Allison's Book Bag

Musings Meme: Current Read #22

Posted on: December 24, 2014

MusingMondaysWhat are you reading right now?
What do you think of it?
Why did you chose it?

I’ve checked out C.S. Lewis Letters to Children from the library so many times that I finally put it on my wish list. Edited by Lyle Dorset and Marjorie Mead, it contains a forward by Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham, a short biography, and about one hundred pages of select letters written by Lewis to children. With the exception of correspondence exchanged with his godchild Sarah, Lewis primarily wrote to adult readers until the first of his Narnia books. The first of the Narnia books appeared in 1950. From that time until his death in 1963, Lewis also wrote an abundance of letters to children.

CSLewisFrom the biography, I learned that Lewis was born in Ireland. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a mathematician. He had one brother. There are several amusing anecdotes shared, which revealed unexpected sides to Lewis’ personality, such as in his fourth year he declared his name to be Jack. Lewis was so determined about this change that he came to be known as Jack to his family and friends for the rest of his life. Otherwise, many of the details are those which I knew from more extensive biographies. For example, Lewis hated boarding school, loved nature, and along with his brother created an imaginary country which is viewed as the inspiration to Narnia. His father was reserved and not a great source of support. Also, his mom’s death in 1908 impacted him for the rest of his life. Although I have read various accounts of Lewis, this is the first time I realized that Lewis died in his sixties.

The letters are first of all quite varied. The letters are often ones of praise for his Narnia books and requests of course for more of them, but also about special events, favorite books, health issues, and writing advice. What also struck me about the letters is how seriously Lewis treated children. While he often talked with them about lighter matters such as rabbits in the garden, he also inquired of them their opinions about his novels and about other creative ventures. One girl he complimented on the cards she sent and then asked how she obtained such a pure gold on them. Moreover, he responded quite openly to questions about morals and beliefs. For example, to his godchild, Lewis gave the advice there are only three things anyone ever need to do. Lewis also wrote about Holy Communion, angels, the spelling of Christmas, prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and Aslan.

From the letters, I also learned a few other tidbits about Lewis. A sampling is below. For the rest you’ll just have to check out your copy of C.S. Lewis Letters to Children!

  • Lewis described himself as tall, fat, bald, red-faced, double-chinned, black-haired with a deep voice and glasses to read.
  • The Lewis household took in many children who were evacuated from London during German air raids. Lewis later began The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe with an evacuation of the Pevensie children.
  • Lewis viewed himself as messy and unhandy. For that reason, he felt tempted to ink and create prints from a gift his godchild Sarah sent him.
  • He loved mice. There were lots in his room at college, but he never set up a trap.
  • He also loved horses. While he himself couldn’t ride them, he loved the sight and sound and smell and feel of them so much, he preferred them to cars.
  • The first of winter always excited Lewis. It makes him want adventures.
  • Lewis wrote the first three Narnia books without any ideas of sequels.
  • He didn’t view himself capable of writing poems or plays.
  • E. Nesbit influenced Lewis in how he wrote fantasy stories.
  • Till We Have Faces was the book of his which Lewis felt most proud.

On Friday, I’ll review Boxen by C.S. Lewis. During a time when influenza was ravaging many families, the Lewis brothers were forced to stay indoors and entertain themselves with books. Influenced by Beatrix Potter’s animals, C.S. Lewis wrote about Animal-Land, complete with details about its economics, politics/government, and history, as well as illustrations of buildings and characters. The world of Boxen was created when Jack’s stories about Animal-Land and Warren’s stories about India were brought together. The stories were published posthumously as Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C. S. Lewis. My dad gave me my copy this past year for my birthday and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts. Save the date: December 26!

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