A couple of weeks ago I had announced the publication of a surprising draft of a preface to The Screwtape Letters. This “Handwritten Preface” is a “Cosmic Find,” since it shows us that Lewis thought about including Screwtape in the same fictional world as the Ransom Cycle, C.S. Lewis’ WWII-era science fiction project. I am working out some of the intriguing possibilities of rereading Ransom-Screwtape for a paper that will be submitted next year. You can read about it here and here.
For those that are interested in manuscript and publication history, as well as C.S. Lewis’ biography, it is also intriguing in that we now have new complications in the manuscript history of Screwtape. The Handwritten Preface is different in key ways from the Published Preface (see here) in the first edition. And we are missing the typescript and galley proofs of the Handwritten Preface: we do not know the process of publishing the preface and why Dr. Ransom was left out of the story. Was it the publisher or Lewis who made the change?
We may never know.
List of Manscripts
At this point, though, we can list the various manuscripts of The Screwtape Letters:
- The Berg MS: C.S. Lewis’s handwritten 31 letters on 93 leaves, sent to Sr. Penelope on Oct 9, 1941 and sold to the Berg Collection at the New York City Public Library. There are no additional copies of this manuscript elsewhere.
- The Neylan MS: a typed manuscript on 82 leaves with publisher’s notes, sent to Mary Neylan on Oct 20, 1941 and housed at the Wade Center in Wheaton, IL. You can read more about Neylan here.
- The Handwritten Preface MS: the handwritten preface on small pieces of paper, included in the Neylan MS and published in Notes & Queries in 2013.
- Bles Galley Proofs: Lewis’s letter to Mary Neylan (proofs of the enclosed) and standard publication protocol suggests that there was also a typeset proof. We no longer have the Galley Proofs (which may or may not have had the preface included), and the correspondence with Bles was destroyed.
- The Guardian Original Print Run: This was based off the handwritten Berg MS and available in several libraries. I read it at the General Theological Seminary in New York City.
Although there are gaps, and we do not know yet when the handwritten Berg MS was typed, we have enough now to offer a tentative timeline.
- Sep 2, 1937, Lewis completes Out of the Silent Planet. Published Sep 23, 1938.
- Sep 1, 1939, Hitler invades Poland, beginning WWII.
- Nov, 1939, Lewis was reading chapters of The Problem of Pain to the Inklings. Published Oct 18, 1940.
- Jul 19, 1940, Lewis listens to the Hitler speech to the Reichstag translated on the BBC at 6:00pm.
- Jul 21, 1940, Lewis receives inspiration for Screwtape at church. After church he finishes a letter to Warren describing the idea. You can read about that in detail here.
- Jul 1940-Apr 1941, Lewis wrote Screwtape by hand, perhaps writing a letter a week. In this period he submitted them to The Guardian, possibly with “Meditation on the Third Commandment.”
- Aug, 1940, Warren retires from the military to the Kilns and is available for typing,though our first typed letter we have is not until Nov 30, 1942.
- Apr 25, 1941, announcement in The Guardian about Screwtape.
- May 2 to Nov 28, 1941, The Screwtape Letters published serially in The Guardian.
- May-Jun 1941, editor Ashley Sampson reads the Letters and convinces Geoffrey Bles to publish them.
- Jun 8, Lewis delivers “The Weight of Glory” sermon at Oxford’s St. Mary the Virgin Church.
- Jul 5, 1941, Lewis writes the preface, which was edited in an unknown process (see below) and published in the Bles first edition.
- Aug 6, Lewis gives his first BBC talk in London. These talks later become Mere Christianity.
- Oct 9, 1941, Lewis sent a handwritten MS of 93 leaves to Sr. Penelope with a personal letter. Indicates that there is also a MS at the publisher (Bles).
- Oct 20, 1941, typed MS of 82 leaves with handwritten preface of 5 leaves sent to Mary Neylan with a personal letter. Indicates that the proofs are at the publisher (Bles).
- Nov 9, 1941, Lewis has gotten Ransom to Venus as the first few chapters of Perelandra are complete in draft form. He finishes Perelandra in Spring 1942; it was published Apr 20, 1943.
- Jul 1941-Feb 1942, Unknown preface proof correspondence and Galley Proof approval with Bles (see below).
- Feb 9, 1942, The Screwtape Letters was published by Geoffrey Bles of London with the edited preface. There are seventeen printings in total in Britain through WWII.
- Feb 16, 1943, American edition of The Screwtape Letters published
- Dec 1943, Lewis completes the final Ransom book, That Hideous Strength. It is not published until Aug 16, 1945, near the close of WWII.
- 1947, The Italian translation, Le Lettere di Berlicche; Screwtape and Wormwood were renamed Berlicche and Malacoda in Italian. Translations followed in Spanish (1953), French (1956), Chinese (1958), Russian (1981), Afrikaans (1993), Korean (2000), and Indonesian (2006).
- Sep 8, 1947, C.S. Lewis appears on the cover of Time magazine with the title, “Don v. Devil.”
- Jun 18, 1956, Lewis gave Sr. Penelope permission to sell the MS; the Berg collection purchased it at some later date.
- Dec 15, 1959, Lewis has finished writing the “new preface” to what will become The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast; suggested he would send the manuscript to publisher Jocelyn Gibb when it was typed, and included suggestions for titles for the collection.
- Dec 19, 1959, Lewis publishes “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” in The Saturday Evening Post.
- Dec 20, 1959, Lewis sends the typescript of the Screwtape “new preface” to the publisher.
- Feb 27, 1961, Geoffrey Bles publishes The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast with the “new preface.”
- 1961-1963, Lewis writes a preface to a book called A Slip of the Tongue and Other Pieces that explains “Screwtape Proposes A Toast.” The book is released in 1965 as Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces, but the preface, now at the Wade Center, is not included until 1982 revised edition.
- 1965, publication of Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces.
- 1976, Lord & King edition of The Screwtape Letters published in the United States with a new foreword written by Walter Hooper and illustrations by Wayland Moore.
- c. 1979, the Wade Center acquires the Neylan MS with accompanying Handwritten Preface and personal letter.
- 1982, The Screwtape Letters: Revised Edition published with “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” and the early 1960s preface intended for A Slip of the Tongue.
- 1994, Marvel Comics adaptation.
- 1999, an audio edition with John Cleese as Screwtape is released on cassette; received a Grammy nomination.
- Jan 2006, first stage production of Screwtape opens in New York, written by Max McLean and Jeffrey Fiske.
- 2009, release of feature length audio dramatization of The Screwtape Letters by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, staring Andy Serkis.
- 2009, The Screwtape Letters: Special Illustrated Edition released, followed by an enhanced edition in 2011.
- 2013, The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition, with annotations by Paul McCusker, who adapted Screwtape for audio drama in 2009.
This Timeline focusses on two periods: the conception and original publication of Screwtape, and then its explosion in popularity over the next 75 years. Perhaps you see something that should be included in the Timeline or an error. If so, let me know in the comments below.
Options for the Preface Editing Stage
Somewhere between July 1941 and February 1942, Lewis had correspondence and Galley Proof approval with the publisher, Bles. We have an end date of October, 1941, when Lewis sent a manuscript to Sr. Penelope and a typescript with Handwritten Preface to Mary Neylan. There are a couple of main options for the correspondence:
- Lewis may have sent Bles the Neylan MS with the Handwritten Preface in the period of July-October, 1941, in which case Lewis would have approved the Galley Proofs of the Handwritten Preface.
- It is possible that Lewis sent a now lost typed version of the Handwritten Preface before Oct 20, 1941 after the original Neylan MS was submitted, and either:
- Did not approve Galley Proofs of the MS; or
- Approved the preface Galley Proofs separately.
Nowhere that we know of does Lewis ever complain that Bles unjustly edit the Preface.
What is more interesting is this question: What happened to the Ransom feature in the Screwtape preface? With regards to the preface changes, we are left with four possibilities:
- Lewis changed the preface himself before submitting it to Bles. This means that the Handwritten Preface that Lewis sent to Mary Neylan was a first draft.
- Bles suggested changes to the preface in the Galley Proofs, and Lewis approved the changes (either by correspondence or in the Galley Proof stage).
- Bles changed the manuscript without Galley Proofs. Lewis approved of the changes through correspondence.
- Bles changed the manuscript without Galley Proofs, and Lewis did not formally approve of the changes.
Given the substantive nature of the changes and Lewis’s complete silence on the matter, “d” does not seem to be a strong option.
 Email from Walter Hooper, June 20, 2012.
 Sayer, Jack, 273. “Dangers of National Repentance” was published on p. 127 of The Guardian on Mar 29, 1940. Several weeks later Lewis published “Two Ways With The Self,” The Guardian (May 3, 1940), 215. It is possible that “The Screwtape Letters” were submitted with his January 1941 article, “Meditation on the Third Commandment,” The Guardian (Jan 10, 1941), 18. See the Mar 11, 1939 letter to Alec Vidler, editor of Theology, where Lewis provides a corrected proof for an article, but also includes a second piece for Vidler’s consideration, Hooper, Letters 2, 253.
 McGrath, C.S. Lewis, 420, n. 28.
 There is not date of acquisition on the Berg file.
 Dec 15, 1959 letter to publisher Jocelyn Gibb. See Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Vol. 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963 (New York: HarperSanFransisco, 2007), 1110-1111.
 Dec 20, 1959 letter to publisher Jocelyn Gibb. See Hooper, Letters 3, 1112.
Note: I have not referenced all of the more popularly known dates. I have gleaned them form Walter Hooper’s invaluable Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis in three volumes. You can also find them in Joel Heck’s excellent chronologies at http://www.JoelHeck.com.