“Early Prose Joy” Not Available In The Bodleian

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 73, Summer 1997 The C. S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

There are three stages now in the deepening mystery of the elusive Lewis manuscript that Walter Hooper calls the “Early Prose Joy.” It all began on p. 113 of C. S. Lewis: A Biography by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper. There Hooper revealed that he had in his possession a 72-page document written by C.S. Lewis in 1930, when he was a theist. (Lewis began, “In this book I propose to describe the process by which I came back, like so many of my generation, from materialism to a belief in God.”) The manuscript fills 62 pages of a notebook and ten loose sheets. No one has seen it. Decade after decade, eager Lewis specialists looked forward to learning more about the “Early Prose Joy” and wondered why it was being withheld. Because Hooper did not deposit it in his private cache in the Bodleian, Kathryn Lindskoog began to openly question its existence. (See footnote 20 on p. xxii of Finding the Landlord.) In his 1996 book C. S. Lewis: Companion and Guide, Hooper finally provided more information. But now the mystery becomes far murkier. On p.181 Hooper announced blithely that the “Early Prose Joy” fills 58 pages in one of Lewis’s notebooks and is kept in the Bodleian. (He seemed to forget that 22 years earlier the document filled 62 pages in a notebook and ten loose sheets.) Here is the latest twist. In 1997 a Bodleian librarian assured a bewildered researcher that Hooper’s claim is wrong; they don’t have a Lewis notebook containing “Early Prose Joy” and don’t know why Hooper published that claim.