Celebrating C.S. Lewis
"Enough had been thought, and said, and felt, and imagined. It was about time that something should be done." - C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)
Pepperdine Libraries commemorates the birth and lasting literary and theological legacy of renowned British author and theologian Clive Staples Lewis, born November 29, 1898.
Born in Belfast and baptized in the Church of Ireland, C.S. Lewis attended preparatory schools in England before entering Malvern College on scholarship in 1913, where he developed an interest in Celtic and Norse literature. In 1916 during the First World War, Lewis received a scholarship to University College Oxford, and upon arrival, applied to join the Officers' Training Corps in order to be commissioned as an officer. Lewis was wounded in battle in April 1918.
After the war, Lewis earned a "Triple First" at Oxford, receiving First Class Honours in Classical Moderations in 1920, literae humaniores in 1922, and English Language and Literature in 1923. In 1925, he was elected a tutor of Magdalen College Oxford, making the acquaintances of colleagues such as philosopher J.A. Smith, theologian Clement Charles Julian Webb, and grammarian Charles Talbut Onions. In the 1930s, Lewis held weekly meetings with J.R.R. Tolkien and friends as part of his group, the "Inklings".
In 1929, Lewis underwent a religious transformation in which he rediscovered his faith, eventually converting from agnosticism to Christianity. He allegorically detailed his experience in his work The Pilgrim's Regress (1933). Writing later in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis stated, "You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms."
By the 1940s, Lewis was featured heavily as a speaker and lecturer. Literary scholar Jonathan D. Evans wrote, "His emergence from a successful but nonetheless relatively obscure academic career into the limelight of popular acclaim was the result largely of four series of programs broadcast by the BBC in 1941 and 1942 in which Lewis responded to the invitation of James W. Welch to give "a series of talks on something like 'The Christian Faith As I See It-By A Layman.'"" Lewis went on to complete two major works on Christianity, The Screwtape Letters in 1942, and Mere Christianity in 1952. In 1942 at Oxford, he founded the Socratic Club, a Christian discussion group.
The Chronicles of Narnia, seven works of fantasy published between 1950 and 1956, are among his most famous and influential works. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Lewis wanted these books to answer the question: 'What might Christ be like if there really were a world like Narnia and he chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as he actually has done in ours?'"
Pepperdine Libraries holds several works by or about C.S. Lewis in both print and ebook formats, including:
- Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
- The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism
- Mere Christianity
- The Screwtape Letters
- Miracles: A Preliminary Study
- Chronicles of Narnia
- Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal
Further reading & works cited
Bosky, Bernadette Lynn. "C(live) S(taples) Lewis." In British Fantasy and Science-Fiction
Writers, 1918-1960, edited by Darren Harris-Fain. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 255. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2002. Gale Literature Resource Center (accessed November 23, 2021).
C.S. Lewis. "The Question of God. Surprised by Joy | PBS." Accessed November 23, 2021. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/questionofgod/ownwords/joy.html.
erinhorakova. "C.S. Lewis in the Great War." Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers in the Great War (blog), March 13, 2014. https://fantastic-writers-and-the-great-war.com/war-experiences/c-s-lewis/.
Evans, Jonathan D. "C(live) S(taples) Lewis." In Modern British Essayists: Second Series, edited by Robert Lawrence Beum. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 100. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1990. Gale Literature Resource Center (accessed November 23, 2021). https://go-gale-com.lib.pepperdine.edu/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&u=pepp12906&id=GALE|H1200006245&v=2.1&it=r&sid=bookmark-LitRC&asid=b44597b5.
Gehring, Michael J., and William J. Abraham. "C. S. Lewis: An Unusual Evangelist." In The Oxbridge Evangelist, 1st ed., 1–35. Motivations, Practices, and Legacy of C.S. Lewis. The Lutterworth Press, 2017. https://www-jstor-org.lib.pepperdine.edu/stable/j.ctvj4sx2v.
"Lewis, Clive Staples (1898–1963), Writer and Scholar | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography." Accessed November 23, 2021. https://www-oxforddnb-com.lib.pepperdine.edu/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-34512.
McGrath, Alister. "An Unknown Photograph of C. S. Lewis - Keble College." Keble College. Accessed November 23, 2021. https://heritage.keble.ox.ac.uk/history-features/an-unknown-photograph-of-c-s-lewis/.