The Lewis Legacy-Issue 84, Spring 2000
Guarding C. S. Lewis's Stature: The Measure of the Man
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
March 1, 2000
In her 2,700-word article about pilgrimage, "Walking Where Lewis Walked," (Christianity Today, February 2000) Virginia Stem Owens told how her husband got her to reluctantly accompany him on a group C. S. Lewis tour, and how surprised she was to learn that Lewis was only five feet tall. As she put it, much shorter than Anthony Hopkins. (Owens is the same Christianity Today writer who praised 1991 biographer A. N. Wilson for cutting Lewis down to size.)
To the editor:
I'm amused to read the new rumor that C. S. Lewis was only five feet tall, much shorter than Anthony Hopkins. When I met Lewis in 1956 I was 5'1", and he was a bulky man far taller than I was. The average Brit was shorter than the average American in those days, and I would guess that Lewis was about 5'10". He has sometimes been described as tall by those who knew him, but never as short. Incidentally, Anthony Hopkins was a far better match for Lewis in size than in any other way. He did not look or act anything like Lewis, and according to his own testimony it was not his intention to do so.
When this information was distributed on the MERELEWIS listserve, a reader in Oxford responded: "He did seem to shrink in those last few years -- perhaps the bone thing, perhaps he stooped -- I don't know."
>From Sao Paulo, Brazil, Terri Williams responded to her:
I think this is a good guess if it weren't for photographic evidence to the contrary. There is a photo of CSL and Walter Hooper taken in the summer of 1963--a few months before CSL died. In it he stands about half a forehead taller than Walter and stands straight--not looking stooped at all (though probably Anne is right that there were days when his pain did cause him to stoop somewhat).
You can see a black and white version of the photo in Through Joy and Beyond by Walter Hooper. A color version resides in the Wade Collection at Wheaton College. It's the only color photo of CSL I've ever seen. In the photo CSL is about half a forehead taller than Walter. I figure that's about 2 to 2-1/2 inches. I'm 5' 5". When I met Walter in the summer of 1973 he was not shorter than 5' 5". I would guess he was at least 5'7" or 5'8" tall. Adding 2 to 2-1/2 inches (the half a forehead that CSL had over him), would put CSL at about 5' 9" to 5' 10" tall in the summer of 1963.