CS Lewis Web
The Lewis Legacy-Issue 71, Winter 1997
Walter Hooper Says Now A Grief Observed Is True
By: Kathryn Lindskoog
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
January 1, 1997

In C. S. Lewis: Companion and Guide, released by Harper Colllns in the fall of 1996, Walter Hooper abruptly reverses his claim that Lewis's Grief Observed is fiction. (See pp. 194-201.) Without any explanation, he includes Grief in his autobiography section and vouches for its historical accuracy.

Until now Hooper has always insisted that Grief is strictly imaginative and that Lewis was offended when readers did not realize that fact. As recently as 1991 Hooper published "C.S. Lewis: The Man and His Thought" (more appropriately titled "Walter Hooper and C. S. Lewis") in Cynthia Marshall's Essays on C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald: Truth,Fiction, and the Power of Imagination. Marshall states in her introduction, "In his wonderfully anecdotal essay, Walter Hooper asserts that A Grief Observed is a carefully constructed' fiction: 'Lewis told me that he felt he had to make it sound autobiographical if it was to help the average man or woman who had lost husband or wife.""

Hooper devotes eight paragraphs of the essay to that position: "Considering how angry some people have been when I have told them that A Grief Observed is not straight autobiography, I will be amazed if this paper does not fan the flames. Even so, too much is at stake and this error must be set right."

Why the switch five years later? In his review of Companion (see CSL, September-October 1996) James Como reveals that he previewed parts of the book in manuscript and the published entry on A Grief Observed" bears virtually no serious resemblance" to the original, "surely owing to the influence of Douglas Gresham." Further, Como charges that Gresham "dictated" cutting of some other sections by Hooper. Because he is a close friend of Hooper's, Como seems to be expressing complaints he got from Hooper.