This is a post from the Logos Academic Blog remembering Lewis’ career, correspondence, and poetry.
Whether you’re a casual fan or can recite everything Lewis has ever written, you’re sure to discover something new about his life, work, and influence in the pages of the 30-volume C.S. Lewis Collection . Here are just a few:
1) He never became a full professor at Oxford.
Despite producing excellent critical work throughout his career, Lewis never received full professorship at Oxford. In Spirituality for Mere Christians, William Griffin describes how Lewis’ faith cost him professionally.
After publishing The Screwtape Letters in 1942, Lewis fame grew at the expense of his reputation in the eyes of many colleagues—some of whom, according to Griffin, dismissed him as “C. Screwtape Lewis.” In 1947, he was nominated for the prestigious Oxford Professorship of Poetry. Lewis was supported by most all the faculty of Magdalen College—as well most of the heads of the other Oxford colleges.
According to Griffin, in the election, he faced poet Cecil Day-Lewis (father of award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis), on a final ballot that presented the two names: C.D. Lewis and C.S. Lewis. The confusing ballot yielded a result of 194 for Cecil Day-Lewis, and 173 for C.S. Lewis. A few years later, Clive would journey east to receive the accolades he deserved, accepting the chair of Medieval literature at Cambridge.
2) He replied to most every letter he received—usually the day he received it.
According to his secretary Walter Hooper, Lewis was a prolific letter writer—spending the first two hours of every day responding to anyone who wrote him. Hooper’s edition of Lewis’ letters fills more than 4,000 pages, serving as a unique sort of autobiography. In an article for Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal, David C. Downing analyzes how Lewis was a “spiritual mentor by mail.”
Downing discusses how Lewis engaged correspondents of all varieties—from hostile atheists to little children with big questions—always searching for common ground and crafting the vivid metaphors that made him famous. A professional literary critic, not a theologian, he often avoided addressing theological questions. But he lent his thoughts to those who wrestled with ideas of hell, determinism, and other difficult doctrines. His letters laid his life bare, succeeding, according to Downing, “not so much because of the insights and arguments contained in his letters, but because of the character and the life of the man behind them.”
3) You can track his spiritual journey through the progress of his poetry.
On the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was commemorated with a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner. Though he is most famous for his endlessly enriching and amusing prose, Lewis spent his pre-Christian youth determined to succeed as a poet. In another article in Sehnsucht, Don W. King examines what Lewis’ early poetry reveals about his long journey to Christianity.
Lewis’ conception of God, King explains, slowly moves from a cruel obstacle in Lewis’ first published work, Spirits in Bondage, to a gracious savior in the spiritual awakening captured in The Pilgrims Regress. King goes on to track how poems written throughout Lewis’ life enrich readings of his prose—from “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer” and Mere Christianity, to “Love’s as Warm as Tears” and A Grief Observed.
For more posts about Lewis, see below: