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Clive Staples Lewis
(29 November 1898
– 22 November 1963
), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis
, was a Northern Irish
author and scholar. Lewis is known for his work on medieval literature
, Christian apologetics
, literary criticism and fiction. He is best known today for his children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia
Lewis was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien
, the author of The Lord of the Rings
, and both were leading figures in the Oxford literary group the Inklings
. Due in part to Tolkien's influence, Lewis converted to Christianity
, becoming "a very ordinary layman of the Church of England". harvard His conversion would have a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim. Late in life he married the American writer Joy Gresham
, who died of bone cancer
four years later at the age of 45.
Lewis' works have been translated into over 30 languages and continue to sell over a million copies a year; the books that comprise The Chronicles of Narnia
have sold over 100 million copies. A number of stage and screen adaptations of Lewis' works have also been produced, the most notable of which is the 2005 Disney
film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
which grossed US$
C. S. Lewis was born in Ireland in 1898. As a teenager, he abandoned the Christianity of his home and became interested in mythology and the occult. He enrolled in Oxford, but his studies were interrupted by World War I. He enlisted, was commissioned, and was then wounded in action. While convalescing, he became very close to Jane Moore, the mother of a fellow soldier. They were close, and even lived under the same roof for years, though the details of their relationship are unclear. In part as a result of his friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis came to believe in God at age 31 and in Jesus Christ two years later. He married Joy Gresham, first in a civil ceremony of convenience and later in a Christian ceremony. She died of bone cancer soon thereafter. Lewis himself died of renal failure in 1963.
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast
(now in Northern Ireland
) on November 29 1898
. His father was Albert James Lewis (1863-1929), a solicitor
whose father had come to Ireland from Wales
. His mother was Flora Augusta Hamilton Lewis (1862-1908), the daughter of a Church of Ireland
priest. He had one older brother, Warren Hamilton Lewis
(Warnie). At the age of four, shortly after his dog Jacksie was hit by a car, Lewis announced that his name was now Jacksie. At first he would answer to no other name, but later accepted Jacks which became Jack, the name by which he was known to friends and family for the rest of his life. At six his family moved into Little Lea, the house the elder Mr. Lewis built for Mrs. Lewis, in Strandtown
, Northern Ireland. thumb|Little Lea
Lewis was initially schooled by private tutors before being sent to the Wynyard School
, in 1908, the same year that his mother died of cancer. Lewis's brother had already enrolled there three years previously. The school was soon closed due to a lack of pupils -- the headmaster Robert "Oldie" Capron was soon after committed to an insane asylum. Tellingly, in Surprised By Joy
, Lewis would later nickname the school "Belsen
". There is some speculation by biographer Alan Jacobs that the atmosphere at Wynyard greatly traumatized Lewis and was responsible for the development of "mildly sadomasochistic fantasies". harvard Four of the letters that the adolescent
Lewis wrote to his life-long friend Arthur Greeves (out of an overall correspondence of nearly 300 letters) were signed "Philomastix" ("whip-lover"), and two of those also detailed women he would like to spank
. harvard thumb|right|Campbell College
After Wynyard closed, Lewis attended Campbell College
in the east of Belfast about a mile from his home, but he left after a few months due to respiratory problems. As a result of his illness, Lewis was sent to the health-resort town of Malvern, Worcestershire
, where he attended the prep-school Cherbourg House (called "Chartres" in Lewis's autobiography). It was during his time at Cherbourg at the age of 13 that he abandoned his childhood Christian faith and became an atheist, becoming interested in mythology and the occult.
In September 1913 Lewis enrolled at Malvern College
, where he would remain until the following June. Later he would describe "Wyvern" (as he styled the school in his autobiography) as so singularly focused on increasing one's social status that he came to see the pederastic
relationships between older and younger pupils as "the one oasis (though green only with weeds and moist only with fetid water) in the burning desert of competitive ambition. ...
A perversion was the only thing left through which something spontaneous and uncalculated could creep." harvard citation After leaving Malvern he moved to study privately with William T. Kirkpatrick, his father's old tutor and former headmaster of Lurgan College
As a young boy, Lewis had a fascination for anthropomorphic
animals, falling in love with Beatrix Potter
's stories and often writing and illustrating his own animal stories. He and his brother Warnie together created the world of Boxen
, inhabited and run by animals. Lewis loved to read, and as his father’s house was filled with books, he felt that finding a book he had not read was as easy as "finding a blade of grass." He also had a mortal fear of spiders and insects as a child, and they often haunted his dreams.
As a teenager, he was wonderstruck by the songs and legends of what he called Northernness
. These legends intensified a longing he had within, a deep desire he would later call "joy." He also grew to love nature — the beauty of nature reminded him of the stories of the North, and the stories of the North reminded him of the beauties of nature. His writing in his teenage years moved away from the tales of Boxen, and he began to use different art forms (epic poetry and opera) to try to capture his newfound interest in Norse mythology
and the natural world. Studying with Kirkpatrick (“The Great Knock”, as Lewis afterwards called him) instilled in him a love of Greek literature and mythology, and sharpened his skills in debate and clear reasoning.
World War I left|thumb|Lewis in 1919
Having won a scholarship
to University College, Oxford
in 1916, Lewis enlisted the following year in the British Army
as World War I
raged on, and was commissioned an officer in the third Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
. Lewis arrived at the front line in the Somme
Valley in France
on his eighteenth birthday.
On 15 April 1917
, Lewis was wounded during the Battle of Arras
, and suffered some depression during his convalescence, due in part to missing his Irish home. On his recovery in October, he was assigned to duty in Andover
, England. He was discharged in December 1918, and soon returned to his studies. Lewis received a First in Honour Moderations
(Greek and Latin Literature) in 1920, a First in Greats
(Philosophy and Ancient History) in 1922, and a First in English
While being trained for the army Lewis shared a room and became close friends with another cadet, "Paddy" Moore. The two had made a mutual pact that if either died during the war, the survivor would take care of both their families. Paddy was killed in action in 1918 and Lewis kept his promise. Paddy had earlier introduced Lewis to his mother, Jane King Moore, and a friendship very quickly sprang up between Lewis, who was eighteen when they met, and Jane, who was forty-five. The friendship with Mrs. Moore was particularly important to Lewis while he was recovering from his wounds in hospital and his father refused to visit him.
There has been some speculation among some Lewis scholars as to the nature of the relationship between Lewis and Jane Moore. Lewis for most of his life introduced Moore as his "mother" to all his acquaintances. Lewis was exceptionally reticent on the matter in his autobiography, writing only "All I can or need to say is that my earlier hostility to the emotions was very fully and variously avenged". The biographer A. N. Wilson
declared categorically that they had been intimate during the period of his convalescence, but this seems to be based on few and poorly interpreted letters, and owes something to Wilson's tendency to psychological interpretation. Walter Hooper, Lewis's literary executor, allowed that it was possible, but as a late acquaintance his data are all derivative, as are Wilson's. George Sayer, who was a student of Lewis and later a friend, wrote that, after talking to Jane Moore's daughter, he was quite certain that they were lovers. At any rate, their friendship was certainly a very close one. In December 1917 Lewis wrote in a letter to his childhood friend Arthur Greeves that Jane and Greeves were "the two people who matter most to me in the world".
After the war, in 1918 or 1919, Lewis and Moore shared a house, although Lewis also kept rooms at his college, and in 1930, they and Lewis's brother, Warren Lewis, moved into "The Kilns", a house in Risinghurst, Headington (a suburb of Oxford). They all contributed financially to the purchase of the house, which passed to Lady Dunbar of Hempriggs
, Moore's daughter, when Warren died in 1973.
Moore has been much criticized for being possessive and controlling and making Lewis do a lot of housework. However, she was also a warmhearted, affectionate and hospitable woman who was well liked by her neighbours at The Kilns. "She was generous and taught me to be generous, too", Lewis said to his friend George Sayer.
Moore suffered from dementia
in her later years and was eventually moved into a nursing home, where she died in 1951. Lewis visited her every day in this home until her death.
"My Irish life" thumb|Plaque on a park-bench in Bangor
, County Down
Lewis experienced a certain cultural shock upon first arriving in England: "No Englishman will be able to understand my first impressions of England," Lewis wrote in Surprised by Joy
. "The strange English accents with which I was surrounded seemed like the voices of demons. But what was worst was the English landscape ... I have made up the quarrel since; but at that moment I conceived a hatred for England which took many years to heal."
Since boyhood Lewis immersed himself in Irish mythology
and expressed an interest in the Irish language
. He developed a particular fondness for W. B. Yeats
, in part because of Yeats’ use of Ireland’s Celt
ic heritage in poetry. In a letter to a friend Lewis wrote, "I have here discovered an author exactly after my own heart, whom I am sure you would delight in, W. B. Yeats. He writes plays and poems of rare spirit and beauty about our old Irish mythology." In 1921, Lewis had the opportunity to meet Yeats on two occasions, since Yeats had moved to Oxford.
Surprised to find his English peers indifferent to Yeats and the Celtic Revival
movement, Lewis wrote: "I am often surprised to find how utterly ignored Yeats is among the men I have met: perhaps his appeal is purely Irish — if so, then thank the gods that I am Irish." Early in his career, Lewis considered sending his work to the major Dublin
publishers, writing: "If I do ever send my stuff to a publisher, I think I shall try Maunsel, those Dublin people, and so tack myself definitely onto the Irish school." After his conversion to Christianity, his interests gravitated towards Christian spirituality and away from Celtic mysticism.
Perhaps to help cope with his homesick
feelings, Lewis occasionally expressed a somewhat tongue-in-cheek chauvinism toward the English
. Describing an encounter with a fellow Irishman he wrote: "Like all Irish people who meet in England we ended by criticisms of the inevitable flippancy and dullness of the Anglo-Saxon
race. After all, ami, there is no doubt that the Irish are the only people ... I would not gladly live or die among another folk."
Due to his Oxford career Lewis did indeed live and die among another folk, and he often expressed regret at having to leave Ireland. Throughout his life, he sought out the company of his fellow Irish living in England and visited Northern Ireland regularly, even spending his honeymoon there. He called this "my Irish life".
Conversion to Christianity
Although raised in a church going family in the Church of Ireland
, Lewis became an atheist at the age of 13, and remained as such until he was 31 years old. His separation from Christianity began when he started to view his religion as a chore and as a duty; around this time he also gained an interest in the occult as his studies expanded to include such topics. Lewis quoted Lucretius
as having one of the strongest arguments for atheism:
:Nequaquam nobis divinitus esse paratam
:Naturam rerum; tanta stat praedita culpa
:Had God designed the world, it would not be
:A world so frail and faulty as we see.
Though an atheist at the time, Lewis later described his young self (in Surprised by Joy
) as being paradoxically
"very angry with God for not existing".
Lewis's interest in fantasy and mythology, seen as contradictory to his professed atheism, especially in relation to the works of George MacDonald
, helped to ease his passage out of atheism. In fact MacDonald's position as a Christian fantasy writer was very influential on Lewis. This can be seen particularly well through this passage in 'The Great Divorce,' chapter nine, when the semi-autobiographical main character meets MacDonald in Heaven:
"...I tried, trembling, to tell this man all that his writings had done for me. I tried to tell how a certain frosty afternoon at Leatherhead Station when I had first bought a copy of Phantastes
(being then about sixteen years old) had been to me what the first sight of Beatrice had been to Dante: Here begins the new life
. I started to confess how long that Life had delayed in the region of imagination merely: how slowly and reluctantly I had come to admit that his Christendom had more than an accidental connexion with it, how hard I had tried not to see the true name of the quality which first met me in his books is Holiness."
Influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien
, and by G.K. Chesterton
's book, The Everlasting Man
, he slowly rediscovered Christianity. He fought greatly up to the moment of his conversion noting, "I came into Christianity kicking and screaming." He described his last struggle in Surprised by Joy
:"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."
After his conversion to Theism in 1929, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931. Lewis's 1931 conversion followed a long discussion and late-night walk with his close friends Tolkien and Hugo Dyson
; after it Lewis converted to Christianity, while on his way to the Zoo with his brother, and joined the Church of England
-- somewhat to the regret of the devout Roman Catholic
Tolkien, who had hoped he would convert to Catholicism. It should be noted that Chesterton was a Catholic as well.
Although a committed Anglican
, Lewis' beliefs in many respects inclined to the Catholic rather than the Protestant tradition; for example, he accepted the Catholic doctrine of mortal sin
, implying that he believed Christians could lose their salvation (which is at odds with Reformed views on The Screwtape
Lewis was also sympathetic to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory
. His references to the subject in his final work, Letters to Malcolm
, find him taking a line similar to the Roman Catholic theologian John Henry Newman
's approach in "The Dream of (It seems likely that Newman in turn took his position from Catherine of Genoa
's "Purgation and
Also, Lewis is sometimes considered to have serious elements of Orthodox Christianity
belief. Literary and church figures quote his works as sources of Lewis' hidden Orthodox Christian
Joy Gresham thumb|left|Joy Gresham
In Lewis's later life, he arrived in England to see Joy Davidman Gresham
, an American writer of Jewish background and a convert from atheistic communism to Christianity. She was separated from her husband and came to England with her two sons, David
and Douglas Gresham
. Lewis at first regarded her as an agreeable intellectual companion and personal friend, and it was at least overtly on this level that he agreed to enter into a civil marriage contract with her so that she could continue to live in the UK. It then became clear that she had terminal bone cancer, and the relationship developed to the point that they sought a Christian marriage. Since she was divorced, this was not straightforward in the Church of England at the time, but a friend, the Rev. Peter Bide, performed the ceremony at Joy's hospital bed in 1956.
Joy's cancer soon went into a remarkable yet brief remission, and the couple lived as a family (together with Warren Lewis) until her eventual relapse and death in 1960. Lewis’s book A Grief Observed
describes his experience of bereavement in such a raw and personal fashion that Lewis originally released it under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk to keep readers from associating the book with him (ultimately too many friends recommended the book to Lewis as a method for dealing with his own grief, and he made his authorship public).
Lewis continued to raise Joy's two sons after her death. Douglas Gresham is an active Christian and remains involved in the affairs of the Lewis estate, though David Gresham returned to his mother's original Jewish faith. The two brothers are now estranged.
Illness and Death
In early June 1961, Lewis began experiencing medical problems and was diagnosed with inflammation of the kidneys
which resulted in blood poisoning
. His illness caused him to miss the autumn term at Cambridge
, though his health gradually began improving in 1962 and he returned that April. Lewis' health continued to improve, and according to his friend George Sayer, Lewis was fully himself by the spring of 1963. However, on July 15 1963
he fell ill and was admitted to hospital. The next day at 5:00 pm, Lewis suffered a heart attack
and lapsed into a coma, unexpectedly awaking the following day at 2:00 pm. After he was discharged from hospital, Lewis returned to the Kilns though he was too ill to return to work. As a result, he resigned from his post at Cambridge in August. Lewis' condition continued to decline and in mid-November, he was diagnosed with end stage renal failure
. On November 22 1963
, Lewis collapsed in his bedroom at 5:30 pm and died a few minutes later. His death came exactly one week before his 65th birthday. He is buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Oxford.
Media coverage of his death was overshadowed by news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
, which occurred on the same day, as did the death of Aldous Huxley
, author of Brave New World
(This coincidence was the inspiration for Peter Kreeft
's book Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley
His feast day in the Anglican
calendar is November 22nd.
The scholar thumb|right|Magdalen College
Lewis taught as a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford
, for nearly thirty years, from 1925 to 1954, and later was the first Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature
at the University of Cambridge
and a fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge
. Using this position, he argued that there was no such thing as an English Renaissance
. Much of his scholarly work concentrated on the later Middle Ages, especially its use of allegory. His The Allegory of Love
(1936) helped reinvigorate the serious study of late medieval narratives like the Roman de la Rose
. Lewis wrote several prefaces to old works of literature and poetry, like Layamon's Brut
. His preface to John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost
is still one of the most important criticisms of that work. His last academic work, The Discarded Image, an Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature
(1964), is a summary of the medieval world view, the "discarded image" of the cosmos in his title.
Lewis was a prolific writer and a member of the literary discussion society The Inklings
with his friends J. R. R. Tolkien
, Charles Williams
, and Owen Barfield
. At Oxford he was the tutor of, among many other undergraduates, poet John Betjeman
, critic Kenneth Tynan
, mystic Bede Griffiths
, and Sufi scholar Martin Lings
. Curiously, the religious and conservative Betjeman detested Lewis, whereas the anti-Establishment Tynan retained a life-long admiration for him. harvard
Of J. R. R. Tolkien
, Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy
(chapter X1V, p173):
"When I began teaching for the English Faculty, I made two other friends, both Christians (these queer people seemed now to pop up on every side) who were later to give me much help in getting over the last stile. They were H.V.V. Dyson ... and J.R.R. Tolkien. Friendship with the latter marked the breakdown of two old prejudices. At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a Papist, and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both."
The author thumb|175px|C.S. Lewis with his books
In addition to his scholarly work, Lewis wrote a number of popular novels, including his science fiction Space Trilogy
and his fantasy Narnia
books, most dealing implicitly with Christian themes such as sin, the Fall, and redemption.
The Pilgrim's Regress
His first novel after becoming a Christian was The Pilgrim's Regress
, his take on John Bunyan
's The Pilgrim's Progress
which depicted his own experience with Christianity. The book was critically panned at the time, particularly for its esoteric nature - as to read it requires a close familiarity with classical sources.
In a footnote of the biography D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981
by Iain Murray
, Murray notes the following: "Lewis is said to have valued ML-J's appreciation and encouragement when the early edition of his Pilgrim's Regress
was not selling well. Vincent Lloyd-Jones and Lewis knew each other well, being contemporaries at Oxford. ML-J met the author again and they had a long conversation when they found both themselves on the same boat to Ireland in 1953. On the later occasion, to the question, 'When are you going to write another book?', Lewis replied, 'When I understand the meaning of prayer'."
His Space Trilogy
or Ransom Trilogy
novels (also called the Cosmic Trilogy
) dealt with what Lewis saw as the then-current dehumanizing trends in modern science fiction. The first book, Out of the Silent Planet
, was apparently written following a conversation with his friend J. R. R. Tolkien
about these trends; Lewis agreed to write a "space travel" story and Tolkien a "time travel" one. Tolkien’s story, "The Lost Road
", a tale connecting his Middle-earth mythology and the modern world, was never completed. Lewis’s character of Ransom
is based in part on Tolkien, a fact that Tolkien himself alludes to in his Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien
. The last novel in the Trilogy also contains numerous references to Tolkien's fictional universe, and can be seen partially as a homage to Tolkien. The minor character Jules, from That Hideous Strength
, is an obvious caricature of H. G. Wells
. Many of the ideas presented in the books, particularly in That Hideous Strength
, are dramatizations of arguments made more formally in Lewis’s The Abolition of Man
Another novel, The Dark Tower
, was begun, but never finished. It failed to see print until 1977, 13 years after Walter Hooper
allegedly saved the manuscript from a bonfire. (Portions of Hooper's story have been shown to be unreliable.) Controversies have arisen over whether Lewis intended it to be a part of the Space series or not, and even whether Lewis actually wrote all of it.
*The trilogy-supporters claim that The Dark Tower
represents a shift in style, characters (Ransom is a bit player), setting (an alternate Universe, rather than the Sol system), and even subject matter. Its questionable provenance
is also a problem, leading Kathryn Lindskoog
and others to claim that it is a forgery.
*However, supporters of The Dark Tower
claim that That Hideous Strength
is also a significantly different novel from the first two, being more loosely and broadly plotted, much longer, and different in focus: less intent on presenting a view of the Sol system
and more intent on tackling very specific religious and, strikingly, social issues
. Finally, they say, Lewis did not claim to write a Space Trilogy; he wrote a series that, when he died, happened to consist of three books.
Indisputably, The Dark Tower
is an unfinished work
, and there is no sign Lewis intended to finish it.
The Chronicles of Narnia thumb|right|The Mountains of Mourne
main|The Chronicles of The Chronicles of Narnia
is a series of seven fantasy
novels for children and is considered a classic of children's literature
. Written between 1949 and 1954 and illustrated by Pauline Baynes
, the series is Lewis' most popular work having sold over 100 million copies in 41 languages Harvard Harvard . It has been adapted several times, complete or in part, for radio
, and cinema
. The series has been published in several different orders, and the preferred reading order for the series is often debated among fans.
The books contain many allusions to Christian
ideas which are easily accessible to younger readers; however, the books are not weighty, and can be read for their adventure, colour and richness of ideas alone. Because of this, they have become favourites of children and adults, Christians and non-Christians. In addition to Christian themes, Lewis also borrows characters from Greek
and Roman mythology
as well as traditional British and Irish fairy tale
s. Lewis reportedly based his depiction of Narnia on the geography and scenery of the Mourne Mountains
and "that part of Rostrevor
which overlooks Carlingford Lough
". Lewis cited George MacDonald
's Christian fairy tales as an influence in writing the series.The Chronicles of Narnia
present the adventures of children who play central roles in the unfolding history of the fictional realm
, a place where animals talk
is common, and good
. In the majority of the books, children from our world find themselves transported to Narnia by a magical portal. Once there, they are quickly involved in setting some wrong to right with the help of the lion Aslan
who is the central character of the series.
Lewis wrote a number of works on Heaven and Hell. One of these, The Great Divorce
, is a short novella. A few residents of Hell take a bus ride to Heaven, where they are met by people they had known on earth. The proposition is that they can stay (in which case they can call the place where they had come from Purgatory, not Hell): but many find it not to their taste. The title is a reference to William Blake
's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
, a concept that Lewis found repugnant. This work deliberately echoes two other more famous works with a similar theme: the Divine Comedy
of Dante Aligheri
, and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
. Another short work, The Screwtape Letters
, consists of letters of advice from a senior demon
, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, on the best ways to tempt a particular human and secure his damnation
. Lewis’s last novel was Till We Have Faces
— many believe (as he did) that it is his most mature and masterful work of fiction, but it was never a popular success. It is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche
from the unusual perspective of Psyche's sister. It is deeply concerned with religious ideas, but the setting is entirely pagan, and the connections with specific Christian beliefs are left implicit.
Before Lewis’ conversion to Christianity, he published two books: Spirits in Bondage
, a collection of poems, and Dymer
, a single narrative poem. Both were published under the pen name Clive Hamilton.
Lewis penned A Grief Observed
after the death of his wife (see Joy Gresham above)
The Christian apologist
In addition to his career as an English professor and an author of fiction, Lewis is regarded by many as one of the most influential Christian apologists
of his time; Mere Christianity
was voted best book of the twentieth century by Christianity Today
magazine in 2000. Lewis was very much interested in presenting a reasonable case for the truth of Christianity. Mere Christianity
, The Problem of Pain
, and Miracles
were all concerned, to one degree or another, with refuting popular objections to Christianity. He also became known as a popular lecturer and broadcaster, and some of his writing (including much of Mere Christianity
) originated as scripts for radio talks or lectures.
Due to Lewis' approach to religious belief as a skeptic, and his following conversion by the evidence, he has become popularly known as The Apostle to the Skeptics
. Consequently, his books on Christianity examine common difficulties in accepting Christianity, such as "How could a good God allow pain to exist in the world?", which he examined in detail in The Problem of Pain
Lewis also wrote an autobiography entitled Surprised by Joy
, which places special emphasis on his own conversion. (It was written before he met his wife, Joy Gresham
; the title of the book came from the first line of a poem by William Wordsworth
.) His essays and public speeches on Christian belief, many of which were collected in God in the Dock
and The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses
, remain popular today.
His most famous works, the Chronicles of Narnia
, contain many strong Christian messages and are often considered allegory
. Lewis, an expert on the subject of allegory, maintained that the books were not allegory, and preferred to call the Christian aspects of them "suppositional". As Lewis wrote in a letter to a Mrs Hook in December of 1958:
:"If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair The Pilgrim's Progress">a character in The Pilgrim's Progress represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like, if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all." Harvard
In the book Mere Christianity, Lewis famously criticized the idea that Jesus was a great moral teacher whose claims to divinity were false:
: "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 a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a 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."
According to the argument, most people are willing to accept Jesus Christ as a great moral teacher, but the Gospels record that Jesus made many claims to divinity, either explicitly — ("I and the father are one." John 10:30; when asked by the High priest whether he was the Son of God, Jesus replied "It is as you said" Matthew 26:64) — or implicitly, by assuming authority only God could have ("the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" Matthew 9:6). Lewis said there are three options:
# Jesus was telling falsehoods and knew it, and so he was a liar.
# Jesus was telling falsehoods but believed he was telling the truth, and so he was insane.
# Jesus was telling the truth, and so he was divine.
Lewis’s argument, which stems from the medieval aut deus aut malus homo ("either God or an evil man"), was later expanded by the Christian apologist Josh McDowell (in his book More than a Carpenter) to serve as a logical proof to Jesus’s divinity. It is from this latter development that the term "trilemma" actually comes. The term is often used to refer to both arguments, assuming that in fact they are one and the same.
Lewis's "trilemma" appeared at a time when secular scholars, such as David Friedrich Strauss, had portrayed Jesus' miracles and resurrection as myths. The concept that Jesus was not God but a wise man had gained ground in academic circles. The trilemma opposes the idea that Jesus was a wise mortal teacher without relying on miracles to prove it. In accepting the premise that Jesus had claimed divinity, he contradicted a historical viewpoint, popularized by H. G. Wells in his Outline of History, that Jesus had made no such claim.
right|thumb|220px|A statue of C.S. Lewis in Northern Ireland">[Belfast, Northern Ireland]
Lewis has continued to attract a wide readership, particularly for his fiction (whose Christian underpinning passes some readers by altogether) and for his Christian apologetic, which is read and quoted by believers whose background ranges from Roman Catholic to Mormon.
Interest in Lewis has resulted in several biographies (including books written by close friends of Lewis, among them Roger Lancelyn Green and George Sayer), at least one play about his life, and a 1993 film, Shadowlands, based on an original stage and television play. The film fictionalises his relationship with Joy Gresham.
Many books have been inspired by Lewis, including A Severe Mercy by his correspondent Sheldon Vanauken. The Chronicles of Narnia have been particularly influential. Modern children's authors such as Daniel Handler (A Series of Unfortunate Events), Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl), Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials trilogy), and J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter) have been more or less influenced by Lewis's series. Pullman, a critic of Lewis harvard , considers him a negative influence. Authors of adult fantasy literature such as
Tim Powers have also testified to being influenced by Lewis's work.
Most of Lewis’s posthumous work has been edited by his literary executor, Walter Hooper. An independent Lewis scholar, the late Kathryn Lindskoog, argued in several books that Hooper's scholarship is not reliable and that he has made false statements and attributed forged works to Lewis.
According to Lindskoog's research, After Lewis' death in 1963, Hooper began portraying himself as having been Lewis' "companion secretary." Although Hooper's only association with Lewis was between early June and late August of 1963, his published introductions to Lewis' works give the impression he knew Lewis for many years and had a very close relationship with him. Lindskoog's research and arguments are laid out in Sleuthing C.S. Lewis: More Light in the Shadowlands.
A bronze statue of Lewis looking into a wardrobe stands in Belfast's Holywood Arches in front of the Holywood Road Library.
Lewis was strongly opposed to the creation of live-action versions of his works due to the technology at the time. His major concern was that the anthropomorphic animal characters "when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare". This was said in the context of the 1950s, when technology would not allow the special effects required to make a coherent, robust film version of Narnia. Whether or not Lewis would be happy with the CGI creations of The Chronicles of Narnia film series, naturally, cannot be known.
The song "The Earth Will Shake" performed by Thrice is based on one of his poems, and the band Sixpence None the Richer are named after a passage in Mere Christianity. Caedmon's Call also wrote a song based on The Great Divorce called "The High Country".
Several C. S. Lewis Societies exist around the world, including one which was founded in Oxford in 1982 (see their http://lewisinoxford.googlepages.com/ website) to discuss papers on the life and works of Lewis and the other Inklings, and generally appreciate all things Lewisian.
Despite his popularity, Lewis is not without his critics. Philip Pullman, atheist harvard and author of the children's series His Dark Materials, openly criticized Lewis for the religious "propaganda" in The Chronicles of Narnia. Speaking at the Guardian Hay Festival, Pullman said the Narnia stories were "blatantly racist" and "monumentally disparaging of women".harvard In an interview with The Observer, Pullman criticised the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by saying, "if the Disney corporation wants to market this film as a great Christian story, they'll just have to tell lies about it". He added, "it's not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue" and that the books contained "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice". harvard citation|BBC
In a 2005 article for The Guardian, Polly Toynbee also criticised the Narnia books, writing that "Lewis weaves his dreams to invade children's minds with Christian iconography that is part fairytale wonder and joy - but heavily laden with guilt, blame, sacrifice and a suffering that is dark with emotional sadism." Toynbee also stated than Narnia is populated with "worlds of obedient plebs and inferior folk eager to bend at the knee to any passing superior white persons" and that "Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right". harvard
Details|The Chronicles of
Criticism of Lewis is not limited to his children's books. In his book Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, former preacher Dan Barker discusses Mere Christianity and takes issue with Lewis' belief in absolute morality, stating "any morality which is based on an unyielding structure above and beyond humanity is dangerous to human beings. History is filled with examples of what religious "morality" has done to worsen our lot". He dismisses the popularity of Lewis' arguments, writing "Lewis can afford to relax, I think, because most of his readers are Christians who buy the book because they are looking for substantiation. They are not skeptical searchers of truth. Any writer can capture a sympathetic audience by capitalizing on those areas that everyone "knows" to be right". harvard
* The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition
* Rehabilitations and other essays
(1939) — with two essays not included in Essay Collection
* The Personal Heresy: A Controversy
(with E. M. W. Tillyard
* The Problem of Pain
* A Preface to Paradise Lost
* The Abolition of Man
* Beyond Personality
* Miracles: A Preliminary Study
(1947, revised 1960)
* Arthurian Torso
(1948; on Charles Williams
* Mere Christianity
(1952; based on radio talks of 1941-1944)
* English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama
* Major British Writers, Vol I
(1954), Contribution on Edmund Spenser
* Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
* Reflections on the Psalms
* The Four Loves
* Studies in Words
* An Experiment in Criticism
* A Grief Observed
(1961; first published under the pseudonym
«N. W. Clerk»)
* Selections from Layamon's Brut
(ed. G L Brook, 1963 Oxford University Press
* Prayer: Letters to Malcolm
* The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature
* Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
(1966) — not included in Essay Collection
* Spenser's Images of Life
(ed. Alastair Fowler
* Letters to an American Lady
* Christian Reflections
(1967; essays and papers)
* Selected Literary Essays
(1969) — not included in Essay Collection
* God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics
(1970), = Undeceptions
(1971) — all included in Essay Collection
* Of Other Worlds
(1982; essays) — with one essay not included in Essay Collection
* Present Concerns
* All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis 1922-27
* Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories
* Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church
* Collected Letters, Vol. I: Family Letters 1905-1931
* Collected Letters, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts and War 1931-1949
* Collected Letters, Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950-1963
* The Pilgrim's Regress
* Space Trilogy
** Out of the Silent Planet
** That Hideous Strength
* The Screwtape Letters
* The Great Divorce
* The Chronicles of Narnia
** The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
** Prince Caspian
** The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
** The Silver Chair
** The Horse and His Boy
** The Magician's Nephew
** The Last Battle
* Till We Have Faces
* Screwtape Proposes a Toast
) (an addition to The Screwtape Letters
* Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
* The Dark Tower and other stories
* Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C. S. Lewis
(ed. Walter Hooper, 1985
* Spirits in Bondage
(1919; published under pseudonym
(1926; published under pseudonym Clive Hamilton)
* Narrative Poems
(ed. Walter Hooper, 1969; includes Dymer
* The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis
(ed. Walter Hooper, 1994; includes Spirits in Bondage
Books about Lewis
* John Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion
. Eerdmans, 1985. ISBN 0-8028-0046-7
* Humphrey Carpenter
, The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their friends
. George Allen & Unwin, 1978. ISBN 0-04-809011-5
* Joe R. Christopher & Joan K. Ostling, C. S. Lewis: An Annotated Checklist of Writings about him and his Works
. Kent State University Press, n.d. (1972). ISBN 0-87338-138-6
* Michael Coren, The Man Who Created Narnia: The Story of C.S. Lewis
. Eerdmans Pub Co, Reprint edition 1996. ISBN 0-8028-3822-7
* James Como
, Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis, Spence, 1998.
* James Como, Remembering C. S. Lewis (3rd ed. of C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table). Ignatius, 2006
* Colin Duriez
and David Porter
, The Inklings Handbook: The Lives, Thought and Writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Their Friends
. 2001, ISBN 1-902694-13-9
* Colin Duriez, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship
. Paulist Press, 2003. ISBN 1-58768-026-2
* Bruce L. Edwards, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual World of Narnia
. Tyndale. 2005.
* Bruce L. Edwards, Further Up and Further In: Understanding C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
. Broadman and Holman, 2005.
* Alastair Fowler, 'C.S. Lewis: Supervisor', Yale Review, Vol. 91, No. 4 (October 2003).
* Jocelyn Gibb (ed.), Light on C. S. Lewis
. Geoffrey Bles, 1965 & Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1976. ISBN 0-15-652000-1
* Douglas Gilbert & Clyde Kilby, C.S. Lewis: Images of His World
. Eerdmans, 1973 & 2005. ISBN 0-8028-2800-0
* David Graham (ed.), We Remember C.S. Lewis
. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001. ISBN 0-8054-2299-4
* Roger Lancelyn Green
& Walter Hooper
, C. S. Lewis: A Biography
. Fully revised & expanded edition. HarperCollins, 2002. ISBN 0-00-628164-8
* Douglas Gresham
, Jack's Life: A Memory of C.S. Lewis
. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-8054-3246-9
* Douglas Gresham, Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
. HarperSanFrancisco, 1994. ISBN 0-06-063447-2
* William Griffin, C.S. Lewis: The Authentic Voice
. (Formerly C.S. Lewis: A Dramatic Life
) Lion, 2005. ISBN 0-7459-5208-9
* Joel D. Heck, Irrigating Deserts: C. S. Lewis on Education
. Concordia Publishing House, 2006. ISBN 0-7586-0044-5
* David Hein and Edward Hugh Henderson, eds., Captured by the Crucified: The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer
. New York and London: T & T Clark / Continuum, 2004. A study of Lewis's close friend the theologian Austin Farrer
, this book also contains material on Farrer's circle, "the Oxford Christians," including C. S. Lewis.
* Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide
. HarperCollins, 1996. ISBN 0-00-627800-0
* Walter Hooper, Through Joy and Beyond: A Pictorial Biography of C. S. Lewis
. Macmillan, 1982. ISBN 0-02-553670-2
* Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis
. HarperSanFrancisco, 2005. ISBN 0-06-076690-5
* Carolyn Keefe, C.S. Lewis: Speaker & Teacher
. Zondervan, 1979. ISBN 0-310-26781-1
* Clyde S. Kilby, The Christian World of C. S. Lewis
. Eerdmans, 1964, 1995. ISBN 0-8028-0871-9
* Kathryn Lindskoog, Light in the Shadowlands: Protecting the Real C. S. Lewis
. Multnomah Pub., 1994. ISBN 0-88070-695-3
* W.H. Lewis (ed), Letters of C.S. Lewis
. Geoffrey Bles, 1966. ISBN 0-00-242457-6
* Susan Lowenberg, C. S. Lewis: A Reference Guide 1972–1988
. Hall & Co., 1993. ISBN 0-8161-1846-9
* Wayne Mardindale & Jerry Root, The Quotable Lewis
. Tyndale House Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0-8423-5115-9
* Markus Mühling, "A Theological Journey into Narnia. An Analysis of the Message beneath the Text", Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-525-60423-8
* Joseph Pearce, C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church
. Ignatius Press, 2003. ISBN 0-89870-979-2
* Thomas C. Peters, Simply C.S. Lewis. A Beginner's Guide to His Life and Works
. Kingsway Publications, 1998. ISBN 0-85476-762-2
* Justin Phillips, C.S. Lewis at the BBC: Messages of Hope in the Darkness of War
. Marshall Pickering, 2003. ISBN 0-00-710437-5
* Victor Reppert, C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason
. InterVarsity Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8308-2732-3
* George Sayer
, Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times
. Macmillan, 1988. ISBN 0-333-43362-9
* Peter J. Schakel, Imagination and the Arts in C. S. Lewis: Journeying to Narnia and Other Worlds.
University of Missouri Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8262-1407-X
* Peter J. Schakel. Reason and Imagination in C. S. Lewis: A Study of "Till We Have Faces."
Available http://hope.edu/academic/english/schakel/tillwehavefaces/index.html online
. Eerdmans, 1984. ISBN 0-8028-1998-2
* Peter J. Schakel, ed. The Longing for a Form: Essays on the Fiction of C. S. Lewis
. Kent State University Press, 1977. ISBN 0-87338-204-8
* Peter J. Schakel and Charles A. Huttar, ed. Word and Story in C. S. Lewis.
University of Missouri Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8262-0760-X
* Stephen Schofield. In Search of C.S. Lewis
. Bridge Logos Pub. 1983. ISBN 0-88270-544-X
* Jeffrey D. Schultz and John G. West, Jr. (eds.), The C.S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia
. Zondervan Publishing House, 1998. ISBN 0-310-21538-2
* G. B. Tennyson (ed.), Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis
. Wesleyan University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8195-5233-X.
* Richard J. Wagner. C.S. Lewis and Narnia for Dummies
. For Dummies, 2005. ISBN 0-7645-8381-6
* Chad Walsh, C. S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics
. Macmillan, 1949.
* Chad Walsh, The Literary Legacy of C. S. Lewis
. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979. ISBN 0-15-652785-5.
* George Watson (ed.), Critical Essays on C. S. Lewis
. Scolar Press, 1992. ISBN 0-85967-853-9
* A. N. Wilson, C. S. Lewis: A Biography
. W. W. Norton, 1990. ISBN 0-393-32340-4
* Michael White
, C.S. Lewis: The Boy Who Chronicled Narnia
. Abacus, 2005. ISBN 0-349-11625-3
* Christian apologetics (field of study concerned with the defence of Christianity)
* The Inklings
* Pauline Baynes
* G. E. M. Anscombe
* Harvard reference|Surname=Barker|Given=Dan|Year=1992|Title=Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist|Place=Madison|Publisher=Freedom from Religion Foundation|ID=ISBN
* Harvard reference|Surname=BBC News|Given=Staff|Authorlink=|Year=2005|Title=Pullman attacks Narnia film plans|Journal=BBC News|Volume=2005|Issue=16
* Harvard reference|Surname=Dodd|Given=Celia|Year=2004|Title=Human nature: Universally acknowledged|Journal=The
* Harvard reference|Surname=Ezard|Given=John|Authorlink=|Year=2002|Title=Narnia books attacked as racist and sexist|Journal=The
* Harvard reference|Surname=Gopnik|Given=Adam|Authorlink=|Year=2005|Title=PRISONER OF NARNIA How C. S. Lewis escaped|Journal=The New
* Harvard reference|Surname=Guthmann|Given=Edward|Year=2005|Title='Narnia' tries to cash in on dual audience|Journal=San Francisco
* Harvard reference|Surname1=Hooper|Given1=Walter|Authorlink=Walter Hooper|Year=1979|Title=They stand together: The letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963)|Place=London|Publisher=Collins|ID= ISBN
* Harvard reference|Surname=Kelly|Given=Clint|Year=2006|Title=Dear Mr.
* Harvard reference|Surname=Lewis|Given=C.S.|Year=1952|Title=Mere
* Harvard reference|Surname=Lewis|Given=C.S.|Year=1966|Title=Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life|Place=London|Publisher=Harvest
* Harvard reference|Surname1=Martindale|Given1=Wayne|Surname2=Root|Given2=Jerry|Year=1990|Title=The Quotable Lewis|Place=|Publisher=Tyndale House|ID=ISBN
* Harvard reference|Surname=Tonkin|Given=Boyd|Authorlink=|Year=2005|Title=CS Lewis: The literary lion of Narnia|Journal=The
* Harvard reference|Surname=Toynbee|Given=Polly|Authorlink=|Year=2005|Title=Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion|Journal=The Guardian|Volume=2005|Issue=December
* gutenberg author| id=C.+S.+Lewis | name=C. S.
* http://www.cslewischronicle.org/ The Chronicle
— British academic journal for C.S. Lewis and his circle
* http://www.cslewis.org/ C.S. Lewis Foundation
* http://students.tkc.edu/houses/lewis/intro.html The House of C.S. Lewis
* http://www.wheaton.edu/learnres/wade/ Marion E. Wade Center
at Wheaton College
— has the world’s largest collection of Lewis's works and works about him
Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, has the world's largest private collection of C. S. Lewis first editions, letters, manuscripts, and ephemera--the Edwin W. Brown Collection
* http://www.cslewisfestival.org/ The Northern Michigan C. S. Lewis Festival
*http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/lewis/cs-lewis.htm RapidNet.com — C. S. Lewis FAQ
*http://www.pseudobook.com/cslewis C. S. Lewis & The Inklings
— Bruce Edwards's site, with resources on Lewis and friends
* http://cslewis.drzeus.net Into the Wardrobe
— a Web site devoted to C. S. Lewis
* http://www.narniafans.com/ NarniaFans.com
— C.S. Lewis news, database, and community
* http://www.narniaweb.com/ NarniaWeb.com
— Narnia & C.S. Lewis news, resources, forum
* http://www.thestonetable.com/ The Stone Table
— the latest C.S. Lewis news, reviews, and community
* http://www.scriptoriumnovum.com/l.html C.S. Lewis Chronicles
— a compendium of information about Lewis
* http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/cslfaq.htm The alt.books.cs-lewis FAQ
* http://www.cslewis.com/ C.S. Lewis Classics
— a website by HarperCollins Publishers
* isfdb name|id=C._S._Lewis|name=C. S.
* http://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1455 FindAGrave C.S.Lewis
* http://www.malacandra.co.uk Malacandra.co.uk
— a Wiki for C.S. Lewis fans
* http://www.solcon.nl/arendsmilde/cslewis Arend Smilde's CSL site
— Dutch and (mainly) English. Several unique or hard-to-find texts and resources
* http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/features/cslewis/audio.shtml Audio of CS Lewis speaking
* http://students.tkc.edu/houses/lewis/intro.html The House of C.S. Lewis group
* http://www.filipinonarnians.org The Philippine Order of Narnians
- A Filipino Community of C.S. Lewis Enthusiasts
* IBList |type=author|id=349|name=C.S.
* http://cslewis.us.to CSLewis.us.to
— A C.S. Lewis Discussion site
* http://www.lewishall.org C. S. Lewis Hall
C. S. Lewis Hall, Christian Private School in Austin, Tx
|NAME=Lewis, Clive Staples
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES=C.S. Lewis, CS Lewis, Jack (nickname)
|SHORT DESCRIPTION=Author & Christian apologist
|DATE OF BIRTH=29 November 1898
|PLACE OF BIRTH=Belfast, Northern Ireland
|DATE OF DEATH=22 November 1963
|PLACE OF DEATH=Oxford, England
Lewis, C. S.
Lewis, C. S.
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Lewis, C. S.
Lewis, C. S.
Lewis, C. S.
Lewis, C. S.
Lewis, C. S.
Lewis, C. S.
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Lewis, C. S.
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