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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 84, Spring 2000

Laurence Harwood at the Harvard Club Original Article

March 27, 2000(reported by Dr. Ralph Blair)

The venue was the long, high ceilinged hall of the Harvard Club of New York City. The dark wood paneling reflected the glow of crimson shaded lamps throughout the room. Harvard and Oxford Alumni Associations sponsored the meeting. The speaker was Laurence Harwood, OBE, one of the Godsons of C. S. Lewis. Tom Phillips, the retired chairman of Raytheon, was asked to introduce Harwood. The woman who introduced Phillips said that he was the main single contributor to the restoration of Lewis’ home, The Kilns, as a study center. Phillips spoke of his own coming to faith in Jesus Christ in 1969 and of his introducing Chuck Colson to Christ during the Watergate scandal. Phillips’ introduction was the evening’s only witness to Christian faith.

Harwood began by saying that all of Lewis’ friends called him “Jack.” Next, he read Lewis’ description of Cecil Harwood, his father, quoted from Surprised by Joy. Then, while displaying a slide of the familiar 1917 photo of Jack and his father, Harwood inexplicably stated that Jack’s father was “a cleric, a priest.”

As Harwood read from letters written by Lewis – first to his father and then to him – he displayed slides of the letters so that the audience could follow along. One of the letters to his father declared him “Lord of the Walks” that they took with friends. Another played with the pronunciation of “Cecil.” Lewis said it rhymed with nothing. Cecil jotted on Lewis’ letter: “wrestle, trestle, pestle.” Two more letters were elaborate mock chastisements for Harwood’s failure to secure their tickets for Covent Garden.

Memories from his childhood: Lewis visiting their home. The house had only one bathroom, so every morning, when Lewis had finished using it, he would boom to the whole house: “Bathroom free!”

Lewis, he said, always pitched letters to him at the level he could understand as he was growing up. He shared one about Jack’s whitebearded neighbor who ate only raw vegetables and chopped down a tree at The Kilns, one about a wild rabbit Jack had seen yawning in the back yard, and one with Jack’s own drawings of a bear, angels, and a selfportrait at the dinner table. Two of Lewis’ observations to the young Harwood: of all the constellations “I like Orion best” and “Every book has its own peculiar smell.” In 1950, Harwood’s mother was dying of cancer and Lewis wrote a very touching letter to the elder Harwood, saying that every marriage must end with something like this and added: “In my life, I have not wept enough.”

When Harwood failed his Oxford history preliminaries and had to adjust to a life without a university education, Lewis wrote him a long letter of encouragement in which he said that such examinations don’t test all qualities, not even of academic life. He advised the young Harwood to cut his losses and get on with his life. Lewis cautioned him against “resentment” that could cause him to “snap and snarl at the system ever after.” Lewis told him that life is like a bad hotel bed and once you find the right way in it, you’ll be snoring in no time. Harwood decided to prepare to become a land agent and Lewis funded his training. Harwood continued in land agency and wound up with The National Trust.

At the end of his presentation, Harwood took a few questions from the floor. No, he’s never met Lewis’ stepsons, “our paths just never crossed.” No, he didn’t know Lewis’ cause of death. No, Anthony Hopkins wasn’t the Lewis Harwood knew. Joss Aukland was closer. I asked him about the state of Anthroposophy in England today. “That’s off the subject,” he shot. “It’s very strong all over the world. But I’m not here to talk about that.” Next question?