The Lewis Legacy-Issue 85, Summer 2000 From the Mailbag

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

Since writing “The Dark Tower: A Challenge to Lewis Scholars” (Legacy 84), I’ve noticed a few more echoes of That Hideous Strength in The Dark Tower. In That Hideous Strength, Mark Studdock is imprisoned in a room that is covered, wherever he looks, with decorations not explicitly demonic but having a subtle cumulative effect that is dehumanizing (ch. 13). According to The Dark Tower, whatever one looked at in the throne-room of the Stingingman was covered with artwork not explicitly demonic but having a subtle cumulative effect that was “extraordinarily disquieting.” Both rooms’ decorations feature pictures that are “photographic” (Strength) or “microscopic” in detail (Tower), including images of large numbers of beetles.

(a) In That Hideous Strength three naked men — one “gaunt,” the second “a wobbling mountain of fat,” and the third “an obscene senility” — worship a Head on a “bracket, shelf, or pedestal” below which dangle “tubes and bulbs” (Strength, ch. 9, 16). In the Stingingman’s throne-room, a carved pillar of naked bodies featuring “shrivelled or bloated forms,” displaying “a free treatment both of morbid anatomy and of senile sexual characteristics,” upholds an idol in the form of a head.

(b) In Strength, a naked worshipper of the Head is seized and forced to bow before it, struggles but is held, and is unexpectedly beheaded (ch. 16). In Tower, a near-naked worshipper of the head-idol bows before it, is seized, struggles but is held, and is unexpectedly stung (34).

(c) In Strength, there are arrangements in the Head’s chamber for a series of victims’ heads to be preserved in living death. In Tower, a series of victims are transformed into zombies in the idol’s chamber.

(d) In Strength, an image of the Head is recognized in a newspaper by Jane Studdock, later alleged by Fairy Hardcastle to be mad (Strength, ch. 9). In Tower, the head-idol is not described in detail because it might be recognized by “many readers, especially of the less balanced sort” (31-32).

Larry Gilman, Chicago, IL

I have just been enjoying the most recent Lewis Legacy here at home in Switzerland. Congratulations again on your doggedness and insight on all sorts of scores — not least your Botticelli/Dante argument.

There is always something of real value to me in your Lewis Legacy. The documentation of the self-serving dialogue between F. Schaefer and T. Howard was useful and needed no comment. A Catholic convert myself, I have no sympathy with their snide, self-indulgent, and condescending little dialogue. As many Christians have realized — and as the Jesuit Fr. Joseph Fessio has somewhere rightly and handsomely said — Lewis now has the status of a Church Father, a representative of the undivided Church. It is an extraordinary status — an extraordinary accomplishment.

Michael Aeschliman, Lausanne

I have recently heard something disturbing about C. S. Lewis (surprise, surprise!) and immediately thought that you may be able to shed some light on this strange subject…

A friend of mine employs a woman who is a college student here in Orlando. She was at his house for a party the other night and noticed Mere Christianity on the bookshelf. She mentioned that she would like to read it, since she had enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia. The fact that they were so well written, she said, was especially impressive since Lewis had been using heroin at the time! My friend, a former pastor and seminary president, was understandably shocked and confused. Needless to say, this idea came from a university professor whose class this poor girl had been taking.

Now, I happen to teach at the same university and would certainly like to know where this poor misguided individual obtained his information (A. N. Wilson?) and how I could go about refuting it..

Chris Hale, Orlando, FL

Note: Just another false Lewis rumor. Evidently they will never cease.

On my last trip to Oxford (Jan/Feb 2000), I found the following interesting “Inklings items”:

1) A copy of Milton Criticism by James Thorpe (1950), which contains the essays “An Introduction to Milton’s Poems” by Charles Williams and “The Style of Secondary Epic and Defence of This Style” by C. S. Lewis. This book was signed “J. B. Wain 1951” (John Wain)

2) A copy of Fifty New Poems for Children (Basil Blackwell, 1924), which contains the poem “Goblin Feet” by J. R. R. Tolkien (misspelled as “Tolkein”!)

3) A copy of the Oxford student journal “Programme 12” (1935) edited by George Sayer

4) A copy of the literary journal Nine (Spring 1952), which contains the poem “Easter-Tree” by Nevill Coghill (Coghill had no published poems in any of his books.)

5) A copy of the Oxford student magazine Mandrake (1946), edited by John Wain

Perry Bramlett, Louisville, KY

People can write fiction about Lewis (as did A. N. Wilson), secure in the knowledge that most reviewers know nothing of the subject and so they are safe from exposure there while scrambling for academic posts and accolades. Dante would have treated them thusly: They will be condemned to forever sit in hell shredding all their works, piecing them together, and shredding them again. A. N. Wilson will be their unsaintly supervisor.

Sharon Cregier, Montague, P.E.I. Canada

We Latter-Day Saints (“Mormons”) love Jack Lewis more than ever! Proof thereof is enclosed [a mail-order catalog page].

Benjamin Urrutia, Chicago, IL

Note: Brigham Young University in Provo, UT offers two videotapes and a book exploring “writings of noted author C. S. Lewis and his search for the restored gospel.” Produced from their 1998 Lewis conference and featuring prominent LDS scholars. Letting God Have His Way: A Conversation about C. S. Lewis (86-minute VHS $14.95). Select Addresses: C. S. Lewis: The Man and His Ministry (4-hour VHS, $24.95). C. S. Lewis: The Man and His Ministry (320-page hardcover, $27.95). Call 1-800-962-8061. BYU on Internet:

Bob Trexler, the new editor of CSL (the journal of the New York C. S. Lewis Society) approached me out of the blue a few months back, saying he was interested in reading and publishing my Lewis article on Miracles, which I briefly mentioned in one of my posts to the list. I told him in reply that one was written in Chinese, but I did have some in English whose Chinese versions were published before. Upon indicating his interest I sent him the one on the Bible, which appears in his current issue. He is going to print the one on the Tao later this year and wants more from me. I am thinking of sending him the one on Joy when I have time to go through it again. The Chinese versions of those articles have been well received. So next year they will come out in a book. I still owe the publisher an article on Evil and Pain which I have not done a stitch of work on. Your Botticelli-Dante discovery followed the classic pattern of some major discoveries of the world, be they literary, historical or scientific. The mind has been saturated with the material one has been working hard on; then suddenly it sees something which it and the world have never seen before. It is a sheer gift from heaven, and yet it is also in a sense the fruit of months or even years of very hard labour.

Joshua Pong, Hongkong

I came across several of your posts during my first visit to a C.S. Lewis site (Into the Wardrobe). I had to take this opportunity to express my gratitude. Your book Lion of Judah in Never-Never Land was, years ago, my first introduction to C. S. Lewis. Wandering through the library at random, how could I turn away from a title like that? That was the beginning of a lifetime, joyful addiction.

My happiest and most educational times have been reading Lewis’ books and articles. I recently introduced my 14 year old son to the Narnia series and he has absconded with all 7 volumes from my library. So two generations of my family thank you.

William D. Calhoun, Crooksville, OH

It was a delight to receive #83, and to find progress on several fronts. The piece by Jason Pratt must have been immensely gratifying for you to receive. What a beautifully rigorous thinker; yet he seems to have internalized the spiritual meat of Lewis’s thought in much the same way you have.

Brenda Griffing, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Thanks very much for sending me the winter Legacy. Some comments.

p.1 Anthropomorphism With his love of ‘dressed animals’ C.S. Lewis may perhaps be justly accused of Anthropomorphism. But it was Cecil Harwood’s Anthroposophy that Lewis objected to – which is just a fancy name for Rudolf [or -ph] Steiner’s ideas. [Editor’s Note: I’ve committed that typo before.]

p.1 Cambria The only ‘Wigton’ in my gazetter lies in Cumbria, in the northern part of the county, fairly close to Carlisle, the County Town. (There is a ‘Wigtown’ in southern Scotland which gives its name to the
County of Wigtownshire.) The modern county of ‘Cumbria’ was formed in 1974 from the old counties of Cumberland (see Wordsworth’s ‘The Cumberland Beggar’) and Westmoreland, together with the Furness district of Lancashire. It includes the beautiful English ‘Lake District’, beloved of the ‘Lakeland Poets’, firstly Wordsworth. ‘Cumber’ indicates its Celtic origin – the British Celts after the Romans left called themselves ‘Cumbrogi’, Latin for ‘comrades’. From this we get ‘Cymru’, the name the Welsh give their country in their own language, which descends from British Celtic. The Cumbrian peninsula in ancient times formed part of the Celtic kingdom of Strathclyde, which stretched north of modern Glasgow [‘Glasgow’ is a British Celtic word]. From there came Anaurein, the first great poet of the Welsh language. Although there are conflicting traditions, I would suggest that it is most likely that Saint Patrick, too, was born in Strathclyde, for he was taken by pirates to County Antrim, and as a man returned to County Down, both in the North of Ireland, the closest part to Strathclyde.

In 945 King Edmund of Wessex defeated Strathclyde and awarded it to the Gaelic kingdom of Scotland. Later Cumbia was wrested away from Strathclyde and Scotland by the English themselves. So I think of the English Lake District as a very Celtic part of England. I don’t know if C.S. Lewis ever visited it – he and his friends preferred walking on the dry chalk and limestone ridges of Southern England, which have much to recommend them. But since the Cumbrian and his favourite Mourne Mountains are part of the same geological formation, he would surely have appreciated its beauty. Cambria is the Latin name for Wales. We have the Cambrian Mountains and the Cambrian Age in geology. p.9 Exeter Patricia Batstone has an address in the beautiful county of Devon. Exeter is the first city of the county. Might she have been attached to Exeter University in Devon, rather than to Exeter College, Oxford? [Note: You’ve guessed correctly.] p. 13 Inferno The first sentence of your article “Dante, Botticelli, C. S. Lewis and a Lost Masterpiece” reads “C.S. Lewis first read Dante’s Inferno at some unknown date in his youth.” I opened Corbin Scott Carnell’s Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C. S. Lewis and read (Chapter II, p 45) ‘Later Kirkpatrick branched out into German and Latin, using always the same method. After the briefest introduction with grammar and exercises, they opened to the first page of Faust or the Inferno and began to read.’ And then in Surprised by Joy I find (Chapter IX, p117, my edition) ‘Later in my career we (ie Kirkpatrick & Lewis) branched out into German and Italian. Here his methods were the same. After the very briefest contact with Grammars and Exercises I was plunged into Faust and the Inferno. In Italian we succeeded.’ (ie Lewis became a fluent reader of Dante). So Lewis first read the Inferno under Kirkpatrick at Bookham.

James O’Fee, Bangor, Ireland