Special Underclothes: Were the Scrubbs Mormons?

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 85, Summer 2000 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader C. S. Lewis described Harold and Alberta Scrubb, Eustace’s parents, as vegetarians, non-smokers, and teetotallers — who wore a special kind of underclothes. Fifty years later, readers are familiar with vegetarians, non-smokers, and teetotallers, but most are mystified by Lewis’s reference to a special kind of underclothes. Strict Mormons are teetotallers and non-smokers who wear a special kind of underclothes, and strict Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarians, non-smokers, and teetotallers, and so it is no wonder that some readers wonder if Lewis was targetting an abstemious religious group.

Douglas Gresham says “Absolutely not… At the time there was a fad for string underwear, it was crocheted out of quite coarse cotton thread and was in a net form. It did feel rather weird to wear but it was very warm… Harold and Alberta were simply faddists.”

A contributor to MERELEWIS named Mariette commented: There is an Agatha Christie reference that has always puzzled me in the story “The Herb of Death,” in the collection The Thirteen Problems (aka The Tuesday Club Murders). The copyright date is 1928, 1929, 1930, and 1933.

“Mr Curle was a vegetarian. He used to eat some peculiar stuff that looked like bran for breakfast. Those elderly stooping men with beards are often faddy. They have patent kinds of underwear, too.”

“What on earth, Dolly,” said her husband, “do you know about Mr Curle’s underwear?”

“Nothing,” said Mrs Bantry with dignity. “I was just making a guess.”

It seems doubtful that C. S. Lewis and Agatha Christie knew that strict Mormons wear special underclothes.