Wednesday, 25 November 2015
The Letters of C. S. Lewis
I got out a load of books and biographies about C. S. Lewis for this week, two of which were compilations of all his letters. I was browsing through them, and found them so delightful and amusing and intriguing, that I thought I would do an entire post containing some of my favorite ones. Some are excerpts, some are full letters. Of course these are just a very very select few out of many... But I thought I'd share them because I enjoyed them immensely.
I'm going to do it chronologically. Jack would have been about 8 years old in 1906.
To his brother
My dear Warnie
I am sorrey that I did not write to you before. At present Boxen is slightly convulsed. The news has just reached her that King Bunny is a prisoner. The colonists (who are of course the war party) are in a bad way: they dare scarcely leave their houses because of the mobs. In Tararo the Prussians and Boxinians are at fearful odds against each other and the natives.
Such were the states of affairs recently, but the able general Quicksteppe is taking steps for the rescue of King Bunny. (the news somewhat pacified the rioters.)
My dear Warnie
Thank you very much for the post-cards I liked them, the herald was the nicest I think, dont you. Now that I have finished the play I am thinking of writeing a History of Mouse-land and I have even gon so far as to make up some of it, this is what I have made up.
Mouse-land had a very long stone-age during which time no great things tooke place it lasted from 55 BC to 1212 and then King Bublich 1 began to reign, he was not a good king but he fought gainest yellow land. Bub II his sun fought indai about the lantern act, died 1377 king Bunny came next.
Jack would have been 17 in 1915. The rest, from here out are mainly exerpts from larger, longer letters. I added the greeting, and closing in, but the part in quotations is just a small bit of the full letter.
To Arthur Greeves
[Gastons, 8 June 1915]
................ "On Saturday I met the prettiest girl I have ever seen in my life (don't be afraid, you're not going to have to listen to another love-affair). But it is not her prettiness I wanted to tell you about, but the fact that she is just like that grave movement in the Hungarian Rhapsody (or is it the 'dance'?) that I love so much. Of course to you I needn't explain how a person can be like a piece of music,- you will know: and if you play that record over, trying to turn the music into a person, you will know just how she looked and talked. Just 18, and off to do some ridiculous war-work, nursing or something like that at Dover of all places - what a shame!
By the way, that would be a rather interesting amusement, trying to find musical interpertations for all our friends. Thus Gordon is like the Pilgrims chorus from Tannhauser, Kelsie a bit like the Valkyries only not so loud, Gundred like the dance-movement in Danse Macabre, and Bob like a Salvation army hymn. We might add yourself as a mazurka by Chopin, wild, rather plaintful, and disjointed, and Lily like, well - a thing of Grieg's called 'The Watchmen's Song' that you haven't heard. I think I must write a book on it." .............
Here Jack was talking about a piano piece Arthur had played, and how expressively he had played it.
[Gastons, 24 July 1915]
............... " And for that reason, a piece, by you, if it were full of mistakes (tho' of course it wouldn't be) would be better than the same piece faultlessly played by - say, Hope Harding. This is a rare gift of yours: you should yet do great things with it: you are a fool if you don't cultivate it. Perhaps, because you paint and read as well as play, you realize the imagination of a composer's mind perfectly, and can always bring out to a sensible (in the old sense of the word) listener anything at all that there is in the notes. Of course, all this is the praise of an amateur: but the praise of an honest amateur who has a genuine, tho' non-techniqual taste for music, is worth something at least." ......
About Jane Austen's Persuasion. Jack would have been eighteen here.
[Gastons, 22 May 1916]
Monday. 10 o'clock.
My dear Arthur,
......"I am rather surprised at your remark about 'Persuasion', as it seemed to me very good - though not quite her usual manner. I mean it is more romantic and less humorous than the others, while the inevitable love interest, instead of being perfunctory as in 'Emma' and 'Mansfield Park' is the real point of the story. Of course I admit that's not quite the style we have learned to expect form Jane Austen, but still don't you think it is rather interesting to see and author trying his - or her - hand at something outside their own 'line of buisness'? "........
[Gastons, 14 June 1916]
My dear Arthur,
......." There, I'm talking about the weather! By the way I don't know if you ever noticed how topping it is to see a fire again suddenly in the middle of June: it is so homely and cozy and is like having a bit of the good old Winter back again. " ......
[Gastons, 20 June 1916]
My dear Arthur,
...." However, I told you I would proceed to serious measures, so here is my manifesto. I, Clive Staples Lewis, student, do hereby give notice that unless some literary composition of Arthur Greeves be in my possession on or before midnight on the last night of June in the year nineteen hundred and sixteen, I shall discontinue from that date forward, all communication to the said Arthur Greeves of every kind, manner, and description whatsoever, until such composition or compositions be forwarded. 'So there' as the children say. Now let us go on. ".....
Here Jack would have been 56 years old.
To Pauline Baynes
Dear Miss Baynes
I lunched with Bles yesterday to see the drawings of The Horse and feel I must write to tell you how very much we both enjoyed them. It is delightful to find (and not only for selfish reasons) that you do each book a little bit better than the last - it is nice to see an artist growing. (If only you cd. take 6 months off and devote them to anatomy, there's no limit to your possibilities).
Both the drawings of Lasaraleen in her litter were a rich feast of line & of fantastic-satiric imagination: my only regret was that we couldn't have both. Shasta among the tombs (in the new technique, wh. is lovely) was exactly what I wanted. The pictures of Rabadash hanging on the hook and just turning into an ass were the best comedy you've done yet. The Tisroc was superb: far beyond anything you were doing 5 years ago. K. Lune etc. - were, this time, really good. The crowds are beautiful, realistic yet also lovely wavy compositions: but your crowds always were. How did you do Tashbaan? We only got the full wealth by using a magnifying glass! The result is exactly right. Thanks enormously for all the intense work you have put into them all. And more power to your elbow: congratulations.
What are you and I and the firm going to do now that Bles is retiring? Shall we seek a Literary Agent or just go to whoever buys his business? I shd. be interested in your views.
I hope you'll have a nice 1954. I did acknowledge your v. beautiful card, didn't I? If not, I'm a Pig, for I thoroughly enjoyed it.
C. S. Lewis
To Joan Lancaster
May 7th 1954
Dear Joan Lancaster
Thanks for letter and pictures. I say, you are lucky to have armour: I would have loved it when I was a boy but it never came my way. The kind you have would be even better for Vikings etc. than for Arthurian knights.
As for doing more Narnian books than 7, isn't it better to stop when people are still asking for more than to go on till they are tired?
C. S. Lewis
......" I am so glad you like Till We Have Faces, because so few people do. It is my biggest 'flop' for years, and so of course I think it my best book. ".........
And so those are the excerpts that I choose. There were so many more though.. Agghh! I wish I could post all of them. :) I must mention, that Jack actually wrote a play/opera about Loki, Thor, Odin and the rest! (he was in his late teens then.) I read the outline for it, and it was really quite good. I like to imagine that he would be a Marvel fan to, if he was still around. ;)
Just as a disclaimer, all of the letters were taken from C. S. Lewis Collected Letters Volume 1. Family Letters 1905-1931 and The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis Volume III Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963 , both of which were edited by Walter Hooper.