In Fine Frenzy Rolling by Crystal Downing, Wade Center Co-Director

Reflections on the Muriel Fuller Endowment Inaugural Event

As is well known, Shakespeare stole almost all his plots. Yet no one would question his ability to create powerful art that continues to speak to us today. As poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge put it over 200 years later, “plot is the canvas only” upon which Shakespeare painted his art.[i]

Like Shakespeare and Coleridge, The Marion E. Wade Center values plots from the past—written by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield—knowing that they can inspire new forms of creative expression. The Muriel Fuller Endowment for Imagination and the Arts was therefore established to celebrate artistic endeavors inspired by our seven authors.

For the endowment’s inaugural event on September 25, 2018, we invited two British scholars, Dr. Malcolm Guite and Dr. Michael Ward, to reflect about the importance of the arts for communicating the Gospel. Chairing the conversation in Barrows Auditorium was Dr. Jerry Root, Professor of Evangelism and Director of the Evangelism Initiative at Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center, which collaborated with the Wade Center to sponsor the event. Dr. Root reminded us of Lewis’s assertion that creative fiction enables writers and their readers to get “past watchful dragons” that prohibit new ways of thinking about Christian truth. Lewis, of course, got past watchful dragons by taking readers through a wardrobe in order to introduce them to Aslan.

Malcolm Guite and Michael Ward in conversation with Jerry Root at the September 25 event.

While a video of the conversation with Drs. Ward and Guite can be accessed through the Wade Center’s YouTube channel, I’d like to draw attention to several highlights of the event. Dr. Guite, who is part of the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University, testified to the importance of Lewis for his own conversion to Christianity. However, while most people cite Mere Christianity as key to their decision to follow Christ, Dr. Guite credited Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost. In other words, Lewis’s ability to highlight the artistry of a great Christian poet, John Milton, spoke to Guite’s heart by way of his imagination. Inspired by Lewis’s celebration of Milton’s artistry, Dr. Guite has published five books of poetry, breathing new life into the poetic form practiced by Shakespeare: the sonnet. Significantly, during the Fuller event, Dr. Guite quoted from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream to explain the importance of poetry:

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.  (V. 1. 12-17)

Michael Ward and Malcolm Guite showing off their shirt designs, which fit the “creativity” theme of the evening!

Dr. Ward has become famous for glancing from heaven to earth and earth to heaven in his award-winning book Planet Narnia, which aligns the seven Narnia Chronicles with the seven planets. Having excited the imaginations of Narnia fans around the world, Dr. Ward reminded us of Lewis’s important assertion that there is no such thing as “Christian literature” just as there is no such thing as “Christian cooking.” Instead, to quote C. S. Lewis’s friend Dorothy L. Sayers, “Christian work is good work well done”[ii]—whether in the form of sonnet, soufflé, or scholarship.

Both speakers demonstrated good work well done the next evening as they delivered lectures to an overflow crowd in the Bakke Auditorium at The Marion E. Wade Center. The evening was begun with a biographical sketch of Muriel Fuller by her nephew, David Fuller, who made possible the Muriel Fuller Endowment for Imagination and the Arts. Dr. Guite then followed by discussing the imagination of Coleridge before celebrating the artistry of Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as Sayers’s exciting translations of Dante. Dr. Ward, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Blackfriars Hall and Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, followed with an overview of his argument in Planet Narnia, eliciting insightful questions from audience members.

To encapsulate the importance of imagination and the arts for Christians, I’d like to close with a line from the original song sung by Dr. Guite at the end of the first evening. Using words from Scripture as the canvas upon which to paint new art, Guite sang to Christ his Lord, “I’ll be word made flesh for you.”


[i] Quoted in Crystal Downing, “A Rose by Any Other Name: The Plague of Language in Romeo and Juliet,” in The Ignatius Critical Edition of Romeo and Juliet, ed. Joseph Pearce (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 165.

[ii] Dorothy L. Sayers, “Why Work?” in Creed or Chaos? (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 1974), 78.

A Place for “Till We Have Faces,” by David C. Downing, Wade Center Co-Director

Recently the Wade Center unveiled a new display in its museum space, recounting the story of C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces (1956) and how it came to be written. The exhibit features the portable Royal typewriter upon which Joy Davidman typed the novel, as well as a colorful afghan she crocheted for Lewis.

Museum display featuring Joy’s typewriter, and first editions of TILL WE HAVE FACES by C. S. Lewis (Left: British, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1956; Right: American, New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1957).

In 1960 Lewis sadly noted about Till We Have Faces in a letter, “that book, which I consider far and away the best I have written, has been my one big failure both with critics and with the public.” But time can heal wounds and bring fresh perspectives, and Lewis’s late novel is now generally regarded as one of his best, if not the best. As scholar Doris Myers explained, “The cure for such disappointment [of Lewis’s early reviewers] is to realize that Lewis is doing better and much more difficult things than his readers demand of him” (Myers, 213).

The point is well made. Lewis’s readers had been accustomed to enjoying a clear sense of “the good guys vs. the bad guys” in his stories, along with accessible Christian themes. But Lewis offered a number of bold innovations in this, his last novel. For one thing, the main character is not a guy at all—she is Queen Orual of Glome, a fictional kingdom between Europe and Asia in the third century before Christ (Myers, 194).

Orual assumes through most of the story that she is one of the “good,” a loving sister and dutiful monarch, who has been wrongly vilified by chroniclers. Since she lives in a time and place unreached by the Gospel, we cannot expect Orual to find her true self by means of direct Christian conversion. But the Spirit blows where he wishes, and so, in the end, the embittered queen comes to understand that her “case against the gods” is entirely unfounded:  she herself has been the victimizer, in the name of fiercely possessive love, rather than a victim. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the protagonist of the story learns eventually that “the fault lies not in our gods but in ourselves.”

The novel is subtitled A Myth Retold because it is a reworking of the story of Cupid and Psyche, first recounted by the Roman tale-spinner Apuleius. Ever since Lewis’s undergraduate days, he wanted to retell the story with a much psychologically nuanced portrayal of Psyche’s siblings. In his mid-twenties, Lewis wrote 156 lines of rhyming couplets recasting the Psyche story, a fragment now preserved in “The Lewis Papers” at the Wade Center. In this early version, the beautiful Psyche had an equally attractive brother, Jardis, and motherly older sister, Caspian. The sibling characters completely evolved in later drafts, but those names, or something very like them, did not go to waste in Lewis’s later fiction!

Joy and C. S. Lewis, 1958.

While Joy Davidman and her two sons were visiting the Kilns in March 1955, Lewis complained to her that he was in a creative dry spell. The two of them “kicked a few ideas around” that evening, and Joy was amazed to discover the next day that “Jack” had already written the first chapter! Joy felt that Lewis was a far more gifted writer than she was, but that she “helped him write more like himself,” and that he found her advice “indispensable” (Hooper, 247-248).

Joy continued to discuss the unfolding story with Lewis, and she used her Royal typewriter to turn his inky handwritten pages into neat typescript. She may have been something of a creative collaborator on the project, as some of Orual’s life-experiences seem to reflect Joy’s past more than Jack’s. Joy’s son, Douglas Gresham, believes that it was his mother who gave Lewis the boldness to write an entire novel from a female point of view.

After getting off to a slow start, both commercially and critically, Till We Have Faces has been steadily growing in the esteem of readers and reviewers. This fall Dr. Rolland Hein, Professor of English, Emeritus, at Wheaton has been leading a Saturday morning study group on the novel at the Wade Center, to overflow audiences from the College and surrounding community. As Dr. Hein explains the ongoing appeal of Lewis’s classic tale, “In Till We Have Faces, Lewis is at his best, giving insights towards the end of his life on such vital subjects as the importance of spiritual perception and the nature of final judgment.  It’s a must read for all who are interested in Lewis’s thought.”

Detail of the afghan.

Sources cited: The most helpful single resource on Till We Have Faces is probably Walter Hooper’s masterful C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide (1996). Two other insightful and useful studies are Peter J. Schakel’s Reason and Imagination in C. S. Lewis (1984) and Doris T. Myers’s C. S. Lewis in Context (1994). The quotation from Lewis’s letter is taken from The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. 3, p. 1181 (to Anne Scott, August 26, 1960).

The Wade Authors in the Blogosphere

Blogs come in a variety of topics and formats. They invite in-depth looks at a multitude of topics, as well as glimpses into the lives and interests of people from around the world. In the case of the Wade authors, there are a number of scholars, enthusiasts, and organizations dedicated to the study of their lives and works that offer some helpful resources delivered via blogs; including the Wade Center (as is evident to you, our readers).

In this post, we will take a look at some of the blogs where the Wade authors are studied and appreciated. This is by no means a comprehensive list! We hope it will serve as a useful starting point to whet your appetite for continued exploration and as a means to learning more about the seven authors of the Wade Center and related subject areas. The following details were gathered from the blogs directly, so if you manage one of the blogs below and have additional or updated descriptions, please contact us.

Have other suggestions for intriguing Wade related blogs? Post them in the comments below!

*Note that we are not including podcasts or general websites in these lists; rather, we are defining a blog as a regular series of textual, date-stamped posts.

 

Along-the-Beam

Image from: alongthebeam.com

BROAD TOPICS & MULTIPLE WADE AUTHORS

These blogs discuss multiple Wade authors and/or related topics.

Diana Pavlac Glyer blog: A blog of intermittent posts from Lewis, Tolkien, and Inklings scholar Diana Glyer. She is Professor of English at Azusa Pacific University.

“I Have An Inkling” blog by Mark Sommer: Posts about news, books, and other topics relating to the Inklings, which included 4 of the 7 Wade authors (Barfield, Lewis, Tolkien, Williams).

“Islands of Joy”: A blog focused on the theme of “Sehnsucht” (meaning joy or longing), which C.S. Lewis wrote about; this deep sense of desire is most often evoked by art, poetry, literature, music, or nature. Several writers contribute to this blog.

“Kalimac’s Corner” by David Bratman: Personal blog of Bratman, a scholar who specializes in Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings.

“Letters from the Edge of Elfland” by David Russell Mosley: David has a PhD in theology from Nottingham University and writes posts (“letters”) about theology, creativity, and their places in everyday life. His posts can include content on Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton.

“Transpositions”: A blog on theology, imagination, and the arts managed by The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) at the University of St. Andrew’s, Scotland. Several writers contribute to this blog.

 

BLOGS FROM SOCIETIES AND ORGANIZATIONS

C.S. Lewis Foundation: Interviews with C.S. Lewis scholars, information about the Foundation, and words of encouragement. The C.S. Lewis Foundation is based in Redlands, CA.

C.S. Lewis Society of Chattanooga, Tennessee:  Contains news on the Society, and Lewis-related topics and information. Moderated by Rev. David Beckmann.

George MacDonald Society Blog: Posts include Society news and events notices, book announcements, and MacDonald related topics. Moderated by Mike Partridge. The George MacDonald Society is based in the United Kingdom.

Tolkien Society: Publishes Society news and a wide variety of Tolkien related topics. This blog has multiple authors. The Tolkien Society is based in the United Kingdom.

 

BLOG ON GEORGE MACDONALD

“Works of George MacDonald” by Michael Phillips: A website that maintains several “blog” resources under its “Regular Features” and other tab sections, including MacDonald Q&A, information on MacDonald rare book editions, daily devotionals, prayers, blessings, and poems, etc. Phillips is the author of George MacDonald, Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller (Bethany House, 1987), and has adapted MacDonald’s works for contemporary readers.

 

BLOG ON CHARLES WILLIAMS

“The Oddest Inkling” by Sørina Higgins: A blog dedicated to exploring the life, works, and ideas of Charles Williams. The earlier posts on the blog are particularly helpful for an overview of Williams’s ideas and biography. Higgins is in the process of posting overviews of works by Charles Williams in publication order. She serves as Chair of the Literature & Language Department at Signum University’s Mythgard Institute, and is currently a doctoral student at Baylor University.

 

BLOGS ON C.S. LEWIS

“Along the Beam” by Rebekah Valerius: Posts on Lewis and integrated approaches to Christian apologetics. Valerius is a graduate student studying apologetics at Houston Baptist University.

Crystal Hurd blog – Hurd is an educator and Lewis scholar from Virginia. She is currently researching the parents of C.S. Lewis, Albert and Flora Lewis, and her posts focus on books, Lewis, and related topics.

“Dangerous Idea” by Victor Reppert: The personal blog of Reppert contains posts on C.S. Lewis in the areas of reason, science, and philosophy, as well as other topics of interest. Reppert also manages a blog titled “Dangerous Idea 2” and a blog study guide of Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Reppert is the author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (InterVarsity Press, 2003).

David Beckmann blog: Personal blog of Rev. David Beckmann and dedicated to helping others learn more about the life and works of C.S. Lewis, with an emphasis on spiritual topics. Beckmann is the founder and moderator of the C.S. Lewis Society of Chattanooga, TN.

“Essential C.S. Lewis” by William O’Flaherty: Provides daily quotes by C.S. Lewis, and includes links to other Lewis-related resources (podcasts and scholar interviews).

“The Lamppost: C.S. Lewis, Narnia, and Mere Christianity” by Will Vaus: Provides information on Vaus’s books, travels, and a variety of Lewis-related topics particularly in the area of theology. Vaus is a pastor, public speaker, and the author of several books about C.S. Lewis and his works.

Mark Neal blog: Personal blog with topics relating to C.S. Lewis, particularly on the function and life of the imagination. Neal is co-author of the book The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis with Dr. Jerry Root (Abingdon Press, 2015).

“Mere C.S. Lewis” by Ken Symes: Covers topics relating to Lewis and politics, apologetics, ethics, and evangelism.

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” by Brenton Dickieson: A blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis and the worlds he touched, including children’s literature, apologetics, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, and writing, as well as the work of his fellow Inklings J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. Dickieson is a university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada.

 

BLOGS ON J.R.R. TOLKIEN

Dimitra Fimi blog: Personal blog of Fimi, who is Senior Lecturer in English at Cardiff Metropolitan University and co-editor of the book A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages (HarperCollins, 2016).

“The Flame Imperishable” by Jonathan McIntosh: A theology blog on Tolkien, St. Thomas Aquinas, and related topics. McIntosh is a Fellow of Humanities at New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho, and teaches courses on the Great Books, medieval thought, Tolkien, and other areas.

John Garth blog: Personal blog on a variety of Tolkien topics, particularly World War I. Garth is a freelance writer, researcher and reader, and a widely-acclaimed Tolkien and World War I scholar. He is the author of Tolkien and the Great War (Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

“Lingwë – Musings of a Fish” by Jason Fisher: Tolkien scholar Jason Fisher provides the following list describing his blog topics: “J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, the Inklings, J.K. Rowling, and fantasy literature in general; language, linguistics, and philology; comparative mythology and folklore.” He is the editor of Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays (McFarland, 2011).

LOTR Project by Emil Johansson: Blog relating to the creative and ambitious web project dedicated to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, including an extensive Middle-earth genealogy, a historical timeline of Middle-earth, and statistics of the population of Middle-earth. Johansson is a Chemical Engineering student currently living in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“Parma-kenta” by Troels Forchhammer: This blog is maintained by a Danish Tolkien scholar, and contains lists to many Tolkien resources & headlines, as well as posts of varied Tolkien-related topics. A key feature is “Tolkien Transactions” – a review of online Tolkien content that Forchhammer has deemed interesting enough to share with his blog readers.

“Sacnoth’s Scriptorium” by John D. Rateliff: Personal blog of Rateliff, who is an independent Tolkien scholar and author of The History of the Hobbit (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).

“Tolkien and Fantasy” by Douglas A. Anderson: The blog defining itself as “musings on Tolkien and modern fantasy literature.” Anderson is the editor of the books The Annotated Hobbit (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), Tales Before Tolkien (Del Rey / Ballantine Books, 2003), and Tales Before Narnia (Del Rey / Ballantine Books, 2008).

“The Tolkienist” by Marcel R. Aubron-Bülles: Contains a wide variety of Tolkien-related topics by Aubron-Bülles, who is a German freelance journalist and translator.

“Too Many Books and Never Enough” by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull: Personal blog of Tolkien scholars Hammond and Scull on a variety of topics relating to Tolkien studies. Hammond and Scull are known for their in-depth reference books on Tolkien’s life and works, Tolkien bibliography, books on Tolkien’s artwork, and their work editing Tolkien’s books. Christina is the former librarian of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, England. Wayne is Chapin Librarian in the special collections department of the Williams College Libraries in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

“Wormtalk and Slugspeak” by Michael Drout: A personal blog featuring various Tolkien topics, Anglo-Saxon and medieval studies, and the study of language patterns in literature. Drout is Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of the Medieval at Wheaton College, Norton, MA where he teaches Old & Middle English, medieval literature, fantasy, science fiction and writing. He is the editor of Tolkien’s Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics and the Tolkien Studies journal.

Exploring Screwtape: A Closer Look at The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

“My dear Wormwood” is a phrase many readers will instantly recognize as the opening to C.S. Lewis’s classic work The Screwtape Letters. The book contains a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior devil, to his nephew Wormwood who is just learning the ropes on how to most effectively tempt his first human (aka “patient”). Though the book itself is well-known and widely read, the background to its creation is a fascinating story. In this post, we’ll not only explore the writing of The Screwtape Letters, but also list adaptations of the book over the years, study resources, and highlight our Lenten Reflection series on the book that begins at the Wade Center on February 21, 2018.

BACKGROUND

C.S. Lewis first mentioned his idea for writing The Screwtape Letters in a letter dated July 20, 1940 to his brother Warren, who had returned to active duty as a Major in the Army during World War II. Lewis had been attending a worship service at his church, Holy Trinity in Headington Quarry, when a thought crossed his mind. As he explained to his brother:

“Before the service was over … I was struck by an idea for a book [which] I think might be both useful and entertaining.  It [would] 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.’  The idea [would] be to give all the psychology of temptation from the other point of view.”

Elsewhere, Lewis notes that The Confessions of a Well-Meaning Woman by Stephen McKenna and Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay played influential roles in Screwtape’s composition as well. (Lewis’s 1961 preface to The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast)

It isn’t clear how long it took Lewis to write The Screwtape Letters, but Walter Hooper surmises that it was probably finished by Christmas 1940. (C.S. Lewis Companion and Guide, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996 p. 268) The actual writing process was a tedious one for Lewis due to the mindset he had to adopt while writing in a diabolical guise:

“Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. … [T]hough it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The work into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done.” (Lewis’s 1961 preface to The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast)

In 1940 The Guardian, a weekly Anglican newspaper, had published Lewis’s articles titled “The Dangers of National Repentance” (March 15) and “Two Ways with the Self” (May 3). When Lewis offered Screwtape to The Guardian they agreed to serialize all 31 letters which ran in weekly installments from May 2 through November 28, 1941. The letters proved to be very popular, and later were gathered together and published as a book the following year. Lewis dedicated the book to his friend and fellow Inkling J.R.R. Tolkien, but Tolkien was puzzled by the gesture (see Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, letter draft to Michael Tolkien #252, November or December 1963). And, as Humphrey Carpenter reports, not altogether pleased with the book itself: “for as somebody who believed profoundly in the power of evil [Tolkien] thought it foolish to trifle rather facetiously with such things.” (The Inklings. Pt. 3 Ch. 5. Houghton Mifflin, 1979: 174-5)

As a result of his concern that the Screwtape typescript at his London publisher might be destroyed in a German bombing raid (a justifiable fear in WWII Britain), Lewis sent his handwritten manuscript for safekeeping to his friend Sister Penelope, an Anglican nun at the convent of the Community of St. Mary the Virgin at Wantage. When she later attempted to return it to Lewis, he told her to sell it. This handwritten manuscript is now in the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection. The typescript is held at the Wade Center under the call number CSL / MS-107 in our C.S. Lewis Manuscript collection. The Wade’s typescript also includes a handwritten preface which has been examined by Lewis scholar Brenton Dickieson. You can read Brenton’s findings in “The Unpublished Preface to C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters,” Notes and Queries 60.2 (2013): 296-298 and on his blog.

First British edition of THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1942).

The publication of The Screwtape Letters, along with his BBC Radio talks during the 1940s (which were later issued in book form as Mere Christianity), combined to give Lewis heightened recognition as a Christian spokesperson. One example of this was the September 8, 1947 cover of Time magazine that featured an image of Lewis with the caption “Oxford’s C.S. Lewis: His heresy: Christianity.” As a result of this increased profile, Lewis’s fan mail also grew significantly during this time, requiring hours every day for him to write responses to his correspondents.

REVIEWS & SCREWTAPE PROPOSES A TOAST

Following are some brief extracts from contemporary reviews of The Screwtape Letters:

“The book is sparkling yet truly reverent, in fact a perfect joy, and should become a classic.” (Manchester Guardian, February 24, 1942)

“Mr Lewis possesses the rare gift of being able to make righteousness readable, and has produced a pretty piece of homily lit by flashes of insight” (New Statesman and Nation, May 16, 1942).

Charles Williams, fellow Inkling and Wade author, wrote two favorable reviews on The Screwtape Letters in The Dublin Review (July 1942) and Time and Tide (March 21, 1942). His Time and Tide review titled “Letters in Hell” is written as a parody Screwtape letter addressed to “My dearest Scorpuscle.”

Not everyone was as receptive or appreciative of Lewis’s efforts in this book. In his 1961 preface to Screwtape, Lewis reports one humorous instance where a country clergyman, not understanding that that the letters were meant to be read from an opposite point of view, withdrew his subscription from The Guardian stating that “much of the advice given in these letters seemed to him not only erroneous but positively diabolical.”

Despite requests to write additional Screwtape letters, Lewis’s only subsequent Screwtape offering was prompted by an invitation from The Saturday Evening Post that he said “pressed the trigger.” (1961 preface) Published on December 19, 1959 as “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” Lewis switched from an epistolary approach to having Screwtape offer a talk at the annual dinner of the Tempters’ Training College for young devils. This fictional address later appeared in a new edition of The Screwtape Letters in 1961, and is included in most editions today.

ADAPTATIONS

Due to the book’s popularity and impact on readers, The Screwtape Letters has received various treatments over the years through audiobooks, dramatizations, adaptations, and so on. The non-comprehensive list below includes a few examples of these Screwtape variations.

Audiobooks

  • British comedian John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) provided an audiobook reading performance of The Screwtape Letters released by Audio Literature in 1988 (San Bruno, California). Cleese’s recording was nominated for a Grammy that same year for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording. This recording will be used at the Wade’s Lenten Reflections on Screwtape in February. See details at the end of this post.
  • Joss Acland did a voice reading of The Screwtape Letters for the HarperCollins audiobook released in 2000. Acland was the actor who portrayed C.S. Lewis in the 1985 television drama of Shadowlands.

Max McLean as Screwtape.

Dramatizations

  • Dear Wormwood: A Play in Three Acts is an early dramatization of The Screwtape Letters for the stage in 1961 by James Forsyth. It was later renamed Screwtape: A Play.
  • The Screwtape Letters stage play adapted by Anthony Lawton with The Mirror Theatre Company. A 90-minute two-person play punctuated by varied dances including tap, Latin ballroom, jazz, martial arts, and rock, along with whips and fire-eating. Performed various times since 2000.
  • The Screwtape Letters stage play adapted by Max McLean with Fellowship for Performing Arts. A 90-minute production that has done national and international tours and been seen by over 500,000 people. Its most recent run was in London 2016-2017.
  • The Screwtape Letters audio dramatization by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre (2009) features the voice of Andy Serkis as Screwtape. Serkis played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films by Peter Jackson. The recording features a multi-person cast and sound effects.

Printed Works and Parodies

Influences

  • OhHellosThe music group The Oh Hellos released the album Dear Wormwood which they have described as a form of speculative fiction from the point of view of “the patient.”
  • In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin’s teacher is named “Miss Wormwood” — her name, according to creator Bill Waterson, is based on the apprentice devil in Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.
  • Lewis himself may have borrowed the name “Wormwood” from a Biblical star mentioned in Revelation 8:11, although it is also a plant name, and a name meaning “something bitter or unpleasant.”

STUDY RESOURCES

For those interested in learning more about The Screwtape Letters, here are some additional resources:

Annotated

Annotated edition by Paul McCusker.

LENTEN SERIES AT THE WADE CENTER:
February-March 2018

During the Lenten season this year, the Wade Center will host reflections on The Screwtape Letters: Wednesdays at noon in the Wade Center’s Bakke Auditorium beginning on February 21 and extending through March 28, 2018. These reflections will be led by David J. P. Hooker, Professor of Art and Art Department Chair at Wheaton College, and Elaine Hooker, Catalog Librarian of the Wade Center.

Since Lent has historically been a time of repentance for Christians, The Screwtape Letters offer an opportunity for readers to take a fresh look at the patterns of behavior in their own lives and consider places where change may be needed. Through the voice of Screwtape, Lewis presents our own brokenness to us so creatively that he enables us to see our lives from a new perspective.  Traditionally, Lent is also a time for slowing down, reflecting and re-focusing. Elaine Hooker will share information and artifacts related to this work taken from the collections of the Marion E. Wade Center, while David Hooker will share how this work has become a regular and beneficial part of his own spiritual practice over the last 10 years.

For more information, contact the Wade Center at 630.752.5908 or wade@wheaton.edu.

Announcing VII Volume 32

We are pleased to announce the release of VII Volume 32, the Wade Center’s annual journal. Beginning with this issue, the title of our publication has changed from Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review to VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center. (See the end of this post for more on the name change.) This volume of VII highlights influences on the Wade authors, particularly the importance of family, friendship, and career background. Crystal Hurd provides new insight and background information on C.S. Lewis’s relationship with his father, Albert Lewis. William Howard takes a closer look at the supportive friendship between George MacDonald and Lady Byron, the wife of poet Lord Byron. And Christine Fletcher examines Dorothy L. Sayers’s career in the advertising industry.

The relationship Albert Lewis had with his sons Warren (Warnie) and Clive (Jack) was complex, as is a common occurrence between parents and children. Albert’s good intentions as a father were sometimes misunderstood and often poked fun at by his two sons. In her profile on Albert Lewis, Crystal Hurd analyzes Albert’s motivations and the mid-Victorian tendencies that influenced his parenting. She explores several misunderstandings that caused Jack to have little affection for his father, including Albert’s choice of boarding school for Jack, his lack of visits during Jack’s wartime leave during WWI, and other father-son issues.

Warren, Albert, and C.S. Lewis, ca. 1908.

Warren, Albert, and C.S. Lewis, ca. 1908.

Hurd takes a look at a previously unpublished transcription of Albert’s sayings from the Wade’s C.S. Lewis manuscript collection (CSL / MS-94) as captured and caricatured by Warnie and Jack. The collection of sayings was titled The Pudaita Pie by the Lewis brothers, and refers to Albert’s “low” Irish pronunciation of the word “potato” (Kilby and Mead 8). It contains 100 personal and anecdotal comments gathered by both sons over the course of eight years along with an introduction by C.S. Lewis. The collection provides further insight into Albert’s personality, including his tendency to speak in confident statements on both trivial and significant matters:

33. Albert once pronounced that Birmingham was one of the most beautiful cities in England. However, when asked if he had ever visited, he replied he had not. (Paraphrase of statement inscribed by C.S. Lewis)

44. On hearing of any civil commotions, his usual comment was: “Aye! Well a whiff of grapeshot would soon settle that.” (Warren Lewis = inscriber)

In William Howard’s piece, he examines the origins of George MacDonald’s friendship with Lady Byron. His article relates MacDonald’s reaction to an account of the disintegration of the Byrons’ marriage presented to the press upon her death in 1860. Howard illuminates the touching nature of MacDonald’s friendship to Byron during a trying time. Howard also provides context into how Lady Byron’s other friends, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, reacted to the ending of the Byrons’ marriage.

Christine M. Fletcher guides us through Sayers’s advertising career and shows us how it influenced her ideas on creativity, good work, and the dangers of consumerism. This experience in the advertising industry was formative in the life of Dorothy L. Sayers. It not only helped provide financial support for the young writer, but it was also part of the world she created in her detective novels. (Dr. Fletcher’s talk given at the Wade Center in 2013 on “Theology in Wartime: Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis” is also available on our website.)

Volume 32 also includes other articles on Lewis, Williams, and the Inklings. Remembrances in the issue honor Dr. Barbara Reynolds, a founding editor of VII; David Gresham, C.S. Lewis’s stepson; David Neuhouser, founder of the Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends at Taylor University; and Bruce L. Edwards, a foremost Lewis scholar and a mentor to many.

VII also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wade Center with the poem specially written by poet Luci Shaw to commemorate this milestone in the life of the Wade. Several photos from the celebration on October 29 accompany the poem.

vii-newcoverThe longtime VII reader will also note the updated subtitle of the journal. As scholarship on the seven Wade authors has grown and deepened over the past half century, there has been increased interest in the works of these authors worldwide. When Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, and Dr. Beatrice Batson founded VII in 1980, the majority of work being done on these authors was coming from Great Britain and the United States. The desire at that time was to strengthen ties between these groups of scholars, hence the name VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review. However, now with an increasingly international readership in mind, the subtitle no longer applies; thus, as of this volume of VII, the name was changed to VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center in order to more adequately reflect the truly global readership and scholarship on these seven authors.

Please visit the VII website for more information about this volume and back issues. Note that beginning with Volume 31, VII is now available for purchase online.

Rates:
Individual (bought at Wade Center): $14.00 (plus tax)
Individual (shipped in U.S.): $18.00
Individual (shipped International): $29.00
Libraries (U.S.): $35
Libraries (International): $50

Works Cited:
Kilby, Clyde S., and Marjorie Lamp Mead. Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis. New York: Ballantine, 1988.

Sheldon Vanauken: His Story & Legacy, a post by Elaine Hooker

The Wade Center’s collection focuses exclusively on seven British authors; however, the depth of our collections is extensive and can include some remarkable related and contextual materials.

The Wade Center’s Sheldon Vanauken collection, although indirectly related to C.S. Lewis, preserves an important example of the personal influence of Lewis’s life and his writings. Sheldon Vanauken, one of C.S. Lewis’s many regular correspondents, exchanged approximately 24 letters with Lewis over a ten-year period between 1950 and 1960. Unbeknownst to the two men at the time, they would not only share a religious journey from nominal faith to atheism and back again to Christianity, but also the experience of caring for a spouse through illness and death and then grieving the loss as a widower.

VausbookAs historical resources, archives offer a unique “sneak peek” into various aspects of a person’s life. The Vanauken Collection contains typescripts and proofs of several works by Sheldon Vanauken (A Severe Mercy, Gateway to Heaven, and Under the Mercy) along with photographs of awards, photocopies of articles, reviews, and Vanauken’s review briefs and letter logs related to his literary work. Also included are biographical research materials on Vanauken from Will Vaus, author of Sheldon Vanauken: The Man Who Received “A Severe Mercy” (Hamden, CT: Winged Lion Press, 2012), which were incorporated into the Vanauken collection in Spring 2015 by Wade Center archival intern Lisa Krajecki. Two particularly unique items are a created facsimile of his wife Jean “Davy” Vanauken’s personal annotated King James Bible and one of her own watercolor paintings. Davy’s Bible is our “featured artifact” in this blog post, and its importance becomes evident once the story behind it is told.

Vanauken first wrote to Lewis in December 1950, during his “second look” at Christianity, having abandoned the faith of his childhood in the name of truth. Like Lewis, Vanauken had discarded the faith of his youth and become a “small, fierce atheist” (Encounter with Light, p.1). However, while a student at Oxford University, Vanauken decided he should revisit Christianity once more. During this time of questioning, he read Lewis’s books (among others), and wrote to Lewis with some of the theological questions that surfaced as a result of his reading:

  • Is faith a childish thing to be discarded when one matures intellectually?
  • Was the universe created by God, or did it just happen?
  • If God exists, can He be known intimately?
  • Is there proof that Christ was the Son of God?

Lewis recognized the deep questions of a serious searcher on a spiritual journey. He had, after all, been on such a journey himself. On December 23, 1950, at the close of only his second letter to Vanauken, Lewis writes:

“…I think you are already in the meshes of the net! The Holy Spirit is after you. I doubt if you’ll get away.”

Vanauken did eventually embrace Christianity as a result of a variety of factors including the influence of C.S. Lewis, and in particular the strong connection he shared with his wife Davy.

EncounterIt is interesting to note that the exchange of letters between Vanauken and Lewis were not unusual. C.S. Lewis conscientiously answered every letter he received. He viewed his correspondence as a devotional act and a Christian duty, and it grew into a task that occupied a great deal of his time and energy. The letters between the two and Vanauken’s own conversion story were first published in a booklet titled Encounter with Light by the Church of the Covenant, Vanauken’s church, in 1961. The story also appeared in a 1968 issue of His magazine (v.29, n.3, p.6-11), and two years later was published by the Wade Center; it is still available for purchase today. Vanauken later expanded the story of his journey to faith into chapter 4 of his autobiography A Severe Mercy, published in 1977 and winner of the National Book Award in 1980 in the religion/inspiration category.

A_SEVERE_MERCYA Severe Mercy expands the story begun in Encounter with Light, to include Vanauken’s relationship with his wife Davy, chronicling their intense love affair through their meeting, marriage, subsequent individual conversions to Christianity, and her eventual illness and death.

The love story of Davy and Van, as he was known to his friends, is an intense one. He describes them as being in love almost from their first meeting. After knowing each other ten months, they were secretly married and hoped to maintain their love in a perpetual springtime. They had intentions to share everything, keeping no secrets from each other. When they began to reexamine Christianity in Oxford, they both read the same books and discussed them with each other. However, Davy came to faith first. As Van describes it, she had a visceral experience of her own sin and guilt, and an emotional need for the absolution Christianity offered.

A few months later, on March 29, 1951, Vanauken declares that he wrote in his notebook:

“I choose to believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—in Christ, my lord and my God. Christianity has the ring, the feel, of unique truth. Of essential truth. By it, life is made full instead of empty, meaningful instead of meaningless…A choice was necessary: and there is no certainty. One can only choose a side. So I—I now choose my side: I choose beauty; I choose what I love. But choosing to believe is believing. It’s all I can do: choose.” (Encounter with Light, p. 23-24)

Three years later, Jean “Davy” Vanauken was diagnosed with terminal liver disease. She died six months after her diagnosis. Vanauken was left alone to reconcile his grief and his Christian faith. Vanauken’s correspondence with Lewis is part of how he processed this loss, very much like Lewis would later do in A Grief Observed.

Perhaps as Vanauken grieved, he also created the artifact now retained in this archive, the annotated King James Bible fashioned after the one belonging to Jean “Davy” Vanauken. Notes inside the Bible explain that Davy’s Bible was threadbare and falling apart, so this one was remade by transcribing her marks and notes from that volume to this. This Bible also contains a loose insert near the title page with passages from Matthew written on it, as well as several glued inserts. Click on the images below to enlarge them.

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The Bible Vanauken used to transcribe Davy’s annotations following her death.

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Title page of the Bible.

Bible001

Inscriptions in the Bible.

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Sample page showing the careful annotations in the Bible.

To learn more about Sheldon Vanauken and his life see the following materials in the Wade Center’s collections:

Books by Sheldon Vanauken:

  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Encounter With Light. Wheaton, Ill. : [s.n.], [1970; reprinted ca. 1978].
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. A Severe Mercy. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1977.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Gateway To Heaven. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1980.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy For The Southern Confederacy. Columbia, S.C. : Southron Press, 1985.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Mercies: Collected Poems. Front Royal, Va. : Christendom College Press, 1988.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon. Under The Mercy. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1985.

Books about Sheldon Vanauken:

  • Vaus, Will. Sheldon Vanauken: The Man Who Received “a Severe Mercy.” Hamden, CT : Winged Lion Press, 2012.

The Seven Literary Sages Christian History Issue: A closer look with Jennifer Woodruff Tait

ChristianHistory_2015The “Seven Literary Sages” Christian History issue 113 was released early in 2015 in honor of the Wade Center’s 50th anniversary, features the seven authors of the Wade Center, and highlights their continuing relevance to significant issues facing our world today. We have heard from many readers how much they enjoyed the issue, including  Dr. Leland Ryken, Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College, who comments: “This issue of Christian History is the best brief introduction to the Wade authors that exists. Its photographs are a feast to the eyes.  The accumulated information and insights are a treasure trove.”

Jennifer Woodruff Tait, managing editor of Christian History and Wade author enthusiast, graciously offers “Off the Shelf” readers some of her reflections on the “Seven Literary Sages” issue and its significance in her own life. Our thanks also go to Jennifer for the editorial expertise and creative work she contributed to make this issue such a success.


On November 22, 2013, C.S. Lewis was formally “installed” into Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, gaining a memorial stone there along with such luminaries of British literature as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Dickens, Austen, the Brontë sisters, T.S. Eliot, and W.H. Auden. The service was dignified; the organ thundered; the choir sang. I was there. My husband, kids, and I spent the days before the service joining fellow Lewis enthusiasts at a meeting of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, a tour of the Kilns (Lewis’s home, now a museum), and a symposium on Lewis’s works and worth.

On the way home, we visited Dublin, Ireland and attended the Sunday morning worship service at Trinity College. There I met a woman who became interested in our trip to the Lewis memorial. She obviously knew of Lewis’s status as a British author and had seen the movie Shadowlands. But she was puzzled by my being there on behalf of a Christian magazine. “Was Lewis particularly religious?” she asked.

And I wondered: Though Christians have valued his work for decades, how much did Lewis and his friends and mentors change the society around them? What legacy did they leave to the modern secular world?

That question was part of the reason I was in Oxford and London. I was covering the memorial celebration for issue 113 of Christian History magazine, which was dedicated to the seven authors whom the Wade Center collects. Released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Wade Center, we called the magazine “Seven Literary Sages: Why We Still Need Their Wisdom Today.” It told the story of how those “Seven Sages” took on secularists, materialists, and modernizers with their weapon of choice: the pen.

With the assistance of the Wade we assembled a lineup of knowledgeable scholars: Suzanne Bray, Matthew Dickerson, Crystal and David Downing, Colin Duriez, Brian Horne, Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Alister McGrath, Michael Ward, Ralph Wood, and Edwin Woodruff Tait. They explained to our readers in fresh and entertaining ways how the Seven Sages expressed a vision for society in areas ranging from economics to education to the environment; a vision for Christian literature in their powerfully moving treatments of goodness and self-sacrifice; and a vision for discipleship in their pictures of love in community. They also emphasized how millions read their books and by those books were inspired, by the help of God’s grace, to create art, practice goodness, and seek the truth. (I am one of them: from Prince Caspian to Lord of the Rings to Gaudy Night to The Greater Trumps to Orthodoxy, the logical arguments and poetic visions of the Seven Sages have enriched my Christian discipleship for decades.) And we were able to illustrate the entire issue with a range of gorgeous photographs, many from the Wade’s own collection.

The magazine has turned out to be one of our runaway best-sellers since Christian History returned to publication by Christian History Institute in 2010. It’s by far our most popular issue judging by the number of online readers as well as requests for print copies. I’m personally thrilled to have been part of introducing so many new readers to authors who, in many cases, I have known and loved since childhood. But, not wanting to neglect others who have known and loved these authors for years as well, I commend the issue to you. Read, marvel, and enjoy!


TaitJennifer Woodruff Tait (Ph.D., Duke University) is managing editor of Christian History magazine, managing editor of the Patheos Faith and Work Channel, a candidate for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, and author of The Poisoned Chalice and Histories of Us.  From 2004-2013 she was the recording secretary for the New York C.S. Lewis Society. She lives in Richmond, KY on an 8-acre farm with her husband (who proposed to her on the bridge in London where G.K. Chesterton proposed to Frances), her two daughters (both of whom love Narnia and Middle-earth), and her in-laws.