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.

New books for your Summer Reading List

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Summer is here! As we did last year with our summer reading ideas, we put together a few suggestions of some exciting new books for your summer reading list. This year there are an exceptional amount of new and innovative titles covering the works and lives of the Wade authors and those who knew them. For each title below, we list a summary of the book, its expected publication date, and several published titles on related subjects. We hope you find these suggestions engaging, and learn something new. Happy summer (and fall and winter) reading!


Inklings-ZaleskiTitle: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
Authors: Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski
Release date and Publisher: June 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Summary: A look into the lives and writings of members of the literary discussion and writing group, The Inklings. An impressive research effort with the final product just over 650 pages, this book is a great read for the invested reader who wants to look deeper into the realm of Inklings scholarship.
Other related works:
The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter
The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer


Inklings-DuriezTitle: The Oxford Inklings: Their Lives, Writings, Ideas, and Influence
Author: Colin Duriez
Release date and Publisher: March 2015 by Lion Hudson
Summary: Another contribution this year to Inklings studies, this title by British scholar Colin Duriez. This volume is shorter than the Zaleski work (less than 300 pages), and has less biographical information, focusing on the group itself and accessible for the more casual reader.
Other related works:
The Inklings Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Lives, Thought, and Writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and their Friends by Colin Duriez and David Porter
The Inklings of Oxford : C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their Friends by Harry Lee Poe, photography by James Veneman


BedeviledTitle: Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien and the Shadow of Evil
Author: Colin Duriez
Release date and Publisher: April 2015 by InterVarsity Press
Summary: Duriez explores how C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other Inklings identified modern warfare as a powerful image of the deeper battle between good and evil. He also considers the ways in which their own experiences in war shaped their writings.
Other related works:
Author talk of Duriez at the Wade Center from April 30, 2015
Tolkien and The Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth by John Garth
A Morning after War: C.S. Lewis and WWI by K.J. Gilchrist


CSL-poemsTitle: The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis: A Critical Edition
Author: C.S. Lewis, ed. Don W. King
Release date and Publisher: January 2015 by Kent State University Press
Summary: A new collection of Lewis’s poetry, including many previously unpublished poems, together in a single volume. Includes indices of titles and first lines.
Other related works:
C. S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse by Don W. King
– “‘Making the Poor Best of Dull Things’: C.S. Lewis as Poet”
by Don W. King in VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review Volume 12 (see also: volumes 22, 23, 29 for other articles by Don W. King)


a-naked-treeTitle: A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C.S. Lewis and Other Poems
Author: Joy Davidman, ed. Don W. King
Release date and Publisher: May 2015 by Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Summary: A collection of poetry by C.S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman, published for the first time. These poems come from the Joy Davidman Papers archival collection at the Wade Center. The Wade also owns all of the books authored by Davidman.
Other related works:
Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman ed. by Don W. King
– “Fire and Ice: C.S. Lewis and the Love Poetry of Joy Davidman and Ruth Pitter”
by Don W. King in VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review Volume 22 (see also: volumes 12, 23, 29 for other articles by Don W. King)


JoyTitle: Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis
Author: Abigail Santamaria
Release date and Publisher: August 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Summary: An in-depth, critical biography of the life of Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis. Santamaria has spent over a decade conducting comprehensive research on Joy, and this book will be a sizable contribution to the realms of both Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis scholarship.
Other related works:
A Love Observed: Joy Davidman’s Life & Marriage to C.S. Lewis by Lyle W. Dorsett


Lindop-editedTitle: Charles Williams: The Third Inkling
Author: Grevel Lindop
Release date and Publisher: December 2015 by Oxford University Press
Summary: Another in-depth biography, this one on the life of Charles Williams. Lindop has spent many years tracing biographical sources and this will be an indispensable volume for those wanting to understand the life of Charles Williams.
Other related works:
Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work by Alice Mary Hadfield
An Introduction to Charles Williams by Alice Mary Hadfield
To Michal from Serge: Letters from Charles Williams to His Wife, Florence, 1939-1945


PilgrimsRegressFinally, for another good summer read, if you haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the Wade Annotated Edition of C.S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress edited by David C. Downing, now is the perfect time!

April Artifact of the Month: C.S. Lewis’s copy of Phantastes by George MacDonald

The Wade Center owns over 2,400 volumes from the personal library of C.S. Lewis. Most of the books were acquired from Wroxton College in 1986, and others have been added from time to time from other donors or purchases. The books offer a unique look into the reading habits, imagination, and mind of Lewis himself, and many of them contain his handwritten notes and markings. Such annotations are a big research draw for Lewis scholars who are able to discern significant aspects of Lewis’s response to his reading; a valuable step beyond simply knowing which titles were on his shelf. Besides the markings, however, are the books themselves as physical artifacts. Observing the different bindings, seeing which ones are worn or barely touched, adds to the stories the volumes tell. In some cases Lewis mentions specific books in his writings, and it is always a thrill for Wade patrons to then hold that same referenced book in their hands.

C.S. Lewis's copy of Phantastes by George MacDonald. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman edition, undated)

C.S. Lewis’s copy of Phantastes by George MacDonald. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Everyman edition, undated)

One such example is Lewis’s copy of Phantastes written by another of the Wade’s authors, George MacDonald. Phantastes is a fantasy novel for adults which follows a young man, Anodos, on his journey of self discovery. In his preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology – 365 Readings, Lewis openly states the great influence of MacDonald’s works in his life: “I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” His introduction to MacDonald’s works began in 1916 when he picked up Phantastes at a train station bookstall while studying under the private tutelage of W.T. Kirkpatrick prior to his entrance to Oxford University. Lewis recalls the experience in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy:

“I and one porter had the long, timbered platform of Leatherhead station to ourselves. It was getting just dark enough for the smoke of an engine to glow red on the underside with the reflection of the furnace. The hills beyond the Dorking Valley were of a blue so intense as to be nearly violet and the sky was green with frost. My ears tingled with the cold. The glorious week end of reading was before me. Turning to the bookstall, I picked out an Everyman [edition] in a dirty jacket, Phantastes, a faerie Romance, George MacDonald. Then the train came in. I can still remember the voice of the porter calling out the village names, Saxon and sweet as a nut—‘Bookham, Effingham, Horsley train.’ That evening I began to read my new book.” — C.S. Lewis, chapter XI “Check,” Surprised by Joy

Lewis adds this further note in his MacDonald anthology preface: “I had looked at the volume on that bookstall and rejected it on a dozen previous occasions – the Everyman edition of Phantastes. A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.”

Spine of Phantastes by George MacDonald.

Spine of Phantastes by George MacDonald.

Throughout Surprised by Joy, Lewis recounts moments during his childhood and young adult years where he has encounters with what he calls “joy” or the German term “sehnsucht,” which includes a quality of longing or desire. Peter Schakel in his book Imagination and the Arts in C.S. Lewis offers the following as a way to better understand Lewis’s concept of joy:

“It is an experience of intense, even painful, but desired, longing, which, after [Lewis’s] conversion, he came to believe was a desire for unity with the divine (though intermediate objects are mistaken for the ultimate object). … [Joy] is imaginative in that it is often set in motion by literature or music, which are the products of the imagination; it involves being transported beyond the physical and emotional to a rapturous state that could take place only in the imagination at an inspired level.” (p. 8) — Schakel, Peter J. Imagination And The Arts In C. S. Lewis: Journeying To Narnia And Other Worlds. Columbia: University Of Missouri Press, 2002.

When he first read Phantastes, Lewis experienced joy or longing as had happened to him often before, but this time he noticed a difference in the quality of the encounter. He goes on to describe it in Surprised by Joy:

“I did not yet know (and I was long in learning) the name of the new quality, the bright shadow, that rested on the travels of Anodos [the main character in Phantastes]. I do now. It was Holiness. … Up till now each visitation of Joy had left the common world momentarily a desert … Even when real clouds or trees had been the material of the vision, they had been so only by reminding me of another world; and I did not like the return to ours. But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged. Or, more accurately, I saw the common things drawn into the bright shadow. … That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me, not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes.” — C.S. Lewis, chapter XI “Check,” Surprised by Joy

Although Lewis’s conversion to Christianity would not come until many years later, he cites this episode as a major step along the way, and his future reading of MacDonald’s works continued to delight and inspire him.

The following photos are from the interior of the Phantastes volume described above. Visitors to the Wade Center are welcome to request this, and the other volumes from Lewis’s library, for on-site viewing and personal study.

Endpapers

The endpapers of Phantastes. The Everyman edition series aimed to produce beautiful printings of classic books at modest and affordable prices.

Title page of Phantastes

Title page of Phantastes

Half-title page

The half-title page of Phantastes. An ownership signature in the upper right corner suggests the book was owned by someone before Lewis. The book itself carries no other notes or annotations, but it is worn and obviously has been read numerous times.

March Artifact of the Month: Correspondence between Clyde Kilby, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

Today the Wade Center holds an abundance of resources, but the collection’s beginnings were modest and its future acquisitions rested on some key connections established by founder Clyde S. Kilby. Two of these relationships were with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The correspondence they shared with Kilby remains at the heart of the Wade Center’s materials and represents some of our earliest accessions. The March “Artifact of the Month” highlights these two letter collections, and continues the celebration of the Wade’s 50th Anniversary year with a look back at these remarkable documents and the relationships they illustrate.

KILBY AND LEWIS

Clyde S. Kilby first encountered the work of C.S. Lewis around 1943 in a book titled The Case for Christianity, which contained content from some of Lewis’s BBC Radio talks later brought together under the title Mere Christianity in 1952. Kilby reflects in his personal history of the Wade Center on that first reading: “I bought the book and read it right through feeling almost from the first sentence that something profound had touched my mind and heart.” After reading more books by Lewis and becoming greatly interested in them, Kilby decided to write to Lewis on December 17, 1952 asking if he could schedule a visit with him during his upcoming trip to England in the summer of 1953. Lewis accepted Kilby’s request, and they met at Lewis’s rooms in Magdalen College, Oxford on July 1, 1953.

Envelope from Lewis to Kilby, sent February 11, 1957.

The memorable visit with Lewis is recalled by Dr. Kilby in Wheaton College’s Kodon magazine (December 1953, Vol. VIII, pp. 11, 28, 30). They discussed sixteenth-century literature, the Renaissance, and the relation of Christianity and art, which was, in Kilby’s words: “one of the main questions I wished to ask Mr. Lewis.” When asked if Lewis had any plans to visit America, he said he had no intention of doing so until his retirement (Lewis never did visit the United States). Kilby summarizes his time with Lewis at the end of the article by saying: “in all his talk there is an incipient good humor and genuineness that makes a conversation with him a real pleasure.” (28, 30)

Kilby continued his conversation with Lewis through a series of letters between 1953 and 1962. These fourteen letters, and Kilby’s article, are available for viewing in the Wade Center Reading Room; they include a discussion, amongst other topics, of Lewis’s book Till We Have Faces; scripture; recommendations of reading material; and news of Joy’s health, Lewis’s wife who was battling cancer. One memorable quote from Lewis’s February 10, 1957 letter to Kilby begins:

Dear Professor Kilby — An author doesn’t necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else, so I give you my account of TWHF [Till We Have Faces] simply “for what it’s worth.” …

Intrigued yet? Visit the Wade Center to read more, or find the letter in volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis edited by Walter Hooper.

Following Lewis’s death in 1963, Kilby maintained a lively correspondence and friendship with Warren H. Lewis, C.S. Lewis’s brother, which lasted until Warren’s death in 1973. Warren willed a variety of materials to the Wade Center, including his own personal diaries, excerpts from which were later edited and published by Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead in the book Brothers and Friends.

KILBY AND TOLKIEN

Clyde Kilby’s first visit with Tolkien was late in the afternoon of September 1, 1964, on one of his many trips to England from 1953 to 1979. Kilby had read, and duly admired, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and was keen to try and meet its author. After receiving encouragement from Dr. Robert E. Havard, Tolkien’s personal physician and fellow member of the Inklings, Kilby walked up to Tolkien’s front door and received a warm and cordial greeting. They shared two enjoyable visits in 1964 before Kilby’s return to the United States.

Envelope from Tolkien to Kilby, sent December 3, 1967.

After this first meeting, a correspondence between the two professors began, with the first letter from Tolkien written on November 11, 1964, and the last written on March 8, 1973. The Wade Center has fourteen letters from Tolkien to Kilby, only a few of which have been partially published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

The correspondence covers a wide range of topics, including notes on Tolkien’s work; comments on Tolkien’s The Smith of Wootton Major manuscript; discussion on the health of Edith Tolkien, Tolkien’s wife; and one of the most exciting events of Kilby’s friendship with Tolkien: a visit in the summer of 1966 to assist in the writing of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Tolkien had worked for years on the content of what later became The Silmarillion, and Tolkien enthusiasts, including Kilby, eagerly anticipated its publication. The work required to get it into a publishable form was substantial, however, and Kilby knew of the difficulty of the task. In a letter dated November 19, 1965, Kilby wrote to Tolkien to offer him any assistance he could provide in helping to prepare The Silmarillion for publication. Among his applicable skills he states that he is “1) a good typist, 2) a bit of a literary critic … 3) an enthusiast for your writings.” Tolkien responds on December 18, 1965:

TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION by Clyde S. Kilby. Wheaton, IL: Shaw, 1976.

TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION by Clyde S. Kilby. Wheaton, IL: Shaw, 1976.

I was deeply touched by [your letter], indeed overwhelmed by your generosity in offering to sacrifice your precious time (and holiday) in helping me. … [Y]our offer under heads 2) and 3) are extremely attractive. … If I had the assistance of a scholar at once sympathetic and yet critical, such as yourself, I feel I might make some of it publishable.  It needs the actual presence of a friend and adviser at one’s side, which is just what you offer.

The experience with Tolkien over the summer of 1966 is recorded in Kilby’s book: Tolkien and the Silmarillion, which is available along with the Tolkien and Kilby letters in the Wade Center Reading Room. The Silmarillion was published in 1977 by Christopher Tolkien after his father’s death. The third chapter of Kilby’s book was removed before publication at Christopher’s request to avoid revealing too much of the subject matter from the then unpublished Silmarillion. Kilby had also made some factual errors in the chapter given that his source material was based on his memory of oral communication with Tolkien. The third chapter has since been published in its entirety in volume 19 (2002) of VII, the Wade Center’s journal.

These letter exchanges give a unique view into the early days of the Wade Center and the important personal connections established with the authors (and their family and friends) now collected, studied, and celebrated here. They are a wonderful reminder of the past as we look into the future. Come read and enjoy them yourself!