Friday, January 06, 2006

C S Lewis

The Chronicle: 12/2/2005: For the Love of Narnia
Philip Pullman said of C S Lewis: "He didn't like women in general."

CS Lewis and the Great Dance
Toby Johnson, PhD, wrote:

"As we know from the play and movie, Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis was a "bachelor," living with his alcoholic brother most of his life, living as a sort of celibate cleric of academe. He certainly wasn't a modern gay man, but he was one of us, I think...

"His longest lifetime friend, Arthur Greeves, was homosexual."

CS Lewis on Pederasty
In C. S. Lewis' autobiography Suprised by Joy, Lewis writes: "I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll (private secondary school)."

CS Lewis on Pederasty
'Littlebear' wrote: "I believe C.S.Lewis was a paedophile. A university tutor of mine once mentioned that he enjoyed taking pictures of young children who 'weren't wearing very much'".
Adam Gopnik wrote:

Lewis :"A bright and sensitive British boy turned by public-school sadism into a warped, morbid, stammering sexual pervert."

Narnia? "A powerful lion, starting life at the top of the food chain, adored by all his subjects and filled with temporal power, killed by a despised evil witch for his power and then reborn to rule, is a Mithraic, not a Christian, myth."

Joy Davidman? "the real Joy Davidman, a spirited Jewish matron from Westchester who had been impressed by Lewis’s books, was not delicate and transcendent but foulmouthed, passionate, a little embarrassing."

Inside the Mind of Gloria Brame: CS Lewis...submissive?
A new biography of writer C.S. Lewis dwells a bit on his interest in sadomasochism and speculates that he was submissive.

...we are in need of biographies such as this, that remind us that he was, after all, just a man -- and a very complicated one.

The members of the C. S. Lewis Society of Oxford discuss an angelic, High Church Lewis who was a lifelong celibate - regardless of the facts that he was married for four years and before that lived with another woman for nearly 30, or that his letters to his lifelong friend Arthur Greaves discuss both masturbation and sadomasochism.

Many of Lewis's admirers never seem to grasp that they do him no favors by making him an unfallen angel -- his virtues and accomplishments would have been without merit and his life would have nothing to say to us....


1898 C S Lewis is born. Lewis's father became an alcoholic.

World War One: Lewis's friend Paddy Moore is killed in battle. Lewis has promised to look after Moore's mother.

1921 Lewis, aged 18, begins living with 45 year-old Mrs Janie Moore and her 11 year-old daughter.

1830 Lewis and his brother Warnie and Mrs Moore begin living at a house called 'The Kilns'.

1951 Mrs Moore dies.

1952 The middle aged Lewis meets Joy Davidman, an American Jewish woman who has two young sons.

1954 Joy Davidman divorces her husband.

1956 Lewis marries Joy Davidman in a civil ceremony; this is to allow Davidman to continue to stay in the United Kingdom. The civil marriage makes Lewis legally responsible for looking after Joy's sons if Joy is unable to do so.

1960 Davidman dies of cancer. Her sons live with Lewis.

1963 Lewis dies.


Adam Gopnik wrote:

Christianity? "Lewis was drawn in by the likeness of the Christian revelation to pagan myth...

"Many of the elements that make Christianity numinous for Lewis are the pagan mythological elements that it long ago absorbed from its pre-Christian sources...

"A central point of the Gospel story is that Jesus is not the lion of the faith but the lamb of God, while his other symbolic animal is, specifically, the lowly and bedraggled donkey.

"The moral force of the Christian story is that the lions are all on the other side. If we had, say, a donkey, a seemingly uninspiring animal from an obscure corner of Narnia, raised as an uncouth and low-caste beast of burden, rallying the mice and rats and weasels and vultures and all the other unclean animals, and then being killed by the lions in as humiliating a manner as possible—a donkey who reĆ«merges, to the shock even of his disciples and devotees, as the king of all creation—now, that would be a Christian allegory.

"A powerful lion, starting life at the top of the food chain, adored by all his subjects and filled with temporal power, killed by a despised evil witch for his power and then reborn to rule, is a Mithraic, not a Christian, myth."


C.S. Lewis: The Boy Who Chronicled Narnia by Michael White.

Reviewed by Frances Atkinson

CHILDREN'S AUTHORS - especially those who have had a big impact - always attract a particular kind of scrutiny of their personal lives. Think of Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, A. A Milne. All flawed human beings; all writers who altered the landscape of children's writing.

So what sort of man was C. S. "Jack" Lewis, creator of the Narnia series? As a boy he was sickly and read voraciously. By 12 he'd written stories set in "Animal Land" that his latest biographer, Michael White, says were "extremely dull".

Lewis' older brother, Warren, was his closest childhood companion and when their mother died of cancer, aged 46, their lives fractured. Their father, Albert, drank heavily; on some level, Lewis blamed him for her early death and their relationship was subsequently strained.

White's biography is at its most interesting discussing Lewis' later life, especially his writing career, which didn't take off until he was in his 40s. White, whose other subjects have included Tolkien and Stephen Hawking, is a fan who is able to approach not only the man, but the storyteller who became the man.

By 1918 Lewis was at Oxford but was soon dispatched to the front where he made an agreement with a soldier friend, Paddy Moore: if either should die, the other would look after the remaining parent. Lewis was wounded and returned to England but Moore was killed in France.

Lewis, at 21, began a relationship with Moore's mother, the separated and lonely 46-year-old Janie. He called her "mother" and while the relationship lasted for 30 years, its intimate nature is unclear since neither ever discussed it in detail.

Lewis returned to Oxford and by his late 20s was a don at Magdalen College. Here he met J. R. R. Tolkien, whom he considered a "kindred spirit". Theirs was a mercurial friendship and the pair often locked horns over Lewis' Christianity as well as matters of professional jealousy.

White says Lewis was inspired by his faith to write non-fiction works. In 1942 he published The Screwtape Letters, "a correspondence between two devils". The book was reprinted eight times in one year.

In 1950, the world embraced The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe while Tolkien called it "a meaningless jumble". Lewis would be criticised for what some called a "deliberate indoctrination and Christian propaganda" (Philip Pullman, for instance, loathes Narnia books) but White says "Narnia has given a great deal of simple pleasure to many millions of readers without too much observable harm being done".

Much of the success of The Chronicles of Narnia is due to Lewis' ability to reach back into his childhood and recall the stories "he held in aspic somewhere deep in his own mind". The irony is that Lewis didn't really like children and had very little to do with them, yet he "adored his fictional children Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter".

By 1951, Janie was dead and Lewis was about to meet Joy Gresham, the American mother of two boys, whom he married four years before her death from cancer. She was a controversial figure among his (sometimes stuffy) friends because she was confident and American to boot, but Lewis was devoted to her. There was no doubt that this time it was a real marriage and her death in 1960 left him all but broken.

The most any reader can ask of a biography is a sense of who the person was, what made them tick. White's take on Lewis, while affectionate, remains balanced and comprehensive. More importantly he eloquently reveals the heart of a storyteller - flaws and all.

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