As I browsed eBay not long ago, I came across a 78 rpm recording of a lecture by C. S. Lewis. I assumed that it was a mistake or that the seller was trying to defraud an unwitting public. I knew Lewis well enough to know that he had never made a 78 rpm recording for general distribution, much less one produced by something called the Joint Broadcasting Committee. I also knew that Lewis never delivered a lecture on the subject “The Norse Spirit in English Literature.” At least, I knew we had no evidence of such a lecture. Fortunately, curiosity got the better of me, and I bought the record from the dealer in Iceland.
Over the years, I have assembled a significant collection of items related to C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and their literary friends. I regularly mount exhibitions for universities and major municipal libraries to spur interest in the Inklings, especially when the secular market is all abuzz when a new Lewis or Tolkien movie is released. At one time, collecting letters, manuscripts, first editions, and other artifacts and ephemera was a slow process that depended upon visiting faraway places with strange sounding names. But all of that changed with e-commerce, which led to this unusual recording being in my possession.
And what an unusual find it turned out to be. I discovered some things about a secret episode in Lewis’s life that few, if any, people knew about.
In His Majesty’s Secret Service
How Lewis came to be recruited and by whom remains a secret. The records of the Secret Intelligence Service, known popularly as MI6, remain closed. Perhaps one of his former pupils at Oxford recommended him for his mission. It was an unusual mission for which few people were suited. J. R. R. Tolkien ...1