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Lewis, C. S.

C. S. Lewis

Born: November 29, 1898
Belfast, Ireland
Died: November 24, 1963
Oxford, England

Irish writer, novelist, and essayist

The Irish novelist and essayist C. S. Lewis was best known for his essays on literature and his explanations of Christian teachings.

Early life and education

On November 29, 1898, Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland. He was the son of A. J. Lewis, a lawyer, and Flora August Hamilton Lewis, a mathematician (expert in mathematics), whose father was a minister. At four years old he told his parents that he wanted to be called "Jack" Lewis, and his family and friends referred to him that way for the rest of his life. Jack's best friend as a boy was his older brother Warren. They did everything together and even created their own made-up country, Boxen, going so far as to create many individual characters and a four-hundred-year history of the country.

Lewis's mother, who had tutored him in French and Latin, died when he was ten years old. After spending a year in studies at Malvern College, a boarding school in England, he continued his education privately under a tutor named W. T. Kirkpatrick, former headmaster (principal) of Lurgan College. During World War I (191418), which began as a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia but eventually involved much of Europe, Lewis served as a second lieutenant in the English army, interrupting his career as a scholar that he had begun in 1918 at University College, Oxford. Wounded in the war, he returned to Oxford, where he was appointed lecturer at University College in 1924. In 1925 he was appointed fellow (performing advanced study or research) and tutor at Magdalen College, England, where he gave lectures on English literature.

Published works

In 1926 Lewis's first publication, Dymer, appeared under the pseudonym (fake writing name) Clive Hamilton. Dymer revealed Lewis's gift for satire (a work of literature that makes fun of human vice or foolishness). The Pilgrims' Regress, an allegory (an expression of truths about human existence using symbols) published in 1933, presented an apology for Christianity. It was not until the appearance of his second allegorical work, The Allegory of Love (1936), however, that Lewis was honored with the coveted Hawthornden prize.

The Screwtape Letters (1942), for which Lewis is perhaps best known, is a satire in which the devil, here known as Screwtape, writes letters teaching his young nephew, Wormwood, how to tempt humans to sin. Lewis published seven religious allegories for children titled Chronicles of Narnia (1955). He also published several scholarly works on literature, including English Literature in the 16th Century (1954) and Experiment in Criticism (1961).

Although Lewis went on to publish several works involving religion, he had lost interest in it early in life and only later "converted" to Christianity, joining the Anglican Church. His autobiography (the story of his own life), Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, fails to explain what happened in his childhood. His headmaster in boarding school, a minister who urged him to "think" by hitting him, may have contributed to this change.

Later years

Lewis went on to become a professor of English at Cambridge University, England, in 1954. Widely read as an adult, his knowledge of literature made him much sought after for his company and conversation. Lewis thoroughly enjoyed sitting up into the late hours in college rooms talking about literature, poetry, and religion.

In 1956, rather late in life, Lewis married Joy Davidman Gresham, the daughter of a New York Jewish couple. She was a graduate of Hunter College and had previously been married twice. When her first husband suffered a heart attack, she turned to prayer. Reading the writings of Lewis, she began attending church. Later, led by his writings to Lewis himself, she divorced her second husband, Williams Gresham, and married Lewis. She died some three years before her husband. C. S. Lewis died at his home in Headington, Oxford, England, on November 24, 1963. A major collection of his works is held by Wheaton College in Illinois.

For More Information

Adey, Lionel. C. S. Lewis: Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1998.

Como, James T., ed. C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Reminiscences. New York: Macmillan, 1979.

Glaspey, Terry W. Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C. S. Lewis. Nashville: Cumberland House, 1996.

Lewis, C. S. Surprised by Joy; the Shape of My Early Life. London: G. Bles, 1955.

Walsh, Chad. The Literary Legacy of C. S. Lewis. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.

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Lewis, C. S.

C. S. Lewis: (Clive Staples Lewis), 1898–1963, English author, b. Belfast, Ireland. A fellow and tutor of English at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1954, C. S. Lewis was noted equally for his literary scholarship and for his intellectual and witty expositions of Christian tenets. Among his most important works are The Allegory of Love (1936), an analysis of the literary evolution of romantic love during the Middle Ages; The Screwtape Letters (1942, rev. ed. 1961), an ironic treatment of the theme of salvation; and a history of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954). He is also the author of Out of the Silent Planet (1938) and That Hideous Strength (1945), outer-planetary fantasies with deep Catholic and moral overtones; the "Chronicles of Narnia," a series of allegorical fantasies set in the mythical kingdom of Narnia, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) and The Silver Chair (1953); many works of literary criticism, including Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1966); and the autobiographical Surprised by Joy (1954). From 1954 until his death he was professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge.

See his Selected Literary Essays (1970) and Narrative Poems (1970), both ed. by W. Hooper; his letters, ed. by his brother W. H. Lewis (1966, repr. 1975); biographies by C. S. Kilby and D. Gilbert (1973), and R. L. Green and W. Hooper (1974); studies by P. G. Schakel, ed. (1977), W. Griffin (1986), C. N. Manlove (1987), L. W. Dorsett (1988), and G. B. Sayer (1988); R. MacSwain and M. Ward, ed., The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis (2010).

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Lewis, C. S.

Lewis, C. S. (1898–1963). Lewis was a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1954, and then took the chair of medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge until a few months before his death. He was attached to Magdalene College, but his spiritual and literal home remained Oxford and he went there most weekends. Lewis was born in Belfast, the son of a solicitor, was wounded in the First World War, attended University College, Oxford, as a classicist, but made his career in English literature. His most significant scholarly book was English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954). His influence with the wider public came from broadcasts during the war, from his Christian apologetics The Problem of Pain (1940) and The Screwtape Letters (1942), and from his heavily allegorical and highly successful Narnia books for children, beginning with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950).

J. A. Cannon

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Lewis, C.S.

Lewis, C.S. ( Clive Staples) (1898–1963) British critic and writer, b Northern Ireland. His scholarly works include The Allegory of Love (1936) and The Discarded Image (1964). He is best known, however, for the books on religious and moral themes written after his conversion to Christianity, particularly The Screwtape Letters (1942) and his autobiography Surprised by Joy (1955). He wrote a number of highly acclaimed children's books, including the seven ‘Narnia’ stories, beginning with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950).

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