Retrospective: June

The following is part of a revised shorter series reflecting on the life of C.S. Lewis. This is accomplished by summarizing various events or happenings during his lifetime for the month and may include significant events related to him after his death. Each column will remind those already familiar with Lewis why he is so well respected and perhaps increase the admiration of others who are unaware of his wide range of achievements and various landmarks in his life.

His most famous sermon, a brother’s birthday, the first letter to a long-time friend and accepting a new teaching position highlight the month of June for C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is known for his books as a children’s author, Christian apologist and a literary critic. While there are those who are actually not aware of his high regard in all three diverse areas, even fewer are aware how loved he was as a guest in the pulpit. One of his most beloved sermons was given on June 8, 1941. He spoke before St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford and his message was on “The Weight of Glory.” This was merely his second time speaking as a preacher, but because of his professional background he was used to being before an audience.

What many don’t realize when considering this sermon is some of the surrounding landmark events in Lewis’s life. Just the month before his first letter from Screwtape was published and his debut radio talk was a mere two months away! Those who didn’t see Lewis give this message only had to wait until November of that year when the journal Theology published it (see this special virtual issue for a copy). Additionally, it was reprinted as a pamphlet in 1942. It was also included in his 1949 book called Transpositions and Other Addresses (in the U.S. it was published as The Weight of Glory).

There were many personal and professional landmarks for this month over the years. First of all, Lewis’s older (and only brother) was born June 16, 1895. Warren (or “Warnie” as he was known) ultimately became one of Lewis’s closest friends despite some differences and Warnie’s personal struggle with alcohol. On June 9, 1913, Lewis won a scholarship to Malvern College based on his exam scores. Nearly a year later, on June 5, 1914, Lewis wrote the first known letter to his eventual long-time friend Arthur Greeves. It was in June 1923 that Lewis ended his studies at Oxford. However, it wasn’t until two years later, on June 15, 1925, that Lewis began his appointment at Oxford as a Tutor in English Language and Literature. The assignment was for five years, but he stayed 30. Interestingly, it was on June 4, 1954, when he accepted (but didn’t yet start) a position at Cambridge University as the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English.

Considering the number of books published during Lewis’s lifetime it is curious to note that none were released in the month of June. However, three works by Lewis were published posthumously by Walter Hooper, Lewis’s personal secretary, during the last months of his life. On June 9, 1966, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (SMRL) was released. It is a collection of essays dealing with Lewis’s professional work. Half of the fourteen essays had never been published. On June 24, 1982, On Stories: and Other Essays on Literature was published in the U.S. (with nine of the 19 essays from the previously published Of Other Worlds). Just three months later it was released in the U.K. as Of This and Other Worlds. On June 18, 1992, Daily Readings with C.S. Lewis was released and then reissued just three years later as C.S. Lewis: Readings for Reflection and Meditation.  Why? Although I don’t know for sure, it might be because the first title too closely matched the 1984 The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C.S. Lewis, a collection of short readings.

As notice last month, The Guardian began releasing a single letter from Screwtape each week in 1941. The sixth through the ninth pieces that eventually became part of The Screwtape Letters were published in June. These four letters touched on the following topics or themes: uncertainty, patience, hatred, benevolence, existence of devils, patriotism vs. pacifism, the law of undulation, and sensual temptations.

Finally, several essays or talks were also done in the month of June:

  • “First and Second Things” on June 27, 1942 inTime and Tide under the “Notes on the Way” column. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Bulverism” in June 1944 issue ofThe Socratic Digest. Lewis spoke on this topic in February, 1944, at the Socratic Club and a shorter version of the work was published in the March 29, 1941 issue of Time and Tide. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Is Institutional Christianity Necessary?” was a talk given by Lewis at the Socratic Club on June 5, 1944. It has yet to be reprinted.
  • “Membership” in June 1945 issue of Sobornost. Previously a talk given on February 10, 1945, to the Society of St. Alban and St. Sergius in Oxford. Reprinted inThe Weight of Glory.
  • “Hedonic” on June 16, 1945 inTime and Tide. Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” in June 1953 issue ofRes Judicatae. A response by Lewis written after this is included in the reprinted version in God in the Dock.
  • “Is History Bunk?” on June 1, 1957 inThe Cambridge Review. Reprinted in Present Concerns.

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