT: July 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 period of July 22-31include: Lewis on the radio that wasn’t a part of the eventual Mere Christianity book, the U.S. release of The Four Loves and the publication of a friend’s landmark book that Lewis encouraged the author to write (hint: it has a “ring” to it).

The Fellowship of the RingWhen you consider a person’s life over the years (like this series has with C.S. Lewis), it’s no surprise that there might be a week or two were relatively little significant events happened. Such is the case for this time-period.  However, there was a very meaningful moment in the life of a now more famous friend, J.R.R. Tolkien. In 1954 The Fellowship of the Ring was published at the end of July (the actual date is either the 24th or 29th, as I’ve seen both listed).

It’s not just because they were friends that it’s worth mentioning, rather because of the influence Lewis had on it coming to publication. While Lewis didn’t help Tolkien write it, he was (as Alister McGrath states in his recent biography) “the chief midwife” to The Lord of the Rings. As others have noted as well, without Lewis, Tolkien’s great work would have likely remained unfinished because of his tendency to continually revise and expand on his writings. Lewis was a big fan of the material long before it was published because he had the chance to read it at various stages before it was released. He wrote a review of The Fellowship of the Ring that was published in Time and Time as “The Gods Return to Earth.” This review was combined with one he wrote on The Two Towers and retitled as “Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings” in On Stories.

Unless you were able to get a copy of the U.K. edition of The Four Loves when it was published in early 1960 (March 28th was the release date), most people’s next best chance was when it came out in the U.S. on the 27th of July the same year.  The book is actually an expanded version of a series of radio scripts he wrote on the topic in 1958. In addition to elaborating on the four Greek words for love he offered new material not heard on the air that compared and contrasted “gift-love” and “need-love.”

Collected Letters Volume 2Although the radio aspect of The Four Loves didn’t happen during this time-period, another broadcast event did. Lewis was a guest on a show that was heard on the 22nd in 1943. It was a BBC show called “The Anvil” that dealt with listener’s questions dealing with the Christian faith. The Reverend Dr. J. W. Welch who was the Director of the Religious Broadcasting Department of the BBC moderated the show. Three other individuals were also present to answer the questions that each had been given in advance to prepared his or her thoughts, but as Hooper notes in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2, each were told to only bring a paper with “one or two things” written at the most for the show to remain spontaneous and not sound scripted. The program was actually recorded a few days earlier on the 19th, although no recording survived. A transcript of what Lewis said is provided in Mere Christianity: An Anniversary Edition that was published in 1981 with an introduction by Walter Hooper.As you may recalled the individual selections from The Screwtape Letters have been appearing in The Guardian of late in these reflections. The thirteenth piece was published on the 25th in 1941. It begins with Wormwood being confronted to face reality as he had “let the man slip through [his] fingers,” resulting in essentially a “second conversion.” Screwtape then gives him a lesson in pain and pleasure, noting that humans must not be allowed to have any “positive” pleasures or to do something for its own sake (but instead must do things that are “best” “right” or viewed as “important”).

There are three other short pieces to note; but only one came out for sure during this time-frame. “A Dream” is a lighthearted essay that came out on the 28th in 1944 in The Spectator that is best found in Present Concerns. While addressing a serious point about authority Lewis does so using his unique style of humor. The other two items were essays published in the summer issues of their perspective journals. “The Poison of Subjectivism” came out in 1943 in Religion in Life. It deals principally with the same themes from The Abolition of Man. It can be found today in Christian Reflections. “Four-Letter Words” is a shorter work published in The Critical Quarterly in 1961. Best available in Selected Literary Essays, it approaches the topic from Literature, expounding on those words used in Medieval and classical culture.

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