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

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

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