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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 81, Summer 1999

A 1998 Exchange in the American Spectator, and a Legacy Response Original Article

Dear Sirs,
With regard to Tom Bethell’s article “Controversy in Shadowlands” in your
September, 1998 issue, I am disheartened to see an otherwise fine magazine
engaging in needless controversy. The much-ballyhooed charge that Walter
Hooper forged The Dark Tower is so far from reality as to defy belief, and
one wonders why it is still being repeated.
Consider the following:

C.S. Lewis’ handwriting was intensely personal, idiosyncratic, and
difficult to read (and I say this having had the benefit of paleography
courses at Oxford). I do not doubt that Walter Hooper over the course of
his duties as Lewis’ secretary in the great man’s final days learned to
copy some of Lewis’ writing. I do as much myself when it comes time to
deposit one of my wife’s checks which she has left unsigned. However,
writing a signature or even a line or two in someone else’s hand is one
thing; sustaining such an imposture over the course of several dozen folio
sheets is quite another. Unlike most of the people making these foolish
accusations, I have had the benefit of actually seeing the Dark Tower
manuscript in the Bodleian library; the handwriting is unmistakably Lewis’.
The Keeper of Western Manuscripts for the Bodleian dismissed the entire
authorship controversy: were Walter Hooper a forger of such prodigious
skill, she noted, there’s a lot more money to be had in forging Shakespeare
or other writers more notable than Lewis.
Ignorance of basic manuscripts is one factor in these foolish charges.

The basic ignorance of literary critics is another. Why some people find
it difficult to believe that otherwise great writers occasionally have bad
days or produce substandard works continues to amaze me. The Dark Tower
was never finished by Lewis because he realized that it wasn’t very good,
not in comparison to the other works in his Space Trilogy. I don’t see why
computer analysis “proofs” to the contrary should be regarded as any more
convincing in this case than they are in other cases. Need I remind anyone
of that global meteorological disaster the computer modelers were
predicting would result from the Gulf War?

Finally, ignorance of personality is perhaps the greatest sin here. I am
sure a number of literary executers are capable of forgery. I am
absolutely sure Walter Hooper is not among them. I have known him for
years–he is, in fact, my son’s godfather–and have never found him
anything less than open, gracious, and honest–a wonderful Christian
gentleman. No one else who knows him could come away with any other
opinion. He has remained good humored in the face of personal calumny
which few of us have had to suffer (at a party I once showed him some
business cards I had made up; he admired them and wanted to get some
himself, but was at a loss for what to put on them. When someone
suggested, “Walter Hooper, Forger” he laughed as uproariously as everyone
around him did), but it is time to put the whole silly controversy to rest.

As to the question of what Lewis would be doing today at the spectacle of
lesbian bishops in the Episcopal Church and other such abominations of our
tarnished age, Walter Hooper is of the opinion that Lewis would have done
what he himself did and changed allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. I
for one do not doubt it.

Dr. Christopher Beiting, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and History,
Northwood University
Former Officer, the Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society

Dr. Beiting is an adjunct professor of philosophy and history at Northwood
University, an alternative kind of “business-and-industry” college with
campuses in Midland, MI, Cedar Hill, TX, and West Palm Beach, FL. Northwood
offers an AA or BA in Business Administration in the fields of accounting,
advertising, automotive marketing, economics management, international
business management, fashion marketing, or hotel and restaurant management.

Dr. Beiting huffs and he puffs–foolish charges, foolish accusations,
needless controversy, much ballyhooed charge — but the suspicions about
The Dark Tower withstand his flurry of adjectives. The Bodleian should
permit an examination of the manuscript, independent of any control by
Hooper or the Lewis estate. He wonders why the story is “still being
repeated,” but as far as I know this is the first time it has appeared in a
national magazine.

The suggestion by the Bodleian’s Keeper of Western Manuscripts that
Shakespeare forgeries would be more lucrative is both inept, and perhaps
oddly fitting. Many such forgeries were made in the 18th century, and yes
they were lucrative. They did fool people for a while. Later they were
exposed as forgeries.

Perhaps Dr. Beiting could ask his son’s godfather why the crucial story of
the bonfire (from which the suspect Dark Tower manuscript was allegedly
retrieved) was omitted from Hooper’s C. S. Lewis: Companion & Guide? While
he’s at it, this question is still unanswered: Who does own the C.S. Lewis
estate?

Tom Bethell of American Spectator

Christopher Beiting’s bleatings do not say much for Oxford’s paleography
courses. He seems to have forgotten the Hitler diaries were forged in just
the way he said they could not be. And not a word about provenance!
He has cited Walter Hooper, posthumous editor of C.S. Lewis’s works, as
saying that Lewis would today be a Roman Catholic. According to Beiting,
Hooper says this would be Lewis’s response to lesbian bishops in the
Episcopal Church.

Hooper may be basing his opinion on the posthumously published essay
attributed to C.S. Lewis, “Christian Reunion.” The essay, which first
surfaced in April 1995, appears to support Hooper’s assertion of 31 years
earlier that Lewis commended Roman Catholicism. Authoritative computerized
linguistic analysis of the text shows that 40% of the document is written
in a style which “cannot be distinguished from that of Walter Hooper.” It
is that section which indicates reconciliation with the Roman Catholic
church.

This assertion misses the entire point of Lewis’s Christian ministry.
Lewis was not interested in religion–what man does; he was interested in
redeeming Love, what God does. The ritual of the temple and the narrowness
of its laws had, for him, been replaced by God’s new work, a new structure
through Christ Jesus.

Neither the Bible nor Lewis, who based his writings and teachings on it,
condemn homosexual orientation or temptation. As Anglican pastor Nicky
Gumbel reminds us, “Temptation is not a sin. Jesus was tempted in every
way, just as we are–yet was without sin” (Heb: 4:15). What the Bible
condemns is…homosexual practice. What would be the point of running from
a church criticized for lesbian bishops to another church criticized for
pedophile priests?

Sharon Cregier