IN MARCH 1999 Ed Brown announced on MERELEWIS that he has put to rest theclaim 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
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 w
as 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, athough she never saw it and made no report on
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
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
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’spenmanship) 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