The Lewis Legacy-Issue 83, Winter 2000
An Open Letter to Patricia Batstone
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
January 1, 2000
5 Foxglove Close. Dunkeswell, Honiton, Devon EX14 4QE. 1987 doctoral thesis at Exeter College: "Shadow into Substance: Education and Identity in the Fantasy of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien" IN DEBT TO C. S. LEWIS: a collection of 200 accounts of how C. S. Lewis has influenced readers (1999).
Saturday, February 5, 2000
Dear Patricia Batstone,
A friend of mine purchased your book In Debt to C. S. Lewis and has sent me your paragraph about my work on The Dark Tower. In case you get a chance to revise that paragraph, here are the errors that need correcting:
1. "The [plausible] story goes that it was rescued by Walter Hooper from a bonfire days after Lewis's death . . . "
In 1977 Walter Hooper first published his claim that he rescued The Dark Tower from a bonfire that occurred in 1964, two months after Lewis's death. The bonfire story has now been so thoroughly discredited that Hooper didn't even mention it in his massive 1997 reference book C. S. Lewis, Companion and Guide.
2. "of all the Inklings . . . only one at first recollected it ever being read to them."
There is no independent record that any of the Inklings ever recalled Lewis reading The Dark Tower at one of their meetings. There is only Walter Hooper's 1977 claim, after the death of Gervase Mathew, that Mathew had at an undisclosed time told Hooper about hearing Lewis read it circa 1939. But there is no record of Mathew attending Inklings meetings that early; in fact, there is evidence he did not. Furthermore, the 1974 Green/Hooper biography of Lewis claims that no one saw or heard of the story in Lewis's lifetime.
3. "for some reason best known to herself, Kathryn Lindskoog, an American academic and former acquaintance of Lewis, decided to scrutinize the story and concluded that C. S. Lewis did not write it but that it was all a big hoax on the part of Walter Hooper."
All you had to do was ask me. In 1986 a graduate student named Carla Faust Jones wrote to me as a stranger and informed me that she was applying the Literary Detective computer program to The Dark Tower because she thought it was not by Lewis. I considered the book with that in mind and decided she was right. Her statistical study of the text bore out her suspicion, and my multifaceted investigations bore out mine.
4. "her own arguments...generally relied on the opinions of 'experts.'"
To begin with, my arguments generally rely on facts I have uncovered, certainly not on anyone's opinions. But I am concerned about why you refer to people I cite (such as Warren Lewis and Fred Paxford?) as "experts," meaning so-called experts. Who are these "experts" whose opinions you think I rely on?
5. "The long-drawn out affair did nothing to help the health of either
Hooper or Kathryn Lindskoog"
I'm amazed that a preacher in England thinks my work on The Dark Tower has damaged my health. In fact, it has been a highly challenging, energizing, and entertaining part-time project for over a decade. Since I began work on The Dark Tower I have published nine books on other topics, with a tenth coming out this spring and yet another scheduled for release early next year. I suffer from advanced multiple sclerosis, but that disease began before The Dark Tower was ever published. When I was tipped off by Carla Faust Jones almost a decade later, I was already severely crippled. Your concern about this affair damaging Walter Hooper's health is also misguided.
6. "The long-drawn-out affair . . . eventually, after some retraction, faded off the scene, leaving a distinctly nasty taste."
What retraction? Perhaps you mean Walter Hooper's retraction of his demonstrably false claim that he was Lewis's longtime friend and secretary who lived with the Lewis brothers in the Kilns. For my part, I have certainly issued no retraction about The Dark Tower; instead, I have strengthened my charges. I wonder why you think the affair has faded off the scene. My second book on the subject, Light in the Shadowlands: Protecting the Real C.S. Lewis, has garnered endorsements from such luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke! And my 20-page quarterly newsletter, The Lewis Legacy, is eleven years old now. (You can read it in the Bodleian.)
In fact, I plan to introduce your book this month in Issue 83 and include this open letter along with your reply. I hope our interchange will serve readers as an example of how such misunderstandings between people of good will can be cleared up once contact is established.
With good wishes,
On 18th February 2000 Patricia Batstone responded. She pointed out that the paragraph in question is in an appendix -- an appendix added at a late stage of the editing. "There is no reason why Walter Hooper, had he wished to write a fantasy, could not have done so in his own name and still gained a market." She refers to her sources as "various reports" and a newspaper cutting: "...unfortunately, by now, it is not possible to trace chapter and verse." "Let us agree to differ and move on." "At the end of the day I have to ask the question, does it really matter anymore?" "I am only sorry you felt so misrepresented as to feel it necessary to write in the first place, as no offense was intended and my opinions are entirely my own."