Kathryn Lindskoog’s Informal Answer to the Ninth Non-Proof

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 81, Summer 1999 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

IN MARCH 1999 Ed Brown announced on MERELEWIS that he has put to rest the claim that Walter Hooper’s 1975 bonfire story is false. Ed is a good-hearted man who means well, but he has never read my two books and several articles about the subject and has no idea that his is the ninth bogus proof that has been publicized through the years. I thoroughly investigated each of the first eight in turn, and they all fell apart like a house of cards, because they were all shams. (It has been mindboggling and highly amusing to see how silly the purported proofs have been.)

Here is the history. In 1975 Walter Hooper first announced that at some undisclosed date in 1964 Fred Paxford tended a three-day dawn-to-dusk C. S. Lewis manuscript bonfire for Warren Lewis. On the last day, Paxford managed to save a pile of the remaining manuscripts for Hooper. This explained the provenance of The Dark Tower, which Hooper was going to publish in 1977. I did not suspect that the unLewisian Dark Tower was a forgery until 1986, but in 1978 I published the news that Fred Paxford denied the bonfire story (orally to Len Miller and in a signed letter to me). I also revealed that Hooper, who had allegedly been Lewis’s friend and secretary for years, was an American who never met Lewis until 1963. That led to Hooper’s claim that I am mentally deranged because I have multiple sclerosis, to the written threat of a libel suit (an obvious bluff) from Hooper’s attorneys, and to publication of a scientific report on laboratory analysis of the soil on the site of the bonfire.

Here is a list of the nine bonfire and Dark Tower manuscript “proofs” to date.

1. In 1978 Anthony Marchington published in Christianity & Literature a formal, signed letter on official Oxford University stationery, describing complex analysis of 1,300 pounds of the Lewis bonfire soil at Oxford’s Physical Chemistry Laboratory. Marchington claimed that he did not know Hooper, but in fact he was Walter Hooper’s roommate and sometime co-author and was typing his bogus bonfire report on Walter Hooper’s typewriter.

2. The first two Lewis “handwriting experts” were Francis Warner (a friend of Hooper’s) and R. E. Alton (friend of Warner’s and authority on antique calligraphy), who looked at the manuscript for Hooper’s public relations agent Stanley Mattson in January 1989 and assumed that it was by Lewis because the handwriting looked like Lewis’s. (Of course it did; that’s what forgeries are like.) I eventually obtained a copy of their vague, silly report that was widely publicized by Mattson but too embarrassing for him to publish as he continually promised to do.

3. Third was Stephen Schofield, editor of the Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal, who was invited by Mattson to view the manuscript in January 1989. Schofield said he knew at first glance that it was in Lewis’s handwriting. (In a futile attempt to acquaint Steve with the nature of forgeries, I composed for him a letter with his own signature stating that the Dark Tower was forged. To my dismay, he was positive that he had written the letter and forgotten about it. He explained that the words really meant the opposite of what they said.)

4. Fourth was Jennifer Larson, document dealer, owner of an antiquarian bookstore and friend of Stanley Mattson. She didn’t explain when I asked why she said publicly that she found my challenge to The Dark Tower “irresponsible and very damaging.” Mattson touted her as proof of the manuscript’s authenticity, although she never saw it and made no report on it.

5. Fifth was Mattson’s friend Julius Grant, a famous forensic paper chemist. Thirteen months before he died at 89, Grant looked at a manuscript’s handwriting for Mattson and described it as an essay about philosophy that Lewis wrote circa 1960 — not a 1938 fantasy novel! Grant completely ignored the chemistry of the manuscript. He was so mentally confused that Mattson never published his embarrassing report; but Mattson claimed publicly that Grant had proved the Dark Tower manuscript genuine.

6. Sixth was a Cheshire detective named R. Morrison whom Stephen Schofield found in a telephone directory. In May 1991 Schofield paid him 305 to determine from a brief handwriting sample whether the Dark Tower manuscript was genuine, and he assured Steve that it was. He knew so little about forgeries that he didn’t realize that the Hitler diaries were forged. (All England knew.) I obtained a copy of Morrison’s report, but it was so embarrassing to Hooper’s defenders that it was never published.

7. Seventh was English handwriting analyst Jacqueline Sawyer, paid 363.53 by Schofield in July 1991 and advised by Walter Hooper. She knew so little about forgery that she claimed in writing that unless two people have identical anatomical hand structure and identical normal handwriting, one cannot forge the other’s writing. I obtained a copy of Sawyer’s report, but it was so embarrassing to Hooper’s defenders that it was never published.

8. Eighth was Nancy H. Cole, a California handwriting analyst. Cole was a friend of Jennifer Larson’s, an acquaintance of Stanley Mattson’s, and a correspondent of Hooper’s. In early January of 1995 Mattson appointed her to travel to the Bodleian in Oxford to see for herself that the Dark Tower manuscript was genuine and to write a report. Three months later she did so, and in a few months her report was being publicized on the Into The Wardrobe website, the Merelewis listserve, and The Lamp-Post journal as final proof that the Dark Tower manuscript was genuine. It was supposed to debut on its own website in June 1997. In April I obtained a photocopy of this tangle of errors and baseless insults, and I wrote a detailed factual response that a correspondent put on his website. By June Nancy Cole had withdrawn her report from circulation, copies were no longer available, and the Cole Report website idea was scuttled.

9. Ninth is Ed Brown’s anonymous e-mail correspondent. Ed said that this person “related how Walter later came to the [book] shop early in 1964, in a mild state of panic, to ask if he might use the copier at the shop (one of the first xerographic copy machines in Oxford), because Warnie Lewis was burning many of his brother’s papers, and Walter wanted to make copies of those that had not yet been destroyed. Having never heard of ‘The C. S. Lewis Hoax’, this man was amazed when I told him that there were those who disputed Walter’s story of the bonfires and his efforts to rescue what had not yet been burned by Warnie Lewis. He said that Walter would show up with stacks of papers day after day, which he and his colleague helped Walter copy.”

It would be silly to believe this story without investigating the identity and credibility of the person who told it to Ed as well as the problems it raises. The story has several earmarks of a tall tale.

a. Why would Walter tell a clerk in an Oxford bookstore (who was apt to spread such entertaining local news) that Warren was burning Lewis’s manuscripts, yet keep it secret from his hosts the Austin Farrers and all Lewis’s other friends who deserved to know?

b. Why has Hooper left the important photocopy event out of all his (sometimes conflicting) versions of what happened in 1964? He has left it out for 35 years.

c. If Hooper had both the originals of the bonfire manuscripts and the photocopies from 1964 on, why didn’t he ever let anyone (even Bodleian librarians) see either the original or a photocopy of the Dark Tower manuscript until 1980? Why were Lewis’s friend and biographer Roger Lancelyn Green (a veteran reader of Lewis’s penmanship) and Alastair Fowler (another veteran reader of Lewis’s penmanship) limited to seeing a typed copy (circa 1970)? (Literary forgers tend to disseminate the texts of their forgeries before tediously completing their bogus manuscripts.)

d. If Hooper had this witness all along, why didn’t he make use of him? Why didn’t he refer his most active defenders, Stan Mattson and Nancy Cole, to this person to strengthen their weak case?

e. Since Hooper had the manuscripts in his permanent possession, why was he in a rush to photocopy them? Why was he in a mild state of panic?

f. In the photocopy story, bonfires (sic) went on and on after Hooper appeared on the scene. It even sounds as if he kept rescuing and photocopying papers and then returning them to the flames. But according to Hooper, the bonfire ended when he arrived.

g. Where are the purported 1964 photocopies? In fact, where are enough originals to account for “stacks, day after day”?

h. Why didn’t Hooper tell his friend Fred Paxford, the person who had saved some manuscripts for him on the third afternoon, about the newfangled photocopies? Or his friends Len and Molly Miller?

i. Why did two bookstore clerks take company time to help Hooper (a strong man) copy the papers?

j. The person who told Ed Brown the photocopy story has evidently been at least a friendly acquaintance of Walter Hooper for 36 years (since 1963). It strikes me as a bit of a stretch to think that since 1978 Hooper, who has complained to all and sundry about my disputing his bonfire story, would not have told his only witness about the dispute.

Some of these problems simply need more explanation, but they show how inadequate Ed Brown’s account is so far.

In conclusion, so far the ninth “proof” is hearsay of the weakest sort, anonymous, apparently illogical, and not clearing up any of the flaws and contradictions in Hooper’s original versions of the bonfire story. Incidentally, Hooper says the bonfire was the pivotal event in his career, but he never mentioned it to Fred Paxford or Warren Lewis or the Millers, and he steadfastly declines to give a date or even a week for it. That’s no wonder, because conflicts between his published accounts, his actual locations in early 1964, and the content of Warren Lewis’s first letter to him make every date in that period impossible. No matter what date the photocopy clerk might cite (I wish he would cite one), it would be a logical impossibility.