Williams on 'Exchange'

Charles talked and wrote a great deal about the practice of "exchange". It was one of the root rules of the Company. One made a pact and picked up the other person's fear or grief or pain and carried it oneself. This was the theory at any rate. The trouble was that, while the theory was irrefutable, the practice was apt to be dubious.... but how, I asked myself, was I to "present myself shyly to Almighty God in exchange for..."?

Letters to Lelange (Kent State UP), Page 54

Arthur C Clarke & C.S. Lewis

In 1956 Clarke moved to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to pursue his hobby of scuba diving. That's the year when C.S. Lewis told Kathryn Lindskoog that the best science fiction book, in his opinion, was Clarke's ‘Childhood's End’. (Lewis didn't happen to mention that he and Clarke were acquainted, and that he had a close friend named Joy Gresham who was a friend of Clarke's.) About ten years later Clarke mentioned Lewis in an article called ‘Armchair Astronauts’ in Holiday magazine:
"Less sympathetic to our aims was Dr. C. S. Lewis, author of two of the very few works of space fiction that can be classed as literature – ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ and ‘Perelandra’. Both of these fine books contained attacks on scientists in general, and astronauts in particular, which aroused my ire. I was especially incensed by a passage in ‘Perelandra’ referring to 'little Interplanetary Societies and Rocketry Clubs'...

An extensive correspondence with Dr. Lewis led to a meeting in a famous Oxford pub, the Eastgate... Needless to say, neither side converted the other. But a fine time was had by all, and when, some hours later, we emerged a little unsteadily from the Eastgate, Dr. Lewis' parting words were, 'I'm sure you're very wicked people-but how dull it would be if everyone was good.'

Why did Sauron create the One Ring...

... and What Were Its Powers?

It was part of Sauron's scheme to ensnare and enslave the users of all the rings of power and so control the Noldor of Middle-earth. Sauron planned for the domination of all of Middle-earth and he needed/wanted to control the Elves to complete this plan. This was the reason for the forging of the One Ring. Sauron went to Orodruin, Mount Doom, to forge the Ruling Ring, and by putting a large part of his own inherent power into the Ring he created a means by which he could enslave the users of the rings:

"And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which should govern them must be a thing of surpassing potency; and Sauron forged it in the Mountain of Fire in the Land of Shadow. And while he wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them."
[The Silmarillion]

Sauron took quite a risk in placing a major portion of his own power into an item that could be taken from his control. This is exactly what happened at the end of the Second Age when the Last Alliance of Elves and Men defeated Sauron and Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Separated from his power, Sauron was vanquished and seemingly disappeared from Middle-earth. Tolkien's view on the use of power is revealed in another one of his Letters:

"The Ring of Sauron is only one of the various mythical treatments of the placing of one's life, or power, in some external object, which is thus exposed to capture or destruction with disastrous results to oneself. If I were to 'philosophise' this myth, or at least the Ring of Sauron, I should say it was a mythical way of representing the truth that potency (or perhaps rather potentiality) if it is to be exercised, and produce results, has to be externalised and so as it were passes, to a greater or less degree, out of one's direct control."

[The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #121)

The C.S. Lewis Petition

We the undersigned are concerned about the apparent irregularities in the posthumous C.S. Lewis canon, first investigated in a computer study by C.F. Jones of the University of Florida in 1986, described by Kathryn Lindskoog in The C.S. Lewis Hoax in 1988, and confirmed in 1991 by A.Q. Morton of the University of Glasgow, leading forensic authority on literary forgery. We are concerned because both the complex "Literary Detective" alphabetical analysis by C.F. Jones and the vastly more complex cumulative sum chart sentence analysis by A.Q. Morton refute the authenticity of The Dark Tower. We are also concerned because of A.Q. Morton's report that the central forty percent of the 1990 C.S. Lewis essay "Christian Reunion" clearly matches the statistical pattern of Walter Hooper's writing rather than that of C.S. Lewis.

We are concerned about Kathryn Lindskoog's unanswered charge that the following posthumous works published from 1966 to 1991 have faulty provenance, and we are also concerned about the charge that they all exhibit unLewisian style, taste, beliefs, or values.

For a list of signatories, see http://www.lindentree.org/petition.html (Unfortunately this link has now been removed)

The C.S. Lewis Hoax

When THE C. S. LEWIS HOAX was published in 1988 it immediately aroused a tumult of praise and protest.

Five Stars
The WEST COAST REVIEW OF BOOKS (otherwise known as BOOKS/100 REVIEWS ) reviewed well over 3000 books from 1984 to 1989, but only 28 received five-star reviews. One of the 28 was The C.S. Lewis Hoax. Here are selections from that review:

"The 'Mere' Christian, C. S. Lewis, is unique: he was a scholar among scholars, self-described as an 'academic prig,' yet he is an international best-selling author. But Kathryn Lindskoog has similar claims to virtuosity; she is an academic researcher of redoubtable powers, but she also writes English that is satisfying for its own sake...

"Her story is dramatic: she asserts, with impressive documentation, that much of what has been published by or about Lewis since his death has been fabricated, seemingly for the personal aggrandizement of his literary executor, the personable Anglican priest Walter Hooper. In particular, she discredits the posthumous Lewis novel The Dark Tower, and succeeds in making plausible suggetions as to when, by whom, and under what inspiration it was in fact written... The irregularities -- to use a mild word -- that she establishes are shocking...

"This small book is a masterpiece of both research and writing; even those with little interest in literature will appreciate the strength and subtlety of the arguments, and the clarity (and charity!) of the style."

What do the Inklings have to teach us today?

Above all, and by example, it is the strength and beneficent power of the human spirit. Here we have... very different men, each with his own vision, and finding expression for it in very different ways. And yet there is a secret and subtle accord that unites them, not only in their personal friendship, but in all the interplay of circumstances that brought them together, and sparked recognition between them...”

Gareth Knight: “The Magical World of the Inklings”, Postscript.

The Novels of Charles Williams

If you've ever had deja vu, or thought of someone and they call on the telephone
at that moment, then you have already experienced what writer Charles Williams'
novels are all about.

Charles Walter Stansby Williams, M.A. Oxford, was a Writer, Poet, Editor
and Lecturer. His published writings are some of the most unusual and now
obscure works of the 20th Century. Williams is as obscure now as an important
20th century writer could be, but his influence is important. His works
range from literary criticism and biographies to theology, drama, poetry
and fiction. His influence is most seen in the rise of Arthurian Romance
themes in the mid to later part of the 20th Century.

When reading a Williams novel, one may begin to discover that Williams was
ahead of his time. In fact, Williams seems to have written from the point
of view of another dimension, where the nuances of spiritual associations
are prominent, and fictional characters are described in terms of soulful
connectedness as though Williams had looked not upon their outward mannerisms,
but upon their very spirits.

To label Williams' style of writing as merely Romantic or Mystic would miss
much of what stands out in it -- the ease and familiarity that Williams has
with other dimensions. These are not dimensions which are alien to most
of us, something about them is very familiar. That is the attraction and
ironically the incomprehensibility one may find in a Williams novel.

Source Unknown

The Trilemma

' ...that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.'

C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity

Tolkien on Marriage

"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to."

J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, March 1941

The Good News...

According to J.R.R. Tolkien
“I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story... it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories... But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desires and inspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfilment of Creation.”

Tolkien Reader, page 71-72

According to Dorothy Sayers
“Jesus Christ is unique – unique among gods and men. There have been incarnate gods a-plenty, and slain-and-resurrected gods not a few; but He is the only God who had a date in history.”

The Man Born to be King, page 20

According to Jack Lewis
“The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact... It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences... By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth; that is the miracle.”

God in the Dock, page 66-67

Forward to “Essays presented to Charles Williams”, by C.S. Lewis

"In this book the reader is offered the work of one professional author, two dons, a solicitor, a friar, and a retired army officer; if he feels disposed to complain of hotchpotch (which incidentally is an excellent dish; consult the NOCTES AMBROSIANAE) I must reply that the variety displayed by this little group is far too small to represent the width of Charles William's friendships. Nor are we claiming to represent it. Voices from many parts of England -- voices of people often very different from ourselves -- would justly rebuke our presumption if we did. We know that he was as much theirs as ours: not only, nor even chiefly, because of his range and versatility, great though these were, but because, in every circle that he entered, he gave the whole man. I had almost said that he was at everyone's disposal, but those words would imply a passivity on his part, and all who knew him would find the implication ludicrous. You might as well say that an Atlantic breaker on a Cornish beach is 'at the disposal' of all whom it sweeps off their feet.

If the authors of this book were to put forward any claim, it would be, and that shyly, that they were for the last few years of his life a fairly permanent nucleus among his literary friends. He read us his manuscripts and we read him ours: we smoked, talked, argued, and drank together (I must confess that with Miss Dorothy Sayers I have seen him drink only tea: but that was neither his fault nor hers). "Of many such talks this collection is not unrepresentative."

Announcing "The Proverbs of Middle Earth" by David Rowe

With permission from both the author and the publisher, over the next 3 months, I shall be posting a regular weekly excerpt from the book.  It is expected that this important and original study will be published in the Summer of 2016.  The book has a forward by Dr. Peter J. Kreeft.
On his great Tree of Tales, it is the leaves – the tiny details – in which J.R.R. Tolkien took greatest delight.  Because of this, one of the ways in which his Middle-earth legendarium is unparalleled in English literature is that its diverse peoples and cultures each possess their own fully-formed wisdom traditions, comprised of songs, poems, and – the focus of this study – over 300 original proverbs.
From the great sea to the land of shadow, from wizards to rustic gaffers, David Rowe's book "The Proverbs of Middle Earth" will provide an in-depth exploration of the wisdom traditions of Middle-earth, investigating the degree to which Tolkien’s proverbs not only delight and instruct, but also bring revelatory “inner reality” to his created world.
In investigating Tolkien’s proverbs, I feel like Alice, falling down the rabbit-hole, or Mary Poppins, reaching into her carpet bag: the deeper I go, the more there has been to discover.  It has been said that Middle-earth is so deeply satisfying because “you can ask a question about it, and you’ll get an answer; and if you ask a question about the question, or a question about the answer, then you’ll get more answers.”  This is exactly what I have been doing over the past seven years, and along the way I have marvelled at the sheer magnitude of thoughtful detail Tolkien put into his peoples and their cultures; how much effort he put into facets of his work that few ever notice.  I invite you to come and discover them too!” ~ David Rowe
I was intrigued by the idea of looking at the cultures of Middle-earth through the lens of their proverbs. This book will enrich and enhance our understanding of phrases often heard and said, deepening our love of this world. David has done a beautiful job in giving us a unique way to experience the lore we all love so much and I’m sure that fans will love having this book on their shelf.” ~ Lara Sookoo, publisher
The Proverbs of Middle-earth ©2016
By David Rowe. All rights reserved.

Owen Barfield by Walter Hooper

After reading "Light on C.S.Lewis" (1965) Professor J.R.R.Tolkien told me he thought Owen Barfield’s Introduction threw more light on the subject than any other contribution. I’ve never heard any disagreement. That marvellous caster of light on Lewis died peacefully in Forest Row, East Sussex, on Sunday 14 December 1997 aged 99.

Arthur Owen Barfield was born in London (two weeks before Lewis) on 9 November 1898. He attended Highgate School, after which he took part in the First World War. He served as a Wireless Officer in the Signal Service of the Royal Engineers (now the Royal Corps of Signals), and was always grateful that he was able to learn Morse Code. He won a scholarship to Wadham College, and during his first term there in 1919 he met C.S. Lewis. Gradually Lewis’s admiration moved from Barfield’s poetry to the man in the round. ‘Barfield towers above us all,’ he wrote in his diary on 9 July 1922.

Both men loved ‘rational opposition’ and in 1923 they went at it hammer and tongs. The occasion was Barfield’s becoming an adherent of Anthroposophy, the religious system evolved by Rudolf Steiner. They argued about it for years, and it is to both men’s credit that they ended better friends than before. Lewis described Barfield in "Surprised by Joy" as the friend ‘who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the anti-self. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle.’ Lewis wrote to a friend in 1925,‘I go to Barfield for sheer wisdom and a sort of richness of spirit.'

Owen Barfield, a devout Christian, is not yet as famous as Lewis, but he was a respected author before Lewis’s name was known. One of his truly seminal books, admired by Lewis and Tolkien, is "Poetic Diction" (1928). Barfield hoped for an academic life, but honour drove him to London in 1929 to assist his father in the family law practice. He had married Maud Douie in 1923, and with three children to support, there was little time for writing. However, before his retirement as a solicitor in 1959 he produced "Saving the Appearances" (1957), which is about the disparity between normal human consciousness and the mind of the scientist in comprehending the familiar phenomena of the universe. None of his many books are easy to read. This is because of the profundity of what he writes about. But it is only by reading his brilliant writing that one can understand what Lewis meant by the ‘sheer wisdom’ he gained from him.

At the time of Lewis’s death, Barfield was 'discovered' by folk in the United States and for years he was a visiting lecturer to American universities. He had been appointed Literary Executor of Lewis’s Estate, and he spent thousands of hours in this capacity making his friend’s books better known. Anyone else would have resented this, but Barfield really did ‘tower’ above us - in brilliance, of course, but more than anything in humility and sweetness.

When the High Gates opened for him on that Sunday afternoon in December 1997 we may be sure it was because things of far greater importance than books had tipped the scales greatly in his favour.

Tolkien to his son Christopher (extract)

10 April 1944

I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days - quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapor, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered. But the historic version is, of course, not the only one. All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their "causes" and "effects." No man can estimate what is really happening sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labors with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.

- from "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien"

Tolkien on the Rings of Power

Just why were they created? The reason is tied to the regret the Elves had for the passage of time. The Elves were immortal and were fated to live as long as Middle-earth lasted. As such, the earth changed with the passage of time, and the Elves saw many things that were fair become destroyed and lost by the hurts of evil. Sauron, as tempter, awoke a desire in the hearts of Elves to heal the hurts of the earth and create a paradise on this side of the sea to compare to Valinor -- and to be its rulers; whereas in Valinor they were only subjects and below the Valar. The Rings of Power were primarily made to slow the passage of time and preserve their creations of beauty. Yet they had other powers as well.

Tolkien provides a revealing insight on to the nature of the Rings and their powers in one of his letters:

"The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. 'change' viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance --- this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor -- thus approaching 'magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron... such as rendering invisible the material body, and making things of the invisible world visible."

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #131

Barfield on Lewis

Barfield compared arguing with Lewis to “wielding a peashooter against a howitzer... It must be understood that rational opposition is not quarreling. We were always,” said Barfield, “arguing for truth not for victory, and arguing for truth, not for comfort.”

Before he moved to London in 1930 to work as a solicitor, Barfield published Poetic Diction (1928), a work that was to have a profound influence on the other Inklings, particularly J.R.R. Tolkien. Barfield died in 1998, outliving all his Inkling contemporaries.

Under the Mercy

The grave of Charles Williams in an Oxford churchyard is marked by a stone bearing his name and the terse description: Poet, followed by the words, Under the Mercy.

Under the Mercy is a phrase that appears frequently in his writings, as it did in his conversation. He liked to refer to the Divinity by Its Attributes: the Mercy, the Protection, the Omnipotence. In his personal life he seemed always to be clinging to the faith that, balanced as he was upon the knife-edge of his Christian allegiance in the world of myth and magic that his passion-inflamed imagination had conjured up, he would find at last, in death if by no other route, the stillness of the Love of God. It was his wife, Michal, in one of those sudden flashes of crystal-clear insight of which she was not infrequently capable, who chose the inscription on the stone. Nothing could have been more appropriate.

Lois Lang-Sims: “Letters to Lalange – The Letters of Charles Williams to Lois Lang-Sims”, page 16

Narnia and Narni

You may be surprised to know that C. S. Lewis took the name of 'Narnia' from an ancient Roman town in the Italian province of Umbria. An incident in the Punic Wars took place there.

The Italian city on the site today is called 'Narni'. Narni now has a web page at http://www.bellaumbria.net/Narni/

In December 1996, WALTER HOOPER wrote;

"It will perhaps surprise you to hear that I spent a day (in Narni/Narnia) in October (1996). In fact, this was my second trip, as my godson and I were there first five years ago. C. S. Lewis came across the name 'Narnia' in a classical atlas he used as a boy, and continued to use it all his life. I have it now, and it's interesting to see that he underscored the name when he first saw it back in about 1914. In Italian Narnia is called 'Narni', and it's under that name that you will find it on modern maps.

It was already a very ancient town when the Romans conquered it in about 299 BC. In a little history of the place, it is stated that 'Although Neolithic people lived in this region, the first historical document, mentioning the town, is dated 600 BC, when Nequinum and its inhabitants are mentioned. In 299 BC, Narni was a Roman colony under the name of Narnia, a name that comes from the Nar river, which today is called the Nera.'

For me one of the most surprising things about Narnia is that a very popular local saint is called 'Blessed Lucy of Narnia.' She was a Dominican nun of the 16th century, but whether Lewis had ever heard of her I don't know. My godson, to whom the Lewis COMPANION is dedicated, and I first went there in October 1991. We knew about Blessed Lucy of Narnia, but we didn't know whether she was still remembered by the inhabitants of Narnia. To our delight, she is buried in a beautiful chapel attached to the 12th century cathedral of Narnia, and is very popular in that area…

But - oh! - what a beautiful place Narnia is. It's only about 50 miles north-east of Rome, and very easy to get to by train, or car. So far it remains unvisited by tourists, and so I've never encountered crowds there on my two visits."

Barfield on Lewis... in Verse

A year after Lewis' death, Owen Barfield
memorialised his friend in the following:

You came to him: when will you come to me?
He knows what matters from what matters not.
I hurry to and fro and seem to be.
New tasks, new faces . . . (tiny sir, so hot?
As though there were a future for success?
He knows what matters from what matters not).
I catch sight of your unaverted face
Between two eager places . . . thus the day
Is punctuated by the silences
With which you answer every time I say:--
You came to him; when will you come to me?
O time! O night! O sun's recurring ray!
I shall forget again, as I'd forgot,
Before I crossed the Campus yesterday:--
He knows what matters now, what matters not.

The fall of Gil-galad

(Sung by Sam to the company on Weathertop before the attack of the Nazgül)

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

"That's all I know," stammered Sam, blushing.
"I learned it from Mr. Bilbo when I was a lad."

J.R.R. Tolkien – Fellowship of the Ring

T.S. Elliot on Charles Williams

"For him there was no frontier between the material and the spiritual world. Had I ever to spend a night in a haunted house, I should have felt secure with Williams in my company; he was somehow protected from evil, and was himself a protection... To him the supernatural was natural, and the natural was also supernatural... Williams' understanding of Evil was profound... He is concerned, not with the Evil of conventional morality and the ordinary manifestations by which we recognize it, but with the essence of Evil; it is therefore Evil which has no power to attract us, for we see it as the repulsive thing it is, and as the despair of the damned from which we recoil."

T.S. Eliot's introduction to All Hallow's Eve (extract)

Renovating the Kilns

Long-time neighbors Pat and Mary Thompson recall C.S. Lewis fondly. According to Pat, “Lewis was a very large, energetic man with a florid face rather like a farmer's. He had what we call a 'full habit of body.' His speech was always very formal — an almost 18th-century style of diction. But behind that large body and red face, friendliness oozed out.”

Mary described the Lewis household as “shipwrecked... He had animals — so there were dogs' and cats' hair. Books were everywhere. Deep sofas and chairs and tumbled-down furniture. And cobwebs were certainly accepted.”

A close friend of C.S. Lewis, Jean Wakeman, gave us his powder-blue bedroom suite. “It's kind of garish,” she was told.

“Typical of Jack,” Jean replied; “He bought it from a junk dealer about 1920.”

Jean also donated a wardrobe, a sofa, and a chair Lewis had owned. She'd also kept the walking sticks owned by Lewis and his wife Joy during their last days together, suspecting that one day they would be valuable.

“These items are a gift to The Kilns,” Jean said. “I want them to remain here as long as the house is used to preserve the memory of Jack and Joy and their work.”

Relying on Jean's memory, everything was arranged so that it appeared Lewis still lived there. If you squinted, you could almost imagine Jack bursting in, face flushed and pipe blazing after a bracing trudge on Shotover Hill with his dog, Mr. Papworth.

The House Where Jack Wrote (Today’s Christian) - Michael Apichella (1998)

P.S. Jean was left £1,000 in Warnie’s will, and was recently heard to say, “I was there for Joy”. But would say no more.

P.P.S. Since this was written the Kilns has degenerated rather. All of the original furniture has now been removed (sensibly IMHO), but the house is in real need of a good decorator!

Bath Song

Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
That washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain.
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!

J.R.R. Tolkien

Sarehole Mill

In 1896, Mabel Tolkien took her two young sons to live in a rented house in Sarehole, Warwickshire, then in the countryside outside Birmingham city limits. Here an old brick mill stood, with a tall chimney. A stream ran under its great wheel. The mill, with its frightening miller's son, seemed to make a permanent impression on the young Tolkien's imagination. In Hobbiton, located on the Water, stood a mill which was torn down and replaced by a brick building which polluted both the air and water. Coincidence?

Pre-Christian C.S. Lewis....

"Was thinking about imagination and intellect and the unholy middle I am in about them at present: undigested scraps of anthroposophy and psychoanalysis jostling with orthodox idealism over a background of good old Kirkian rationalism. Lord what a mess!"

from All My Road Before Me - The diary of C.S. Lewis 1922-27

The Genesis of Screwtape

“Before the service was over -- one cd. wish these things came more seasonably -- I was struck by an idea for a book wh. I think might be both useful and entertaining. It wd. be called As one Devil to Another and would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first ‘patient’.”

Letter to his brother Warnie, July 20th 1940

"I was often asked or advised to add to the original ‘Screwtape Letters’, but for many years I felt not the least inclination to do it. Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. The ease came, no doubt, from the fact that the device of diabolical letters, once you have thought of it, exploits itself spontaneously... it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp."

C.S. Lewis - Foreward to “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” The scene is Hell at the annual dinner of the Training College for young devils.

An extra posting on the subject of War, from JRRT

Extract from a letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to his son Christopher:

10 April 1944

I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days - quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered.

But the historic version is, of course, not the only one. All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their "causes" and "effects." No man can estimate what is really happening sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.

- from "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien"

Dawn Treader and Learning in War Time

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has a passage which may remind us all of the way recent world events have affected the lives of everyone in the world:

“What awaited them on this island was going to concern Eustace more than anyone else, but it cannot be told in his words because after September 11 he forgot about keeping his diary for a long time.”

Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Chapter 5

Perhaps an opportune time to hear a passage from a talk which CS Lewis gave in Oxford during WW2. Still applicable to the ‘War on Terror’ in the 21st Century:

“The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would have never begun... we are mistaken when we compare war to 'normal life.' Life has never been normal. Even those periods we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies.

Learning in War-Time – CS Lewis

The Exeter College Essay Club

When the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, Tolkien had already been putting out feelers to obtain academic employment, and by the time he was demobilised he had been appointed Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary (the "Oxford English Dictionary"), then in preparation. While doing the serious philological work involved in this, he also gave one of his Lost Tales its first public airing -- he read The Fall of Gondolin to the Exeter College Essay Club, where it was well received by an audience which included Neville Coghill and Hugo Dyson, two future "Inklings". However, Tolkien did not stay in this job for long. In the summer of 1920 he applied for the quite senior post of Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, and to his surprise was appointed.

The Geste of Beren and Lúthien

This wonderful epic poem is the core work in the Tolkien corpus. It may be read in it's entirety in "The Lays of Beleriand" available in Hard or Paperback at any bookshop. Why the core work? On the headstone of the Tolkien grave at Wolvercote are two words from his whole life's work: "Beren & Lúthien".

A king there was in days of old:
ere Men yet walked upon the mould
his power was reared in cavern's shade,
his hand was over glen and glade.
His shields were shining as the moon,
his lances keen of steel were hewn,
of silver grey his crown was wrought,
the starlight in his banners caught;
and silver thrilled his trumpets long
beneath the stars in challenge strong;
enchantment did his realm enfold,
where might and glory, wealth untold,
he wielded from his ivory throne
in many-pillared halls of stone.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
and metal wrought like fishes' mail,
buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
and gleaming spears were laid in hoard —
all these he had and loved them less
than a maiden once in Elfinesse;
for fairer than are born to Men
a daughter had he, Lúthien.

The first 22 lines (of 4,223) of The Geste of Beren and Lúthien
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Charles Williams to his wife...

Shall I fall in love with you all over again?
Twice – with you then as with you now,
Either co-inherent in either, that brow
In this and this in that, but both now
Known in the one, and a double glory so.

Charles Williams to his wife after looking at her photograph
Letter of 29 November 1944.

The First Meeting

Tuesday 11 May 1926, late afternoon ...

“Tolkien managed to get the discussion round to the proposed English Prelim. I had a talk with him afterwards. He is a smooth, pale, fluent little chap – can’t read Spenser because of the forms – thinks the language is the real thing in the school – thinks all literature is written for the amusement of men between thirty and forty – we ought to vote ourselves out of existence if we were honest – still the sound-changes and the gobbets are great fun for the dons. No harm in him: he only needs a smack or so. His pet abomination is the idea of ‘liberal’ studies. Technical hobbies are more in his line.”

"All my road before me" (Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922-1927)

Jack's favourite things...

Some of Jack's favourite things: good tobacco, good beer, good tea [strong Darjeeling or Ceylon tea], good friendships, good conversation, good literature, good food, a good fast walk in the countryside, preferably. Anything of beauty, anything finely crafted - well constructed. I think that Jack enjoyed what was well done. Everything God does is well done. So he enjoyed all of nature, because God did it well. I don't think he much time for shoddy things, for planned obsolescence, things of that nature. Jack enjoyed good quality anything, in a sense, those things that display the beauties of God's creation to the best of their advantage, whether they be the artisanship of man bringing those out, like finely crafted woodwork, furniture and so on, or whether they simply be a beautiful oak tree.

(Douglas Gresham – Interview September, 2000 – The Duncan Group)

Addison’s Walk, 19/20th September 1931

Just before 3am on the Sunday morning of the 20th September, Tolkien, Lewis and another Inkling, Hugo Dyson, took a stroll along the Cherwell in the grounds of Magdalen College. All the previous evening the men had been discussing their lifelong fascination with myths. It was sad, Lewis declared, to think that classic tales of courage, beauty, sacrifice and virtue are all untrue and ultimately worthless.

Tolkien stopped his skeptical friend cold by forcefully arguing: No! They are not lies! Myths contain great spiritual truths.

Lewis recalled later in a letter to a friend that whilst walking we were: "... interrupted by a rush of wind which came so suddenly on the still, warm evening and sent so many leaves pattering down that we thought it was raining. We held our breath..."

In the graveyard...

In the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, Oxford, lies buried a professor of Medieval and Renaissance English. As befits a scholar of literature, the epitaph on his tombstone (chosen by his brother, who was later buried beside him) is taken from Shakespeare; "Men must endure their going hence." Spoken by Edgar in the final act of King Lear, these words strike a tone of stoic resignation in the face of death, and some might be surprised to find them engraved on the tombstone of this professor, C.S. Lewis, who is best known as a defender of full-blooded Christian orthodoxy. What, it may be asked, of his Christian hope?

However, the Lewis’ epitaph had more significance than is at first evident. In the room where Lewis' mother died there was a Shakespearean calendar hanging on the wall. His father kept the leaf from that day, and "Men must endure their going hence" was the quotation. Warnie thus paid tribute both to Jack and to Albert and Florence (Flora) his parents in this ‘less-than-obvious’ quote.

The Genesis...

An undergraduate at University College, Edward Tangye Lean, formed a club called 'The Inklings'. Its members met for the purpose of reading aloud unpublished compositions, and Lewis and Tolkien were invited to join. The club died when Lean took his degree and left Oxford in 1933, and Lewis and Tolkien then transferred its name to their group in Magdalen.

“I can see the room so clearly now, the electric fire pumping heat into the dank air, the faded screen that broke some of the keener draughts, the enamel beer-jug on the table, the well-worn sofa and armchairs, and the men drifting in... leaving overcoats and hats in any corner and coming over to warm their hands before finding a chair. There was no fixed etiquette, but the rudimentary honours would be done partly by Lewis and partly by his brother... Sometimes, when the less vital members of the circle were in a big majority the evening would fall flat; but the best of them were as good as anything I shall live to see.”

Sprightly Running, John Wain

Bors to Elayne (Kings Coins - Final)

The Archbishop answered the lords;
his words went up through a slope of calm air:
'Might may take symbols and folly take treasure,
and greed bid God, who hides himself for man's pleasure
by occasion, hide himself essentially: this abides -
that the everlasting house the soul discovers
is always another's; we must always lose our own ends;
we must always live in the habitation of our lovers,
my friend's shelter for me, mine for him.
This is the way of this world in the day of that others';
make yourselves friends by means of the riches of iniquity,
for the wealth of the self is the health of the self exchanged.
What saith Heracleitus? - and what is the City's breath? -
dying each other's life, living each other's death.
Money is a medium of exchange.'

Arthurian Poets (The Boydell Press) 1991

Bors to Elayne (Kings Coins - III)

Taliessin's look darkened; his hand shook
while he touched the dragons; he said 'We had a good thought.
Sir, if you made verse you would doubt symbols.
I am afraid of the little loosed dragons.
When the means are autonomous, they are deadly; when words
escape from verse they hurry to rape souls;
when sensation slips from intellect, expect the tyrant;
the brood of carriers levels the good they carry.
We have taught our images to be free; are we glad?
are we glad to have brought convenient heresy to Logres?'

Bors to Elayne (Kings Coins - II)

They had the coins before the council.
Kay, the king's steward, wise in economies, said:
'Good; these cover the years and the miles
and talk one style's dialects to London and Omsk.
Traffic can hold now and treasure be held,
streams are bridged and mountains of ridged space
tunnelled; gold dances deftly across frontiers.
The poor have choice of purchase, the rich of rents,
and events move now in a smoother control
than the swords of lords or the orisons of nuns.
Money is the medium of exchange.

Bors to Elyane: on the King's Coins

Over the next week or so we will have the opportunity of reading excerpts from Charles Williams "Bors to Elayne: on the King's Coins", one of the more accessible poems in TALIESSIN THROUGH LOGRES. On the surface about coinage, but at a much deeper level a vehicle for Williams to explore co-inherence... or as he has it here: The means of exchange.

The king has set up his mint by Thames.
He has struck coins; his dragon's loins
germinate a crowded creaturely brood
to scuttle and scurry between towns and towns,
to furnish dishes and flagons with change of food;
small crowns, small dragons, hurry to the markets
under the king's smile, or flat in houses squat.
The long file of their snout crosses the empire,
and the other themes acknowledge our king's head.
They carry on their backs little packs of value,
caravans; but I dreamed the head of a dead king
was carried on all, that they teemed on house-roofs
where men stared and studied them as I your thumbs' epigrams,
hearing the City say Feed my lambs
to you and the king; the king can tame dragons to carriers,
but I came through the night, and saw the dragonlets' eyes
leer and peer, and the house-roofs under their weight
creak and break; shadows of great forms
halloed them on, and followed over falling towns.
I saw that this was the true end of our making;
mother of children, redeem the new law.

Lewis on Taliessin

Dec. 15th 1945

... I am (these last 6 months) immersed in a v. different poet who I think great – Charles Williams: the two volumes of his Arthurian poems Taliessin and The Region of the Summer Stars. Inexcusably difficult, as I always told him, but here there really is something behind the difficulty – that something wh. we all need most in literature at present & wh. I wd. call opaque splendour – thick, rich, solid, heavy – porphyry, gold diamond.

CS Lewis - Collected Letters

A Carol of Amen House

Over this house a star
Shines in the heavens high,
Beauty remote and afar,
Beauty that shall not die;

Beauty desired and dreamed,
Followed in storm and sun,
Beauty the gods have schemed
And mortals at last have won.

Beauty arose of old
And dreamed of a perfect thing,
Where none shall be angry or cold
Or armed with an evil sting;

Where the world shall be made anew,
For the gods shall breathe its air,
And Phoebus Apollo there-through
Shall move on a golden stair.

The star that all lives shall seek,
That makers of books desire;
All that in anywise speak
Look to this silver fire:

O'er the toil that is giv'n to do,
O'er the search and the grinding pain
Seen by the holy few,
Perfection glimmers again.

O dreamed in an eager youth,
O known between friend and friend,
Seen by the seekers of truth,
Lo, peace and the perfect end!

(Charles Williams)

Perfection according to Lewis

In The Weight of Glory Lewis explains the perfection that God will work in us as we are sanctified, resurrected, and glorified. He distinguishes between God, the only Creator, and humans -- even glorified -- the created:
“The promises of Scripture may very roughly be reduced to five heads. It promises, firstly, that we shall be with Christ; secondly, that we shall be like Him; thirdly ... that we shall have “glory”; fourthly, that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and finally, that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe—ruling cities, judging angels, being pillars of God’s temple.”

Reminding us further in The Problem of Pain:
“For we are only creatures; our role must always be that of patient to agent, female to male, mirror to light, echo to voice. Our highest activity must be response, not initiative. To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire.”

Williams on 'Exchange'

Charles talked and wrote a great deal about the practice of "exchange". It was one of the root rules of the Company. One made a pact and picked up the other person's fear or grief or pain and carried it oneself. This was the theory at any rate. The trouble was that, while the theory was irrefutable, the practice was apt to be dubious.... but how, I asked myself, was I to "present myself shyly to Almighty God in exchange for..."?

Letters to Lelange (Kent State UP), Page 54

Tolkien's Muse...

... If you wanted to go on from the end of The Hobbit I think the ring would be your inevitable choice as the link. If then you wanted a large tale, the Ring would at once acquire a capital letter; and the Dark Lord would immediately appear. As he did unasked, on the hearth at Bag End as soon as I came to that point. So the essential Quest started at once.

But I met a lot of things on the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner as the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlórien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were the Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure. I had never heard of the House of Eorl nor of the Stewards of Gondor. Most disquieting of all. Saruman had never been revealed to me, and I was as mystified as Frodo at Gandalf's failure to appear on September 22. I knew nothing of the Palantiri, though the moment the Orthanc-stone was cast from the window, I recognised it, and knew the meaning of the 'rhyme of lore' that had been running in my mind: "seven stars and seven stones and one white tree". The rhymes and names will crop up; but they do not always explain themselves...

The Letters of JRRT 163 #216-7

Small sins, according to Screwtape

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report great wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. 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 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.

Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood.
(C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

Tolkien and the Nazis

This is from a letter Tolkien wrote to the German publishers Rutten & Loening Verlag in 1938. Before translating and publishing "The Hobbit" in German, they had written to ask if he was of Aryan origin.

25 July 1938
20 Northmoor Road, Oxford

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your letter... I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by aryan. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that your are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject -- which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continue to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.

Your inquiry is doubtless made in order to comply with the laws of your own country, but that this should be held to apply to the subjects of another state would be improper, even if it had (and it had not) any bearing whatsoever on the merits of my work or its suitability for publication, of which you appear to have satisfied yourselves without reference to my origins (Abstammung).

I trust you will find this reply satisfactory, and
remain yours faithfully
J.R.R. Tolkien.

Letters, 29 #37

Lewis and Salvation by Grace...

What did Lewis have to say on salvation by grace?  In the 'tome' English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama, he opined:

"On the Protestant view one could not, and by God’s mercy, expiate one’s sins.  Like an accepted lover, he feels that he has done nothing, and never could have done anything to deserve such astonishing happiness.  All the initiative has been on God’s side, all has been free, unbounded grace.  His own puny and ridiculous efforts would be as helpless to retain the joy as they would have been to achieve it in the first place.  Bliss is not for sale, cannot be earned, "Works" have no "merit," though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once.  He is not saved because he does works of love; he does works of love because he is saved.  It is faith alone that has saved him; faith bestowed by sheer gift."

Charles Williams - A minor Inkling?

He never tried, like Dante or Byron, to effect the course of history.  He observed, he loved, he prayed, he laughed and talked, and, above all, he wrote: a stream of poems, plays, novels, biographies, reviews, essays; a body of work which still astonishes the reader with its variety and vitality.

Moreover, nothing is quite what it seems: each piece evokes something other than itself; his imagination delighted in unexpected connections -- and he found connections everywhere.  A review of a detective novel for a newspaper will contain a sentence that opens on to a huge theological vista; an essay on literary criticism will lead one into a complex piece of psychological analysis; a footnote in a biography will encapsulate an entire historical era; a piece of theological speculation will reveal itself to be intimately concerned with the hidden pains of everyday loss and disappointment.

Throughout the immense variety of genre the unique vision remains constant; the 'voice' of Williams is unmistakable.

(Charles Williams - A celebration, Introduction by Brian Horne. Gracewing, 1995)

C.S. Lewis on delight, lust and temptation

(from Lewis circa 1930 )
I got such a sudden intense feeling of delight that IT (ie God) sort of stopped me in my walk and spun me round.  Indeed the sweetness was so great, and seemed so to affect the whole body as well as the mind, that it gave me pause -- it was so very like sex.
One knows what a psychoanalyst would say -- it is sublimated lust, a kind of defeated masturbation which fancy give one to compensate for external chastity.  Yet after all, why should that be the right way of looking at it?  If he can say that IT is sublimated sex, why is it not open to me to say that sex is undeveloped IT? -- As Plato would have said.  And if as Plato thought, the material world is a copy or mirror of the spiritual then the central feature of the material life (=sex), must be a copy of something in the Spirit: and when you get a faint glimpse of the latter, of course you find it like the former: an Original is like its copy: a man is like his portrait.
Just to give you the other side of the picture (I shall not often tell you these things) -- I have 'fallen' since you left after a long period of quite untroubled peace in that respect.  Serves me right, for I was beginning to fancy that I had really escaped, if not for good, at any rate for an indefinite time.  The interesting thing was that on both occasions the temptation arose quite suddenly, and carried me by storm    I don't mean to disclaim responsibility on this account: but I feel grateful that the enemy has been driven to resort to stratagems (not by me, but by God) whereas he used to walk boldly up to me for a frontal attack in the face of all my guns.  I hope I don't delude myself in thinking that this is an improvement.