Clive Staples Lewis was one of the most incredible writers of our time. His works have an endurance that is seldom matched by any other. He is known for his wit, his prose, and his theology
, the last of which is the most interesting trait as he spent the beginning of his life a staunch atheist. It is this conversion to which many attribute the endurance and heart of his works.
He was born in Belfast on November 29, 1898 to Albert James Lewis (1863-1929) and Flora Augusta Hamilton Lewis (1862-1908). His only brother was Warren Hamilton Lewis, born on June 16, 1895. His mother, a staunch Christian, tried to influence Lewis' path at a young age. This influence, however, died with her on August 23, (her husband's birthday) and Lewis became subject primarily to the agnostic and atheistic views of his friends at Wynard School in England.
Following his days at Wynard, he attended one term at Campbell College of Belfast, but was forced to quit due to severe respiratory distress. It was later, while studying at Cherbourg School in Malvern, England that he renounced his Christian faith.
In April of 1914, Lewis became aquainted with Arthur Greeves. Also during this time he acquired his first grasp of linguistics-a field which he'd later reference in his Space Trilogy-under the tutelage of none other than W.T. Kirkpatrick. His scholarship thus far won him attendance at University College, Oxford, where he studied until his enlistment in the Army came through on September 25, 1917. It was in the trenches of World War I that Lewis was wounded and subsequently forced to return to England due to his injuries.
It was his reflection on the death of his roommate, Edward Courtnay Francis "Paddy" Moore, that became his first work published outside of school magazines. It first appeared in the February issue of Reveille and title "Death in Battle". It was also during this time that he began his studies at Oxford again in earnest. He attained a First in Honour Moderations (Greek and Latin Literature) in 1920, a First in Greats (Philosophy and Ancient History) in 1922, and a First in English in 1923.
It is interesting to note that in May, 1921 Lewis won Chancellor's English Essay Prize for his essay "Optimism", however, no copy of "Optimism" has been found as of this date.)
Lewis had his first experience teaching during the eight month absence of E.F. Carritt, for whom he substituted as Philosophy tutor from 1924 to 1925. His extensive experience later got him elected a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he taught for 29 years.
In 1929, after much introspection, Lewis made a life-changing decision, he became a theist. In his words, "In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed...." Yet another event that would change his life dramatically occurred on September 28, 1931. Following an extensive discussion on the topic the previous day with none other than J.R.R. Tolkien (a devout catholic) and Hugo Dyson, Lewis became a Christian on the motorcycle ride from his home to the Whipsnade Zoo.
"When we (Warnie and Lewis) set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did."
-Surprised by Joy
In 1933 "Jack" Lewis published "The Pilgrim's Regress : An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism". And, in the fall of that year Lewis convened his circle of friends that would come to be known as "The Inklings." For the next 16 years, on through 1949, they continued to meet in Jack's rooms at Magdalen College on Thursday evenings and, just before lunch on Mondays or Fridays, in a back room at "The Eagle and Child," a pub known to locals as "The Bird and Baby." Among the members were J.R.R. Tolkien, Warnie, Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams, Dr. Robert Havard, Owen Barfield, Neville Coghill, and others.
In the 1941 volume of The Guardian, Lewis published the 31 "Screwtape Letters." This was a piece of fiction chronicling the correspondence between two demons, by the names of Screwtape and Wormwood which ran from May 2 until November 28. In August of the same year, he gave four live radio talks over the BBC on Wednesday evenings from 7:45 to 8:00. An additional 15-minute session, answering questions received in the mail, was broadcast on September 6. These talks were known as "Right and Wrong."
Between 1950 and 1956 Lewis published his most heralded Chronicles of Narnia. This seven book series won him wide regard throughout the literary field and are one of his most enduring works. It was also during this time that he met Joy Davidman. She, however, was struck with cancer and they did not marry until April 23, 1956, when a bedside wedding was performed to prevent her deportation and confirm her English citizenship. Though her death seemed imminent, she recovered partially in 1957, which allowed her to travel with her husband to Ireland as well as Greece. However, shortly after their return from Greece in 1960, Joy died of bone cancer on July 13. In 1961, Lewis published A Grief Observed, an account of his suffering following his wife's death, under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.
Lewis died one week before his 65th birthday on November 22, 1963. A day which for many is steeped in sadness as it was the same day that JFK was assassinated. C.S. Lewis was buried at Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, Oxford.
Throughout his later life Lewis was awarded a number of degrees and positions. Some honorary in nature, all deserved by character. This was a man who could speak to every man, his conversion from abject atheist to theist speaks incredibly of not only him, but the value of introspective and analysis. His life and writings have not only influenced my writing, but in fact the direction of my entire life. He was such a philosopher, indeed, such a great thinker of our time. This is evident both in his works themselves as well as in their diversity. His works span multiple genres and are all extremely well written. One of the chief things in his works, however, is the undertones and symbolism he uses. Even leaving faith out of it, the themes and symbols in his works are amazing from a literature standpoint. From the amazingly imaginative and witty discourse between two demons to the wanderings and discoveries of a philologist on another planet. This man is one of the greatest authors of all time and truly the greatest Christian author of all time.
His works are as follows, subdivided by genre:
Religion and Philosophy:
The Space Trilogy Science Fiction
The Chronicles of Narnia:
Literary History and Criticism:
Autobiography, Correspondence and Journals
Sources: www.cslewis.org, cslewis.drzeus.net