RETROSPECT: September 22nd – 30th

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 22nd – 30th include: Debut story of a Sci-Fi trilogy, a landmark book published anonymously and the death of Lewis’s father to cancer.

Out of the Silent Planet (1st ed)It’s no secret that Lewis is known for being a versatile writer. One of his earliest efforts that spotlighted this fact is what happened on the 23rd in 1938. This is when Lewis released the first of what is referred to many fans as the Ransom trilogy. That’s because Dr. Elwin Ransom is a central character introduced in Out of the Silent Planet. Released a dozen years before the Narnia stories, some call this his first imaginative apologetic work. Apparently Lewis himself wasn’t aware of how useful of a tool fiction could be to present Christian ideas in a latent way. It was after reading about five dozen reviews and noticing that merely two were aware of the source of a Christian parallel that Lewis used, he stated in a letter to Sister Penelope “I believe this great ignorance might be a help to the evangelisation of England: any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.”

It was later in life when Lewis was dealing with the grief caused by his wife’s death that he did another unintentional thing. On the 29th in 1961 A Grief Observed was published. It began as a personal journey that kept his reactions to grief; more of an attempt to write out his own experiences as a sort of map of sorrow. He found instead that “Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.” While limiting himself to just the paper he had (pages from four small manuscript books) he ultimately came to believe he shouldn’t keep it to just himself and agreed to have it released, but only if his name wasn’t on the cover. Only after Lewis’s own death was it revealed that N.W. Clerk wasn’t the author.

Related to grief and happening over thirty years before was the passing of Lewis’s father, Albert. It occurred on the 25th in 1929 when he succumb to cancer. While Lewis was never close to his father, Albert did financially support him to the extent that Lewis continued his education beyond one degree and until he achieved a position at Oxford. Another, and much less tragic event, happen this month in 1946. That is when an article by Chad Walsh entitled “C.S Lewis, Apostle to the Skeptics” was published in The Atlantic Monthly (it was later expanded and published as a book in 1949).

Lewis and BBCAs mentioned in the last post, the third BBC radio series began this month. The second talk, “Social Morality” was broadcast live on the 27th in 1942. It became the third chapter in the eventual Christian Behaviour and Mere Christianity. He starts off by stating Christ didn’t preach any new morality, but spent more time explaining his second point that “Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political programme for applying ‘Do as you would be done by’ to a particular society at a particular moment.”

Speaking of radio, there’s something that began on the 18th in 1959 that wasn’t noted last time. The first of six weekly installments of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was dramatized on the BBC. The second broadcast of the 40 minute shows was on the 25th with the concluding program on October 23rd. These dramatizations were approved by Lewis himself.

A variety of shorter works were published during this time over the years. In the September, 1948 issue of Lumen Vitae “Difficulties in Presenting the Faith to Modern Unbelievers” was published. It is more known as “God in the Dock” when published as the namesake in the book that was the largest collection of shorter works at the time. Lewis uses the setting of a courtroom and notes that in earlier ages people were aware of their guilt and had to answer for it. Today God is place in the dock as if He was who had to prove His innocence. Two other Christian-themed essays came out in World Dominion a few years apart, both in the September-October issues. “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” came out in 1941 and is reprinted in Christian Reflections. While “Myth Became Fact” was published in 1944 and is in God in the Dock.

God in the Dock ESSAY2 1948

A couple other essays were also published during this period that related more to Lewis’s professional training. “The Death of Words” came out on the 22nd in 1944 in The Spectator and “Sex in Literature” on the 30th in 1962 in The Sunday Telegraph. The former dealt with words that had become devoid of their actual meaning and is now found in On Stories. The topic of the latter is very obvious and was reprinted in Present Concerns.

The final items to note is another letter from Screwtape and a posthumous collection of essays. The twenty-second letter to Wormwood came out on the 26th in 1941 in The Guardian. In it Screwtape gets increasingly upset to the point of being turned into a large centipede and Toadpipe finishes the letter. Fern-Seed and Elephants came out on the 29th in 1975, but is now somewhat of an odd collection today. However, at the time, three of the titles were out of print that is now available in The Weight of Glory. Yet, the lead title, “Fern-Seed and Elephants” appears to be the most unique aspect of the work. It’s actually just a retitling of the previously published “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” found in Christian Reflections.

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