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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 75, Winter 1998

The End of an Era: Owen Barfield Dead at 99 Original Article

C. S. Lewis’s friend, solicitor, and literary trustee Arthur Owen Barfielddied on 14 December 1997. He was born in London on 9 November 1898 into what has been called a passionately progressive family; his father was alawyer, his mother, a suffragette. Like Lewis, Barfield served in WorldWar I, then excelled at Oxford. Barfield soon developed extraordinary theories about the nature of language, mythology, and reality, which led him to become an ardent Anthroposophist, to the dismay of his wife and C.S. Lewis.
Barfield considered a career in dance, but decided on freelance writing instead. Rather unsuccessful at that, in 1928 he reluctantly joined his family’s law firm. He resented being an attorney instead of a successful author, and he wrote: “How I hate this bloody business,/ Peddling property and strife/ While the pulse of Europe falters/ — How I hate this bloodylife!”

After thirty years in law, Barfield retired and became a frequent visitor to universities in the United States, where he found a better reception than in England. In 1957 he had published his favorite of his own books, Saving the Appearances, which sets forth a unique history of the evolution of human consciousness. It was followed by other theoretical books that have a small but devoted following. Barfield did not share Lewis’s clear style and Christian beliefs, but Lewis’s growing popularity greatly enhanced his own prominence.

In 1964 Barfield installed Walter Hooper as Lewis’s posthumous editor, and in 1969 he appointed him co-trustee in spite of Warren Lewis’s protests.Until his death, Barfield responded to any questioning of Hooper’s claims and career with strong irritation — vouching for all of it, but declining to elaborate in any way.