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Christian History Home > 2005 > Issue 88 > C.S. Lewis: Did You Know?

C.S. Lewis: Did You Know?
Interesting and Unusual Facts about C. S. Lewis
Compiled by Robert Trexler and Jennifer Trafton | posted 10/01/2005 12:00AM

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A Jack of all genres

C. S. Lewis is probably the most well known, widely read, and often quoted Christian author of modern times. Between 1931 and 1962 he published 34 books. Posthumous collections added many more volumes, and the secondary studies of Lewis reach into the hundreds. The range of his talents included such varied categories as poetry (Dymer), allegorical novel (The Pilgrim's Regress), popular theology (Mere Christianity), educational philosophy (The Abolition of Man), space-travel fiction (The Ransom Trilogy), children's fairy tale (The Chronicles of Narnia), retold myth (Till We Have Faces), literary criticism (The Discarded Image), correspondence (Letters to Malcolm), and autobiography (Surprised by Joy). In spite of the variety of genres, Lewis's distinctive "voice" and continuity of thought permeated everything he wrote.

The Inklings

From the mid 1930s to the late 1940s, Lewis met with a group of literary friends every Tuesday and Thursday to share beer and conversation and to critique each other's work. "The Inklings," as they called themselves, included J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Lewis's brother, Warnie. Warnie wrote in his diary, "We were no mutual admiration society. … To read to the Inklings was a formidable ordeal." Among the works-in-progress forged in the heat of friendly criticism were The Screwtape Letters, the Narnia books, and The Hobbit. "But for the encouragement of CSL," Tolkien told Clyde Kilby in 1965, "I do not think that I should ever have completed or offered for publication The Lord of the Rings." (See Issue 78: J. R. R. Tolkien.)

A mind set on higher things

Lewis's close friend Owen Barfield, to whom he dedicated his book The Allegory of Love, was also his lawyer. Lewis asked Barfield to establish a charitable trust ("The Agape Fund") with his book earnings. It is estimated that 90 percent of Lewis's income went to charity. This generosity occurred despite the fact that, according to George Sayer, Lewis inherited his father's "fear of being bankrupt" and both father and son were "inept in the investment of money."

Lewis's gardener, Fred Paxford (who was his model for the character Puddleglum in The Silver Chair), discovered during the reading of Lewis's will that he was bequeathed only 100 pounds. Paxford remarked, "Werl, it won't take me far, wull it?" Then he graciously added, "Mr. Jack, 'e never 'ad no idea of money. 'Is mind was always set on 'igher things."

No celebrity tell-all

Lewis wrote Surprised by Joy (1955) partly to explain the influences of his childhood on his writings and conversion. His personal physician and fellow Inkling Robert E. Havard said the book should have been called "Suppressed by Jack" because of all the things Lewis did not discuss about his life.

Just call me Smallpigiebotham

Lewis had a fondness for nicknames. He and his brother, Warnie, called each other "Smallpigiebotham" (SPB) and "Archpigiebotham" (APB), inspired by their childhood nurse's threat to smack their "piggybottoms." Even after Lewis's death, Warnie still referred to him as "my beloved SPB." They called their father Albert "Pudaitabird" because of his Irish pronunciation of "potato." Tolkien was "Tollers," Mrs. Moore was "Minto," and Lewis's physician Robert E. Havard was usually "Humphrey" but occasionally "the Useless Quack" or "U. Q." Lewis dubbed his walking companion A. C. Harwood "the Lord of the Walks."

The budding novelist

As children growing up in Belfast, Ireland, Lewis and Warnie spent frequent rainy days indoors making up stories. "Jacks" or "Jack," as he named himself at age three, drew pictures to illustrate his stories about talking animals, which borrowed ideas from Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Graham, and stories of heroic knights. His stories became a part of his brother's larger imaginary world of "Boxen." The characters' dialogue often reflected the adult conversations Jack and Warnie overheard—usually about politics.

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