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The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2 by C. S. Lewis
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C. S. Lewis was a prolific letter writer, and his personal correspondence reveals much of his private life, reflections, friendships, and the progress of his thought. This second of a three-volume collection contains the letters Lewis wrote after his conversion to Christianity, as he began a lifetime of serious writing. Lewis corresponded with many of the twentieth century's major literary figures, including J. R. R. Tolkien and Dorothy Sayers. Here we encounter a surge of letters in response to a new audience of laypeople who wrote to him after the great success of his BBC radio broadcasts during World War II -- talks that would ultimately become his masterwork, Mere Christianity.

Volume II begins with C. S. Lewis writing his first major work of literary history, The Allegory of Love, which established him as a scholar with imaginative power. These letters trace his creative journey and recount his new circle of friends, "The Inklings," who meet regularly to share their writing. Tolkien reads aloud chapters of his unfinished The Lord of the Rings, while Lewis shares portions of his first novel, Out of the Silent Planet. Lewis's weekly letters to his brother, Warnie, away serving in the army during World War II, lead him to begin writing his first spiritual work, The Problem of Pain.

After the serialization of The Screwtape Letters, the director of religious broadcasting at the BBC approached Lewis and the "Mere Christianity" talks were born. With his new broadcasting career, Lewis was inundated with letters from all over the world. His faithful, thoughtful responses to numerous questions reveal the clarity and wisdom of his theological and intellectual beliefs.

Volume II includes Lewis's correspondence with great writers such as Owen Barfield, Arthur C. Clarke, Sheldon Vanauken, and Dom Bede Griffiths. The letters address many of Lewis's interests -- theology, literary criticism, poetry, fantasy, and children's stories -- as well as reveal his relation ships with close friends and family. But what is apparent throughout this volume is how this quiet bachelor professor in England touched the lives of many through an amazing discipline of personal correspondence. Walter Hooper's insightful notes and compre hensive biographical appendix of the correspon dents make this an irreplaceable reference for those curious about the life and work of one of the most creative minds of the modern era.

HarperCollins; July 2009
1152 pages; ISBN 9780061947216
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2
Author: C. S. Lewis

Chapter One

To His Brother (W):

[Magdalen College]
Oct. 24th 1931

My dear W --

Your letter from Gibraltar has arrived and my reading aloud of as much as was suitable to the female capacity had something of the airof an event in the household. As you say it seems long ago to our dayat Whipsnade and so many things have since followed it into the pastthat I must write history and get you up to date before I can talk.

By a stroke of bad luck for you Mr. Thomas rang up and invitedyou and me to tea the day after you had left. His wife was there at the meal but he took me into his study afterwards and we had quite a long talk. He is, I think, a little shy, or at any rate in a first meeting seemed to be feeling his way with me. He is a moderate conservative, an enemy of the wireless, has travelled a good deal, encourages us 'not to stand any nonsense' from the fox-hunters, was bred in Surrey, approves strongly of our afforestation programme, and knows his Foord Kelsie.

I ventured to remark that I noticed how a sermon preached in hisChurch had reached the honours of print in the Oxford Times. 'The old rascal!' said Thomas, bursting into laughter. 'Do you know the history of that? The Wednesday after he preached it, he met me and asked me if there had been a reporter in the Church, for somehow orthe other they had got hold of his sermon. So I taxed him with it. 'You sent it to the papers,' I said; and then he owned up. The old rascal -- the old rascal!'

He also gave me the final stages of the footpath quarrel, in whichwe have practically got our point: at least a route v. nearly the same asthe original path has been conceded.4 Apparently old Snow ended, ashe had begun, by being the hero of the story. Thomas asked for writtenstatements from as many parishioners as he could get hold of, andSnow produced one the length of your arm -- a marvellous and highlyautobiographical document which Thomas forwarded to the committeeof the Town Council as likely to move anyone who had a sense ofhumour. But it was embarrassing when the case came into court andThomas, going down to give evidence, found that old Snow had preparedthe second and much longer statement which he proposed toread to the Magistrates from the spectators gallery during the hearingof the case: and since the old man thought that he could give a goodaccount of himself if the police attacked him, Thomas had great difficulty in persuading him that he would be removed if he spoke or thatthe probability of removal was any reason for not at any rate beginningto read his statement. By the bye, the doury old man who made thespeech about women and children turns out to be our local memberof the Town Council, in fact one of the enemy: so that Snow's instinct('I want him stopped') guided him very well.

The next important event since you left is that Maureen has beenoffered and accepted a residential job in a school at Monmouth -- achoice of time in which again you might have been more fortunate. Ididn't know whether to approve or disapprove. Minto was in favourof it, and I only held back by the greater solitude she would be exposedto. Now that it is all settled, Minto, as I foresaw, fears the lonelinessand is a little depressed about the whole thing. One must hope that the actual freedom from the innumerable extra jobs and endless bickeringswh. Maureen's presence occasions will make up in fact for anyfeeling of 'missing' her.

In public works I have made tolerable headway. As soon as I beganto choose a site for my first tree in this autumn's programme, it occurredto me that even if uprooting of all the elders were impracticable, still,there was no reason why each tree should not replace an elder insteadof merely supplementing it. The job of digging out a complete elderroot proved much easier than I had expected, and does not take muchlonger than digging an ordinary hole -- the extra time you spend onextraction being compensated for by the fact that when once you havegot the root out you find little solid digging left to be done. Unfortunatelysome of the places I chose as sites for the trees did not containelder stumps, and many elders are in spots where one could hardlyhope to make a new tree grow. However of the four tree holes whichI have dug in the wood three are vice elders cashiered. When I cameto the problem of afforestation outside the wood I was held up by thenecessity of doing a good deal of mowing. I have now scythed a wideopen space round the western clump (i.e. the clump containing the illfated beech) and a more or less continuous strip along past the Waspsnest to where I rejoined my summer's mowing. General October hasproved a complete failure and last week while I was at work near theenemy lines vedettes seemed to be out and as twilight drew on ridersor working parties were constantly passing me on their homewardjourney.

Talking of beeches, Snow (you remember, the Magdalen botanist)tells me that beeches will never grow well on a soil of clay and sand:chalk is what they want. I am inclined (if you agree) after one moretrial to give up the effort to grow beeches, as Snow certainly knows hisstuff: and you remember Johnson 'Nay Sir, never grow things simplyto show that you cannot grow them.'