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The Secret History of C. S. Lewis’s “Interesting Relics”

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 78, Autumn 1998 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

Near the end of the Hooper Papers Inventory (see “Other Material” in the previous column) one reads of “a few pages of notes about the contents of Lewis’s home in Oxford.” But this is a very erroneous description. These are five small pages of Lewis’s meticulous handwritten instructions (with a sketch) telling Walter Hooper exactly how to clear out Lewis’s rooms at Cambridge (in mid-August 1963). Until Hooper responded to Light in the Shadowlands by changing Chapel Hill’s policy about access to the papers they had purchased from him, this document was available on microfiche through Interlibrary Loan.

Among other things, Lewis specified a desk drawer in the “South Room” that held some finished manuscripts and unfinished scraps of his writing. Lewis wanted the former and was firm about the fate of the latter: “Scraps, W.P.B. [his term for wastepaper basket] (get Doug to tear them up thoroughly — we don’t want any interesting relics getting into circulation)”.

This historic document evidently explains why Hooper once slipped and told John Dart of the Los Angeles Times that he found the Dark Tower manuscript in a drawer (rather than at Fred Paxford’s bonfire in the Kilns orchard). In the desk drawer in Cambridge Hooper apparently found the scrap of a story that he saved and used as Chapter 7 of his unfinished Dark Tower novel.

Thus it was C. S. Lewis, not Warren Lewis, who was vacating rooms and instructed a helper to destroy some papers. And it was a helper named Walter Hooper, not Fred Paxford, who preferred to save the doomed scraps instead of destroying them.