Spotlight On: C.S. Lewis

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is going to be another instalment of my “Spotlight On:…” series, which still remains my favourite blog post to write each month.

Today I’m going to write about the life and biography of C.S. Lewis. As I’ve been gradually making my way through The Chronicles of Narnia series (a re-read for me and something that I’ve not read since I was a child), I thought it would be interesting to look at his life a bit further.

As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:

1. A little bit about their life

2. Their works I have read

3. Their works I am yet to read

4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works

5. Quotes

6. An author biography recommendation

So without further ado…


A Little Bit About Their Life

Clive Staples Lewis was born on 29th November 1898 in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Flora August Hamilton Lewis and Albert J. Lewis. His father was a solicitor and his mother was a graduate of the Royal University of Ireland at a time when it was not common for women to earn degrees. C.S. Lewis and his old brother, Warren, were avid readers. C.S. Lewis began reading at the age of three years old and began writing stories at the age of five. Selections of those early stories were collected in Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C.S. Lewis (1985).

C.S. Lewis and his brother had most of their early education at home but then went on to attend English boarding schools. He was tutored by W.T. Kirkpatrick for the University of Oxford entrance exams and went on to win a scholarship in classics in 1916.

Before attending Oxford, he served in France with the Somerset Light Infantry in World War I and was sent home after a shrapnel injury. He chose to live as a surrogate son with Janie Moore, the mother of a friend of Lewis’ who was killed in the war. Lewis was also very successful at his studies in Oxford and achieved a double first Honours in Greek and Latin, including classical history and philosophy. He then stayed on for an additional first in English langauge and literature, completing his studies in one year instead of the usual three. He became a fellow and tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925 (which he held until 1954). From 1954 to 1963 he was a professor of medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge. It was during his time at Oxford University that he joined the group known as The Inklings, an informal collective of writers and intellectuals that including J.R.R. Tolkien. Here, C.S. Lewis found himself re-embracing Christianity after becoming disillusioned with his faith as a teenager.

Lewis aspired to become a poet when he was younger, but after his first publications did not receive much attention, he turned to academic writing and prose fiction. His first work was The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism (1933) which discusses how he re-found his faith. His first successful piece of work was Out of the Silent Planet (1938), a novel where C.S. Lewis wove Christian allusions and themes. Later, during WWII, Lewis gave highly popular radio broadcasts on Christianity which won many converts; his speeches were collected in the work Mere Christianity. Gradually, C.S. Lewis started to become more and more popular as an academic writer.

In 1950, Lewis published what was to become his most well-known book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He went on to write six additional stories, and the series came to be known as The Chronicles of Narnia. The books were hugely popular and there have been various adaptations of these books. The series focused on four siblings who, during wartime, walk through a wardrobe to enter the magical world of Narnia (full of magical creatures, an evil witch an talking lion called Aslan). Aslan has often been interpreted as Jesus Christ but Lewis would later assert that his stories of Narnia were not a direct allegory to the real world.

Lewis married Joy Davidman Greshman, an American woman who had become a Christian through reading Lewis’ books. The two began corresponding in 1950 while she was already married to writer William Gresham. In 1954, her and her husband, who had been unfaithful, were divorced and she lived in England and became a close friend of C.S. Lewis. They wed in a secret ceremony in April 1956 in order to give her the legal right to stay in England. Six months later she was diagnosed with advanced cancer. In March 1957, they were married by an Anglican priest who prayed for her good health. Her cancer went into remission and the two spent several years of happiness together until the cancer returned in 1960 and she died in July of that year. Under the name N.W. Clerk, Lewis published A Grief Observed (1961) where he talked about the grief process.

In the summer of 1963, Lewis retired from his post at Cambridge. He died on 22nd November 1963 in Oxford after experiencing heart problems.


Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet to Read

I have read (and am currently re-reading) The Chronicles of Narnia series. Though I have never read any of his other books, I would be quite interested to read them as I do find his interpretations of religion and his relationship with it quite interesting.


Great Film/TV Adaptations of Their Work

I do absolutely love The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe film adaptation from 2005. I also remember watching the TV adaptation of the same book from 1988 in school (the film is definitely better though!) I did enjoy the Prince Caspian (2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) adaptations too, but I don’t think they’re as good as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


Quotes

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”


A Biography Recommendation

If you want to learn more about C.S. Lewis’ life and his journey towards Christianity then I would recommend reading Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, as well as C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath.


Have you read any of C.S. Lewis’ books? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Zoë x

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