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Jack in Retrospect: February 12th-18th

February 12, 2013

Retro Weekly 2-12Taking a look back at events in the life of Lewis this week yields a somewhat quieter time. That is, at least in the number of significant happenings. Specifically there are only five during this time-frame. So, in addition to them I’ll cover a couple of things that occurred that were not connected with a particular date.

The first that is noteworthy took place early in Lewis’s life. In 1908 a chain of events began this month that eventual led to a trauma that had a long-term impact. On the 15th Flora Lewis (his mother) had an operation at home to remove a cancerous growth. Lewis was not yet ten and before his next birthday he would be without his mother to whom he had been very close.

It’s no secret that Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends. While Lewis was a big help in encouraging Tolkien to write The Hobbit, something that happen this week in 1938 could be seen as him returning the favor. But, in reality it was just what friends naturally do for each other…they try to help them out when they can. It was on the 18th that Tolkien wrote to the company that published his book (Allen & Unwin) recommending they consider Lewis’s fictional work, Out of the Silent Planet. In the letter he told in addition to reading the book that it was shared in “our local club’ (The Inklings) and that the group enjoyed it. Sadly, despite the personal recommendation it was turned down (but was still published later that year and I’ll share about it in September).

The concluding part of the second radio series on the BBC was completed on the 15th in 1942. It was also the last chapter of the book Broadcast Talks (The Case for Christianity in the U.S.) before it became better known as part of Mere Christianity. In fact, the title of it, “The Practical Conclusion” was only given when it appeared in the latter book. Being the closing talk of the “What Christians Believe” series it is not surprising that Lewis makes an appeal to those not already believers to become one. But, he covers other ground before doing this, including an explanation of “three things that spread the Christ life to us.” In the midst of this he addressed the issue of believing something on “authority.” He notes that “a man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.”

The final two items both happened a couple of years apart on the 16th this week. In 1943, just barely over a year after being released in the U.K., The Screwtape Letters were published by Macmillan in the United States. I will not say anything more about this book because it was covered last week. The other event was the fifteenth installment of “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce.” This part is now available as the tenth chapter of The Great Divorce. In it a conversation is overheard of a female Ghost recounting her life with Robert, her husband, who is already in Heaven. She complains to a Spirit, named Hilda, about how she “had to drive him every step of the way” but that she “was doing it all for his sake” even if he constantly didn’t like what she did for/to him. Before fading away she pleads for a chance to be put in charge of Robert again so she can alter him more.

As noted, there were a couple of things during the month of February that didn’t happen on a particular date. Both of these are writings from Lewis. The first was “The Shoddy Lands,” a short story in 1956. It was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Only after his death was it available again in the collection The Dark Tower. In the story an Oxford tutor is surprised when a former student stops by with his fiancée, named Peggy. What follows seems almost like an episode of The Twilight Zone (which of course didn’t debut until three years later). The tutor, who is also the one telling the story, is suddenly taken away to another land where nearly everything is nondescript. The main exception is Peggy, who is actually the size of a giant.

The other piece was an essay published in a magazine simply called Show. Their February, 1963 edition had Lewis’s “Onward Christian Spacemen.” He wrote it in response to reports that Russian cosmonauts hadn’t found God in space. Lewis questioned the assumption that this meant God didn’t exist. He stated that one needed “the seeing eye” to find God in outer space or even here on earth. That phrase is now the title you will get when looking for the essay in Christian Reflections. Walter Hooper edited that volume and in it he states Lewis is known to have disliked the title given the piece and so Hooper felt justified in making the change.

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