C.S. Lewis

(1898 – 1963)

C.S. LewisBiographical Sketch

Clive Staples Lewis (Belfast, Ireland, November 29, 1898 – Oxford, England, November 22, 1963) was a Irish-born British writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963) and is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, as well as for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Lewis and fellow novelist J.R.R. Tolkien were close friends. They both served on the English faculty at Oxford University and were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings. According to Lewis’s 1955 memoir Surprised by Joy, he was baptised in the Church of Ireland, but fell away from his faith during adolescence. Lewis returned to Anglicanism at the age of 32, owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, and he became an “ordinary layman of the Church of England”. Lewis’s faith profoundly affected his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

Lewis wrote more than 30 books which have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularised on stage, TV, radio, and cinema. His philosophical writings are widely cited by Christian apologists from many denominations.  He was named on the last list of honours by George VI in December 1951 as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) but declined so as to avoid association with any political issues.

In 1956, Lewis married American writer Joy Davidman; she died of cancer four years later at the age of 45. Lewis died on 22 November 1963 from kidney failure, one week before his 65th birthday. In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was honoured with a memorial in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Read more about C.S. on Wikipedia.

 

Major Awards and Honors

Church of England
  • 2013: Statue in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey
The Times (UK)
  • 2008: Inclusion in list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 (no. 11)
City of Belfast (Northern Ireland)
  • 1998: Bronze statue of Digory in Holywood Arches, in front of the Holywood Road Library

 

Bibliography

Novels and Novellas
The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
  • Prince Caspian (1951)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
  • The Silver Chair (1953)
  • The Horse and His Boy (1954)
  • The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
  • The Last Battle (1956)
Space Trilogy
  • Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
  • Perelandra (aka Voyage to Venus) (1943)
  • That Hideous Strength (1945)
Stand-Alone Works
  • The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933)
  • The Great Divorce (1945)
  • Till We Have Faces (1956)
  • The Dark Tower (1977)
  • Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C. S. Lewis (1985)
    – Posthumously published; eited by Walter Hooper.
Short Stories
  • The Shoddy Lands (1956)
  • Ministering Angels (1958)
Poetry

Spirits in Bondage (1919)
– Published as by Clive Hamilton.
Dymer (1926)
– Published as by Clive Hamilton.
Poems (1964)
– Edited by Walter Hooper; poems neither included in Dymer nor in Spirits in Bondage. Expanded and republished in 1994, including Spirits in Bondage.
Narrative Poems (1969)
– Edited by Walter Hooper; includes Dymer, Launcelot, The Nameless Isle, and The Queen of Drum.
C.S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid: Arms and Exile (2011)
– Edited by A.T. Reyes; includes the surviving fragments of Lewis’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, in parallel with the Latin text, with synopses of missing sections.
The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis: A Critical Edition (2015)
– Edited by Don w. King.

Nonfiction
  • The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (1936)
  • Rehabilitations and other essays (1939)
  • The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (1939)
    – With E.M.W. Tillyard.
  • The Problem of Pain (1940)
  • The Case for Christianity (1942)
  • A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)
  • Broadcast Talks (1942)
  • The Screwtape Letters (1942)
  • The Abolition of Man (1943)
  • Christian Behaviour (1943)
  • Beyond Personality (1944)
  • The Inner Ring (1944)
  • Miracles: A Preliminary Study (1947)
    – Revised in 1960.
  • George MacDonald: An Anthology (1947)
    – Editor.
  • Essays Presented to Charles Williams (1947)
    – Editor.
  • Arthurian Torso (1948)
    – On Charles Williams’s poetry.
  • Transposition, and other Addresses (1949)
  • Mere Christianity (1952)
  • English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (1944)
    – Oxford history of English literature; Clark lectures.
  • On Three Ways of Writing for Children (1952)
  • Major British Writers, Vol I: “Edmund Spenser” (1954)
  • Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955)
  • Reflections on the Psalms (1958)
  • The Four Loves (1960)
  • Studies in Words (1960)
  • The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (1960)
  • An Experiment in Criticism (1961)
  • A Grief Observed (1961)
    – First published as by N.W. Clerk.
  • Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1961)
    – Addendum to The Screwtape Letters.
  • They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses (1962)
  • Introduction to Selections from Layamon’s Brut (1963)
    – Edited by G.L. Brook.
  • Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)
  • Beyond The Bright Blur (1963)
    – Limited-run 30-page excerpt from Letters to Malcolm, “published as a New Year’s greeting to friends of the author.”
  • The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1964)
  • Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1966)
  • On Stories: and Other Essays on Literature (1966)
    – Edited by Walter Hooper.
  • Spenser’s Images of Life (1967)
    – Edited by Alastair Fowler.
  • Letters to an American Lady (1967)
  • Christian Reflections (1967)
  • Selected Literary Essays (1969)
  • God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (1970)
  • Undeceptions (1971)
  • The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1980)
  • Of Other Worlds (1982)
  • The Business Of Heaven: Daily Readings From C. S. Lewis (1984)
    – Edited by Walter Hooper.
  • Present Concerns (1986)
  • All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis 1922–27 (1993)
  • Compelling Reason: Essays on Ethics and Theology (1998)
  • The Latin Letters of C.S. Lewis (1999)
  • Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories (2000)
  • Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church (2000)
  • Collected Letters, Vol. I: Family Letters 1905–1931 (2000)
  • From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Ideas Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (2003)
  • Collected Letters, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts and War 1931–1949 (2004)
  • Collected Letters, Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950–1963 (2007)
  • Language and Human Nature (2009)
    – Co-written with J.R.R. Tolkien in the 1940s; originally intended to be published in 1950.
  • Image and Imagination Essays and Reviews (2013)

 

A Selection of Quotes

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

The Horse and His Boy

“Do not dare not to dare.”

“[O]ne of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.”

Prince Caspian

“‘That’s the worst of girls,’ said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. ‘They never can carry a map in their heads.’
‘That’s because our heads have something inside them,’ said Lucy.”

“‘Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan. ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’
I – I don’t think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian. ‘I am only a kid.’
Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.'”

The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

“Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.”

“A powerful dragon crying its eyes out under the moon in a deserted valley is a sight and a sound hardly to be imagined.”

The Magician’s Nephew

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”

The Silver Chair

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”

“‘One word, Ma’am,’ he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. ‘One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.'”

The Last Battle

“You’ve no idea how good an old joke sounds when you take it out again after a rest of five or six hundred years.”

Surprised by Joy

“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”

“Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.”

“Tea should be taken in solitude.”

Epitaph for Joy Davidman

“Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.”

The Four Loves

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

“I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

“Once when I had remarked on the affection quite often found between cat and dog, my friend replied, “Yes. But I bet no dog would ever confess it to the other dogs.”

The Problem of Pain

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.'”

“We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.”

A Grief Observed

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

“I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache an about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, hoever, turns out to be not a state but a process.”

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.”

“Grief … gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”

“They say, ‘The coward dies many times’; so does the beloved. Didn’t the eagle find a fresh liver to tear in Prometheus every time it dined?”

Mere Christianity

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”

On Three Ways of Writing for Children

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

The Screwtape Letters

“She’s the sort of woman who lives for others – you can tell the others by their hunted expression.”

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts … Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

“The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”
[From the Preface]

“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

“Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”

The Weight of Glory

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”

“We are always falling in love or quarreling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”

Till We Have Faces

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing – to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from – my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”

Out of the Silent Planet

“The love of knowledge is a kind of madness.”

Letters to Children

“In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, ‘Please will you do my job for me.'”
[Letter to Joan Lancaster, 26 June 1956]

As attributed in Little Giant Encyclopedia: Tea Leaf Reading by Jacky Sach (2008):

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

Find more quotes by C.S. Lewis on Wikiquote and Goodreads.

 

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