"The Life, Works and Influence 

of C.S. Lewis"

Lindsey Wilson College 
Columbia, Kentucky 
November 3, 1998 

Introduction

Hello, my name is Richard James and I will be presenting tonight's program on "The Life, Works and Influence of C.S. Lewis." We will begin our program with an introductory video on the life of C.S. Lewis. Interspersed within the narrative there are audio clips by Lewis himself, photos of him, his family and friends and audio readings from Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. Also you will see portions of the BBC rendition of Shadowlands and the animated version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Following the video I will present some of my own comments on Lewis. Let's begin the video. [Mere C.S. Lewis, The Episcopal Media Center, Atlanta, GA. (TRT: 17:30)]

"The Life, Works and Influence of C.S. Lewis"

I am privileged this evening to share with you an introduction to the life, works and influence of C.S. Lewis upon the celebration of the centenary of his birth on November 29, 1898. Born Clive Staples Lewis, he was the second son of Albert and Flora Lewis of Belfast, Ireland. His older brother, Warnie, born Warren Hamilton, was a career soldier in the British army. Called "Jack" by all of his friends, C.S. Lewis is best known in the United States for his Christian apologetics and children's fantasy novels, and more recently as the subject of the popular Hollywood movie, Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. For 29 years he taught and tutored as a Fellow in English literature at Oxford University and, then, for  9 more years he was professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature literature at Cambridge University. His published writings include every major genre of literature except drama: poetry, allegory, literary criticism, short story, science fiction novels, children's fantasy novels, visionary dream novel, sermons, Christian apologetics, Bible exposition, autobiography, classical myth, and epistolary novel. In addition some of his more popular writings were first delivered as radio broadcasts over the BBC during World War II.

Before I go any further I would like to ask if you would interact with me as to your own reading of C.S. Lewis. Maybe I might ask, "How many of you have never read any of his books? Would you raise your hands? Of those who have, how many first read or had read to you, the books known as the Chronicles of Narnia? How many first read either The Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity? How many came to read him first through his literary criticism? What are some of the books that others of you may have read upon your first introduction to Lewis? Thank you. That gives me a better idea of the people with whom I am sharing.

With that settled, let me share a little of my own experience with Lewis and what his writings have meant to me. I had never heard of C.S. Lewis until I went to college; and, as a college student having to deal with questions about my faith, a friend suggested reading Mere Christianity  and The Screwtape Letters. I really was impressed by the clarity and logic of the one and the humor and insight of the other. I soon began to read other Lewis books, especially his books that related to Christianity. I did not know for some time that he had died in the same year and on the same day as President Kennedy, which also was my first year at college. Following my graduation from college in Virginia, I married and came out to Kentucky, to Lexington, to attend seminary. It was in 1969, in a Christian coffeehouse that I first heard portions of the Chronicles of Narnia read. The wonder, the joy, the adventure, the awe-filled experience with Aslan, all gave new vision to me of what the Christian life could really be like in our world. So significant was this fresh spiritual experience with the Chronicles of Narnia that three years later, we named our first son David Edmund after Edmund, the child in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for whom the real lion king, Aslan, died. About 1975 further interest in Lewis led me to correspond with a literary society in New York which met monthly and read their own papers on C.S. Lewis to one another and then published them in a newsletter to anyone who wanted to join them. Named The New York C.S. Lewis Society, my association with them opened my horizon to C.S. Lewis's other more literary works. One thing led to another, and over the last 25 years I have collected a copy of and read almost all of the available articles and books that have been written by or about C.S. Lewis and his friends from about the 1930's up until today.

What brought me here tonight, in part, is the privilege that I had of contributing several articles to a recent book on C.S. Lewis, entitled The C.S. Lewis Reader's Encyclopedia (147, 181, 199, 223, 286, 286). As I refer, right now, to the articles that were assigned to me, I will briefly note that  they deal with people who were close to C.S. Lewis and touched his life in a significant way. Hamiliton Jenkin, whom Lewis described as his "first lifelong friend," was a fellow student of Lewis's at Oxford in the early twenties. In his autobiography Lewis mentions that it was Jenkin who showed him how to "enjoy everything; even ugliness," by making "a total surrender to whatever atmosphere was offering itself at the moment," rubbing one's nose in the "very quiddity of each thing." (Lewis, SBJ, 160) Two of the articles assigned to me were on men who were part of the Inklings, a group of writers that met regularly each week in Lewis's rooms at Oxford to read and critique each others unpublished writings. Lewis describes one of these, Hugo Dyson, to be in his opinion, one of "the immediate human causes" of his  conversion. (Lewis, LCSL, 363) It had been Tolkien and Dyson who had spent a long evening with Lewis in 1931 discussing the historical reality of the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection - comparing Christianity to the classical and Norse myths and suggesting to Lewis that Jesus's death and resurrection was "a true myth" that had become "an historical fact." Just nine days later Lewis made his decision to move from theism to a belief in Christianity. Another Inkling, Dr. Humphrey Havard was Lewis's family doctor. He also was the first speaker at the Oxford Socratic Society. To give a medical perspective on pain Lewis asked him to write an appendix to one of his early books, The Problem of Pain. Havard was also an official witness to Lewis's civil marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham in 1956. (Griffin, 376) Maureen Moore, better known in Great Britain as Lady Dunbar of Hempriggs, lived in Oxford with Lewis and her mother, Janie Moore and Lewis's brother Warren, in a rather complicated household arrangement, initiated by Lewis and her mother just after Lewis returned to Oxford from his service in World War I. The movie, Shadowlands, never really acknowledges this side of Lewis's pre-conversion double-life, and, if it had, it would have removed forever a stereotype often given to Lewis as an inexperienced, ivory-tower-bachelor don who feared relationships with women. Another friend, Jock Gibb, was Lewis's book editor and publisher, who played an important, but behind-the-scenes role in the promotion, distribution and sale of millions of Lewis's books. Gibb also edited the book, Light on C.S. Lewis, one of the earliest anthology of essays written about Lewis after his death. Finally, I refer you to the nineteenth century fantasy novelist, William Morris, whom Lewis mentioned in his personal correspondence over 75 times, second only to George MacDonald (Lewis, TST, 583-584). Lewis gave two public lectures on Morris, seeking to restore Morris to his proper place in English literature.

Now to a discussion of his life and works. No brief review of Lewis's life and works can do justice to both the breadth and depth of accomplishments. In spite of the fact that in the 1930's and 40's that Lewis was one of the most popular lecturers among students at Oxford; in spite of the fact that millions heard his voice broadcast weekly over the BBC during World War II; in spite of the fact that his picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1947, C.S. Lewis and his writings never reached the level of popularity during his lifetime that they are today. Ironically, it was his growing popularity as a lay religious writer and speaker in the 1940's that caused both embarrassment and jealousy among his academic colleagues at Oxford and the political intrigue that followed which hindered him from becoming a full professor there. Oxford dons were just not supposed to be involved in such unprofessional activities. (Green, 280-281) Later, in 1954, a competing sister university, Cambridge, did offer him a full professorship, where he served until just before his death in 1963.

Look with me now at the handout titled "A C.S. Lewis Chronology." (this hyperlink opens as a new window) You will notice in 1908 that his mother died of cancer. Her early death just before Jack Lewis's tenth birthday brought chaos into his well-ordered Irish family. His father, Albert, never really came to grips with the loss of his wife. In the midst of his grief and overwork, Albert chose to send his two sons away to boarding schools for their education, and, although he financially supported them and saw them on vacations, he never really was aware of their emotional and personal needs. Both Warnie and Jack had been raised in what we would call the Episcopal or Anglican church in Great Britain, but soon after leaving home they both became unbelievers.

In 1914 Jack was sent to be tutored by W.T. Kirkpatrick, one of his father's old teachers. It was Kirkpatrick's responsibility to prepare Lewis for entry into Oxford University, into which Lewis was accepted in 1917. Under Kirkpatrick, who was both a rationalist and an atheist, Lewis studied the great literary authors and philosophical thinkers, both classical and modern, in their original languages; in so doing, developing his own rhetorical and literary skills. In a letter to Lewis's father, Kirkpatrick described Jack as "the most brilliant translator of Greek plays that I have ever met." (Green, 46)

Shortly after his arrival at Oxford, he was commissioned into the army and was later sent into battle in France. In April, 1918 he was wounded in action, returning, after rehabilitation to his studies at Oxford. He received a rare triple-First in his academic studies, but had difficulty finding a permanent teaching position. Finally, in 1925, Lewis was elected a Fellow in English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, publishing in 1936, his first major book of literary criticism, The Allegory of Love.

It was during this formative period between his return to Oxford and the publication of The Allegory of Love that several major changes occurred in his life. First, during his recovery, he developed an emotional attachment, both maternal and probably sexual to Mrs. Janie Moore, the mother of his former roommate, Paddie Moore, who had died in the war. Unbeknownst to his father and to the school authorities and many of his friends, Lewis set up a household in Oxford with Mrs. Moore and her daughter Maureen. Later, in 1932, Lewis's brother, Warnie would also come live with them. Mrs. Moore, an unbeliever, died in a nursing home in 1951. Some felt that his commitment to Mrs. Moore and her domestic demands on his time hindered his literary work, but others felt that it gave him more depth as a writer, than if he had lived only at the university.

Second, during this time Lewis had two books of poetry published under the pseudonym, Clive Hamilton. The first, Spirits in Bondage, was published in 1919 and the second, Dymer, was published in 1926. Although he had hoped to make a name for himself as a poet, neither  of  these books received either critical or popular approval. Facing this fact was difficult, but, in doing so, he then turned to literary criticism, where his talents seemed to be both more fruitful and more appreciated. (Lewis, LCSL, 159, 181, 318, 444)

Third, during both his student days and in his early teaching career, Lewis began to develop significant friendships with the men who would eventually be the nucleus of the Inklings. In 1919 he met both Cecil Harwood and Owen Barfield as fellow students at Oxford. All three had an interest in poetry. He met Nevill Coghill in 1923, with whom he had the same tutor at Oxford. It was Coghill who later introduced him to Hugo Dyson in 1930. He met Tolkien in 1926, sharing a common interest in Old English and Norse mythology. Dr. Humphrey Havard met Lewis while making a house call at the Kilns in 1934. Eventually all of these friends, including Lewis's brother and several others, came together informally in the mid-1930's to share and discuss with each other their unpublished writings.

A fourth major change occurred shortly before the death of Lewis's father in 1929. In the spring of that year, after many years of doubt, searching, and unfulfilled longing, Lewis had reluctantly come to believe that there was a God. Following his father's death that fall, Jack had written to his friend Arthur Greeves that he was moving closer to a belief in Christianity. In September,1931, with the help of Dyson and Tolkien, he took the final step - accepting the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ as the Son of God. He then wrote again to Arthur saying, "I have just  passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ." (TST, 10/1/31) In just a little over a year he wrote an allegorical account of his conversion from atheism to Christianity and it was published in 1933 as The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism. A little over twenty years later he again reviewed the shape of his early life and the events that led to his conversion in his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Of course, this particular change, his conversion, also brought additional changes in his relationship with Mrs. Moore. 

Having faced these four major changes as a young academic at Oxford, Lewis was now headed into the most fruitful period of his life. Before we sample some individual selections from Lewis, I first would like for us to consider his overall career. [Look with me next at the three-column handout, titled "Barfield's Three Lewises."] I have listed all of Lewis's works published through 1990. The line drawn by "plus signs" delineates those that were published before or were in process of being published before his death. Most of the later volumes listed are collections of essays or poems edited by Walter Hooper which were also  previously published by Lewis in various periodicals before his death. The asterisk by The Dark Tower refers to some current critical questions about its authenticity which is another whole issue that will not be mentioned further in this lecture.

In 1988, Lewis's longtime friend, Owen Barfield, looking back over the entire Lewis canon, speaks of three major arenas in which Lewis distinguished himself. First, he was a "distinguished and original literary critic." This first column refers specifically to books such as The Allegory of Love and his magnum opus, English Literature in the 16th Century. Second, he was a "highly successful author of imaginative fiction." The second column lists such well-known books as  The Screwtape Letters, his space trilogy, and of course, the seven Chronicles of Narnia. Third, he was a "writer and broadcaster of Christian apologetics." (Barfield in TTOTP, 1) Best known in this third list are Mere Christianity, Miracles, and  A Grief Observed, the book upon which the play and movie, Shadowlands was based. Indeed, responding in a 1954 letter to the Milton Society of America, Lewis described his own work in similar fashion, if not in the same exact words as "imaginative, religious writer and critic. " (LCSL, 444)

As you can see, quantitatively, each of these areas is well-balanced. Barfield does express a concern that many readers who know him in one setting do not yet know him in the other two settings. That may be the case here today as well. Yet, in spite of this threefold diversity, it is the common experience of many Lewis readers that they do not meet three different writers when we encounter Lewis in these three different settings. Somehow he communicates an impressive unity across all three arenas. In fact, according to Barfield, "what he [Lewis] thought about everything was secretly present in what he said about anything." (TTOTP, 2) Why is this? I would agree with another Lewis scholar, Bruce Edwards, when he writes, "My reflection on Lewis' literary career, and my submersion in his literary scholarship, reveal to me a man who refused to compartmentalize his faith or his vocation. Lewis's devotion to Christ and his full embrace of the supernaturalism of Biblical faith leaks out into his prose whether he is writing children's fantasy, or etymologies of obscure Norse words, or framing the cultural milieu of allegory in the fourteenth century." (Edwards in Inklings Forever, 2) In this sense Lewis serves for each of us, no matter what our vocation or faith, as a model of integrity, in his work, his life and his faith, even to the point of being willing to be "denied a professorship at Oxford at the peak of his literary scholarship." (Inklings Forever, 7)

Let's turn now to a sample of some of Lewis's work, beginning with one of his poems originally published in 1954 in Punch and entitled, "Spartan Nactus," (Latin for "Spartan Having Obtained") where he poetically throws down the gauntlet against modern poetry, specifically referring to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" where Eliot likens an evening to "a patient etherised upon a table." In this poem Lewis pretends to be a dunce who does not understand the subtle nuances of modern poetry's imagery and tongue-in-cheek apologizes for finding in stock responses and dull things his own poetic perspective. (Don King, CSLRE. 382 and Seven. 79-80) We will only read the first six and the last eight lines.

 

1 "I am so coarse, the things the poets see 

2 Are obstinately invisible to me.

3 For twenty years I've stared my level best

4 To see if evening - any evening - would suggest

5 A patient etherized upon a table;

6 In vain. I simply wasn't able.

 

23 I'm like that odd man Wordsworth knew, to whom

24 A primrose was a yellow primrose, one whose doom

25 Keeps him forever in the list of dunces,

26 Compelled to live on stock responses,

27 Making the poor best that I can

28 Of dull things . . . peacocks, honey, the Great Wall, Aldebaran,

29 Silver weirs, new­cut grass, wave on the beach, hard gem,

30 The shapes of horse and woman, Athens, Troy, Jerusalem.

(Poems, 1)

Our second Lewis sample comes from an essay entitled, "Meditation in a Toolshed." Originally published in a local British newspaper, it describes an important concept that Lewis used in both his religious and literary essays. Here we see the significant difference between "looking at and looking along." Again we will just read the first few paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the whole essay on your own.

 "Meditation in a Toolshed"

C. S. Lewis

Originally published in The Coventry Evening Telegraph (17 July 1945): 4. Reprinted in  God in the Dock. ed. Walter  Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970): 212-215

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

But this is only a very simple example of the difference between looking at and looking along.

(GID, 212)

Let us look now at an example of Lewis's apologetics from Mere Christianity, the book which formed the basis of his World War II BBC radio broadcasts. Here is his famous argument for proving the deity of Christ. It comes just after Lewis mentions that Jesus appeared among the Jews claiming to forgive sins. He writes,

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be great moral teacher. he would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

(Mere Christianity. 40-41)

I did not list in the threefold Lewis literary canon the many collections of his letters that have been published since Lewis's death. It was his practice to answer every letter that he received, seeing it as a mentoring ministry given to him in response to the many books and articles written on Christian themes. Part of our next sample of Lewis's work comes from his letters. Part comes from two essays describing how he came to write some of his fiction. Here is he giving some advice on writing. We will just glance through part of it.

Lewis's Advice on Writing

Dear Joan--

What really matters is:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure y[ou}r. sentence couldn't mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."

4. In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers "Please will you do my job for me.'

5. Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.(CSLLC. 63-64)

To a schoolgirl in America who had written to request advice on writing:

It is very hard to give any general advice about writing. Here's my attempt.

(1) Turn off the Radio.

(2) Read all the good books you can, and avoid nearly all magazines.

(3) Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye. You sh[ou]d. hear every sentence you write as if it was being read aloud or spoken. If it does not sound nice, try again.

(4) Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else. (Notice this means that if you are interested in writing you will never be a writer, because you will have nothing to write about. . . .)

(5) Take great pains to be clear. Remember that though you start by knowing what you mean, the reader doesn't, and a single ill-chosen word may lead him to a total misunderstanding. In a story it is terribly easy just to forget that you have not told the reader something that he wants to know - the whole picture is so clear in your mind that you forget that it isn't the same in his.

(6) When you give up a bit of work don't (unless it is hopelessly bad) throw it away. Put it in a drawer. It may come in useful later. Much of my best work, or what I think my best, is the re-writing of things begun and abandoned years earlier.

(7) Don't use a typewriter. The noise will destroy your sense of rhythm, which still needs years of training.

(8) Be sure you know the meaning (or meanings) of every word you use.

(LCSL. 291-292)

I hope my title did not lead anyone to think that I was conceited enough to give you advice on how to write a story for children. There were two very good reasons for not doing that. One is that many people have written better stories than I, and I would rather learn about the art than set up to teach it. The other is that, in a certain sense, I have never exactly 'made' a story. With me the process is much more like bird-watching than like either talking or building. I see pictures. Some of these pictures have a common flavour, almost a common smell, which groups them together. Keep quiet and watch and they will begin joining themselves up. If you were very lucky (I have never been so lucky as all that) a whole set might join themselves so consistently that there you had a complete story: without doing anything yourself. But more often (in my experience always) there are gaps. Then at last you have to do some deliberate inventing, have to contrive reasons why these characters should be in these various places doing these various things. I have no idea whether this is the usual way of writing stories, still less whether it is the best. It is the only one I know: images always come first.

(OOW. 32-33)

The Editor has asked me to tell you how I came to write The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I will try, but you must not believe all that authors tell you about how they wrote their books. This not because they mean to tell lies. It is because a man writing a story is too excited about they story itself to sit back and notice how he is doing it. In fact, that might stop the works; just as, if you start thinking about how you tie your tie the next thing is that you find you can't tie it. And afterwards, when the story is finished, he has forgotten a good deal of what writing it was like.

One thing I am sure of. All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. The picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it.'

At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don't know where the Lion came from or why He came. But once He was there He pulled the whole story together, and soon he pulled the six other Narnian stories in after Him.

So, you see that, in a sense, I know very little about how this story was born. That is, I don't know where the pictures came from. And I don't believe anyone knows exactly how he 'makes things up'. Making up is a very mysterious thing. When you 'have an idea' could you tell anyone exactly how you thought of it?

(OOW. 42)

A final sample comes from An Experiment in Criticism, where Lewis describes what good reading is and what it can do for the reader. In my opinion this non-technical description of the importance of reading is one of the  high points of Lewis's literary criticism. Let's glance through it as well.

Good reading, therefore, though it is not essenti­ally an affectional or moral or intellectual activity, has something in common with all three. In love we escape from our self into one other. In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves put­ting ourselves in the other person's place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. In coming to understand anything we are rejecting the facts as they are for us in favour of the facts as they are. The primary impulse of each is to main­tain and aggrandise himself  The secondary impulse is to go out of the self; to correct its provin­cialism and heal its loneliness. In love, in virtue, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the reception of the arts, we are doing this. Obviously this process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; 'he that loseth his life shall save it'.

We therefore delight to enter into other men's beliefs (those, say, of Lucretius or Lawrence) even though we think them untrue. And into their passions, though we think them depraved, like those, sometimes, of Marlowe or Carlyle. And also into their imaginations, though they lack all realism of content.

This must not be understood as if I were making the literature of power once more into a department within the literature of knowledge - a department which existed to gratify our rational curiosity about other people's psychology. It is not a question of knowing (in that sense) at all. It is connaittre not savoir; it is erleben; we become these other selves. Not only nor chiefly in order to see what they are like but in order to see what they see, to occupy, for a while, their seat in the great theatre, to use their spectacles and be made free of whatever in­sights, joys, terrors, wonders or merriment those spectacles reveal. Hence it is irrelevant whether the mood expressed in a poem was truly and historically the poet's own or one that he also had imagined. What matters is his power to make us live it. I doubt whether Donne the man gave more than playful and dramatic harbourage to the mood expressed in The Apparition. I doubt still more whether the real Pope, save while he wrote it, or even then more than dramatically, felt what he expresses in the passage beginning 'Yes, I am proud'. (Epilogue to the Satires, II, 1.208) What does it matter?

This, so far as I can see, is the specific value or good of literature considered as Logos; it admits us to experiences other than our own. They are not, any more than our personal experiences, all equally worth having. Some, as we say, 'interest' us more than others. The causes of this interest are naturally extremely various and differ from one man to another; it may be the typical (and we say 'How true!') or the abnormal (and we say 'How strange!'); it may be the beautiful, the terrible, the awe-inspiring, the exhilarating, the pathetic, the comic, or the merely piquant. Literature gives the entree to them all. Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous exten­sion of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself; and therefore less a self; is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I per­ceive the olfactory world charged with all the infor­mation and emotion it carries for a dog.

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

(AEIC. 138-141)

How might we sum up Lewis's influence today after having introduced ourselves to both his life and works? I agree wholeheartedly with a literary critic who recently stated in an e-mail that he sent to me this past year:

I "find that Lewis creates good critical thinkers and reflective citizens - not to mention active mediators of God's goodness and mercy. He brings people of disparate interests, aptitudes, and vocations together - and pays us the tender compliment of expecting us together to learn to read with discernment and to understand ultimate issues in the light of eternity. He offers us neither flattery nor condescension; only the promise of honest exchange and respect for the individual journeys we are on.." (Edwards, "Pre-Mythcon." 1)

I hope that for the many who may have just encountered Jack Lewis that this lecture will encourage you to move deeper into all of his works - literary, imaginative and religious. For you who have been his longtime companions, I hope that this has renewed your enthusiasm for him and his works. It has been a pleasure to share with you. Let me leave with you Lewis's closing words, from his Carnegie Medal (1956) award-winning book, The Last Battle, as the Pevensie children hear Aslan tell them that they will no longer have to live in the Shadowlands of this earth:

Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often." "No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?" Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. "There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands - dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (LB. 183-184)

Bibliography

Edwards, Bruce L. Jr. "CSL Pre-Mythcon Workshop Welcome" <edwards@cas.bgsu.edu>(16 Jan   1998): 1. (Pre-Mythcon)

_________________. "C.S. Lewis and Christian Scholarship" in Inklings Forever: Essays  Presented at the F.W. Ewbank Colloquium. ed. Rick Hill. Upland, IN: Taylor University, 1997.

________________. ed. The Taste of the Pineapple: Essays on C.S. Lewis as Reader, Critic, and Imaginative Writer. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular  Press, 1988. (TTOTP)

Green, Roger Lancelyn, and Walter Hooper. C.S. Lewis: A Biography. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.

Griffin, William. Clive Staples Lewis: A Dramatic Life. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986.

King, Don. "Making the Poor Best of Dull Things: C.S. Lewis as Poet" in Seven. 12 (1995): 79-92. (Seven)

_______. "Spartan Nactus" in Schultz, Jeffrey D. and West, John G. eds. The C.S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998. (CSLRE)

Lewis, C.S.  An Experiment in Criticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961. (AEIC)

_______. C.S. Lewis Letters to Children. ed. Lyle Dorsett and Marjorie L. Mead. New York: MacMillan, 1985. (CSLLC)

_______.The Last Battle. New York: Collier Books, 1956, 1972. (LB)

_______.Letters of C.S. Lewis. ed. with a memoir by W.H. Lewis. revised and enlarged. ed.   Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1988. (LCSL)

_______."Meditation in a Toolshed." in God in the Dock. ed Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970. (GID)

_______.Mere Christianity. New York: Collier, 1952. 1960. (MC)

_______. "On Three Ways of Writing for Children." in Of Other Worlds. New York: HBJ, 1966. (OOW)

_______.Poems. ed. Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964. (Poems)

_______.Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. London: Fontana, 1955. (SBJ)

_______.They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963). ed.   Walter Hooper. New York: Macmillan, 1979. (TST)

Schultz, Jeffrey D. and West, John G. eds. The C.S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998. (CSLRE)
Bact to Beginning of this Presentation
Back to Centenary Presentations
 

Last Updated: Sunday, March 16, 2003