Retrospective: December

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. 

This is the twelfth and final article in a series of reflections on C.S. Lewis by examining a variety of personal and public events that occurred over the years during his life and significant happenings (usually books published) since his death in 1963. None of Lewis’s books were released for the first time during his life this month. However, among the highlights for the end of the year are a small hardcover book made available on December 25, 1963 to a few select individuals; the last article he wrote was printed posthumously in The Saturday Evening Post and an encore piece by Screwtape was first available in the same periodical in 1959.

One of the last books that Lewis prepared for publication was Letters to Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer. It came out two months after Lewis died. Yet, a few fortunate people received a month earlier a limited edition title called Beyond the Bright Blur which was three chapters (15, 16 and 17) from that forthcoming book. It was given as a “New Year’s greeting” to close friends of Lewis and the publisher.

As noted the next major occurrence for this month was the final essay Lewis wrote for publication. “We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’” came out a month after his death. It was in the December 21-28, 1963 edition of The Saturday Evening Post. In it Lewis shares his reflections on a real conversation where someone excused another’s behavior because she had “a right to happiness.” It was actually a certain type of happiness the person was speaking about and Lewis explains his disagreement in the article.

Four years earlier fans of The Screwtape Letters were pleasantly surprised to finally have something more from the infamous senior demon. The December 19, 1959 issue of The Saturday Evening Post included “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” Lewis had previously resolved to never write more from the tempter’s perspective. However, he explains in the new preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast that “the idea of something like a lecture or ‘address’ hovered vaguely in my mind.” It was when he received an invitation to write a piece for the Post “that pressed the trigger.”

Speaking of shorter works, “The Inner Ring” is a selection published in Lewis’s lifetime that was first given as the annual Commemoration Oration at King’s College on December 14, 1944. The concept he dealt with was an unhealthy desire to be a part of those on the inside who call the shots in some powerful, but essentially secret, group. It is somewhat similar to wanting to be in an exclusive or “members only” club in high school. Such an unhealthy thirst to be on the inside will lead a person to do more and more compromising actions. The essay is in The Weigh of Glory.

After Lewis’s death many collections of previously published and unpublished writings became available. The first for this month came out on December 19, 1967 with a book edited by Clyde Kilby called Letters to an American Lady. At the time it was released permission had not been granted to reveal the name of the person to whom these previously unreleased letters were addressed. Now they are contained in the Collected Letters and we know the person is Mrs. Mary Willis Shelburne.

The other book for this month, Selected Literary Essays, contained previously published work. It was edited by Walter Hooper and was issued on December 4, 1969.  As you might guess, the focus of the articles are from material closer to his profession as a teacher. However, his inaugural lecture mentioned last month, along with at least two other titles from the twenty-two essays would be of interest to those who enjoy his religious writings. Until very recently getting a copy of Selected Literary Essays was somewhat costly. However, it was reprinted in late 2013 and also made available as an eBook, along with other literary criticism books by Lewis.

Finally, the following lists) shorter works not already mentioned above that were articles or talks given in December (arranged from earliest date to latest:

  • “Peace Proposals for Brother Every and Mr Bethell” in December, 1940 issue ofTheology. Reprinted as Part III of “Christianity and Culture” in Christian Reflections.
  • “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce IV-VIII” inThe Guardian on successive weeks beginning December 1, 1944. They make up chapters three to five of The Great Divorce.
  • “Private Bates” on December 29, 1944 inThe Spectator. Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “Scraps” in December, 1945 issue ofSt James’ Magazine. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “After Priggery – What?” on December 7, 1945 inThe Spectator. Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus” on December 4, 1954 inTime and Tide. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Behind the Scenes” on December 1, 1956 inTime and Tide. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “What Christmas Means to Me” in December, 1957 issue ofTwentieth Century. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Delinquents in the Snow” on December 7, 1957 inTime and Tide. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Good Work and Good Works” in the Christmas 1959 issue ofGood Work (formerly Catholic Art Quarterly). Reprinted in The World’s Last Night.
  • On December 4, 1962 an informal conversation between Lewis, Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss was recorded that was first published as “The Establishment must die and rot…” and was reprinted inOn Stories as “Unreal Estates.”
  • “The Vision of John Bunyan” on December 13, 1962 in The Listener. It was an article version of a BBC talk recorded on October 16 that aired on November 11. Reprinted in Selected Literary Essays.

 

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Retrospective: November

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. 

This month marks the 52th anniversary date of Lewis’s death. He died the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963. It was also this month that Lewis was born in 1898. On November 29, 1954, his fifty-sixth birthday, he gave his inaugural lecture at Cambridge. Two more landmark events this month were fictional works dealing with a bus trip to heaven and a final letter from a devil.

It’s difficult to say which month in Lewis’s life was the most important over the years. Obviously creating such a comparison is artificial in many ways. Despite this, if it were worth comparing them, November would easily be a top candidate. In addition to the above mentioned, it was also in November that Lewis embarked on his first on the ground service in WWI; he was sent to France on November 17, 1917.  Also this month Lewis gave his final two talks (detailed below) from his third series of BBC talks where he examined “faith” in both of them. Those in the U.S. first had the opportunity to get a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (November 7, 1950) and Mere Christianity (November 11, 1952) this month. Additionally, the article version of “The Weight of Glory,” appeared for the first time this month in 1941 (it was a sermon he had given five months earlier). These are just a few of the bigger reasons to consider November one of the most significant for Lewis. The following detail some of them and also include significant writings that were released after his death.

Of all the events for this month, the most significant is easily his inaugural lecture given at Cambridge University where he was appointed Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English. As noted above it was given on his birthday. The title of the lecture was “De Descriptione Temporum,” which is Latin for “a description of the times.” It was adapted for the radio and recorded the following year for the BBC as “The Great Divide.” This recording still exist and shows how Lewis was skilled at providing a great message for both a learned audience and the average person who listens to the radio. Both focused on the difficulty of dividing history into various periods. The original speech was published by Cambridge University Press in 1955 and it was reprinted in Selected Literary Essays in 1969.

In 1944, Lewis provided more reasons why he would become known for his ability to convey Christian truths. The first was a talk he gave on November 6 that year at the Oxford University Socratic Club. “Is Theology Poetry?” would get published the following year in The Socratic Digest, No 3, but today it is more easily found in the revised (1980) edition of The Weight of Glory book. Before admitting that in terms of belief systems Christianity wasn’t the most appealing, he closes with something that now stands as many people’s favorite quote from Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”

A few days after this talk The Guardian began publishing in weekly installments what would be better known as The Great Divorce. On November 10, 1944 “Who Goes Home? Or The Grand Divorce I” was printed. While it is logically the first chapter of the book version, the next two episodes on November 17th and 24th were combined to make the second chapter. From the first segment the reader is left not quite knowing what’s going on except that the narrator is waiting at a bus stop and most of the people are in a bad mood. We learn more about the so-called “grey town” that the people are leaving in the second piece, but nothing about where they are headed on the bus. The third installment details more (unusual) background about the place they left as they just arrive at their unrevealed destination that we later learn could be Heaven.

The biggest collection of shorter writings first came out on November 30, 1970 in the US. The material from God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics was also publish in 1971 in the UK, but under the title Undeceptions. In 1979 a shorter version of this work was release in the UK as God in the Dock. The original (and still in print) volume contains a small collection of public letters in addition to the forty-eight essays and an audio version is also available. As Walter Hooper notes in the preface, the writings “differ both in length and in emphasis” and while having a “seriousness” to them they are not gloomy. While the subtitle notes the themes of these shorter works, Hooper did divide the book in a way that one section contains works that he considered to be “semi-theological.”

Two books containing letters from Lewis were released this month. The original version of Letters of C.S. Lewis edited by his brother Warnie Lewis (also containing a memoir) came out in the US on November 16, 1966 (but had been published seven months earlier in the UK). A revised and enlarged edition edited by Walter Hooper hit the bookstores on November 17, 1988. The other book was released on November 1, 1988 in the US and first titled Letters: C.S. Lewis, Don Giovanni Calabria: A Study in Friendship. Later it was published on November 15, 1999 as The Latin Letters of C.S. Lewis. Either edition contains an English translation of the twenty-eight letters from Lewis. All of these are now within the three volumes of The Collected Letters.

Another posthumous book is something Lewis had intended to write himself. Spenser’s Images of Life, edited by Alastair Fowler came out initially on November 2, 1967. Fowler was a graduate student of Lewis at Oxford and took Lewis’s lecture notes from when he taught at Cambridge and amplified them for this book of literary criticism. An additional professional work, which was Lewis’s debut scholarly book, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition came out in paperback for the first time on November 10, 1977 (initially it was published in 1936).

Finally, the following is a list of shorter works by Lewis that came out in a variety of publications during his life for this month:

  • “The Expedition to Holly Bush Hill” in November, 1912 of Cherbourg School Magazine. This was Lewis’s first article according to Warnie, his brother.
  • “The Weight of Glory” in November, 1941 of Theology. Reprinted in The Weight of Glory.
  • “The Screwtape Letters XXVIII – XXXI” in The Guardian on successive weeks beginning November 7, 1941. These were the final four letters for The Screwtape Letters.
  • “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce I-III” in The Guardian on successive weeks beginning November 10, 1941. They make of the first two chapters of The Great Divorce.
  • “Period Criticism” on November 9, 1946 in Time and Tide as “Notes on the Way.” Reprinted in On Stories.
  • “The Decline of Religion” on November 29, 1946 in The Cherwell. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said” on November 18, 1956 in The New York Times Book Review, Children’s Book Section. Reprinted in On Stories.
  • “Rejoinder to Dr Pittenger” on November 26, 1958 in The Christian Century. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “On Juvenile Tastes” on November 28, 1956 in Church Times, Children’s Supplement. Reprinted in On Stories.

 

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Retrospective: October

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. 

Last month’s installment reflecting on Lewis’s life over the years showcased a period of enviable production. October, while not having as high of an output, would nevertheless be equally desirable for any other author to have accomplished over the span of an entire lifetime. The debut Narnia book arrived this month, as well as his first apologetic title and the preaching of his first sermon.

It all began with a picture…” or that’s how Lewis once described how he came to create his Narnia stories. The world got its first taste of them on October 16, 1950 when The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hit the bookstores in the UK (November 7 was the released date for the US). Instead, of attempting to say anything new about the debut story, let me share about other less known adaptations of the story: It was first dramatized for the radio in 1959 and in 1967 a live action version for the TV was produced (here’s the only surviving portion of it.)

This month is also the anniversary of Prince Caspian the second published story in the Narnia series. Not many are aware that original editions had a subtitle of “The Return to Narnia.” No other story in the series had a subtitle. It came out on October 15, 1951. In this book we first meet Reepiceep and Caspian (of course). Lewis actually tried to write the prequel story for the second book, but he couldn’t finish it. However, he had no trouble finishing Prince Caspian once he started it, taking just over six months according to The C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia.

Lewis had another debut this month; on October 18, 1940 his first apologetic work was published. The Problem of Pain didn’t hit bookstores shelves in the US until three years later, but by that time Lewis was a household name in England. That’s because The Problem of Pain caught the attention of James Welch, the director of religious broadcasting at the BBC. This set the stage for being on the radio. This book previewed Lewis’s ability to tackle complex subjects without needing to use a lot of words. In the small volume about suffering he covered the question of God’s power and goodness, the fall, human wickedness, pain in humans and animals and thoughts about heaven and hell.

Speaking of radio, Lewis’s final book that covered his last radio series for the BBC came out on October 9, 1944. Beyond Personality is better known today for being the concluding book in Mere Christianity. The focus is on what most consider the dryer aspects of theology, but Lewis easily manages to make it interesting. The book contained all seven talks, plus four additional chapters. In other radio-related events, the third BBC series from Lewis (Christian Behaviour) continued this month in 1942. He was before the microphone four times discussing Freud, sex, forgiveness and pride. Additionally, Lewis returned to the BBC one final time on October 16, 1962 to record a talk for the radio on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (it aired the following month on the 11th).

On October 22, 1939, about a year before The Problem of Pain appeared in the UK Lewis preached his first sermon. It was at St Mary the Virgin (the University Church in Oxford). Today we know that message as “Learning in War-Time,” but when preached it was called “None Other Gods: Culture in War-Time.” Before becoming available in the collection of addresses in 1949 (Transposition in the UK; The Weight of Glory in the US) it was published as a pamphlet in 1939 under the title “The Christian in Danger.” That title was also used a year later when the message was included in a book called Famous English Sermons.

Returning to the topic of books, four other titles were released this month during Lewis’s life and three after his death. With the exception of a re-released version of Dymer in 1950, those published in his lifetime were on subjects more related to his professional work. A Preface to “Paradise Lost” came out on October 8, 1942 and An Experiment in Criticism was published on October 13, 1961. The other book, Arthurian Torso, was chiefly done in tribute to Charles Williams (who died in 1945). First available on October 21, 1948 it contain commentary by Lewis on Williams’s Arthurian poems, along with an unfinished prose piece by Williams called “The Figure of Arthur.”

Speaking of works released posthumously, a large collection of shorter poetry from Lewis was collected and released on October 26, 1964. It was simply entitled Poems. Then the previously mentioned Dymer was included in a collection called Narrative Poems on October 27, 1969. Finally, although released six months earlier in the U.S., Letters to Children came out in the UK on October 31, 1985.

Finally, as a regular reader of this series, you are well aware that Lewis either spoke many times and/or had several shorter works printed in various publications. The following are what was released in October over the years:

  • The Good, Its Position among Values,” while technically a university lecture, was his first ever on October 14, 1924 (only four people heard it).

  • Hamlet, The Prince or the Poem,” another talk was given for first time on October 14, 1938 and later reprinted in Selected Literary Essays.

  • The Hobbit” on October 2, 1937 in The Times Literary Supplement as an unsigned review as “A World for Children.” Available in On Stories and along with a second review previously not reprinted, but now in Image and Imagination .

  • The Screwtape Letters XXIII – XXVII” in The Guardian on successive weeks beginning October 3, 1941. These five letters each had subtitles (all are reprinted in the book version, but without the subtitles).

  • ‘“Horrid Red Things”’ on October 6, 1994 in Church of England Newspaper. Reprinted in God in the Dock.

  • Morals Without Faith” was the topic at the Oxford Socratic Club on October 16, 1943 where D. Falk and C.S. Lewis were speakers.

  • The Nature of Reason” a talk given by Lewis at the Oxford Socratic Club on October 15, 1945.

  • Talking about Bicycles” in October, 1946 issue of Resistance. Reprinted in Present Concerns.

  • Design and the Existence of God” was the topic at the Oxford Socratic Club on October 27, 1947 where F.L. MacCarthy and C.S. Lewis were speakers.

  • Are Tautologies Really Necessary?” was the topic of debate between C.S. Lewis and P.J. Fitzgerald at the Oxford Socratic Club on October 10, 1949.

  • Historicism” in October, 1950 issue of The Month. Reprinted in Christian Reflections.

  • God and History” was the topic of debate between C.S. Lewis and Michael Foster at the Oxford Socratic Club on October 16, 1950.

  • Canonization” (a letter) in October 24, 1952 issue of Church Times. Reprinted in God in the Dock.

  • A Note on Jane Austen” in October, 1954 issue of Essays in Criticism. Reprinted in Selected Literary Essays.

  • The Dethronement of Power” on October 22, 1954 in Time and Tide. Reprinted as part of “Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings” in On Stories (along with the “The Gods Return to Earth,” a review of The Fellowship of the Ring).

  • Before We Can Communicate” in October, 1961 of Breakthrough. Reprinted in God in the Dock.


 

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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

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Retrospective: August

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. 

Happenings in C.S. Lewis’s life during the month of August over the years include: the death of his mother, his radio debut, publication of the final science fiction work and the last radio series five years before his own death.

In the previous column it was noted that Lewis’s wife lost her struggle with cancer. This wasn’t the only person close to him that died from that dreaded disease. On August 23, 1908, when he was just three months shy of his tenth birthday his mother, Florence Augusta Hamilton Lewis died. This event impacted the young Lewis greatly, but maybe not in just a negative way. As Devin Brown writes in A Life Observed, it’s interesting to note that Lewis, along with two other “of the greatest fantasy writers in the English language all suffered childhood loss of mothers.” They were J.R.R. Tolkien and George MacDonald. Thus, these great losses “may have helped spur their interest in imaginative realms of their own creation.”

As mentioned last month the book Broadcast Talks from 1942 contained the initial two radio series on the BBC by Lewis. It was on Wednesday, August 6, 1941 that Lewis made his debut on the air. During this month he completed four talks that were scheduled for the first series on the remaining Wednesdays (each were in the evenings from 7:45-8). However, they were so popular and generated so many questions that Lewis gave an unplanned fifth broadcast (which was actually on Saturday, September 6th). When given on the radio each broadcast had a title, however they are different than what appears in Mere Christianity and the earlier Broadcast Talks didn’t even have any chapter titles. A final interesting fact about the series is that they had a major hurdle to being popular: the program just before Lewis each night was a fifteen minute newscast in the Norwegian language!

Also radio related, but not affiliated with the BBC, Lewis recorded a series of ten talks on “The Four Loves” over the span of two days, August 19 and 20, 1958 in London. These were done at the request of the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation (ERTF) in the United States. Lewis picked the topic and later expanded on what he said, to produce the familiar book The Four Loves. The original recordings have survived and are still available, however, some packaging imply that they are Lewis reading the book itself, which is untrue. The talks are less than two hours together, but the book, if it were recorded, would be about twice that length. A year after the recordings were made the ERTF released the transcripts of the broadcasts under the title “A Series of Radio Talks on Love” in ten pamphlets.

The only book that was published for the first time ever this month was That Hideous Strength. Released on August 16, 1945, it is the third and final tale featuring Edwin Ransom. The events in the story all occur on Earth and introduce us to an unhappily married couple named Mark and Jane Studdock. Their worlds continue to drift apart as the plot unfolds. Each end up on the opposing side of a conflict that involved scientists who want to take control of nature featuring a mixture of what Lewis called “the realistic and the supernatural.” The story is much longer than each of the previous two books in the series (in fact, it’s more than twice as long as Out of the Silent Planet). Less known about this final chapter in the series of three books is that an abridged version (prepared by Lewis) came out in paperback in 1946 entitled The Tortured Planet.

“Christian Reunion: An Anglican Speaks to Roman Catholics,” an essay by Lewis that was never published during his life was first released on August 15, 1990 in Christian Reunion and Other Essays. Edited by Walter Hooper, the book contains eleven other selections that are available in God in the Dock (Undeceptions in the U.K.) except for one (“Lilies that Fester”). According to Hooper, “Christian Reunion,” which focuses on the differences between Anglican and Roman Catholics is “the only sustained piece of writing” by Lewis we have on the topic. Interestingly the existence of this shorter work was known since the 1960′s, but was not made public then because it was feared it would distract people from the volumes of material Lewis wrote about the core common beliefs of all Christians. Hooper believes it was written in the 1940′s.

In 1941, the fourteenth through the eighteenth letters from Screwtape came out weekly in The Guardian this month. On August 1, the fourteenth shared the remedy for dealing with a person who has become humble: convince the person to become proud of their humility! Wormwood is also told that God “really loves the hairless bipeds.” On August 8, the fifteenth letter reveals how man’s concept of Time can be used against him to produce anxieties to keep one from living in light of eternity. The sixteenth letter came out the following week and spoke of encouraging what is more known today as “church hopping.” A revealing portrait of the ministers in two churches is painted to show how even they can be use as a tool for evil. On the August 22, the seventeenth letter shows an unconventional picture of gluttony. Then finally on August 29, the eighteenth letter showed how Screwtape wishes Wormwood to twist “being in love” to marry as an excuse for wishing to divorce (not “being in love” any longer).

Shorter works (all are essays, except the final one is a short story) by Lewis this month are:

  • “Notes on the Way” on August 17, 1940 inTime and Tide. Reprinted as “The Necessity of Chivalry” in Present Concerns.
  • “Equality” on August 27, 1943 inThe Spectator. Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “The Trouble with ‘X’” in August, 1948 issue ofBristol Diocesan Gazette. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Notes on the Way” on August 14, 1948 inTime and Tide. Reprinted as “Priestesses in the Church?” in God in the Dock.
  • “On Punishment: A Reply” in August, 1954 issue ofRes Judicatae. Included in God in the Dock after the essay “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment.”
  • “Forms of Things Unknown” in August, 1966 issue ofFifty-Two: A Journal of Books & Authors. This was an abridgment of the complete version that was published the following month in Of Other Worlds; it is also in The Dark Tower.

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Retrospective: July

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.

Key events in the life of C.S. Lewis over the years for the month of July include: his most famous non-fiction work, a meditation from an unlikely place, inspiration for a devilish series of letters and the death of his wife.

To call Mere Christianity a ground breaking book that has made a tremendous cultural impact seems inadequate praise. First published July 7, 1952, in the U.K. and four months later in the U.S., it is a book that succeeds because of being able to speak to two diverse audiences. It begins by explaining how a clue to the meaning of the universe is understood by the fact all believe in right and wrong. He then helps those in or outside the faith comprehend what Christians believe.

The next section explains how Christians should behave while offering a practical understanding of morals. Then the final part opens with this statement: “Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you in this last book.” Lewis gives this disclaimer because he plans to talk theology. Specifically he wants to offer “first steps in the doctrine of the Trinity.” As it turns out, he was able to provide the everyday person with a better understanding of God’s personality and how one becomes redeemed.

It was ten years earlier, on July 13, 1942 that Broadcast Talks came out. If you know your Lewis history well, you are aware that this book contains the first two books that are in Mere Christianity. These are the text of the initial two radio broadcast series aired on the BBC in mid-1941 and early 1942. In the U.S. the book was released under the title The Case for Christianity in the fall of 1943. An interesting fact about this book is that they don’t contain any extra material beyond what was shared on the radio. The subsequent books include more content when released initially and in the more well-known Mere Christianity book.

Several books edited by Walter Hooper were published this month during the 1980s. The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C.S. Lewis came out on July 5, 1984, but was available in the U.K. four months earlier. Containing short readings for each day from a variety of Lewis’s works this was a personal favorite of mine when it was released. I was only familiar at the time with a half-dozen non-fiction books and the Narnia stories, so this title sealed my love for his writings.

The three remaining books are all collections of essays. Only one, Present Concerns, published July 10, 1986, contained shorter works that had not been previously collected at that time. Most of the nineteen writings are from the 1940s and published in some manner while Lewis was alive. “Modern Man and his Categories of Thought” is the only selection never printed during his lifetime. The final two books are First and Second Things, published July 11, 1985, and Timeless at Heart, released July 16, 1987. Both contains essays that can be found in God in the Dock (1970, U.S. edition that was published as Undeceptions in the U.K. in 1971). There is, however, one exception to this, Timeless at Heart has “Why I am not a Pacifist” which is best found in The Weight of Glory.

Near the end of his own life Lewis experience profound grief when his wife Joy died on July 13, 1960. While already a fulfilled man when they met, Lewis experience life at a whole new level when she entered it. Likewise, the bereavement he felt was almost beyond words. Some of his earlier works were a major factor in her becoming a Christian and she assisted him in several writings in the last part of his career. Now his most personal book would result after her death, A Grief Observed. Three years later, on July 15, 1963, only four months before his own death, Lewis suffered a heart attack and nearly died. He was admitted to a nursing home and was even in a coma for a period of time. On a happier note, years earlier, on July 16, 1923 Lewis earned his third and final first from Oxford University. This one was in English language and literature. Finally, this month in 1940 Lewis wrote to his brother on the 20th, in part of that letter he shared that he got the idea for the eventual The Screwtape Letters during a church service the previous week.

Speaking of the fiendish letters, a year later, in 1941 the tenth through the thirteenth of Screwtape’s correspondence was published in The Guardian. It includes a personal favorite of mine where Wormwood is told about the four causes of laughter in letter eleven. Other themes in the remaining ones are vanity, keeping the patient ignorant of the change of direction his choices are making because “small sins” provide the “safest road to Hell,” and Wormwood learns about an “asphyxiating cloud” that is God’s “most barbarous weapon.”

Finally, a variety of essays were published this month, as well as a talk and radio broadcast:

  • The Anvil’ on July 22, 1943, as a BBC broadcast where Lewis was one of several guests. Although recorded a few days earlier on the 19th this recording didn’t survive.
  • A Dream” on July 28, 1944, in The Spectator. Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • Meditation in a Toolshed” on July 17, 1945 in The Coventry Evening Telegraph. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages” as a talk given in two parts on July 17 & 18, 1956 to a group of Cambridge Zoologists. Reprinted in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature.
  • Revival or Decay?” on July 9, 1956 in Punch. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • Willing Slaves of the Welfare State” on July 20, 1958 in The Observer. Lewis’s piece was the second article of a series addressing the question, ‘Is Progress Possible?’ Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • It all began with a picture…” on July 15, 1960 in Radio Times. Reprinted in On Stories.

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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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Retrospective: May

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.

The first Christian book, first academic title, last apologetic work and a Narnian prequel tops the list of books published during Lewis’s lifetime in the month of May. Two more books were also released after his death this month and his first claim to fame in the U.S. had its beginning in 1941 during this period.

Lewis’s second book ever came seven years after his debut effort. His third title, The Pilgrim’s Regress, was six years later on May 25, 1933. However a lot of changes occurred in his life by this time. Lewis had returned to the Christian faith and this was his first attempt of putting his beliefs in a book. He also had completely left behind his dream of being a poet. Yet, this first prose effort didn’t hold out much promise for his eventual fame. The Pilgrim’s Regress was semiautobiographical and his only allegory, yet many of the references in it were obscure. Ten years later Lewis wrote a preface to aid the reader in understanding the material better, but most still find it difficult. Thankfully there is now a special Wade Annotated Edition version of The Pilgrim’s Regress.

A mere three years later The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition came out on May 21, 1936. A work of literary criticism and history, this was Lewis’s first scholarly effort and something he had begun almost ten years before its release. Interestingly, before being published Lewis received a letter from Charles Williams, who was a proofreader at the eventual publisher of the book. Lewis had, without knowing who he was, read a book by Williams and sent him a letter praising it. This led to their friendship. The Allegory of Love was viewed as a success by its target audience and sold well.

It was May 12, 1947 when Lewis had the final book of any totally new apologetic material published. The writing of Miracles: A Preliminary Study had begun almost exactly four years previously as the result of a letter he received from his friend Dorothy Sayers. Lewis was aware that many people didn’t believe in miracles and as a result rejected the Gospels. He set out to help those individuals by explaining the difference between naturalism and supernaturalism. As a firm believer in the supernatural Lewis had the goal of making it a rational option for thinkers.

The beginnings of Narnia was finally revealed on May 2, 1955 with the release of The Magician’s Nephew. The sixth book published, it answers questions like why the lamppost is in the middle of nowhere and more importantly, how Narnia was created. Although a book about origins, it was actually the last Chronicle he finished and the one that took the longest to compose. It is also the only title that doesn’t have any of the previous children in it. Many find it significant that The Magician’s Nephew was being written around the same time as The Last Battle and Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy.

Posthumously two titles came out this month. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature was published on May 7, 1964 and Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C.S. Lewis came out on May 28, 1985. The Discarded Image (obviously an academic title when noting the subtitle) was a book Lewis had worked on before his death and was based on lectures he taught many times. It attempted to help provide a “map” of how the universe was seen in medieval times and explain why it was useful to know. Boxen, however, was not a title Lewis had prepared for publication. It actually contains the combined effort of Lewis’s Animal-Land stories he wrote as a kid and also material from his brother, Warnie’s imaginary world he called India.

Lewis first became well-known in the U.S. because of The Screwtape Letters that were published in the states in 1943. But the book, while released in the U.K. in 1942, actually debuted on May 2, 1941 when the first letter was printed in The Guardian. Four more letters came out in May and the remainder were printed weekly before the end of the year. Readers were introduced to Lewis’s satire by him presenting Screwtape’s views on argument, church, family relations, prayer and the usefulness of extremes.

Four of Lewis’s shorter works were first published in May:

  • “A Metrical Suggestion” in May 1935 issue of Lysistrata. Reprinted as “The Alliterative Metre” in
  • “Two Ways with the Self” on May 3, 1940 in The Guardian. Reprinted in God in the Dock.
  • “Work and Prayer” on May 28, 1945 in The Coventry Evening Telegraph. Reprinted in God in the Dock..
  • “Different Tastes in Literature” was a “Notes on the Way” column in two parts in Time and Tide (May 25, 1946 and June 1, 1946). Reprinted in On Stories.

Lewis also gave two talks and a sermon this month over the years:

  • “Transposition” was preached on the Feast of Pentecost at the chapel of Mansfield College, Oxford on May 28, 1944. It was later published in The Weight of Glory (a.k.a Transposition in the U.K.).
  • “Religion without Dogma” was a talk given at the Socratic Club on May 20, 1946. It was initially published as “A Christian Reply to Professor Price” in The Socratic Digest in 1948. The version found in God in the Dock. contains some follow-up material given at a later Socratic meeting.
  • “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” was a lecture delivered on May 11, 1959 to students at Wescott House, Cambridge. It was first published in Christian Reflections under that title, but later retitled as “Fern-Seed and Elephants” in a book (now out of print) by that name.

Finally, there are several items of a more personal nature that occurred in May. First, his mother, Florence “Flora” Hamilton Lewis was born on May 18, 1862. Lewis accepted a temporary (one-year) position at University College, Oxford on May 5, 1924 teaching philosophy. A year later, on May 20, 1925 he was elected a Fellow in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford; where he taught for the next 30 years. About a year after this (May 11, 1926) he first met J.R.R. Tolkien at an Oxford English faculty tea. Tolkien’s friendship was a key factor in Lewis becoming a Christian. As mentioned earlier, Charles Williams was a friend of Lewis; sadly he unexpectedly died on May 15, 1945.


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Retrospective: April

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.

It was during the month of April over the years that three books containing letters from C.S. Lewis were posthumously released. Two “seconds” occurred this month during Lewis’s life; books that were also the middle volume in a series of works. Over a dozen talks or essays were first heard or became available this month and several unique happenings highlight April as well.

No doubt you are aware that Lewis was a man of letters. Not long after his death, on April 18, 1966,  Letters of C.S. Lewis, edited by his brother Warnie was released. It also contained an insightful memoir. Walter Hooper edited a specific group of letters that were published on April 19, 1979, They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves. Greeves was Lewis’s friend from boyhood and they kept in touch throughout his lifetime.  While not the only other group of letters ever published, the final one this month was Letters to Children on April 11, 1985. They were edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead.  All content from these three books are now contained in the three volume The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. While not a book of letters, All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper came out on April 18, 1991. It just covers the years 1922-1927.

The only book by Lewis where he shared authorship was released on April 27, 1939. The Personal Heresy: A Controversy is co-authored with Cambridge Professor E. M. W. Tillyard. It collects six essays between the two on the issue of whether or not “all poetry is about the poet’s state of mind.” It was noted in the February essay that the two debated the issue a few months earlier in 1939.

Two other books from this month are more well-known, both were published just a day apart, Christian Behavior on April 19, 1943 and Perelandra on April 20, 1943. Each of these are the middle book in a series. The former is more identified with being part of Mere Christianity and the latter is from the series of books given various names, but frequently known for Ransom, a main character in all of them.

Several joyous or sorrowful times happen to Lewis in the fourth month over the years. The civil ceremony of Lewis and Joy Davidman took place on April 23, 1956; as mentioned last month he and Joy had an ecclesiastical wedding less than a year later. It was April 2, 1908 when Lewis’s grandfather died during a time of failing health for Flora, Lewis’s mother.  Another difficult time was on April 15, 1918 when Lewis was wounded on the battlefield in WWI at Mount Bernenchon.  Then ten years after his own death in 1963, Lewis’s brother, Warnie, died on April 9th.

Two different series ended this month. Although recorded a few weeks before on March 21, 1944, “The New Men” was a BBC broadcast on April 4th. It was the conclusion to the Beyond Personality set of talks and the only one recorded  that survived of the entire eventual Mere Christianity material. The other series finished in April was material that is best known as being from The Great Divorce. On the 6th and 13th in 1945 The Guardian published the final two installments of Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce. They are the final two-thirds of chapter thirteen and the concluding fourteenth chapter.  

There were five talks or papers given over the years in April (unless otherwise noted they are in God in the Dock):

  • “Christian Apologetics” is a paper read at the Carmarthen Conference for Anglican Youth Leaders and Junior Clergy in Carmarthen, Wales during Easter 1945.
  • “The Grand Miracle” was a talk given on April 15, 1945 at St. Jude on the Hill Church, London. It was also published a few weeks later, on April 27, 1945 in The Guardian.
  • “Answers to Questions on Christianity” is the title of the printed version of what Lewis said at “One Man Brains Trust” held at the Electric and Musical Industries Christian Fellowship, Hayes, Middlesex on April 18, 1944.
  • “Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?” was the Annual Shakespeare Lecture Lewis gave for the British Academy in London on April 22, 1942. Available in Selected Literary Essays.
  • “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” is the talk Lewis gave on April 29, 1952 at the meeting of the Library Association at Bournemouth. Available in On Stories.

 

Many shorter works were published in April. The follow list is arranged by earliest year and when no exact day is given then it was in a monthly publication:

  • “A Note on Comus” in The Review of English Studies in 1932. Reprinted in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature.
  • “Genius and Genius” in The Review of English Studies in 1936. Also in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature.
  • “Democratic Education” on April 29, 1944 in Time and Tide. It was first under the title of “Notes on the Way” and was reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “The Laws of Nature” on April 4, 1945 in The Coventry Evening Telegraph. Reprinted in God in the Dock
  • “On Church Music” in English Church Music in 1949. Reprinted in Christian Reflections.
  • “Lilies that Fester” in Twentieth Century, in 1955. Reprinted in The World’s Last Night
  • “Interim Report” on April 21, 1956 in The Cambridge Review. Reprinted in Present Concerns.
  • “Will We Lose God in Outer Space?” in Christian Herald in 1958. The title was changed to “Religion and Rocketry” when reprinted in The World’s Last Night.

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Retrospective: March

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.

The month of March in C.S. Lewis’s life includes two “firsts” and two “finals.” His first book ever published happen this month and the first book collection of essays also came out in March. As to finals, The Last Battle was released and the bulk of the last BBC radio series were completed during March.

george-macdonald.jpgBefore reaching his 10th birthday Lewis had read the epic poem Paradise Lost. On March 5, 1908, he recorded this fact in his diary. Later in life he wrote A Preface to Paradise Lost that was based on a series of lectures he delivered. Another book that Lewis read this month for the first time in 1916 was Phantastes by George MacDonald. The impact MacDonald had on his life proved profound, so much so that Lewis claimed that MacDonald, “baptized his imagination.” Lewis paid tribute to MacDonald in many ways over the years, including editing a collection of quotations that came out on March, 18, 1946 entitled George MacDonald: An Anthology.

Perhaps the most significant event in Lewis’s personal life was his marriage to Joy Davidman on March 21, 1957. The Reverend Peter Bide performed the ceremony while Joy was in the hospital and near death. However, prior to the wedding he prayed for her recovery from cancer.

Last-Battle-double.jpgThe Last Battle was released on March 19, 1956, just ten months after The Magician’s Nephew debuted (and in the same year that Till We Have Faces was published). The Last Battle won the Carnegie Medal in Literature and was the only one in the series that wasn’t dedicated to anyone. The themes in this book are easy enough to see, but on March 5, 1961 Lewis wrote a letter noting that the book was not only about “the end of the world, and the Last Judgement,” but also about “the coming of Antichrist (the Ape).”

The first book Lewis ever published occurred on March 20, 1919 under the name Clive Hamilton. Lewis, not yet 21, was not a Christian at the time. During this period in Lewis’s life he was wanting to be known as a poet, but this book did little in establishing that dream.

Rehabilitations and Other Essays, a collection of essays was released on March 23, 1939, and it is one of only a few Lewis books that is out of print. The essays dealt with English literature. A well known quote from the book states, “Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.” (“Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare,”)

The-Four-Loves.jpgThe Four Loves was published on March 28, 1960, an outgrowth of radio addresses from 1958. The book expands greatly on the material presented in the broadcasts and includes two additional topics beyond the four words used for love.

Four of the seven BBC broadcasts from Beyond Personality aired during the month of March 1944. “Good Infection” was heard March 7, “The Obstinate Tin Solder,” March 14, “Let’s Pretend,” March 21,  and “Is Christianity Hard or Easy,” March 28.

Lewis had other opportunities to preach over the years in March. On March 29, 1942, he preached at the Evensong service at the Headington Quarry Church. Complete details about it haven’t survived, but at least part of the title was “Religion,” leading some to believe it could have been an early version of the essay “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” The other time we know Lewis preached was on March 31, 1946. “Miserable Offenders” was the sermon’s title, delivered at Evensong in his parish church, Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The following week he actually preached the same message at St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton.

Lewis also gave three public addresses (now essays) during the month.  On March 2, 1956, he gave the address at The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club Forty-ninth Annual Report. It was called “Memory of Sir Walter Scott,” but is simply known as “Sir Walter Scott” when reprinted in They Asked for a Paper. Also reprinted in the same book was the talk “The Literary Impact of the Authorized Version,” given on March 20, 1950. “The Personal Heresy in Poetics,”  a paper Lewis read on March 3, 1930 to a group known as the Martlets, eventually led to a debate with E. M. W. Tillyard published in 1939.

Six essays were published in March. Five of them are available in God in the Dock, and one,  ”The Parthenon and the Optative” (March 11, 1944) in On Stories. The four others were:

  • March 15, 1940: “Dangers of National Repentance” in The Guardian warned that it’s better to repent of one’s sins than admitting guilt for your country’s actions.
  • March 19, 1943: “Dogma and the Universe,” and March 26, a second part called “Dogma and Science” in The Guardian. Each tackled the objection that Christian beliefs are unchanging while knowledge is in a state of continual growth.
  • March 24, 1963: “Must Our Image of God Go?” in The Observer served as a response to an Bishop John Robinson’s article, ”Our Image of God Must Go” printed the week before.
  • March 29, 1941: “Bulverism” in Time and Tide under the section called, “Notes on the Way.” It was an earlier version of what was given also three years later at the Socratic Club

Finally, the release of five more installments of what eventually became The Great Divorce happen in March of 1945.


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