RETROSPECT: December 1st – 10th

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 first third of December (1st – 10th) include: The first book in the US collecting Lewis quotes, a collection of essays related to his profession and a book edited by Lewis focused on Charles Williams.

A-Mind-Awake.jpgIn today’s world it’s not difficult to find a quote attributed to C.S. Lewis. Searching online provides a wide variety of quotations, but not all are actually things Lewis said (see my article “Quotes NOT By Lewis: A Preliminary Examination” for details about this). In the “old days” you had to rely on a much more reliable resource known as a book. The first of these actually came out in early 1968 in the UK, but the US version wasn’t published until this month on the 3rd in 1969. A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C.S. Lewis is actually more than a collection of quotes, as some of the selections are lengthier. Also unlike the more recent The Quotable Lewis, which is arranged in alphabetical order, A Mind Awake is divided into ten major topics that has three to five subtopics each.

Lewis wrote several books related to his professional work. Not surprisingly he also wrote many articles in the same genre that were later collected. Selected Literary Essays came out for the first time on the 4th in 1969 and contains twenty-two shorter works previously published in Lewis’s lifetime. In fact, five of the selections are from an earlier title, Rehabilitations, which was the initial collection of essays by Lewis published in 1939. Selected Literary Essays had been out of print until it was recently republished late 2013 in paperback and eBook. Among the works in this collection are “De Descriptione Temporum” and “The Literary Impact of the Authorised Version” which readers less familiar with this subject area of Lewis would still enjoy.

Essays-Presented-to-Charles-Williams.jpgLewis was friends with many individuals. His most famous and influential was with J.R.R. Tolkien, someone he knew nearly his entire life. Charles Williams, whom Lewis was friends with for only about seven years (due to Williams’s untimely death) had nearly an equal impact. On the 4th in 1947 Lewis paid tribute to Williams by editing a book called Essays Presented to Charles Williams. Lewis wrote the preface and contributed an original essay entitled “On Stories.” Tolkien was also a contributor to this volume with a piece called “On Fairy-Stores” that had first been a speech in the late 1930’s.

Two more installments from the eventual The Great Divorce was printed on the 1st and 8th in 1944 in The Guardian. When published there it was called “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce.” In the four segment on the 1st (which covers all of chapter three from the book), the bus travelers are unloading after just arriving at their unknown destination. The narrator discovers that not only are his fellow travelers ghosts, but that he, too is a phantom. Also to his surprise he finds he cannot lift a simple leaf because the weight of it is too great.

The next part on the 8th contains all of the forth chapter from The Great Divorce and it is there where the residents (“the solid people”) of what we later learn is heaven interact with the visitors. Thus begins the first of many conversations that the fictional Lewis overhears. The initial interaction raises more questions about ­the strange place because the greeter to one of the ghost is someone who had murdered another. The Big Man (also called Big Ghost) is upset and demands his “rights” several times and makes sure it is known that he doesn’t want “anybody’s bleeding charity.”

Four other shorter works came out over the years during this period. On the 1st in 1956 “Behind the Scenes” was published in Time and Tide. In this essay Lewis critiques reductionism using the example of a stage play. It can now be found in God in the Dock. Another shorter work found in that book that debuted in Time and Tide on the 4th in 1954 was a satirical piece called “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus.” Lewis tells of a place that has some strange customs which sound vaguely similar to the way many celebrate Christmas today. Yet another selection that was first printed in Time and Tide on the 7th in 1957 and found in God in the Dock is “Delinquents in the Snow.” Here Lewis relates a personal experience when his property was vandalized. He tells of his reaction to how the justice system disappointed him with the way they prosecuted the delinquents that were caught.

After-Priggery-Spectator-1945.jpg“After Priggery – What?” is an essay initially found in The Spectator on the 7th in 1945 that is now available in Present Concerns in addition to being freely available online in that publication’s article archive. While Lewis is most known for writing articles for the average person, the readership where this selection was first published is known for being more intellectual. Thus he felt at liberty to use a mocking tone to write about those who are often smug about their open-mindedness who actually have a type of inverted snobbery.

Finally, another article that was actually published after Lewis died came from a conversation that was recorded on the 4th in 1962. Today you can read the piece in On Stories under the title “Unreal Estates,” but it was first printed as “The Establishment must die and rot” in 1964 in SF Horizons. This selection features an informal discussion with Lewis, Kingsley Amia and Brian Aldiss about the science fiction genre.

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