The Lewis Legacy-Issue 84, Spring 2000
Tolkien: A Celebration
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
March 1, 2000
Edited by Joseph Pearce (Fount HarperCollins, 1999, 204 pp, pb)
From "Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: An Interview with Walter Hooper"
(Joseph Pearce, April 1998)
When and where did you first meet Tolkien?
I met Tolkien in the first or second week of January 1964. Before that,
when I was with Lewis in his house, The Kilns, in the summer of 1963, he asked me to ring Tolkien and he was very keen that we meet. I rang Tolkien but he said that his wife was not very well and that he couldn't come. Lewis was very disappointed, not only because he wanted to see him again but because he wanted us to meet. I think he wanted to see us meet. Now Tolkien did come to see Lewis several times before Lewis died that autumn, and he certainly didn't abandon him in his last days, but I wasn't present on those occasions.
In any event, after Lewis died and I had returned to Oxford I got in touch with Tolkien and he invited me to his house which was in Sandfield Road. At that time he was using his garage as a very cosy study and he invited me to sit down and he was very nice, he could not have been warmer. Of all the friends of Lewis of whom I had met by that time, he was the one who was most sympathetic with my plight. He said several times, 'I know it must be so hard on you', and I thought later how he had known Lewis so much longer, for many more years than I had, and he knew what Lewis meant to me, he just sensed it. He was a deeply sympathetic man, and this was why, I think, he saw me and why he was so gracious and kind.
When I arrived he had said that the length of the meeting was to be half an hour. He had so many demands on his time that he had to do this. Of course, that meant half an hour to me but I realized of course that he was not constrained by his own rules. I had my eyes in my watch and after half an hour I said 'Thank you very much' and made to leave, but he said 'No, no, no, keep your seat.' We talked about Jack Lewis and one of the points he made was that Lewis 'had not made enough time for me' and I explained that Lewis's view was that Tolkien had not made enough time for him. I think he felt then that it was a pity that they had both claimed to be very busy, which they doubtless were, but you just don't really believe your friends will die.
In spite of this, do you feel that Lewis and Tolkien should be seen primarily as Christian writers?
I think one of the most illuminating comments I have ever heard about Lewis was from someone who hadn't met him but who could understand human motivation very well and who also was a writer, and that was the Pope. I met him in 1984, and as I understand it the meeting was at his suggestion because he was the one who wanted to talk about Lewis. John Paul had been reading the works of Lewis at least since the fifties. Anyway, it was a great moment for me when I had the talk with him and he began by asking me, 'Do you still love your old friend C. S. Lewis?' I said, 'Yes, Holy Father, both storge and philia,' and he said, 'Ah, you know I liked The Four Loves!' But at the end of the interview he then made a comment about Lewis. He said, 'C. S. Lewis knew what his apostolate was.' There was a long pause, then he said, 'And he did it!' I've been thinking about that ever since that time. What a judicious compliment that is! He knew what his apostolate was. Lots of people might know what their apostolate is, but he did it.
If indeed C. S. Lewis asked Walter Hooper to invite J. R. R. Tolkien for a visit, that was when Lewis was bedfast and extremely weak after his return from the hospital on August 7. It is hard to believe that he wanted to socialize when he was that ill. "Now Tolkien did come to see Lewis several times before Lewis died that autumn, and he certainly didn't abandon him in his last days, but I wasn't present on those occasions." True; in Lewis's last days, weeks, and even months, Hooper was back at home in Kentucky.
Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.
--T. S. Eliot