Jack in Retrospect Monthly – March

The month of March in C.S. Lewis’s life includes two “firsts” and two “finals.” His first book ever published happen this month and the first book collection of essays also came out in March. As to finals, The Last Battle was released and the bulk of the last BBC radio series were completed during March.

Before reaching his 10th birthday Lewis had read the epic poem Paradise Lost. On March 5, 1908, he recorded this fact in his diary. Later in life he wrote A Preface to Paradise Lost that was based on a series of lectures he delivered. Another book that Lewis read this month for the first time in 1916 was Phantastes by George MacDonald. The impact MacDonald had on his life proved profound, so much so that Lewis claimed that MacDonald, “baptized his imagination.” Lewis paid tribute to MacDonald in many ways over the years, including editing a collection of quotations that came out on March, 18, 1946 entitled George MacDonald: An Anthology.

Perhaps the most significant event in Lewis’s personal life was his marriage to Joy Davidman on March 21, 1957. The Reverend Peter Bide performed the ceremony while Joy was in the hospital and near death. However, prior to the wedding he prayed for her recovery from cancer.

The Last Battle was released on March 19, 1956, just ten months after The Magician’s Nephew debuted (and in the same year that Till We Have Faces was published). The Last Battle won the Carnegie Medal in Literature and was the only one in the series that wasn’t dedicated to anyone. The themes in this book are easy enough to see, but on March 5, 1961 Lewis wrote a letter noting that the book was not only about “the end of the world, and the Last Judgement,” but also about “the coming of Antichrist (the Ape).”

The first book Lewis ever published occurred on March 20, 1919 under the name Clive Hamilton. Lewis, not yet 21, was not a Christian at the time. During this period in Lewis’s life he was wanting to be known as a poet, but this book did little in establishing that dream.

Rehabilitations and Other Essays, a collection of essays was released on March 23, 1939, and it is one of only a few Lewis books that is out of print. The essays dealt with English literature. A well known quote from the book states, “Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.” (“Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare,”)

The Four Loves was published on March 28, 1960, an outgrowth of radio addresses from 1958. The book expands greatly on the material presented in the broadcasts and includes two additional topics beyond the four words used for love.

Four of the seven BBC broadcasts from Beyond Personality aired during the month of March 1944. “Good Infection” was heard March 7, “The Obstinate Tin Solder,” March 14, “Let’s Pretend,” March 21,  and “Is Christianity Hard or Easy,” March 28.

Lewis had other opportunities to preach over the years in March. On March 29, 1942, he preached at the Evensong service at the Headington Quarry Church. Complete details about it haven’t survived, but at least part of the title was “Religion,” leading some to believe it could have been an early version of the essay “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” The other time we know Lewis preached was on March 31, 1946. “Miserable Offenders” was the sermon’s title, delivered at Evensong in his parish church, Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The following week he actually preached the same message at St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton.

Lewis also gave three public addresses (now essays) during the month.  On March 2, 1956, he gave the address at The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club Forty-ninth Annual Report. It was called “Memory of Sir Walter Scott,” but is simply known as “Sir Walter Scott” when reprinted in They Asked for a Paper. Also reprinted in the same book was the talk “The Literary Impact of the Authorized Version,” given on March 20, 1950. “The Personal Heresy in Poetics,”  a paper Lewis read on March 3, 1930 to a group known as the Martlets, eventually led to a debate with E. M. W. Tillyard published in 1939.

Six essays were published in March. Five of them are available in God in the Dock, and one,  “The Parthenon and the Optative” (March 11, 1944) in On Stories. The four others were:

  • March 15, 1940: “Dangers of National Repentance” in The Guardian warned that it’s better to repent of one’s sins than admitting guilt for your country’s actions.
  • March 19, 1943: “Dogma and the Universe,” and March 26, a second part called “Dogma and Science” in The Guardian. Each tackled the objection that Christian beliefs are unchanging while knowledge is in a state of continual growth.
  • March 24, 1963: “Must Our Image of God Go?” in The Observer served as a response to an Bishop John Robinson’s article, “Our Image of God Must Go” printed the week before.
  • March 29, 1941: “Bulverism” in Time and Tide under the section called, “Notes on the Way.” It was an earlier version of what was given also three years later at the Socratic Club

Finally, the release of five more installments of what eventually became The Great Divorce happen in March of 1945.

Part of a monthly series reflecting on the life of C.S. Lewis as it pertains to what occurred during the  month of March both in his lifetime and occasionally what pertains to his legacy since. A more detailed account is given each week at EssentialCSLewis.com.

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