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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 84, Spring 2000

Lawlor and Lewis: Memories and Reflections Original Article

John Lawlor arrived at Magdalen College, Oxford, in October 1936, and learned that his tutor was named C. S. Lewis.
Thirty-seven years later, in November 1963, Lawlor was one of the few people to attend Lewis’s funeral. In 1966 he published Patterns of Love and Courtesy: Essays ln Memory of C. S. Lewis, a collection of literary essays by friends of Lewis — John Stevens, Colin Hardie, Gervase Mathew, D. S. Brewer, Elizabeth Salter, J. A. W. Bennett, John Lawlor, N. K. Coghill, R. T. Davies, and P. C. Bayley. And in 1999, 63 years after meeting Lewis, he published C. S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections. He died that year on May 31.

According to Gilbert Meilaender’s review in First Things, “From his very first meeting with Lewis, Lawlor had the sense that Lewis did not want to waste time. He ‘valued time as few men I have met….’ “The hungry generations tread thee down” was a witticism he ruefully acknowledged.’ For all the argumentativeness and rhetorical firepower of Lewis’ teaching, however, Lawlor recalls a significant fact: ‘One thing Lewis never did, in any recollection I have of him. He never imposed his Christianity on the argument.’ Over time, Lawlor was one of those who flourished under this treatment. He gradually ‘passed from dislike and hostility to stubborn affection, and then to gratitude for the weekly bout in which no quarter was asked or given.’

“Lawlor’s account of Lewis’ own recollection of how he wrote is striking. ‘He once told me that he was what might be called a “first-time” writer, in the sense that we speak of “first-time gifts in a games-player-no hesitation, the stroke delivered with perfect immediacy.” I write one draft, he used to say; then I read it through and correct it; and then if I don’t like it, away it goes into the wastepaper basket.'” (If so, this disproves the theory that The Dark Tower was a first draft.)