RETROSPECT: September 1st – 11th

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 September 1-11 include: Two Narnia books published, a final fictional work, being on the cover of Time in the U.S. and his only title devoted to a book of the Bible.

Time CoverThe number of books published over the years during these eleven days would be enough for most authors for an entire lifetime. Although, two of the titles are collections of shorter works were released after his death, interestingly the five others were during the last eleven years of his life. An additional title, A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S. Lewis, is a lesser known collection of quotes first available in March, 1968, but was published as a paperback on the 9th in 1980.

The highest point for this period, however, isn’t actually about a book…at least not directly. On the 8th in 1947 Lewis landed on the cover of Time. As you might be aware this accomplishment was before both Mere Christianity and any of the Narnia books had been released. At that time he was already presented as “one of the most influential spokesmen for Christianity.” The indirect reason for gaining the cover story was the popularity of The Screwtape Letters in the U.S.; a book that wasn’t even released in the states until 1943.

The Silver ChairAs noted, two Narnia books premiered in early September. The Silver Chair was the fourth published title (it’s numbered six in more recent editions) when it came out on the 7th in 1953. Jill Pole is introduced and Eustace Scrubb returns for his second adventure. They are entrusted with the task of following four signs to be able to find Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian X (aka Prince Caspian). Along the way they met many challenges and have a memorable companion, Puddleglum, to help them face the difficulties. The other Narnia title, The Horse and His Boy had its debut on the day before in 1954. While the fifth published book, present events happening during what’s known as the Golden Age of Narnia and is currently the third volume in the series (see “The Narnian Order of Things” if your confused about the reading order). While there are characters originally from Earth, this is the only story whose main characters are from Narnia. The plot centers around two individuals on the run and two talking horses who are with them (or is it the other way around?).

Lewis’s last fictional work, Till We Have Faces came out on the 10th in 1956 (the final Narnia story was release earlier the same year). It is a retelling of a classical myth about Cupid and Psyche. The main character is Orual and it is from her perspective that the story is told. Two years later, on the 8th in 1958 came the only title devoted to a book of the Bible. Reflections on the Psalms, the second of three books Lewis wrote during his marriage to Joy Davidman, didn’t attempt to be a work of scholarship, but a less formal book that, as the title suggested, contained merely “reflections” and not exhaustive thoughts on the Psalms. Then, on the 9th in 1960, Studies in Words, clearly an academic title, was released. It was later expanded in 1967. As Colin Duriez notes in The A-Z of C.S. Lewis, Lewis warns his focus is not linguistics, but that “his purpose is merely lexical and historical.”

The final two books, both of which came after Lewis’s death, have similar titles and have overlapping content. Of Other Worlds was released first, on the 5th in 1966. It contains nine essays and four shorter stories (only two were published prior to this time). The fictional pieces are included in a later work called The Dark Tower and all the essays are contained in the other book published during this period, Of This and Other Worlds. Released on the 6th in 1982 it adds eleven more selections and was published as On Stories five months later in the U.S.

Present ConcernsOne of the essays included in Of This and Other Worlds also happened to be printed during this period. “The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard” was published on the 3rd in 1960 as “Haggard Rides Again” in Time and Tide. It was essentially a review of a biography on Haggard by Morton Cohen. However, Lewis used the occasion to explain why he believed Haggard’s work had lasting value even though he was a poor writer. Years earlier Lewis wrote in the same publication in their “Notes on the Way” column about his early school experience. This essay, first published on the 4th in 1943 was called “My First School” when reprinted in Present Concerns. Nearly a year later, on the 9th, “Blimpophobia” was also printed in the Time and Tide. It’s also best available in Present Concerns. In this shorter work, Lewis references a British cartoon character Colonel Blimp who is very pompous. John Bremer’s entry in The C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia summarizes it well by stating Lewis warns about “those who have taken power during the war may claim that the continuance of their power is necessary for national security.”

The final two items to note happen close to each other during the same year. On the 3rd in 1941 Lewis returned to the microphone for the fifth time ever to respond to questions from listeners on his first series of broadcasts on the BBC. Thanks to a 1981 anniversary edition of Mere Christianity edited by Walter Hooper we have a photocopy of the typed script Lewis used that night for what became the second chapter in the first book. The next happening occurred on the 5th in 1941 when the nineteenth installment of “The Screwtape Letters” appeared in The Guardian. Here Wormwood gets some clarification about Hell’s perspective of God’s love and it actually being “an impossibility.” Further points are also made about the patient “being in love,” in that this state doesn’t really matter unless it can be used to draw him away from God.

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