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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 80, Spring 1999

1965 Prophecy Fulfilled Original Article

A letter from Christopher Derrick
CHRISTOPHER DERRICK’S assessment of the manuscript draft (1965) of Warren
Lewis’s Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966) is preserved in the Geoffrey Bles
collection of Lewis material in the Bodleian Library, Dep. c. 774. It has
proved to be a prescient preview of A. N. Wilson’s 1990 Lewis biography.

“Lewis was a great man, with certain psychological (not moral or spiritual)
weaknesses: owing chiefly to his sensitivity and consideration for others,
the effects of those weaknesses bulked in a very large disproportionate way
in the external arrangements of his life. It would be very difficult
indeed—-perhaps impossible—-to tell the full story without causing the
sardonic world (very anxious indeed to gloat over the personal weaknesses
of a declared contentious Christian and moralist) to see only feet of clay
that are in fact barely there at all.

“W.H.L.’s approach in the present MS. will only heighten the effect. The
world will see two small scared boys coerced into a dream-world by their
mother’s death and their father’s lunatic tyranny: it will interpret
Lewis’s long obsessive submissions to Mrs. King [sic] in Freudian terms,
exaggerating this in Oedipal and incestuous directions: it will relish
W.H.L.’s obvious (though firmly denied) jealousy: encouraged by certain
passages in Screwtape, The Great Divorce, and even A Grief Observed, it
will work out (to its own satisfaction) a crudely vulgarised version of
Lewis’s marriage, and a general picture of a weak man masochistically
hag-ridden by a pathological need for female domination. And it will use
this picture (again, on classically Freudian lines) as the basis for a
dismissive explanation of Lewis’s religion.”

“W.H.L. (not to mention Hooper) is too closely involved, I think: the last
thing he would want would be to give anybody a pretext for dismissing his
brother as a psychopath living in a dream-world. And he wasn’t that.”