Thursday, March 12, 1970

Author - Lewis, C.S.

Birth: November 29, 1898.

Death: November 22, 1963.

Comments: Clive Staples "C.S." Lewis was an Irish author and Christian apologist. Due to a childhood incident involving the death of his pet dog, he went by the name Jack for most of his life even though this was not technically part of his name. He was educated at a variety of boarding schools and under the guidance of a couple private tutors before he began studies at University College in Oxford. Like many of his generation he left school to serve in World War I and was wounded by friendly artillery fire. He returned to his studies and earned three firsts: in Latin and Greek Literature, Philosophy and Ancient History, and English. He took up a position as a fellow at Magdalen College and spent the bulk of his career there. Given the focus of his academic career, it is somewhat unsurprising that Lewis seems to have been intensely suspicious of any learning of more recent vintage than the Middle-Ages, a sentiment that was reflected in much of his writing.

Baptized into the Irish Church as a child, he famously lost his faith as an adolescent and under the influence of his close friend J.R.R. Tolkien reconverted when he was thirty-two. Having only published one book prior to his conversion, after he rediscovered his faith Lewis began producing a steady stream of novels and apologia for the Christian faith. All of his novels are fairly didactic, with a heavy emphasis on providing Christian "messages" as part of the narrative. Despite his obvious skills in his fields of study, he seems to have had difficulty grasping many of the arguments made against the theological positions he asserted, because when he has characters espouse the "contrary" position in his books, they present their ideas in such a clumsy fashion that it is apparent that Lewis simply didn't understand the arguments he was trying to put in his characters' mouths.

Lewis has been criticized as having a misogynistic mindset, a criticism that seems to have some basis in reality. It seems likely, however, that his misogyny stemmed from his inexperience with women. His mother died when he was quite young, and he appears to have had limited contact with any women until after his service in World War I when he took on the responsibility of caring for Jane Moore, the mother of a college friend of his who had died in the conflict. She was twenty-seven years his senior and he referred to her as his "mother", but there are persistent rumors that the two carried on a clandestine sexual affair for years. When he was much older, he married Joy Davidman, a divorced woman seventeen years his junior who he originally agreed to marry while she was hospitalized with cancer, and apparently only out of a desire to help her be able to continue living in the United Kingdom. Given this history, apparently only able to relate to women old enough to be his mother or young enough to be his daughter, it isn't really that surprising that Lewis' ideas about love and marriage are so screwed up.

My reviews of C.S. Lewis' books:
Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength

Other books by C.S. Lewis that I have read but not reviewed:
A Horse and His Boy
The Last Battle
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Magician's Nephew
Prince Caspian
The Silver Chair
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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