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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 77, Summer 1998

Abolition of an Error Original Article

The Abolition of Man was first published in 1943, but that date wasaccidentally changed to 1947 in the essay “C. S. Lewis: The Natural Law in Literature and Life,” by Kathryn Lindskoog and Gracia Fay Ellwood. This error changed the chronology at the end of the essay.

After David Mills arranged for use of the essay in his journal Mission and Ministry and his collection of essays to be published by Eerdmans in 1998, Lindskoog corrected the chronology. But Mills dropped the essay without notice (see p. 4), and so Lindskoog is making the improved version public
on John West’s Discovery Institute Lewis website at
http://www.discovery.org/lewismat.html.

HOW CARELESS ERRORS CAN CREEP INTO BOOKS AND ARTICLES ABOUT C. S. LEWIS,
Part I

May 4, 1998

David Mills
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street, Ambridge, PA 15003

Dear David,

I assume that you have been extra busy with preparation for your recent lecture at the Wheaton College theology conference. [The title of his paper was “Writing What Your Readers Will Hear: C.S. Lewis, Analogy, and the Lay Mind.”] Perhaps that is why I haven’t heard from you since March 6, although I wrote twice. I’m trying again because I wonder if your special C. S. Lewis issue of Trinity’s Mission and Ministry is ready for publication yet. And because of my new discovery.
I finally found out why you wanted to change the location of the opening of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

On October 7 you contacted me with an urgent request for a contribution for your January C. S. Lewis issue. You said “[Mission and Ministry], I should say, is an intentionally middle-brow magazine, in the sense of being edited for busy clergy and interested but theologically untrained laity, in other words people who want sound and significant teaching and will work a bit for it, but will not slog through an academic article… We will be sending
a lot of complimentary copies of this issue to the Lewis conferences being held next year in this country and England.” [In January he informed me that he had arranged for Eerdmans to issue the collection of essays in book form. Again there was to be no remuneration. Again I agreed.]

By early November you notified me that you were accepting my essay on C. S. Lewis and the Natural Law. But on December 17, without warning, you sent me a revised version for my approval. One of my many objections to the revised version involved the opening of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

I originally wrote “Edmund had inappropriate emotional responses from the very beginning. His brother and sisters imagined pleasant creatures they would like to meet…” You changed this to “Edmund had responds [sic] inappropriately from the very beginning. Leaving for the country, his brother and sisters imagined pleasant creatures…”

On December 18 I removed your phrase “Leaving for the country,” but to my surprise you restored it in the version you sent me on February 28. I took the phrase out again on March 2, and on March 5 you responded, “I’ll admit ‘Leaving for the country’ was not the best addition I could have made – it did clang a bit – but something like it was needed there. I’ve read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe several times and on the first reading of your paragraph I didn’t know whether you were discussing the chidren on earth or in Narnia, which does make a difference in understanding your argument. As written, the reader did not have an important, an orienting, bit of information.”

(I recalled that on December 19 you had mentioned having wrangles with some of your writers. “I’ve had to tell a couple out right that their demanding the reader do unnecessary work was an expression of pride and a willful rejection of their calling as writers. I don’t see that there’s any excuse for wilful difficulty. This sort of thing makes me very cross.”)

On March 6 I protested, “But the children were not “leaving for the
country” when they had the discussion in question. They were already in the country. Trust me. Better yet, look it up.” Hours later, you answered [by e-mail], “It’s no insult to your skills as a writer to say that another eye – actually, several – sees something you didn’t.”

I recently expressed my intense puzzlement about this disagreement to [an editor friend] who explained that you must have had in mind the film adaptation of the story. So I looked at the videotape, and that is
evidently the answer!

Kathryn

NOTE: David Mills chose not to answer and has never done so. In fact, instead of correcting his altered version of the essay, he deleted it from both the special Lewis Centenary issue of Mission and Ministry and his July Eerdmans book The Pilgrims Guide: C.S. Lewis and the Art of Witness. This incident shows that published errors about Lewis and his works are not always the fault of the authors. Sometimes they are the handiwork of overconfident editors and copyeditors who apparently assume that their casual familiarity with Lewis makes them authorities. (See p. 5.)

HOW CARELESS ERRORS CAN CREEP INTO BOOKS AND ARTICLES ABOUT C. S. LEWIS,
Part II

June 18, 1998

Dear James O’Fee,

My goodness! To begin with, Mr Wavre used my work without ever contacting me for permission; and by the time a pleasant American agent I never heard of notified me about the C. S. Lewis Journal, it was already in the galley stage. I checked the galleys, and on July 31, 1997, I sent the agent an urgent list of corrections to pass on to the English publisher. She said the publisher agreed, and when she sent me a contract in November (without his name on it anywhere), I signed it on November 17. I eventually received the contract back with his signature and the date November 20 added, but his first name was only D, and his last name appeared to be Ware.

In March 1998 I received one copy of the book (with no message), instead of five copies as specified in the contract. Because Mr Wavre included only a portion of my urgent corrections, the book was an embarrassment to me. I waited for the other four copies in vain, and after sending word to him through you and the agent, I finally received them in mid-June – still with no message.

I find it highly ironic that in a letter to you Mr Wavre now complains
about my never communicating with him: “I would like you to know that Mrs Lindskoog has never written to me or communicated with me in any way. I do therefore find it extremely annoying and surprising that the only form of correspondence she seems to be able to carry out is the public domain. It would have been a courtesy, I believe, for an author to have communicated with the publisher direct other than the way she has chosen.”

Let me paraphrase Mr Wavre’s words: “I would like you to know that Mr Wavre has never written to me or communicated with me in any way. I find it extremely annoying and surprising that he used my work without permission and then publicly attributed someone else’s errors to me. It would have been a courtesy, I believe, for a publisher to have communicated with an author directly instead of the way he has chosen.”

Furthermore, Mr Wavre claims in your June newsletter: “As Katherine
Lindskoog has worked exclusively through her agent, we have never been in direct touch. We have, however, from day one worked through the agent and submitted first drafts (never galley proofs) to Lindskoog’s agent. I am highly surprised that she comments in public upon errors, or differences in factual interpretation, which were included in a first draft submitted to her.”

Anyone who looks at the complete galley proofs the agent sent me in July 1997 can see at a glance that they are typeset and fully formatted and not a manuscript draft. Furthermore, they were accompanied by a high quality full-color photocopy of the cover and the 16 full-color illustrations. This was all accomplished before I ever heard of the book or the agent or Eagle Publishers!

Most ironic of all, Mr Wavre defends the errors (which he dismisses as “differences in factual interpretation”) by saying, “For your information, the introduction and the allegedly erroneous information in the introduction that she mentions were taken from two books published by C S Lewis’ publishers, Harper Collins. The one by David Barrat [sic], the other by A N Wilson.”

If Mr Wavre had checked with me before trusting the books by Barratt (1987) and Wilson (1990), I would have told him that I obtained both books when they were hot off the press, reviewed them for periodicals, and reported in detail how sloppy and inaccurate they were. (I could have sent him both reviews.) Although Barratt’s amateurish effort is not well known, Wilson’s skillful one is notorious among Lewis lovers for both accidental and intentional inaccuracies. I listed about forty of those errors and lies in my published review (republished now at the back of Light in the Shadowlands: Protecting the Real C. S. Lewis), and another Lewis buff has listed hundreds.

Fortunately, I have a healthy sense of humor and chuckle to think of a
self-assured British publisher assuming that fellow countrymen Barratt and Wilson are so trustworthy he needn’t heed my corrections.

I would still be glad to have a cordial relationship with Mr. Wavre if he
is interested. You are welcome to forward this entire letter to him if you see fit, and you are welcome to publish any part of it you like.

Kathryn