What C. S. Lewis Sounded Like
During WWII, the BBC used twelve-inch metal disks coated with acetate for recordings. But because metal was in short supply, those disks were primarily reserved for field recording, so only one of Lewis's WWII talks was preserved. That talk, Beyond Personality: The New Men, was broadcast on March 21, 1944. A recording of it (along with a recording of an introduction to Lewis's book, The Great Divorce), are available on the BBC's website.
The BBC recording is clear, with a hint of scratchiness in the background that gives it a tone of authenticity, so that it sounds like a relic from World War II. Lewis's voice has warmth, despite the formality of his presentation, but it lacks the crispness of Anthony Hopkins or Joss Acklund, both of whom have portrayed Lewis. There's also none of the wise grandfather tone so evident in the narration of The Chronicles of Narnia.
In C. S. Lewis in a Time of War, Justin Phillips, a veteran BBC journalist, gives Lewis high marks. He writes:Â
Lewis had a rich, deep, booming voice. To the modern ear, it undoubtedly sounds well to do and 'plummy,' not unlike that of Trevor Howard in the film Brief Encounter, but deeper. It is a natural voice that commands your attention, but Lewis does not talk down to you or sound patronizing, even when he is explaining complex issues. He has the accent and timbre of a man of his age and his timebeautifully-spoken English in a somewhat upper-class voice in the vernacular of the 1940s. There is an elegant turn of phrase, a clarity of thought and logical structure that is always evident.
Lewis also recorded a series of talks for the Episcopal Radio and Television Foundation (now the Episcopal Media Center), which aired in the U.S. The talks still exist, and several clips can be heard on the fan site, Into the Wardrobe. The online clips of The Four Loves are cleaner and crisper than the BCC recording, likely because of advances in technology. Copies of The Four Loves as well as Beyond Personality talks can be ordered from Amazon.com and the Alliance for Christian Media.
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Also posted today is:
Mere Christianity Goes to War | Justin Phillips tells the story of C.S. Lewis's wartime radio broadcasts.
C.S. Lewis in a Time of War is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers.
Our full-coverage of C. S. Lewis, including our December 2005 cover story, is available on our website.