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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 82, Autumn 1999

Book Finds by Perry Bramlett

I have bought a book titled Ruth Pitter: Homage to A Poet (1969) Theintroduction is by David Cecil, and the essays in her honor are by Cecil,
Kathleen Raine, John Wain, John Betjeman and others. In Wain’s essay (“Poet
of Living Form”), he writes: “C. S. Lewis, in his book on sixteenth-century
English literature, makes a distinction between the ‘drab’ and the ‘golden’
in poetry… I recently heard a lecture by W. H. Auden in which he took
these terms over from Lewis and applied them to modern poetry.”
In this same book, in an essay by Arthur Russell (“Faithful to Delight: A
Portrait Sketch”), he writes (when during the war years Ruth worked at a
factory in Chelsea): “Ruth reached her own nadir after a day on which a man
had fallen down a factory lift-shaft: ‘I stopped in the middle of Battersea
Bridge one dreadful March night, when it was cold and the wind was howling
over the bridge, and it was dark as the pit, and I leaned over the parapet
and thought: Like this I cannot go on, I must find somebody or something.
Like this I cannot go on.’ The answer came some months afterwards, when she
heard the lively religious broadcasts of C. S. Lewis and as she says
‘grappled them to her soul.’ She assembled family and friends to hear him,
for simple enjoyment, and she read every word of his that she could find.
By hard argument she convinced herself that his Christian message was what
she needed: ‘I had to be intellectually satisfied as well as emotionally,
because at that time of one’s life one just doesn’t fall into religion with
adolescent emotion. But at last I was satisfied at every point that it was
the one way for me. It wasn’t the easy road but it was the only possible
one.’ That was said some years ago; now she is humbler: ‘I haven’t any
arguments; it only seems that love will have it so.'”

II
In Suffolk, VA, I went to an old junk bookshop and found a dirt cheap
prize: The Wood: An Outline of Christianity by Sister Penelope! It has a
blurb on the back by C. S. Lewis for another book of hers, The Coming Of
The Lord: “I am simply delighted with The Coming Of The Lord; delighted,
excited, and most grateful — I think it is the best book you have done,
and the best theological book I have read by anyone for a long time…”
The Wood has a picture of its author and says “Sister Penelope was born in
1890 at Clent in Worcestershire, where her father was Vicar. She was
educated first at Worcester, under Miss Ottley, at now what is the Alice
Ottley School, then at Oxford. She entered the novitiate of the Anglican
Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage in Berkshire a few weeks after
coming down from Oxford, and was professed there early in 1915. She worked
for six years in the Community’s training homes for girls before being put
to teach in the schools in Wantage and elsewhere. The idea of The Wood –
that is, of a book of that scope and content – first came to her in 1922,
but she long hoped that someone else would write it. Ten years later,
however, as nobody had done so, and she herself had be invalided out of
teaching work, she set about writing it herself. Wishing to keep abreast of
modern scholarship, in 1939 she took the Lambeth Diploma in Theology by
theses, offering the Hebrew text of the Psalms as her special subject; and
the following year she received the Archbishop’s License to teach Theology,
which she still holds. She has written a number of other books, all of
which in one way or another follow on from The Wood; and she has also
published some sixteen translations, including a volume apiece in the
Ancient Christian Writers series, Faber’s Classics of the Contemplative
Life, and the Cistercian Fathers now being published by the Trappists in
America.”
In her “Suggestions for Further Reading” at the back of the book, Sister
Penelope recommends (among others) J. B. Phillips’ Ring of Truth and
“nearly all of C. S. Lewis’ religious books, especially the chapter
entitled “The Weight of Glory” in Transposition and Other Essays, and of
his fiction the Space Trilogy and the Narnia stories.”

III
In Arthur C. Clarke’s latest book, Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!
Collected Esssays 1934-1998, he mentions (in an essay titled “Dunsany, Lord
of Fantasy”), “As I take farewell of Lord Dunsany, I am happy to report
that our correspondence has recently been located and will soon be
published, together with my much more extensive exchange of letters with C.
S. Lewis. I have not seen it for decades and fear that some embarrassments
await.”
He mentions Lewis and his writings with great admiration several times in
the book… In an article titled “Credo”, Clarke writes: “Let me offer an
analogy, based on a conversation I once had with C. S. Lewis. We science
fiction writers are always picking each other’s brain, and Lewis asked me
what the horizon would look like (ignoring atmospheric absorption) on a
really enormous planet — one not thousands, but millions, of kilometers in
radius.”
And in an essay titled “Aspects of Science Fiction”: “Nothing could be more
ridiculous, therefore, than the accusation sometimes made against science
fiction that it is merely escapist. That charge can indeed be made against
much fantasy — but so what? There are times (this century has provided a
more than ample supply) when some form of escape is essential, and any art
form that supplies it is not to be despised. And as C. S. Lewis (creator of
both superb science fiction and fantasy) once remarked to me: ‘Who are the
people most opposed to escapism? Jailors!'”

Who Is Ann Jenkins?

Is this letter an excerpt from Walter Hooper’s forthcoming collection of
Lewis letters? Let’s hope not!

Magdalen College, Cambridge
5 March 1961
Dear Ann,

What Aslan meant when he said he had died is, in one sense
plain enough. Read the earlier book in this series called, “The Lion, the
Witch, and the Wardrobe” and you will find the full story of how he was
killed by the White Witch and came to life again. When you have read that,
I think you will probably see that there is a deeper meaning behind it. The
whole Narnian story is about Christ. That is to say, I ask myself,
“Supposing there really was a world like Narnia and supposing it had (like
our world) gone wrong and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and
save it (as He did ours) what might have happened? The stories are my
answer.
Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He
would become a Talking Beast there as He became a man here. I pictured Him
becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of
beasts; (b) Christ is called the “Lion of Judah” in the Bible; (c) I had
been having strange dreams about lions when I began the work. The whole
series works out like this:
“The Magician’s Nephew” tells the Creation and how evil
entered Narnia. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” tells of the
Crucifixion and Resurrection. “Prince Caspian” tells the Restoration of the
true religion after a corruption. “The Horse and His Boy” tells the calling
and conversion of a heathen. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” tells of
spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep). “The Silver Chair” tells of the
continued war against the powers of darkness. “The Last Battle” tells of
the coming of the Anti-Christ (The Ape) the end of the world and the last
judgement.
All Clear?
Yours,
C. S. Lewis

The name Ann Jenkins seems to echo some of the previous Lewis forgeries. In
“Forms of Things Unknown” the protagonist’s name is John Jenkin. In Ed
Brown’s manuscript version of “The Man born Blind” the wife’s name is
changed from Mary to Anne. And in the bogus opening of The Lion, the Witch
and the Wardrobe on the back of page 1 of the Dark Tower manuscript, the
name Susan has been changed to Ann: “This book is about four children whose
names were Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter.”

Perry Bramlett
Louisville, KY
September 10, 1999
Dear Kathryn,

I just bought C. S. Lewis: The Storyteller by Derick Bingham (Christian
Focus Publications in Scotland). In the front there is a letter, from CSL
to “Ann Jenkins” (5 March 1961, Magdalen (sic) College, Cambridge), which I
couldn’t find in the expanded Letters of C. S. Lewis and Letters To
Children…
“Once, a little ten year old girl called Ann Jenkins wrote to Professor C.
S. Lewis with a question she had about something he had written. She was
delighted to receive a reply. Historically, it is one of C. S. Lewis’ most
important letters because it is telling a little girl, in simple language,
what he was driving at in his writing of the seven Chronicles of Narnia,
Chronicles that millions of children now read all over the world. Here is
what he said in his letter…”
On page 178, there is the following acknowledgement: “We take this
opportunity to acknowledge the following publishers: Harper Collins U.K.
for permission to print the ‘Dear Ann’ letter in all English speaking
countries except the U.S.A. Harcourt Brace & Co. U.S.A. for permission to
print the ‘Dear Ann’ letter in the United States.” Why Collins and Harcourt
instead of Lewis Pte? I suppose this letter is going to appear in Volume
One of Walter Hooper’s forthcoming collection of Lewis letters.
Unfortunately, I can’t believe that this letter was really written by
Lewis; it doesn’t sound anything like his real letters to children in style
or sentiment. If a little girl had written to ask about Aslan dying, Lewis
would not have wasted her time and his writing “What Aslan meant when he
said he had died is, in one sense plain enough.” (In what sense?) He would
not have spoiled the suspense of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by
telling her in advance that the White Witch kills Aslan and he comes back
to life. He would not have spoiled the series by recounting the didactic
purpose of each of the books. And he would never have dumped the following
“simple language” on a child: the Crucifixion and Resurrection. the calling
and conversion of a heathen. spiritual life, war against the powers of
darkness. and the coming of the Anti-Christ, the end of the world, and the
last judgement.
After this litany Lewis supposedly ended with the brusque question “All
Clear?” Clear as mud!
Do you believe Lewis wrote this letter?

The answer to Perry is no.