The Lewis Legacy-Issue 76, Spring 1998
Walter Hooper's "Diabolical Ventriloquism"
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
March 1, 1998
Walter Hooper's first known foray into Screwtape territory apparently took place during his 1965-1967 tenure as college chaplain at Wadham. He wrote a Screwtape letter and published it under the title "Hell and Immortality" in an undated periodical called Breakthrough. (A copy exists in the Wade Center.) It is approximately 2,000 words long and aimed at male college students. In it Screwtape instructs Wormwood, who is now "Chief Tempter to St Felicity's College."
The tone of the essay can be adduced from terms of invective that Hooper employs to add some punch:
human vermin (Hooper also calls people vermin in "Forms of Things Unknown," allegedly by Lewis) blabbing rabble human vermin (again) insipid humbug little dictator little mess that slop dolts the very stupid feckless an Italian whore undersexed morons magnificently inarticulate gazing, as it were, at their navels riff-raff
Screwtape begins by claiming that Screwtape Letters is the only book, "indeed the only thing," that Satan refuses to burn. The reason for this is not explained.
Screwtape's first point is that college beer parties are no help to tempters. Unfortunately for Screwtape and Wormwood, the college chaplain (presumably Hooper) approves of drink and wisely teaches that it is one of the "blessings of God." Thus he is not taken for an out-and-out square. In fact, he is "quite amused when, on Sunday mornings, he sees little puddles of vomit scattered here and there, tokens of Freshmen who overdrank the night before." (This enlightened attitude of the chaplain -- presumably Hooper -- causes Screwtape to write "damn it!") The rest of the essay is Hooper's thinly disguised fulminations against "the Cult of the Anti-Hero." He sums up his position in one of his more unfortunate sentences: "There is a long, long descent from a knight in shining armour to the feckless anti-hero squeezing pimples in front of a looking-glass." (That illustration is perhaps meant to serve as wit, a quality that is sadly lacking in the essay.)
At one point, Hooper temporarily forgets to reverse good and bad to reflect Screwtape's point of view. And his final, rather long paragraph is composed largely of paraphrases of sentences from Lewis's sermon "The Weight of Glory."
Walter Hooper's creative responses to Screwtape Letters continued intermitantly for over a decade. In 1974 he placed two typewritten copies of another resentful little essay, allegedly by Lewis, in the Bodleian library. It is his inept introduction to C. S. Lewis's essay "Screwtape Proposes a Toast." (Like Hooper's Screwtape letter, this contemptuous essay refers to "dunces" and "duller" readers and it, too, is an awkward response to the ironic wit in Lewis's genuine Screwtape writings. It even uses the word democratic in a way that's the opposite of how Lewis defines it in "Screwtape Proposes a Toast."
In 1974, in C. S. Lewis: A Biography, Hooper misrepresented the circumstances when Lewis got his idea for Screwtape.
In 1976 Hooper published his "Lord and King" version of The Screwtape Letters, changing words at random and moving World War Two bombing of London to the United States. The book does not state that it is a revised version of Lewis's story.
In 1978 Hooper arranged and starred in the "Lord and King" Lewis film Through Joy and Beyond, giving another wrong version of the origin of Lewis's idea for Screwtape. In that film Hooper showed and promoted his version of The Screwtape Letters, with no spoken or written warning to readers that it is not what Lewis wrote.
In 1982 Hooper published his inept introduction (allegedly by Lewis) to "Screwtape Proposes a Toast." By then he had belatedly placed in his private cache in the Bodleian Library a copy of the introduction in what looks like Lewis's handwriting. Such a document obviously has significant financial value in spite of the fact that the writing is out of character for Lewis.