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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 71, Winter 1997

Lewis on Dante, Communion, Austen and the Moonies Original Article

More on Lewis on Dante
On 22 November 1931 C.S. Lewis wrote to Warren: “Other standing engagements are on Thursday when a man called Hardie (another English don] comes and reads Dante with me, and every second Monday when the college literary society meets.”

(Lewis also expressed his opinion of writers like Dante: “To read histories of literature, one would suppose that the great authors of the past were a sort of chorus of melodious idiots who said, in beautifully cadenced language, that black was white and that two and two make five.When one turns to the books themselves, well I, at any rate, find nothing obsolete. The silly things these grand men say were as silly then as they are now: the wise ones are as wise now as they were then.”

On 11 November 1939 Lewis wrote to Warren. “That evening [Monday,5 November] I did my weekly chunk on Dante with Hardie.”

Lewis on Communion

As a new Christian, in his 17 January 1932 letter to Warren, Lewis puzzled over being “rapped on the knuckles” for leaving church before Communion at the end of the service. At that point he felt that weekly Communion was not essential. “Complete neglect of communicating is not tolerated by any Church nor practiced by me….Has anyone laid down the exact proportion of the intellectual and ritual elements–roughly symbolized by sermons and sacraments– which is necessary to membership in the Church of England… To me that is the most puzzling side of the whole thing, Ineed hardly say I feel none of the materialistic difficulties: but I feel strongly just the opposite ones–i.e. I see (or think I see) so well a sense in which all wine is the blood of God–of all matter even, the body of God, that I stumble at the apparently special sense in which this is claimed for the Host when consecrated. George MacDonald observes that the good man should aim at reaching the state of mind in which all meals are sacraments. Now that is the sort of thing I can understand…”

Near the end of his life Lewis took Communion at home bi-weekly.

Lewis on Mrs. Moore

As a new Christian and a new property owner, on 17 January 1932 C. S.Lewis complained in a letter to Warren about a neighbor lady who planted shrubs on his side of the property line and her two children who merely said “Good afternoon” when he caught them trespassing. Mrs. Moore was outraged. A neighbor Lewis liked annoyed him even more than the trespassers by chuckling good naturedly, “Ah you Irish! I love to listen to Mrs.Moore– wouldn’t be happy without a grievance. It’s really most remarkable.”

On 21 January 1940 Lewis told Warren that she was relieved when his letter arrived “because of her usual inability to imagine any causes for silence except major disaster.” Also, the ice on the pond was firm and smooth,and Mrs. Moore warned some guests, “You want to be careful. You have no conception how slippery it. It’s simply like ice.”

On 28 January 1940 Lewis told Warren, “I begin to suspect that the world is divided not only into the happy and the unhappy, but into those who like happiness and those who, odd as it may seem, really don’t.”

Lewis on His Interests

On 17 January 1931 Lewis wrote to Warren: “How ones range of interests grows! Do you find a sort of double process going on with the relation to books–that while the number of subjects one wants to read is increasing,the number of books on each which you find worth reading steadily decreases. Already in your own corner of French history you have reached the point at which you know most of the books published will be mere re-hashes…”

He moved on, then added, “Once the world was full of books that seem boring because they gave answers to questions one hadn’t asked; everyday I find one of these books to be really boring for the opposite reason–for failing to answer some questions I have asked. Even in things like Anglo Saxon grammar! ‘Why Sir, the quantity to be known is larger than I had supposed, but the quantity of knowledge is less than I had conceived possible.”[Samuel Johnson]

More on Lewis on Austen

On 4 October 1931 C.S. Lewis wrote to Warren “I also re-read NorthangerAbbey about the same time. Christie well describes it as ‘Jane Austen in high spirits.’ It is much nearer farce (or burlesque) than the others, but none the worse on that account.”

On 9 January 1940 Lewis wrote to Warren, “Harwood and I read to each other from Jane Austen’s The Watson’s with almost continual chuckles.”

On 9 January 1940 Lewis wrote a description of Bath for Warren, ending with “The whole thing with its marriage of Jane Austenish propriety and Wapping nautically made up a very pleasing medley.”

On 20 April 1940 Lewis wrote to Warren (quoting from Pride and Prejudice),”But as Mr. Bennett said, ‘Do not give way to gloomy thoughts, my dear. Let us hope better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may be the survivor.”

Lewis and the Moonies

“Allen Tate Wood, grandson of Poet Allen Tate and novelist Carolyn Gordon, has written an absorbing account of his four-and-a-half years as a member of one of the most controversial of the new religious movements, the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon.”

Thus Ronald Enroth began his review of Wood’s Moonstruck: A Memoir of My Life in a Cult that appeared in the June 1980 issue of New Oxford Review (Enroth is a Professor of Sociology at Westmont College and an authority on contemporary cults.) Wood, who served as second-highest member of the political arm of the Unification Church, describes its behind-the-scenes political influence and psychic/occult preoccupations.

According to Enroth, “The book concludes with a too brief discussion of the author’s gradual drift toward severing all ties with the Moonies. Wood was ‘deprogrammed’ by reading C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. According to Wood, ‘the book struck a deep emotional chord. . . . the spell was utterly and finally lifted from my shoulders. . . . When I finished the book I knew I was out of the Moonies.”