Lewis was no socialist–by the time he was entrenched into Oxford university life after the war, he called them “damn socialists”–but there is a moment in his letters as an 18 year old where we see the hint of social concern. Writing to his good friend, Arthur Greeves, he laments the conditions of the workers and how vastly different his lifestyle was from them. At this time, Lewis was well-off enough that they were concerned more about the availability of food during the war, than about the ability to pay for it. His letters are filled with luxury: buying beautiful books, reading, learning languages, taking long walks, skating in the afternoons. But in this little snippet we see a social reflection I haven’t seen yet in his letters.
“When you think of the way labourers in the factory live at home, – men & women slaving from half past five in the morning to six at night at hard, monotonous work in hideous rooms full of shrieking machinery year after year, with never a moment’s pleasure except when they are drunk (and you can’t blame them) it really does make you feel the whole thing is wrong. Aren’t you ashamed to think of us, blessed prigs, with our books and music and little grumbles about nothing, dawdling along (your office is absolute Paradise & idleness compared with their lives) while half or more than the people are slaves. As much slaves as ever there were in Rome, their only liberty being liberty to starve when the torture becomes unbearable.” (Feb 20, 1917 to Arthur Greeves)