Clive Staples Lewis was born November 29 in Belfast, N. Ireland, to Albert J. Lewis and Florence Augusta Hamilton Lewis. His brother Warren Hamilton Lewis was born on June 16, 1895.
The Lewis family moved to their home, “Little Lea,” on the Belfast outskirts.
Flora Hamilton Lewis died of cancer in August on Albert Lewis’ birthday. During this year Albert Lewis’ father and brother also died. In September Lewis was enrolled
at Wynyard School, Watford and referred to by C.S. Lewis as “Oldie’s School” or “Belsen”. His brother had entered in May 1905.
Lewis left “Belsen” in June and, in September, was enrolled as a boarding student at Campbell College, Belfast, one mile from “Little Lea,” where he remained til November, when he was withdrawn after developing respiratory difficulties.
Lewis was sent to Malvern, England, famous as a health resort, especially for those with respiratory problems. Lewis enrolled as a student at Cherbourg House (which he referred to as “Chartres”), a prep school close to Malvern where
Warnie was a student. Jack remained there until 1913. It was during
this time that he abandoned his childhood Christian faith. He entered Malvern College itself (which he dubbed “Wyvern”) in September 1913 and stayed until following June.
In April, Lewis met Arthur Greeves (1895-1966), of whom he said, in 1933, “After my brother, my
oldest and most intimate friend.” On September 19, Lewis commenced private study with W.T. Kirkpatrick, “The Great Knock,” in Great Bookham Surrey, with whom he was to remain until April 1917. William T. Kirkpatrick (1848-1921) was former Headmaster of Lurgan College, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, from 1874-99. Albert Lewis had attended Lurgan from 1877-79 and later was Kirkpatrick’s solicitor.
After Kilpatrick retired from Lurgan in 1899, he began taking private students and had already successfully prepared Lewis’ brother, Warnie,
for admission to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
In February, Lewis first read George MacDonald’s, Phantastes, which powerfully “baptized his imagination” and impressed him with a deep sense of the holy.
He made his first trip to Oxford in December to take a scholarship examination.
From April 26 until September, Lewis was a student at University College, Oxford. Upon the outbreak
of WWI, he enlisted in the British army and was billeted in Keble College, Oxford, for officer’s training. His roommate was Edward Courtnay
Francis “Paddy” Moore (1898-1918). Jack was commissioned
an officer in the 3rd Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, on September 25 and reached the front line in the Somme Valley in France on his
On April 15 Lewis was wounded
on Mount Berenchon during the Battle of Arras. He recuperated and
was returned to duty in October, being assigned to Ludgerhall, Andover,
England. He was discharged in December 1919. His former roommate and
friend, Paddy Moore, was killed in battle and buried in the field
just south of Peronne, France.
The February issue of Reveille
contained “Death in Battle,” Lewis’ first publication in
other than school magazines. The issue had poems by Robert Bridges,
Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, and Hilaire Belloc. From January
1919 until June 1924, he resumed his studies at University College,
Oxford, where he received a First in Honour Moderations (Greek and
Latin Literature) in 1920, a First in Greats (Philosophy and Ancient
History) in 1922, and a First in English in 1923. His tutors during
this time included A.B. Poynton for Honour Mods, E.F. Carritt for
Philosophy, F.P. Wilson and George Gordon in the English School, and
E.E. Wardale for Old English.
During the summer, Paddy Moore’s
mother, Mrs. Janie King Moore (1873-1951) and her daughter, Maureen,
moved to Oxford, renting a house in Headington Quarry. Lewis lived
with the Moores from June 1921 onward. In August 1930, they moved
to “Hillsboro,” Western Road, Headington. In October 1930,
Mrs. Moore, Jack, and Major Lewis purchased “The Kilns”
jointly, with title to the property being taken solely in the name
of Mrs. Moore with the two brothers holding rights of life tenancy.
Major Lewis retired from the military and joined them at “The
Kilns” in 1932.
W.T. Kirkpatrick died in March.
Lewis’ essay “Optimism” won the Chancellor’s English Essay
Prize in May. (No copy of “Optimism” has been found as of
From October 1924 until May 1925,
Lewis served as philosophy tutor at University College during E.F.
Carritt’s absence on study leave for the year in America.
On May 20, Lewis was elected
a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he served as tutor in
English Language and Literature for 29 years until leaving for Magdalene
College, Cambridge, in 1954.
Lewis became a theist: “In
the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God,
and knelt and prayed….” Albert Lewis died on September 24.
Lewis became a Christian: One
evening in September, Lewis had a long talk on Christianity with J.R.R.
Tolkien (a devout Roman Catholic) and Hugo Dyson. (The summary of
that discussion is recounted for Arthur Greeves in They Stand Together.)
That evening’s discussion was important in bringing about the following
day’s event that Lewis recorded in Surprised by Joy: “When we
[Warnie and Jack] set out [by motorcycle to the Whipsnade Zoo] I did
not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached
the zoo I did.”
The fall term marked the beginning
of Lewis’ convening of a circle of friends dubbed “The Inklings.”
For the next 16 years, on through 1949, they continued to meet in
Jack’s rooms at Magdalen College on Thursday evenings and, just before
lunch on Mondays or Fridays, in a back room at “The Eagle and
Child,” a pub known to locals as “The Bird and Baby.”
Members included J.R.R. Tolkien, Warnie, Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams,
Dr. Robert Havard, Owen Barfield, Weville Coghill and others. (See
Humphry Carpenters The Inklings for a full account of this special
At the suggestion of Prof. F.P.
Wilson, Lewis agreed to write the volume on 16th Century English Literature
for the Oxford History of English Literature series. Published in
1954, it became a classic.
Lewis received the Gollancz Memorial
Prize for Literature in recognition of The Allegory of Love (a study
in medieval tradition).
At the outbreak of World War
II in September, Charles Williams moved from London to Oxford with
the Oxford University Press to escape the threat of German bombardment.
He was thereafter a regular member of “The Inklings.”
From May 2 until November 28,
The Guardian published 31 “Screwtape Letters” in weekly
installments. Lewis was paid 2 pounds sterling for each letter and
gave the money to charity. In August, he gave four live radio talks
over the BBC on Wednesday evenings from 7:45 to 8:00. An additional
15-minute session, answering questions received in the mail, was broadcast
on September 6. These talks were known as “Right and Wrong.”
The first meeting of the “Socratic
Club” was held in Oxford on January 26. In January and February,
Lewis gave five live radio talks on Sunday evenings from 4:45 to 5:00,
on the subject “What Christians Believe.” On eight consecutive
Sundays, from September 20 to November 8 at 2:50 to 3:05 p.m., Lewis
gave a series of live radio talks known as “Christian Behavior.”
In February, at the University
of Durham, Lewis delivered the Riddell Memorial Lectures (Fifteenth
Series), a series of three lectures subsequently published as The
Abolition of Man.
On seven consecutive Tuesdays,
from February 22 to April 4 at 10:15 to 10:30 p.m., Lewis gave the
pre-recorded talks known as “Beyond Personality.” Taken
together, all of Lewis’ BBC radio broadcast talks were eventually
published under the title Mere Christianity. From November 10, 1944
to April 14, 1945, The Great Divorce was published in weekly installments
in The Guardian. (The Guardian was a religious newspaper that ceased
publication in 1951; it had no connection with the Manchester Guardian.)
Charles Williams, one of Lewis’
very closest of friends, died on May 15.
Lewis awarded honorary Doctor
of Divinity by the University of St. Andrews.
On February 2, Elizabeth Anscombe,
later Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge, read her “Reply to
Mr. C.S. Lewis’ Argument that ‘Naturalism is Self-refuting'”
to the Socratic Club; Anscombe’s argument caused Lewis to revise Chapter
3 of Miracles when it was reprinted by Fontana in 1960. Later in the
year, Lewis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Mrs. Moore died on January 12.
Since the previous April, she had been confined to a nursing home
in Oxford. She is buried in the yard of Holy Trinity Church in Headington
Quarry, Oxford. Lewis lost the election for the position of Professor
of Poetry at Oxford to C. Day Lewis. In December, he declined election
to the Order of the British Empire.
Lewis was awarded the honorary
degree of Doctor of Letters by Laval University, Quebec. In September,
he met Joy Davidman, fifteen years his junior (b. April 18, 1915 –
d. July 13, 1960), for the first time.
In June, Lewis accepted the Chair
of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. He gave his Inaugural
Lecture, “De Description Temporum,” on his 56th birthday
and gave his last tutorial at Oxford on December 3. His review of
Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring appeared in Time and Tide in
Lewis assumed his duties at Cambridge
in January. During his years at Cambridge, he lived at Magdalene College,
Cambridge, during the week in term and at The Kilns in Oxford on weekends
and during vacations. Lewis was elected an Honorary Fellow of Magdalen
College, Oxford, and was also elected a Fellow of the British Academy.
Lewis received the Carnegie Medal
in recognition of The Last Battle. On April 23, he entered into a
civil marriage with Joy Davidman at the Oxford Registry Office for
the purpose of conferring upon her the status of British citizenship
in order to prevent her threatened deportation by British migration
authorities. In December, a bedside marriage was performed in accordance
with the rites of the Church of England in Wingfield Hospital. Joy’s
death was thought to be imminent.
Throughout 1957, Joy had experienced
an extraordinary recovery from her near terminal bout with cancer.
In July of 1958, Jack and Joy went to Ireland for a 10-day holiday.
On August 19 and 20, he made tapes of ten talks on The Four Loves
in London. Lewis was elected an Honorary Fellow of University College,
Lewis was awarded the honorary
degree of Doctor of Literature by the University of Manchester.
Subsequent to learning of the
return of Joy’s cancer, Jack and Joy, together with Roger Lancelyn
Green and his wife, Joy, went to Greece from April 3 to April 14,
visiting Athens, Mycenae, Rhodes, Herakleon, and Knossos. There was
a one-day stop in Pisa on the return. Joy died on July 13 at the age
of 45, not long after their return from Greece.
Lewis died at 5:30 p.m. at The
Kilns, one week before his 65th birthday on Friday, November 22; the
same day on which President Kennedy was assassinated and Alduous Huxley
died. He had resigned his position at Cambridge during the summer
and was then elected an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
His grave is in the yard of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry,
Oxford. Warren Lewis died on Monday, April 9, 1973. Their names are
on a single stone bearing the inscription “Men must endure their
going hence.” Warnie had written, “…there was a Shakespearean
calendar hanging on the wall of the room where she [our mother] died,
and my father preserved for the rest of his life the leaf for that
day, with its quotation: ‘Men must endure their going hence’.”
–W.H. Lewis, “Memoir,” in Letters of C.S. Lewis)