It’s February. Images and messages about love are everywhere as Valentine’s Day approaches. Fittingly, the First British edition of C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves is our February “Artifact of the Month.” This somewhat lesser known work by Lewis includes his own insights into various aspects of love, and was written with help from his wife, Joy Davidman Lewis. However, Lewis’s thoughts on love began to take shape long before Joy came into his life.
On May 4th, 1940, in the midst of World War II in Britain, C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter to his brother Warren, “I pray every night for the people I am most tempted to hate or despise … and in the effort to make this real I have had to do a good deal of thinking.”
Lewis then goes on to outline his thoughts on love, many of which form a framework for what was eventually included in his book The Four Loves published two decades later in 1960.
In this volume, Lewis categorizes love into four distinct types: affection — or in Greek, storge (pronounced store-gay), friendship — philia in the Greek, eros — sexual love, and charity, or agape (in his May 4 th letter to Warren, Lewis notes that agape was hardly used in classical Greek, calling it “a new word for a new thing.)”
In much of The Four Loves, Lewis argues against the idolatry of erotic love and of family love, which he calls “the great error” of 19th century literature, also saying: “Browning, Kingsley and Patmore sometimes talk as if they thought that falling in love was the same thing as sanctification.” (Four Loves, Introduction) Lewis encourages us to broaden our understanding and practice of love away from narrow cultural proclivities.
In early reviews of The Four Loves, Lewis was praised for his erudite thinking and compelling articulation of the four types of love. The chapter on friendship is especially strong. Lewis points out our modern tendency to ignore friendship, calling it the “least natural” of the loves and the least necessary, while also pointing out its intrinsic value:
“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 .” (Four Loves, Chapter IV)
The Four Loves is dedicated to Chad Walsh, who was then a professor of English at Beloit College in Wisconsin, an Episcopal priest, and one of Lewis’ earliest American correspondents. Walsh began writing to Lewis in 1945 to praise him for his novel Perelandra. This initial letter marked the beginning of a long friendship that later led to Lewis’s introduction to Joy Davidman (this letter is now part of the Chad Walsh Collection at the Wade Center). After meeting through Walsh’s encouragement, Joy and Jack became friends, and were eventually married in a civil ceremony in 1956 and again by a priest in 1957 when Joy was bedridden with bone cancer. You can read more about this relationship in former Wade Director Lyle Dorsett’s book And God Came In.
The British first edition of The Four Loves was published by Geoffrey Bles on March 28th, 1960. The next month, Joy and Jack Lewis took a final trip together to Greece. They planned the trip before receiving word of a recurrence of Joy’s bone cancer, which had previously gone into remission. Joy died just a few months after returning from this trip on July 13th, 1960. The American edition of The Four Loves , to which Joy held the copyright, was published on July 27th. Many of Joy Davidman’s personal papers relating to her personal life and her writing career can be found in the Joy Davidman Papers, housed at the Wade Center.
The Wade Center also holds a copy of a British first edition inscribed in August of 1960 by C.S. Lewis to Bill Gresham, Joy’s former husband.
The Four Loves is believed to be one of several works that Joy helped Lewis write, and their relationship certainly shaped his understanding and experience of love. He briefly describes the surprising turns their relationship took in a letter to Dom Bede Griffiths on September 24th, 1957 saying:
“It is nice to have arrived at all this by something which began in Agape, proceeded to Philia, then became Pity, and only after that Eros. As if the highest of these, Agape, had successfully undergone the sweet humiliation of an incarnation.”
Dorsett, Lyle W. A Love Observed: Joy Davidman’s Life & Marriage To C.S. Lewis. Wheaton, Ill. : Harold Shaw Publishers, 1998. (former title: And God Came In) Call number: PS3507.A6659 Z6 1991
Lewis, C. S. Reinforcing The Spiritual Outreach Of The Church: A Series Of Ten Radio Talks On Love. Atlanta, Ga. : The Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation, ©1959. Call number: BV4639 .L45 R4 1959
Lewis, C. S. Four Talks On Love. Atlanta, Ga. : The Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation, ©1970.
Sound recording of Lewis’s voice. Call number: CSL-V / SR-10
Sibley, Brian. Through The Shadowlands: The Love Story Of C.S. Lewis And Joy Davidman. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Revell, 2005. Call number: PR6023.E926 Z8481 1985
Shadowlands by William Nicholson. Adapted into a television movie in 1985 and a film in 1993. Call numbers: CSL-D / VR-2 and 6.