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C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963), commonly called C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as “Jack”, was a novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. Born in Belfast, Ireland, he held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College), 1925–1954, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College), 1954–1963. He is best known both for his fictional work, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963), commonly called C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as “Jack”, was a novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. Born in Belfast, Ireland, he held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College), 1925–1954, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College), 1954–1963. He is best known both for his fictional work, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Lewis and fellow novelist J. R. R. Tolkien were close friends. Both authors served on the English faculty at Oxford University, and both were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the "Inklings". According to his memoir Surprised by Joy, Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) at birth, but fell away from his faith during his adolescence. Owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, at the age of 32 Lewis returned to the Anglican Communion, becoming "a very ordinary layman of the Church of England". His faith had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

In 1956, he married the American writer Joy Davidman, 17 years his junior, who died four years later of cancer at the age of 45. Lewis died three years after his wife, from renal failure, one week before his 65th birthday. Media coverage of his death was minimal; he died on 22 November 1963—the same day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the same day another famous author, Aldous Huxley, died. This has led to the date of his death often being overshadowed by that of Kennedy. In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was honoured with a memorial in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Lewis's works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularized on stage, TV, radio, and cinema.

Childhood

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, on 29 November 1898. His father was Albert James Lewis (1863–1929), a solicitor whose father, Richard, had come to Ireland from Wales during the mid-19th century. His mother was Florence Augusta Lewis, née Hamilton (1862–1908), known as Flora, the daughter of a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest. He had an elder brother, Warren Hamilton Lewis. At the age of four, shortly after his dog Jacksie was killed by a car, he announced that his name was now Jacksie. At first, he would answer to no other name, but later accepted Jack, the name by which he was known to friends and family for the rest of his life. When he was seven, his family moved into "Little Lea", the family home of his childhood, in the Strandtown area of East Belfast.

As a boy, Lewis had a fascination with 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 to read was as easy as walking into a field and "finding a new blade of grass”.

Lewis was schooled by private tutors before being sent to the Wynyard School in Watford, Hertfordshire, in 1908, just after his mother's death from cancer. Lewis's brother had enrolled there three years previously. The school was closed not long afterwards due to a lack of pupils; the headmaster Robert "Oldie" Capron was soon after committed to a psychiatric hospital. Lewis then 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. He was then sent to the health-resort town of Malvern, Worcestershire, where he attended the preparatory school Cherbourg House, which Lewis calls "Chartres" in his autobiography. It was during this time that Lewis 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 remained until the following June. He found the school socially competitive. After leaving Malvern, he studied privately with William T. Kirkpatrick, his father's old tutor and former headmaster of Lurgan College.

As a teenager, he was wonder-struck by the songs and legends of what he called Northernness, the ancient literature of Scandinavia preserved in the Icelandic sagas. These legends intensified an inner longing he later called "joy". He also grew to love nature; its beauty reminded him of the stories of the North, and the stories of the North reminded him of the beauties of nature. His teenage writings moved away from the tales of Boxen, and he began using different art forms (epic poetry and opera) to try to capture his new-found 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 sound reasoning. In 1916, Lewis was awarded a scholarship at University College, Oxford. Before he was allowed to attend Oxford, Lewis was conscripted into the First World War. His experience of the horror of war confirmed his atheism.

"My Irish life”

Lewis experienced a certain cultural shock on first arriving in England: "No Englishman will be able to understand my first impressions of England", Lewis wrote in Surprised by Joy, continuing, "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."

From boyhood, Lewis immersed himself firstly in Norse, Greek, and, later, in Irish mythology and literature and expressed an interest in the Irish language, though there is not much evidence that he laboured to learn it. He developed a particular fondness for W. B. Yeats, in part because of Yeats's use of Ireland's Celtic 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 met Yeats twice, 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 pagan Celtic mysticism.

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 on the invincible flippancy and dullness of the Anglo-Saxon race. After all, there is no doubt, ami, that the Irish are the only people: with all their faults, I would not gladly live or die among another folk". Throughout his life, he sought out the company of other Irish people living in England and visited Northern Ireland regularly, even spending his honeymoon there in 1958 at the Old Inn, Crawfordsburn. He called this "my Irish life".

Various critics have suggested that it was Lewis's dismay over sectarian conflict in his native Belfast that led him to eventually adopt such an ecumenical brand of Christianity.[20] As one critic has said, Lewis "repeatedly extolled the virtues of all branches of the Christian faith, emphasising a need for unity among Christians around what the Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton called 'Mere Christianity', the core doctrinal beliefs that all denominations share." On the other hand, Paul Stevens of the University of Toronto has written that "Lewis's mere Christianity masked many of the political prejudices of an old-fashioned Ulster Protestant, a native of middle-class Belfast for whom British withdrawal from Northern Ireland even in the 1950s and 1960s was unthinkable”.

References

Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis




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