Why is Addison's Walk so famous?

Just before 3 am on the Sunday morning of the 20th September, 1931 J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and another friend, Hugo Dyson, took a stroll along the Cherwell in the grounds of Magdalen College. All the previous evening the three of them 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 sceptical friend cold by forcefully arguing: No, they are not lies. Myths contain great spiritual truths.

This is how Lewis remembered it two days later in his letter to Arthur Greeves:

He (Dyson) stayed the night with me in College -I sleeping in in order to be able to talk far into the night as one cd… Tolkien came too, and did not leave till 3 in the morning: and after seeing him out by the little postern on Magdalen bridge Dyson and I found still more to say to one another, strolling up and down the cloister of New Building, so that we did not get to bed till 4, It was really a memorable talk. We began (in Addison's walk just after dinner) on metaphor and myth --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 all held our breath, the other two appreciating the ecstasy of such a thing almost as you would. We continued (in my room) on Christianity: a good long satisfying talk in which I learned a lot: then discussed the difference between love and friendship - then finally drifted back to poetry and books.

On Sunday he came out here for lunch and Maureen and Minto and I (and Tykes) all motored him (Dyson –taught English at Reading University) to Reading - a very delightful drive with some lovely villages, and the autumn colours are here now.

I am so glad you have really enjoyed a Morris again. I had the same feeling about it as you, in a way, with this proviso - that I don't think Morris was conscious of the meaning either here or in any of his works, except ‘Love is Enough’ where the flame actually breaks through the smoke so to speak. I feel more and more that Morris has taught me things he did not understand himself. These hauntingly beautiful lands which somehow never satisfy, - this passion to escape from death plus the certainty that life owes all its charm to mortality ~ these push you on to the real thing because they fill you with desire and yet prove absolutely clearly that in Morris's world that desire cannot be satisfied.

The Macdonald conception of death - or, to speak more correctly, St Paul's - is really the answer to Morris: but I don't think I should have understood it without going through Morris. He is an unwilling witness to the truth. He shows you just how far you can go without knowing God, and that is far enough to force you… to go further.

(Lewis’ letter to Greeves dated Sept 22nd 1931)

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