C.S. Lewis's Joy in Marriage
McGrath acknowledges that he never contacted Gresham to ask him to clarify or expand on his words. Indeed, he avoided talking to anyone who knew Lewis, in the interest of trying to achieve "critical distance" from his subject. But according to Gresham himself, all McGrath managed to achieve in this case was inaccuracy.
McGrath also claims, "Davidman's intention to seduce Lewis is confirmed by…forty-five sonnets, written by Davidman for Lewis over the period 1951-1954…. These sonnets deal with Davidman's intentions of returning to England after her initial meeting with Lewis and forging a closer relationship with him."
It's hard to believe that a scholar of McGrath's caliber would take poetry as confirmation of anyone's intentions about anything. Creative writing is for expressing feeling, not hatching a battle plan. One might just as well say that Lewis's Narnia books confirmed his intention to go hunting through his wardrobe for an alternate universe.
But even supposing that we could take Joy's poems as the confirmation McGrath says they are, "forging a closer relationship" is not the same thing as seducing. In fact, McGrath's frequent use of that word is disturbing. It's true that he didn't originate it, but picked it up from the Observer article. But he repeats it to the point where one begins to wonder exactly what his intentions are.
The echo of a troubling stereotype sounds throughout these passages: the well-intentioned but naïve man pounced on by the predatory woman. McGrath goes so far as to say, "In reality, Lewis had become—to put it bluntly, yet accurately—'an American divorcée's sugar daddy.'" The original quote is from Alan Jacobs of Baylor University.
To reduce Lewis and Joy's mature and complex relationship to this is to treat them both, especially Joy, with deep unfairness. For one thing, the word seduce bears the connotation of sexual sin, and there is absolutely no evidence that these two committed Christians engaged in such a sin. (Previous Lewis biographer A. N. Wilson claimed that Douglas Gresham had said they did, but his claim was debunked.)
Also, as McGrath admits, Joy was an intellectual giant in her own right—she had written novels and theological works as well as award-winning poetry—and a great help with Lewis's own writing. Theirs was a relationship of equals. And many readers have observed that their marriage brought him a greater understanding of and sensitivity to women, noticeable in such books as The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces. Could the hardened gold-digger that McGrath portrays really have had such an effect on this wise and devout Christian man?
Finally, though Joy did accept financial support from Lewis before their marriage, her own letters show that she did it only because Bill Gresham was perpetually behind on child support, and she and the children were nearly destitute. Her letters also mention that she earned money as a typesetter while in England, despite McGrath's contention that as a resident alien, she was not allowed to earn anything.