Retrospective: September

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. 

Calling the month of September an unusually productive period for C.S. Lewis would almost be like calling winter a cold season. Three of his Narnia books were published over the years this month, along with the first of his science fiction stories, his second poetry book and a landmark book of scholarship. Plus, even if you exclude these it would still be considered a rather productive time for him because of all the other publications that were released.

No less than a dozen books were published for the first time during the month of September in Lewis’s lifetime. Three others were released after his death, and five more saw other printings surface this month. Additionally, the first and last that came out this month while Lewis was alive have the distinction of being credited to another person!  The long narrative poem Dymer was published on September 20, 1926, under the name of Clive Hamilton. This was during a time when Lewis was a self-confessed atheist. A Grief Observed was first published under the name of N.W. Clerk when it came out on September 29, 1961. It reflected upon his process of grieving after his wife, Joy, died the previous year. These personal thoughts were not written with a plan to publish them, but after writing them Lewis believed they could be helpful to others. The decision to release it was finalized once he was able to work out publishing it without his name associated with it.

Most of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia series came out about twelve months apart. This was definitely the case for three consecutive years beginning in 1952. That’s when on September 15 The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ was released. It was the third published book in the series. Part of an internal trilogy involving the character of Caspian X (aka Prince Caspian), it’s mostly a sea voyage that follows a search for seven lords mentioned in Prince Caspian. The adventure introduces Eustace Scrubb’s character, a cousin of the Pevensies who thinks life should revolve around him.

The Silver Chair was released on September 7, 1953, and centers on a search for Prince Rilian, the son of Caspian X. If you read it in the published (vs. the chronological) order, The Silver Chair is the first story without any Pevensie children. Eustace returns and is accompanied by Jill Pole, a friend from school and they must follow four signs in hopes of finding Rilian. The Horse and His Boy, the last Narnia book released this month, came out on September 6, 1954. Events for this story occurred during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy and is the only book that doesn’t contain any happenings on Earth.

Previous months have noted that Lewis had produced several books related to his professional occupation. It was on September 16, 1954, that the crowning achievement of his scholarly career was released. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama is part of The Oxford History of English Literature series that was originally the third volume. This title was reissued in 1990 as Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century (and is now renumbered as volume four). Lewis had long been interested in sixteenth century English literature when asked in 1935 to create the eventual work that was nearly twenty years in the making.

In addition to his love for English literature from the sixteenth century, he cared a great deal for science fiction. Sometimes calling this genre the “space-and-time story” he came to write Out of the Silent Planet because of a conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien about the types of books they enjoyed reading and that there wasn’t enough of them being published. Released on September 23, 1938, Lewis agreed to write this space-travel story and Tolkien would compose a time-travel tale (that was never published in his lifetime). Elwin Ransom debuts in this first of three stories that became more popular after Lewis’s name became well known in the 1940’s.

The third BBC series began on September 20, 1942. The theme of these radio talks were “Christian Behaviour.” The eight programs would later be released as Christian Behaviour and contain four additional chapters. The debut talk was given the title, “The Three Parts of Morality” when published in 1943. Unlike the previous two series where the addresses were fifteen minutes each, Lewis had only ten minutes for these. Unfortunately he was not aware of this change until after he wrote them for the previous length! Thus, he had to cut a lot of material before giving them on the air. The second talk was given on September 27, 1942, and is now known as “Social Morality” (but it is the third chapter in Christian Behaviour).

Transposition and Other Addresses is a collection of Christian-themed essays better known as The Weight of Glory. The latter came out in the U.S. on September 13, 1949. Both editions contain the same five essays, but a revised version from 1980 under this second title contains four more addresses, as well as an expanded version of “Transposition.” Those wanting to understand how Lewis became a Christian had a chance to read about it starting September 19, 1955. That’s when Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life came out. As the subtitle states, it doesn’t pretend to detail all aspects of Lewis’s life.

Additional books published this month were Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold on September 10, 1956; Reflections on the Psalms on September 8, 1958 and Studies in Words on September 9, 1960. Each of these titles, as you can easily tell, are very different subject matters. The first was Lewis’s last and most unusual fictional work. The next is Lewis’s only volume devoted to a book of the Bible. The last title is obviously a more specialized book that offers detailed analysis of several words.

The following are a variety of shorter writings by Lewis published this month:

  • “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” in September-October, 1941 issue ofWorld Dominion. Reprinted in Christian Reflections.
  • “My First School” on September 4, 1943 inTime and Tide as “Notes on the Way.” Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “Blimpophobia” on September 9, 1944 inTime and Tide. Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “The Death of Words” on September 22, 1944 inThe Spectator. Reprinted in On Stories.
  • “Myth Became Fact” in September-October, 1944 issue ofWorld Dominion. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “The Sermon and the Lunch” on September 21, 1945 inChurch of England Newspaper. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “God in the Dock” in September, 1948 issue of Lumen Vitae as “Difficulties in Presenting the Faith to Modern Unbelievers.” Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard” in September, 1960 issue ofTime and Tide as “Haggard Rides Again.” Reprinted in On Stories.
  • “Sex in Literature” on September 30, 1962 issue ofThe Sunday Telegraph. Reprinted in Present Concerns.

The Screwtape Letters

  • ‘The Screwtape Letters – XIX’,The Guardian (5 September 1941), p. 426.
  • ‘The Screwtape Letters – XX’,The Guardian (12 September 1941), pp. 443-4.
  • ‘The Screwtape Letters – XXI’,The Guardian (19 September 1941), pp. 451-2.
  • ‘The Screwtape Letters – XXII’,The Guardian (26 September 1941), p. 465.

Books

  • Of Other WorldsEssays and Stories. Edited by Walter Hooper. London: Geoffrey Bles, hardback 5 September 1966.
  • Fern-seed and Elephants And Other Essays on Christianity. Edited by Walter Hooper. London: Collins, Fontana Paperbacks 29 September 1975.
  • Of This and Other Worlds. Edited by Walter Hooper. London: Collins, hardback 6 September 1982.

Other Printings 

TIME

  • Lewis was on the cover of the September 8, 1947 issue

Read Previous Retrospective Columns:

 

No comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Retrospective: December | Essential C.S. Lewis - […] September […]
  2. Retrospective: November | Essential C.S. Lewis - […] September […]
  3. Retrospective: August | Essential C.S. Lewis - […] September […]