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C.S. Lewis - Date Unknown, Click To Enlarge

C.S. Lewis
(My complete GMD bio/commentary is here).



The life and times of C.S. Lewis is recognized and celebrated by readers the world over. His arduous battle fought and won over atheism would eventually result in one of Christendom's staunchest champions. It's thought by many people, both Christians and non-Christians alike, that his classic book, Mere Christianity--first presented as a series of radio lectures during the 2nd world war--is the greatest and most provocative book ever assembled on the subject of its title. He wrote many books and essays of religious philosophy that were nearly, but not quite, equal to it during his lifetime. The Problem of Pain, The Weight of Glory, The Abolition of Man, and Letters to Malcolm would likely be at, or near, the top of many people's lists. But he hardly stopped there. As an Oxford Tutor, and later as the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, he wrote two classic books in his field of study that are still used as text books in those and other universities today. They are, The Allegory of Love, written early in his career; and, The Discarded Image, written near the end of his life. The latter is quite possibly the best (and most needed) book ever written concerning the Medieval systems applied to the universe and how they affected the later Renaissance thinkers and writers.

Lewis would also write poetry (some of it very good), an autobiography that dealt mostly with his spiritual pilgrimage, a book that might be considered a journal of his grieving process following the death of his wife, and several works of fiction. Among them the seven classic children's stories--The Chronicles of Narnia--are where many people first meet Lewis. Of his adult novels, Till We Have Faces is an obvious classic, one that appeals to individuals from all walks of life, and one of the last great books written in the 20th century. His other stories for adults would more likely than not find their greatest allure among Christian readers. His space trilogy is both artful and unique. He always considered his 2nd book in the series--Perelandra--to be one of the best things he had written. The Screwtape Letters, an imaginary series of letters between a chief Demon and his neophyte nephew, would land Lewis on the cover of Time Magazine. His unfinished tale, The Dark Tower, is surely one of the all-time great unfinished stories right up there with Mark Twain's unfinished masterpiece, The Great Dark. Finally, in, The Great Divorce, Lewis himself takes a fantasy bus ride through purgatory with George MacDonald as his guide.

Cover to - George MacDonald: An Anthology, Click to EnlargeThe inspiration C.S. Lewis took from George MacDonald is quite well-known and very apparent to anyone having read both writers even to a small extent. Although MacDonald died before Lewis had become aware of the man, he still looked upon him as a spiritual father and referred to the great Scotsman as "my master". Lewis would eventually put together an anthology of MacDonald's spiritual sayings which he thought would be important and helpful to most people simply calling it: George MacDonald: An Anthology.

Lewis looked to MacDonald for both story ideas and spiritual insights, making great use of both throughout all his own writings. MacDonald's Lilith, for instance, played a big role on how certain characters and plots would come about in books such as: Till We Have Faces, Perelandra, and the final Narnia tale--The Last Battle. MacDonald's fairytale--The Princess and the Curdie--had animal characters that would influence Lewis' own animal creatures right through the entire Narnia series.

Lewis wrote often of the importance MacDonald's books had in his life. In his autobiography--Surprised by Joy--he told of his first coming upon MacDonald by way of the novel, Phantastes. Lewis had heretofore been on a search for joy. For him joy was like a small glimpse at the end of a rainbow, intriguing him to further seek out its source, presumably in another world. But in reading Phantastes he found that the search for joy reached an end. It did so because he now realized that this object of desire could be obtained in this waking real world in which he had lived all along.

It is as if I were carried sleeping across the frontier, or as if I had died in the old country and could never remember how I came alive in the new... I did not yet know (and I was long in learning) the name of the new quality, the bright shadow, that rested on the travels of Anodos. I do now. It was Holiness... There was no temptation to confuse the scenes of the tale with the light that rested upon them, or to suppose that they were put forward as realities, or even to dream that if they had been realities and I could reach the woods where Anodos journeyed I should thereby come a step nearer to my desire... Thus, when the great moments came I did not break away from the woods and cottages that I read of to seek some bodiless light, shining beyond them... For I now perceived that while the air of the new region made all my erotic and magical perversions of Joy look like sordid trumpery, it had no such disenchanting power over the bread upon the table or the coals in the grate. That was the marvel. Up till now each visitation of Joy had left the common world momentarily a desert.... Even when real clouds or trees had been the material of the vision, they had been so only by reminding me of another world; and I did not like the return to ours. But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged.

For more on the life of C.S. Lewis please visit Richard James' excellent website: The Cumberland River Lamp Post.

Also see the website of Alston and Silas McCaslin. Their mother, Mary Margaret (Dobbs) (McCaslin) Ward, corresponded with Lewis during the 1950's and early 60's. Several of the letters Lewis sent to her have appeared in book collections of Lewis letters. These two brothers from Georgia, both pediatric dentists, have now compiled a 55-page manuscript called The Ancestry of C. S. Lewis and made it available on the web. Apparently, never before has anyone undertaken a complete study of the Lewis ancestry. The McCaslin brothers have rectified that with stellar research and analysis going as far back as the mid 16th century, presenting not only names and dates, but as much general information as could be ascertained concerning the various individuals introduced throughout the Lewis lineage. Highly recommended.


2007 The George MacDonald Informational Web