Reconsidering the Lindskoog Affair

Lindskoog CS Lewis HOaxPerhaps no figure has caused as much tension in the community of C.S. Lewis scholars and fans as Kathryn Lindskoog.

In 1978, shortly after the publication of C.S. Lewis’ The Dark Tower and Other Stories, Walter Hooper found his editorial work and his character under attack. The Dark Tower was the newest in a line of Lewis volumes that Hooper edited and wrote prefaces for. It included an unfinished science fiction tale, which he called “The Dark Tower.” This strange, incomplete time travel piece includes some of the characters and themes of the Ransom Cycle, but with a curious lack of interest and some strange psychosexual themes.

Not long after the release of The Dark Tower, Lewis scholar Kathryn Lindskoog wrote a scathing exposé of Walter Hooper as literary fraud artist in the popular and intelligent journal Christianity and Literature. In “Some Problems in C.S. Lewis Scholarship,” Lindskoog lists dozens of questions based upon a long series of discrepancies. She followed it up with a series of books with overlapping and evolving material: The C.S. Lewis Hoax (1988), Light in the Shadowlands: Protecting the Real C. S. Lewis (1994), and Sleuthing C.S. Lewis: More Light in the Shadowlands (2001).

Dark Tower and Other Stories by CSLAs part of my early research, and with a kind of stunned fascination, I read through each of these books. Much of the material is repeated over and over again, and comes down to a series of key accusations:

  • Walter Hooper overstated his qualifications as C.S. Lewis’ secretary
  • Hooper’s claim to save a number of manuscripts from a legendary housecleaning bonfire “doesn’t hold water”
  • Hooper made decisions that went against the will of C.S. Lewis’ brother, Warren
  • Hooper made critical and editorial decisions that go against C.S. Lewis’ intentions, especially in the area of editing his poems
  • There is a culture of secrecy around the C.S. Lewis estate
  • There is a blending of C.S. Lewis’ features into Walter Hooper’s persona
  • Hooper has made unusual assertions about C.S. Lewis’ biography, some of which were distributed through books, talks, and films
  • After years of studying C.S. Lewis’ unique handwriting, Walter Hooper has forged a number of manuscripts, including “The Dark Tower”

The trilogy of Lindskoog’s literary mysteries have a Dan Brown quality to them. What makes them unique is the response to these books. The accusations galvanized frustration that some scholars and fans had about the protectionism of the C.S. Lewis estate and about the concerns they had over Hooper’s power in shaping the Lewis legend. Some scholars chaffed at the degree of control exhibited over manuscripts and Lewis material. Even for the skeptic of Lindskoog’s approach—and her accusations become phrenetic, so much so that their credibility suffers even in presentation—there is just enough of truth to draw in the honest reader.

c.s. lewis: a biography by a.n. wilsonWhile figures like John Beversluis, A.N. Wilson, and David Holbrook have raised the ire of Lewis followers—each of them anti-hagiographical in his own way—these men were intentionally outside the mainstream. Lindskoog, however, was a fully devoted follower of C.S. Lewis.

In fact, I would suggest that it was her commitment to protecting Lewis that led her to her accusations.

I have investigated Lindskoog’s claims as best as I can, giving the resources that I have (note: if you are offering grants, I would gladly take you up on that offer!). For my own part, my introduction to Walter Hooper was through his editorial work in collecting C.S. Lewis’ letters. The work is superb. The scholarship is tight, lacking any temptation to nostalgia and little protectionism. Indeed, my only concern is how little Hooper as editor inserts himself in the Letters. I could use more, rather than less, of Hooper in the Letters.

So, for me, turning to Lindskoog was a bit peculiar. After reading dozens of Hooper prefaces and spending enough time in the academic world to hear publishing war stories, I began to understand, at least from their perspective, why scores of respected scholars and institutions rallied around Lindskoog’s claims. For a period of time, this issue divided the community. It even dominated, for example, the pages of The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal for much of the 1980s. That archive shows a series or pointed letters, calls to action, and even legal notes. It was a peculiar time.

collected-letters-c-s-lewis-box-set-c-s-paperback-cover-artAlthough we now have the luxury of critical distance to consider these kinds of claims, I still felt the ghost of the Lindskoog controversy haunting my most recent Mythcon visit, as well as recent publications by Drs. Charlie Starr and Edwin Brown. Samuel Joeckel, in chapter 13 of The C.S. Lewis Phenomenon: Christianity and the Public Sphere (2013), dedicates an entire section to Lindskoog and the entire C.S. Lewis industry. And I live in an area where dedicated Lewisians—including folks who have donated materials that I have been able to use in research—presume Walter Hooper’s guilt.

I decided I wanted to explore the issue openly, but all of us have some skin in the game. The truth is that I would be a fool as an emerging scholar to take the Lindskoog side on things. It would limit access to resources, publication possibilities, and mentors to lead my way. Yet, as a critical thinker, I have endeavoured to take the claims that can be weighed using evidence and consider them seriously. There might be a cost to that approach. After all, just because I can string fancy words together on a glowing screen doesn’t mean I’m not a fool.

Brenton Bodleian MugshortWhen I went to Oxford in the fall of 2014, I intended to use my knowledge of Lewis’ handwriting to decide, as best as I could, whether he wrote the “Dark Tower” fragment. It was a project I never told anyone about, and wasn’t the only reason I went to the Bodleian library. But I needed to know for my work on the Ransom Cycle whether “The Dark Tower” should be included.

I looked at the manuscript and I knew in a flash: This is a work by C.S. Lewis.

It isn’t just the characteristic handwriting. Lewis forms his letters (like f, p, and s) in distinctive ways, as Charlie Starr is working out in his research. A forger could mimic distinctive features—and even copy a certain “era” of writing style. For me, it was the non-literary aspect of the manuscript that won me over: the weight of the pen, the pattern of dark and light lettering, the cluster of letters huddled here and there, the way he underlines or sets off text, and the way he makes corrections.

Lindskoog sleuthing CS LewisI have decided in my mind the chief accusation against Walter Hooper is false. While it isn’t a very good story, “The Dark Tower” was written by Lewis. Some of the other questions, like secrecy and a difficulty to get manuscripts, have taken care of themselves over time. There are twenty or more books of Lewis edited by Hooper, and scholars have been steadily publishing archived material, available at the Bod, at the Wade Centre, and at Taylor University and a handful of other archives.

Thinking back to the debate, I can see where it quickly went wrong–in my judgment, anyway. What began as a question of forgery, soon became a question of sheer character—not just a question of who told the truth or lied, but who would tell the truth or who is most likely to lie. I’m not sure how anyone can find a way out of that maze. As an historian, I can only deal with the evidence.

If I have any criticism of Walter Hooper’s work—and here I trust that his many friends will forgive me—it is that I find some of his prefaces and introductions a little too effusive. Although this trait is gone by the 1990s editorial work, a younger Walter Hooper was clearly enamoured by C.S. Lewis. Many people are taken in by Lewis, you know. As a literary secretary I have wondered whether he has sometimes lacked the critical distance needed–the kinds of critical steps back taken even by Christopher Tolkien of his father’s work.

My criticism might just be a matter of taste, though others have noted the feeling in Hooper’s work that his time at the Kilns represents itself as longer than it perhaps was. I suspect it was life-changing for Hooper, and I have coded weekend retreats (personal or religious) in my memory with more detail than many months or even years of my life. I understand how important a time like that might be.HooperBooksHowever, with due respect to critics, love of an author does not a forger make.

In fact, reading Walter Hooper’s introductions, he seems like the last person in the world to profane the C.S. Lewis script with his own hand. This is probably why Lindskoog turned to the question of Hooper’s sanity, arguing that he lost himself in the myth of C.S. Lewis, the way that lines between Sean Connery and James Bond blurred for a while.

Bond_-_Sean_ConneryIt is not the kind of claim that I can even consider as a scholar. On the balance of what I have before me—manuscripts and letters and a hundred literary clues—there isn’t evidence that Hooper was a forger.

Walter Hooper has dedicated himself to protecting the character of C.S. Lewis, even going as far as to suggest that Lewis never consummated his marriage with Joy Davidman. But Hooper has remained an independent identity, leaving behind his Episcopalian credentials to revert to Roman Catholicism—a move that Lewis never made. And, as I have said, the Collected Letters and Hooper’s Companion and Guide are critically helpful resources.

Was Lindskoog, then, just out to cause damage?

I don’t think so. What many do not recognize is that Kathryn Lindskoog’s claims emerged out of her desire to protect Lewis—the same kind of impetus that Hooper has, actually. Though she is ignored by some, and treated as an enemy by others, Lindskoog attacked Walter Hooper and the C.S. Lewis Co. because she felt they were dishonouring the C.S. Lewis that she loved.

Lindskoog CS Lewis light in shadowlandsAn example of this protective instinct is her attack of A.N. Wilson’s biography of Lewis, a biography that many Lewis followers thought was over-psychologized, reductionistic, and (frankly) too cute. Lindskoog’s bullet point list of errata is characteristic of her style (John Visser has archived it for us here). This extensive critique came from her desire to keep Lewis from being posthumously bent into someone else’s image. Doubtless, the whole thing came unhinged. But it began where most of us begin: trying to do honour in our work.

The Lindskoog affair offers some lessons in caution.

I think there is a danger whenever we try to protect a figure—especially a figure as dynamic and elusive as C.S. Lewis. His intellect or skill with the pen or ability to offer spiritual advice can sometimes cause readers to undervalue the flaws—or even to cover them up. For me, Abigail Santamaria in her biography of Joy Davidman captures the problematic features of an historic personality well without lusting after them. At the same time she manages to present the stunning intellect and rigorous courage of an evasive figure.

Any complex figure is going to create different interpretations. This has happened with C.S. Lewis. Perhaps we can recover A.N. Wilson’s value as an iconoclast for a moment—despite errors in his work. His comment here is a caution to what we do with people whom we think get it wrong:

“Lewis idolatry, like Christianity itself, has resorted to some ugly tactics as it breaks itself into factions. Hard words are used on both sides, and there is not much evidence of Christian charity when the war is at its hottest” (C.S. Lewis, xvi).

The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies - Evangeline LillyAs C.S. Lewis readers, we should avoid investing in these factions. It can happen in subcultures. One lover of Tolkien questioned my essential human goodness because I didn’t think the Peter Jackson adaptations the worst things to ever happen. This sort of demonizing does nothing for scholarly discussion, and it certainly does not “protect” the integrity of the authors we love.

So, what do we do with Kathryn Lindskoog’s conspiracy theory?

Would it be cheeky of me to turn to C.S. Lewis himself for the answer?

Kathryn Stillwell-Lindskoog began corresponding with Lewis during her MA studies. She visited Lewis in Oxford in 1956, and sent him her completed MA Thesis in 1957. Lewis was not thrilled with “research” as a university discipline, and preferred the lens wasn’t focused on him. But note the response that he provides this young scholar:

Oct 29th 1957
Dear Miss Stillwell–
Your thesis arrived yesterday and I read it at once. You are in the centre of the target everywhere.
For one thing, you know my work better than anyone else I’ve met: certainly better than I do myself….
But secondly, you (alone of the critics I’ve met) realise the connection, or even the unity, of all the books–scholarly, fantastic, theological–and make me appear a single author not a man who impersonates half a dozen authors, which is what I seem to most. This wins really very high marks indeed.
There is one place (pp. 93, 94) where, tho’ I am sure you are not misunderstanding, you express yourself in a way wh. might make it seem to the reader that you were….
If you understand me so well, you will understand other authors too. I hope that we shall have some really useful critical works from your hand.
With thanks and good wishes.
Yours sincerely
C. S. Lewis

The Lion of Judah CS Lewis lindskoogI’ve shown before how Lewis carefully guides his students, but I find it fascinating that Lewis recognizes something special in Lindskoog’s work. While he tolerated his friend, Chad Walsh’s, biography (C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics, 1949), he was impatient with literary critics who took up his own works. Lindskoog, just an American grad student, “got” Lewis.

Whatever the value of her conspiracy trilogy, I am going to hunt down Lindskoog’s other work. Her thesis was published as The Lion of Judah in Never-Never Land: The Theology of C.S. Lewis Expressed in His Fantasies for Children (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), which was expanded into Journey Into Narnia (Pasadena: Hope Publishing House, 1998). I have the 2nd edition of her C.S. Lewis: Mere Christian with InterVarsity Press, but it had at least four editions. It is an “ideas” book, laying out 16 topical essays on Lewis’ ideas in his work (some that overlap with the kind of work I have done on A Pilgrim in Narnia).

Though there are some who were very hurt during the two decades dominated by the Lindskoog affair, emerging scholars may be wise to follow Lewis’ lead in looking into his life. He did not point to the Pilgrim in Narnia blog, after all. And though Lindskoog did not turn out to be the broad-based critic that Lewis predicted she could be, there may still be something for us in those older books. Finally, there is a caution about how far our devotion should go. We can protect something to death, after all.


About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
This entry was posted in Original Research, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Reconsidering the Lindskoog Affair

  1. robstroud says:

    Having lived through this sad period of Lewisian studies, I concur with your assessment of the “affair.” I have never for a moment doubted that it was genuine affection for Lewis and his legacy that motivated Lindskoog.

    By the way, her “Creative Writing for People who Can’t Not Write” is a fun read.


    • I wish I was nearby and could by you a coffee (or tea, or beer, or birchbark ale or whatever) to hear a bit about that story. Your “never doubted” helps confirm what was for me a long time before I was confident in sharing.
      I didn’t know that writing book existed, but great title!


  2. Enjoyed your article. I first read Lewis’ Sci/Fi trilogy back in the mid-fifties. Then, after my conversion from Atheism in ’57, I read his works such as The Screwtape Letters, and other works across the years. One of the most fascinating things that I have run across was his introduction of the idea of a conspiracy ruling Great Britain (at least). This work and that of Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope seem to have a number of affinities which might demand investigation. Certainly Lewis lived and worked in the area where Rhodes’ House and the materials connected with that individual are kept. What else is there I do not know. However, I do know that Quigley who was Mr. Clinton’s Mentor at Georgetown U. claimed to have did his research at that very place in Oxford, and, Voila!, producing the work that has been the main basis for serious works on conspiracy in the years since its publication in 1965 by Macmillan House. Lewis makes other references to such an outfit, one in The Great Divorce (which might simply reflect the garbage of the 20th century) and one in Letters to An American Lady which seems to say that there was more truth than fiction in his reference in That Hideous Strength (if memory serves correctly and sometimes it does not). Anyway, being a lover of literature and books, I have always read Lewis with all the joy of one who likes good literature and the masters of such.


    • Thanks for the note. For me, Ransom is the place where I play more than Narnia–knowing the latter is a playground for many. And the Great Divorce is the first book of Lewis’ I read (other than Narnia as a kid).
      Can I ask what precipitated your conversion in ’57?


  3. loritischler says:

    Thoughtful and erudite: thank you. You give worthy cautions on both (or all) sides and it behooves, as in everything, to show charity and give grace. Still, a worthy examination. (And I agree with your assessment about Hooper’s rather over-the-top prefaces, etc.)


  4. Thanks for your thoughtful and calm revisiting of this very interesting topic.

    Although it tends to be lost in the shadow of the forgery issue, Lindskoog made many lesser charges of interest, such as that Hooper promulgated self-serving exaggerations (e.g., about the length of time that he was Lewis’s secretary). The possible landscapes of truth are clearly not confined to the crude binary (a) Hooper was a crook or (b) Hooper was a superb editor to whom we all owe a great debt.

    The truth might be mosaic: for example, forgery No, lesser problems Yes. One might think it true, for example — I do — that Hooper opportunistically set himself up as gatekeeper of the posthumous Lewisverse, after which his secretiveness and other missteps, helped by various unfortunate coincidences, helped create appearances that increased the plausibility of speculations about darker deeds. For some appearances, however coincidental or non-sinister at root, really were against Hooper: his statement that he could mimic Lewis’s handwriting, Warren Lewis’s view of him as a self-serving literary parasite, the Lewis gardener’s insistence that there was never a posthumous three-day-long bonfire of Lewis papers as described by Hooper, etc. Proof of wrongdoing? Very far from it. Suggestive? Inevitably. Maybe Lindskoog put 2 and 2 together and got 5, but she didn’t put 0 and 0 together. This should be acknowledged.

    Quite apart from the question of misbehavior, there is that of Hooper’s scholarship. I am frankly amazed that anyone can read Hooper as a tight or reliable scholar: on the contrary, his ability to scramble details never ceases to surprise me and I count on nothing that he says, however trivial, until I have verified it with my own eyes. Have you looked at his Americanized edition of the Screwtape Letters, for instance? Its defects are numerous, including his inexplicable recommendation on p. 159 that the reader consult the chapter on the word “World” in CSL’s _Studies on Words_ (which contains no such chapter); his elaborately confused correction (p. 160) of a “slip” in letter XI which does not exist, the original being perfectly lucid; naggingly inaccurate paraphrases of various Letters; and erroneous factoids like the claim that “most people in the West do not believe in an after-life” (actually, most do) — one could go on. Less clear-cut but more serious, the extensive use in his Introduction to that book of language copied from Lewis but not attributed to him would by the standards of many academic institutions constitute plagiarism. Details on request.

    The bungling continues in the Collected Letters. I was finding so many goofs in the footnotes, trivial and otherwise, just on casual inspection, that I started keeping a list (late in the game, alas, halfway through Vol. III). To give a couple of examples out of dozens, footnote 207, p. 765, Vol. III, is a bungle: In the letter footnoted, Lewis refers to the use of the word “till” in the title phrase of Till We Have Faces, but the footnote quotes the sentence _before_ that containing the title (i.e., quotes the wrong sentence in full). In footnote 75, re. the explanatory paragraph Lewis wrote for Till We Have Faces, Hooper notes: “This was the blurb eventually used on the jacket of Till We Have Faces.” This may be accurate — I don’t have the dustjacket to inspect — but is oddball, at best, given that the blurb actually was printed _in the book_ (first page after flyleaf, Bles, 1st edition). On p. 233 Lewis speaks (in 1952) of hoping that a good deal of the mythology of Numenor etc. “would soon become public through a romance which [Tolkien] was then contemplating. Since then the hope has receded”: Hooper’s note says this romance was “of course” the Lord of the Rings, but there is no “of course” about it, since it might well have been to the Silmarillion: By 1952 LOTR was well on its way to completion and publication — an approaching, not a receding hope — and unlike the Silmarillion it tells little of the underlying “mythology” of Numenor etc., to which Lewis was referring in the footnoted letter. Not a critical point, but a pointless error. I could go on. Nor, by the way, do I like that in his biographies of Warren Lewis and Lindskoog, attached to Letters Vol. III, Hooper omits any mention of their criticisms of himself — even Lindskoog’s, though they’re without doubt what she is best known for. Whatever word one might apply to such sanitized accounts, it isn’t “scholarship.”

    Finally, there is the matter of style. I have come to greatly dislike Hooper’s style, for which (or some of which) “effusive” seems to me a kind word. Fulsome, proprietary, self-promoting, and muddle-headed do come to mind, though. Here’s an example from the fulsome category (with muddled grammatical logic for extra measure): ““The Screwtape Letters is such an established classic that it is difficult to envisage a time when, like the sky, it wasn’t there” (introduction to the Americanized Screwtape). His remarks often reveal intense chronological snobbery in reverse (i.e., hatred for the “modern” or “modernist”): e.g., “Now that Playboy has been joined by Playgirl and almost every leftist, liberator and liberal in the Western world has joined Screwtape’s campaign for total promiscuity, perversion and sexual insanity, what more can Hell want?” (op cit., p. 165). (Uh, Walter, you’re getting spit on my glasses.) I do not think that the work of C. S. Lewis has been honored by being bound with such material. Again, I could multiply examples.

    In sum, although the evidence for forgery does not compel belief, I’ll say this: For the past forty-odd years, Hooper has been the almost exclusive gatekeeper of the writings of C. S. Lewis — writer of introductions, editor of letters, revealer of posthumous essays and fragments. At the least, I feel that his editorial practices during that time have too often fallen short of excellence and that the Lewis literary heritage could have been better served. Lindskoog’s work, whatever its flaws, first made this apparent to me, and I have verified it to my own satisfaction.

    Best wishes and thanks again for the thoughtful piece! — Larry


    • Thank you for the thoughtful note. I am, by nature, resistant to crude binaries (though they can help us organize what we might be reading or in presenting an idea). I also purposely honed in on what I thought was the cornerstone complaint.
      I tend to approach human testimony with some skepticism. For example, on the blog I have softly suggested dates of origin for certain projects (like Narnia and Screwtape) that are different than what the witnesses remember.
      More than skepticism, though, there is the question of what effect a particular approach has. Hooper’s idea that Lewis’ marriage was not consummated has led to (I think) a pretty creepy conversation (like this, just now!). But I don’t know that it swayed many. I take his “Companion and Guide” as a resource, and have made personal correction when needed–often just out of a rereading of the letters that he helped make available. I make corrections in all the books, and am not overly affected by the introductions/prefaces. I am not a fan of the style, either. “Effusive” was where I went.
      I think one of the critics of Hooper would do well to take all the claims that Walter Hooper has made, and then see which ones have support elsewhere–either a direct piece of evidence or something that generally fits. The question of how important his influence really is could be solved by seeing if we have stock beliefs about Lewis that are only Walter Hooper’s. And, if so, are they key in our image? A good project for someone who is not me (i.e., someone trying to get manuscripts and papers out the door and get a PhD and maybe, someday, a job!).
      As far as the “gatekeeper” approach, I sit on the tail end. My publications have gone through without concern and with permission from the CSL Co. There are vast amounts of material available at the archives. Gatekeepers control traffic in both directions, after all.


    • Oh, and I meant to say that I (and probably others, and maybe the editor) would benefit from an errata on the Letter Collection. There is volume 4 coming, so they can make corrections or adjustments there. But my issue is the work in front of me.


      • John Barach says:

        You write: “There is volume 4 coming.” Do you mean a fourth volume in the Collected Letters? What would it contain? More letter that were not included in Vols 1-3, I suppose?

        I haven’t heard about this before, nor can I find any information online. Point me in the right direction, please!


        • Good question, John. I don’t personally know exactly what will be in vol. 4 of the letters, but it will be a “supplement” volume. I found a handful of unpublished letters over the last decade, and I expect every other scholar has too. Plus the estate and Walter Hooper and the archives will have gathered enough together for a volume.
          Vol. 3 has a few dozen pages of supplemental letters, and is too long for a softcover. Thus it has been out of print for 5+ years and very hard to get. My guess is that they will pull the supplement section out of vol. 3 and print vol 3 (1950-63) and vol 4 (supplement) in softcover.Just a guess, though.
          Also, letter editing is SLOW business. Careful and precise and difficult. It will be a couple of years.
          If you know of unpublished letters, go to Joel Heck’s website ( and send him a note.


  5. David Lenander says:

    My sense is that Hooper backed off from some of his earlier systematic lies about his relationship and place in Lewis’s household, but he’s never admitted to those lies–though omitting some of them from later editions/reprints of his earlier introductions and such. I think in your recap you underappreciate the magnitude of his intellectual fraud. If Mythcon was a little uncomfortable for you on the subject, remember that Hooper was brought in as a guest of honor early in its history, and members (including Lindskoog) were initially entirely taken in by his misrepresentation of his history and activities with Lewis and the CSL legacy. I think many felt betrayed and foolish after Kay Lindskoog pointed out the clear impossibility of many of Hooper’s charming anecdotes. Hooper’s place as executor and CSL editor was and is dependent upon Owen Barfield’s confidence in him–I don’t know how far Barfield actually entertained the falsified history, or even paid attention to it, so I think he must have found a lot to appreciate in Hooper. That said, Hooper’s done a lot for us all with his devoted work. I’m not alone in believing that the authorship of _The Dark Tower_ was entirely believable as CSL’s, and never really in doubt, and that Kay’s fervor and devotion to her view of CSL led her right over the edge into error. Larry’s speculation that another might have done a better job of editing Lewis’s posthumous work is intriguing and a telling critique, but cannot amount to anything more. I think you’re right to be interested in returning to Lindskoog’s analysis and criticism of Lewis’s work, not least because of Lewis’s own imprimatur–something given to no one else (though of course no one else had the opportunity to receive it).


    • If I gave a sense that the lingering tension was uncomfortable for me, I gave the wrong impression. I am interested in how the academic community works, so it is interesting to me.
      But I intentionally “underappreciate the magnitude of his intellectual fraud,” as you put it so succinctly. Part of that is the survival instinct I mention, but also because as much as I like the metacritical conversation, my real interest in this decade is C.S. Lewis’ work himself. I’m not even primarily interested in his biography. I know that it overlaps with Hooper some, but the literary legacy is less important than the things Lewis wrote.
      And as I focus on the Ransom Cycle, I had to work out what to do with the Dark Tower. I’ve got a lot of boring notes too!
      The other work–the history of Hooper’s shaping of the Lewis legacy–is for someone else to do, or me at a later time.


  6. David Lenander says:

    A number of readers were really distressed by _The Dark Tower_, finding all sorts of dark psychosexual themes and misogynist messages. I think it’s really important to remember that Lewis chose not to finish it, not to publish it, and perhaps would have been dismayed by its publication. I’m not sure that you *have* to incorporate it into your discussion of the Ransom Cycle, except insofar as you find it enlightening or helpful to your reading and critique. It’s a discarded draft.


    • This is the key: he didn’t finish it, and was probably wise to do so.
      No, I don’t “have” to, but I will. Even then, I take a “two track” approach: as if it is included, and as if it isn’t.


  7. oflare says:

    Just a quick reply to say that I enjoyed your careful and balanced approach to this issue. Back in the day when the controversy started I was more of a casual reader of Lewis’ works. I bought two of the three books from Lindskoog and believed she initially meant well, but her boldest claims were weak.
    As has been mentioned to a degree, regarding Hooper’s exclusive control (which I don’t think is the case anymore), I believe that as would be the result of any situation when one person (or a small few) have control over something that AT THE VERY LEAST there will be errors that are not done on purpose (our poor human memory) or choices made with the best intentions that are not the wisest.


    • Thanks for the note. I hope no one saw this as a “defense” of any particular party. I had a pretty narrow scope. I do, on a personal level, have concerns with literary control in general–some of those voiced by Lewis himself.


  8. Joe R. Christopher says:

    Thank you for your reference in the essay to Joeckel’s discussion of Lindskoog’s comments; I gather from what you say it is mainly on her chapters on the Lewis Industry. I had missed it, and I’ll take a look.


    • Thanks for the note, Joe. Joeckel’s book is thick and strong and controversial, though I think it is a good metacritical book. I read it in pre-pub form based on a query, but haven’t met the author myself.
      It occurs to me know that you led a session at Mythcon in Mass. where you came back to the Lindskoog question. Do you have notes or a publication out of that? I’m sorry if I missed it.


      • Joe R. Christopher says:

        I have been preparing a substantial essay on the matter, reading one section per year at the C. S.Lewis and Inklings Society conferences. I’ve read some longer versions of sections later at Mythcons. Almost all of the sections so far still need some final polishing and adjustments. I will be talking about “Christian Reunion” this spring and (if I have time, which I probably won’t) “The Dark Tower.” “Christian Reunion” is the more important of the two (for my purposes). In two or three years I’ll put everything together and submit it for publication. Note: I am basically on Lindskoog’s side (after all, I wrote a preface for each version of her book), but I am trying to produce a balanced discussion. Certainly I have one section pointing to the many flaws in Lindskoog’s presentation. (By the way, I’m not dealing with the “Lewis Industry”–I just am interested in what Joeckel says about it.)


  9. largrant says:

    I learned a great deal from Lindskoog and I am troubled so many treat her as a villain. I could never decide if she was right about “The Dark Tower” being a forgery; if you say it is a genuine Lewis work I believe you. Some things Lindskoog pointed out Hooper were very problematic: Hooper OKed the publication of an altered version of “The Screwtape Letters” that had changes the meaning of that work; for example, it is not the Germans that are bombing London, but “the Enemy.” As you know, in the original Screwtape “the Enemy” is what the demons call God. Also where Lewis makes reference to Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain; in the altered version Maritain’s name is taken out and C.S. Lewis is substituted! Confused and confusing and a desecration of one Lewis’ best books. Even more distressing is the way Warren Lewis is made into a bad guy; Warnie was not only one of the most important people in Jack’s life, he was veteran, a patriot and a scholar in his own right. The emotional and logistical support Warnie provided made possible the C.S. Lewis we know and love. Blackening his name is truly unconscionable. Hooper may not be evil, but he certainly clouds Lewis’ legacy. Lindskoog may of been wrong about some things but, as you said, she really got Lewis and loved him and the light he shed on the truth’ and for that I am grateful to her.


    • I don’t like the American text of Screwtape in the “Our Lord and King,” but editors have to make choices. Bad choices happen, and I have some gaffs here on this little blog.
      I also missed the Warren vs. Walter phase, and only have it latter in remnants. The letters show C.S. Lewis’ anxiety, and I can understand the experience of having someone you love who has addiction (alcohol in this case, but also addictions to drugs, work, spending, etc.).


  10. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I’d be interested in your ‘take’ on the style and tone and details of the “scathing exposé of Walter Hooper […] in the popular and intelligent journal Christianity and Literature” and its immediate sequels. How far do you see her “claims [as having] emerged out of her desire to protect Lewis” by that point (all pre-C.S. Lewis Hoax), in what directions, and with what qualities?


    • You’ll see I have avoided saying too much. The first article launched some bombs, and they were of various value.
      My basic argument is something like this: People blamed Lindskoog for creating division, and out of that came invective that Lindskoog was a betrayer. I think she was wrong on the cardinal problem, basically right on some other points, but pushed the argument too far. However, her motivation was not “betrayal” but honouring and protecting CSL.
      What I avoided was breaking down all the smaller questions. When they affect my work, then I’ll deal with them. Until then … well, I say a lot of goofy things on here, and am pleased when people give me space to work it out. I’m not anxious to push the conversation too far until I have to.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Given your and others’ attention here to Walter Hooper’s style and tone and details in some of his writings, it would seem fruitful to give analogous attention to those of Mrs. Lindskoog in her first article and subsequent pr-C.S. Lewis Hoax articles.

        How is she – or does she seem to be – going about doing what she is doing? Just what-all is – or may be – going on, there?

        How simple or complex does – or may – her motivation seem to be, at those first stages?

        You also mention and picture The Lion of Judah in Never-Never Land: The Theology of C.S. Lewis Expressed in His Fantasies for Children (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973). Our copy notes “First printing, June 1973”. That book has a “Preface” by Walter Hooper, and a warm commendation by Mrs. Lindskoog of a “68-page essay” by Hooper in in the first of its “Further Reading” suggestions (where three of the following four suggestions, by Lewis, are reprinted by Hooper). Yet, within five years of this she was working on her “Some Problems in C.S. Lewis Scholarship”, Christianity and Literature (27:4, Summer 1978). Interestingly, our copy of the book is in fact of the “Fourth printing, January 1979”, nearly half a year after the article appeared!

        What do we certainly know happened either between Walter Hooper and Mrs. Lindskoog or on Mrs. Lindskoog’s side between June 1973 and January 1978?


        • I struggle with the question of motivations. Some have said that the whole Lindskoog thing was a personal vendetta; others that it was cool and integral. Us humans often have many, many motivations.
          I think (limited as I am), she noticed problems in the mid-70s, wrote the article, and then it snowballed from there. There was a disagreement between Hooper and Lindskoog in ’75 or ’76, but I can’t speak to it right now.


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Looking at this Wade pdf online

        and not having access to Christianity and Literature (or any archived journals to speak of) or Mrs. Lindskoog’s books from The C.S. Lewis Hoax on, I, for one, would appreciate a bit more bibliographical detail (from anyone knowledgeable).

        I’m sure I’ve read “Some Problems in C.S. Lewis Scholarship”, Christianity and Literature (27:4, Summer 1978), and “Responses to K. Lindskoog on C.S. Lewis”, Christianity and Literature (28:2, Winter 1979) – though, to start with, I don’t know by heart the breakdown of the contents of the latter. (For instance, the Wade handlist refers variously to “the letters published” including “Owen Barfield letter” one the one hand, and to “two letters from Owen Barfield” on the other. And I take it that the late Dr. Anthony Frank (Tony) Marchington’s contribution was also part of those “Responses” in the “Winter 1979″ issue. Did its six pages (according to the Wade handlist) include a reply by Mrs. Lindskoog to the responses, as well?) What, and where, was the scope of the post-“Some Problems” and pre-C.S. Lewis Hoax, back-and-forth in print? My memory is of having read some such, but I’m not readily finding details online.

        It’s conceivable that I’m remembering some details of The C.S. Lewis Hoax as having appeared previously in print after “Some Problems” when that was not the case, and the book marked their first appearance.

        Who can kindly help me – and, I imagine a number of other readers – out, here?


  11. L.A. Smith says:

    Interesting post. I am no scholar, just a devoted reader of C.S. Lewis. I have “The Dark Tower and other Stories” collection and read it “way back then.” I remember being excited to read another story in the Ransom Cycle but being slightly put off by it, and thinking that there was definitely a reason why he hadn’t published it! I also was aware of this controversy (the bare bones of it anyway) so it’s good to get your take on it! What about the other stories in that collection, are they suspect too? Or just The Dark Tower? I always loved the one about Medusa on the moon….

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      “What about the other stories in that collection, are they suspect too?” As long as I am bleating cries for bibliographical help from a village pretty much in the middle of library nowhere, I’ll add, that it would be useful if someone knowledgeable would list exactly which works (non-fiction as well as fiction) were tossed in the (temporary?) ‘dubia & spuria’ tub by Mrs. Lindskoog (and/or others).

      I suppose the (darkly!) delightful Medusa one (‘Forms of Things Unknown’) probably fell (and/or falls?) under the shadow of suspicion by the facts that it (a) was published posthumously, (b) without being vouched for by evidence of others than Walter Hooper. (Or are there independent witnesses, unmentioned in, for example, The Dark Tower and Other Stories?)

      I just ran into a quotation from an article of post-C.S. Lewis Hoax (1988), pre-Light in the Shadowlands: Protecting the Real C. S. Lewis (1994) vintage, from quite another field, which strongly reminded me of those times in ‘Lewis studies’: “As most scientists concerned with climate, I was eager to stay out of what seemed like a public circus.”* I clearly remember some people talking like that, about deliberately keeping, or happily having discovered that they had fortuitously kept, their heads down, in treating The Dark Tower as (so far as they could judge) clearly a work of Lewis’s, in order to avoid risking being targeted and subjected to “scathing” attack (to borrow Brenton’s adjective).

      It is interesting to note, from that period, both Colin Manlove’s (quiet) assumption in his contribution to Word and Story in C.S. Lewis (1991) that ‘Forms of Things Unknown’ is by Lewis, and Jared Lobdell’s detailed attention to The Dark Tower (or “time fragment” for which he envisions the title An Exchange in Time) as (“on internal evidence”) by Lewis, in his – which he argues in his appended note, “The Authorship of The Dark Tower”.

      *The MIT professor of meterology, Richard Lindzen, in his 1992 article, “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus” in the Cato Review of
      Business and Government.


      • A couple of thoughts here.
        First is a limitation–I am orphaned from my books for the present! I am on the road, so can’t fill you in on the details of Lindskoog’s claim. I can email you the original article if you’d like it. The big ones, besides Dark Tower, were the poor editorial work on the American Screwtape, bad biographical representation in a documentary, a conspiracy of legal trapping to keep documents out of researchers’ hands, and forgery on some things, like a Screwtape New Preface, “Christian Reunion” (essay), and maybe some other pieces.
        As I said, most of the docs we need are in libraries, and the legal reality (as a young scholar) is nothing I can safely or helpfully speak to. I will conform however it is set up so I can keep publishing work. I have seen the original of the Screwtape New Preface and I don’t think it is amazing, but it is available for scrutiny and most probably Lewis’. Of the other stories and essays, I haven’t listed them or considered them.
        In haste!


        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Many thanks for this overview and your very kind willingness to help!

          (As an agèd scholar, legal realities still bewilder me, but I am very grateful for all the kindness I’ve met with on the part of libraries, copyright holders, editors, and publishers down the years!)

          Liked by 1 person

      • L.A. Smith says:

        Yes, it would be nice to have a list like that. In my very uneducated opinion, Forms of Things Unknown has a more “Lewis” feel than the Dark Tower, but, like I said, that is a very uneducated opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Joe R. Christopher says:

          Dear David and L.A.– I don’t have time to get into a long discussion, but I can point you to Lindskoog’s list. In the third version of her book, _Sleuthing C. S. Lewis_ (2001), on pp.346-347 (Appendix 6), she lists those works she believes “have faulty provenance and … exhibit unLewisian style, taste, beliefs, or values.” These are “Forms of Things Unknown,” some Narnian fragments, “The Dark Tower,” “The Man Born Blind,” LeFay fragment, preface to “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” “History of Animal Land,” “Encyclopedia Boxoniana,” “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought,” “Christian Reunion,” Lewis’s Tolkien obituary, “Introductory Letter,” “A Pageant Played in Vain,” and “Finchley Avenue.” (The last four are listed from the footnote on p. 347.) But what she says about these vary–for example, her final position about “The Dark Tower” suggests that the opening is a collaboration (or revision by someone other than Lewis) but the latter part is by Lewis (and a discussion would have to go into the post-Lindskoog developments). Any discussion of “The Man Born Blind” would have to take into consideration Charlie Starr’s _Light: C. S. Lewis’s First and Final Short Story_. Etc., etc. Anyone actually reading her book will find a number of other things doubted, but this list at least is that of a petition which she supported–so it is presumably the basic listing.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Joe R. Christopher says:

    Hmm. The list was certainly a conversation stopper, wasn’t it? I’d think that someone would point out that these items are certainly not vital to our study of Lewis. (I’m not discussing most of them in my slowly developing essay.) I should correct my phrasing in one sentence above: I wrote “she [that is, Lindskoog] lists”. Technically, the petition is written in the third person, and after all these years I don’t remember if others had a hand in writing the petition, although I suppose Lindskoog send copies around for suggestions. But the basic listing has to be Lindskoog’s work. I just needed to phrase my comment more precisely, rather than suggesting the list was introduced in the first person.


    • Thank you Joe. I don’t know that your list did anything but give people a resource to do some work on their own. I can’t do most of it now, for a few reasons. My mother is dying, and I am with her, and I literally am not near my books. I am also a young scholar trying to publish emerging texts and manuscripts. If I determined the Dark Tower was problematic, I would have said so. But because the other points aren’t at the centre of my research (spiritual theology and the Ransom Cycle), I will not deal with them now.
      To be frank, I haven’t returned to the list since I made my choice. It would be a worthwhile project for a future date. I look forward to one day seeing your evolving essay!


  13. Pingback: How You Can Read C.S. Lewis Chronologically | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  14. Pingback: The Lost-But-Found Works of C.S. Lewis | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  15. Pingback: C.S. Lewis’ Amazing Connections with Canada (A Canada Day Post) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  16. Andrew Gilbertson says:

    Having just read the Dark Tower for the first time, I am astounded to see so many refer to itvas a lacking story. I found it spellbinding- an epic abandoned just as it finished establishing its thrilling sakes and got in earnest to the hero’s trials.

    Still, regardless of quality evaluations, it is very enlightening to get your perspective on this entire affair. I was very dimly aware of it as a youth and budding Lewis fan in the 90s, but to get the full story, and a studied perspective, is an excellent complement to the works I just finished reading.


    • I don’t know if it is lacking story or interest or potential. It is oddly spellbinding–almost Gothic in its eerie draw.
      I do think that Lewis lost interest in it, and you can see it starts to wander as our space-time traveler wanders the library.
      I think you will see some speculate on the ending–Jared Lobdell is one, I imagine, but I don’t have my notes with me. It can be fun to think about.


      • Joe R. Christopher says:

        I think the best discussion of “The Dark Tower” as a unified work (so far as it goes) is by Jonathan B. Himes, “The Allegory of Lust: Textual and Sexual Deviance in _The Dark Tower_,” in _Truths Breathed through Silver: The Inklings’ Moral and Mythopoeic Legacy_, ed. Himes, Christopher, and Khoddam (Newcastle UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), 51-80. See esp. pp. 62-71.

        Liked by 1 person

    • John Barach says:

      I read The Dark Tower for the first time recently. The plot I didn’t mind (and I went into it expecting it to be pretty weak). But a few things seemed strange to me in connection with the question of authorship:

      (1) Above all, I cannot conceive of C. S. Lewis writing a story in which he appears as a character and another character insists on calling him “Lu-lu.”

      (2) Is the expression “I bet” (as in “I bet *you* see [why]” on the first page of the story) a British expression? It sounds typically American to me, but maybe I’m mistaken about that.

      (3) Why would Lewis set the story in Cambridge when at the time of its writing (allegedly 1938) he was in Oxford?

      (4) What’s up with the strange conversation “Lewis” (the character in the story) has with Ransom where “Lewis” asks Ransom if he believes in reincarnation and Ransom responds “Of course not. I’m a Christian”? Besides the fact that it’s really clunky, something Lewis’s writing usually is not, isn’t it strange that “Lewis” (being a Christian himself) wouldn’t already know what Ransom (who “Lewis” knew was a Christian) would believe on this subject?

      None of these things prove Lewis didn’t write the story, of course, but they are things that stood out to me and raised questions for me.


      • Thanks John. I apologize I am so late in response. I’m on the road, in a land that is not my own.
        Let me dialogue a little, if I might:
        (1) “Lu-lu.”–this made laugh. I could see “Lu-lu” being a mocking moment at an Inklings meeting, something caustic from Dyson or subtly mocking from Williams. I don’t know.
        (2) “I bet” as Americanism?–I don’t know this one. We say “I bet” or “I’ll bet” in Canada.
        (3) Cambridge–this one is explainable: Cambridge was the home university for Dr. Ransom
        (4) Reincarnation–a good point.

        In the end, Lewis abandoned the story. There are many imperfections, and we don’t know, honestly, how rough Lewis’ rough drafts were. We get all these little fragments, and they often come in a “voice”–there are several starts to autobiographies, all in a different tone than the fiction.


  17. Charles Huttar says:

    John Barach asked: “Why would Lewis set the story in Cambridge when at the time of its writing (allegedly 1938) he was in Oxford?”
    Could it be related to the characters’ recognition that what they were seeing was “an almost exact replica of the new university library here in Cambridge” (46)? This building, completed in 1934, was the subject of much controversy during that decade. Many considered it a monstrosity, both architecturally (so different from most of the university’s buildings at that time) and as an encroachment on the semi-rural surroundings. Lewis would return to the theme in “That Hideous Strength,” when Feverstone explains why NICE wants to buy a piece of “college property” — to put up a “building which would worthily house this remarkable organization . . . one which would make a quite noticeable addition to the skyline of New York,” and more generally in the Institute’s flagrant disregard for the idyllic countryside. In fact, the title “The Dark Tower” (Hooper’s title, to be sure) is uncannily like a double for the title Lewis would give his novel, a phrase borrowed from the 16th century when “strength” (in Lindsay’s poem) meant ‘fortress’ or ‘tower’ — one that cast a shadow six miles long.


    • “Strength” did mean the tower in Lindsay–it is a link I haven’t thought of.
      I also didn’t know about the Cambridge controversy. I stayed at Keble College last week which was controversial in the 1870s for its red brick construction with white/yellow brick shooting through it in zig zag patterns. I haven’t had anyone tell me why it was controversial, but it threw off the style of the rest of the university with that yellow rough-hewn sandstone. And the English phrase “red brick university” is synonymous with the new universities in the late 1800s and early 1900s that were set up to train the managerial class. I don’t know if that identity is part of the controversy.
      But why was Ransom a non-Oxonian to begin with? So that he could create a little distance from Oxford?


  18. Jeff Taylor says:

    Nice thorough article. My only addition would be that Mrs. Lindskoog was a kind person (as we all should be though aren’t always). She encouraged a high school senior (myself) who wrote a senior English paper based on her “Hoax” (and further research). Despite her illness, she didn’t brush off my requests for more info and always encouraged my pursuits via the postal service.


  19. Ben says:

    I am sorry that I was late to this discussion. I have always had a particular itch that I need scratched. Long ago I read somewhere that the manuscript titled The Dark Tower was in response to Browning’s poem (not to be confused with King’s work). Any chance that you know whether Hooper made this claim? If he did, do you know where he might have made it?


    • Hi Ben, thanks for this. I don’t remember a reference to a Browning poem, and I haven’t read it. Are there parallels?
      It wouldn’t speak to authenticity–Browning could influence anyone–but it would be good to reconsider the partial story here through a Browning lens.


      • Joe R. Christopher says:

        The Browning poem is “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”–it’s a good poem in itself (“good” aesthetically–unified in tone, etc.)–and interesting for fantasy readers. In Hooper’s preface to _The Dark Tower and Other Stories_ (1977), he says that the ms. was not titled and that he gave it its title–but he did not indicate his source of a title. In the second chapter of “The Dark Tower,” the first description of the other place refers to a “large building. “There was a square tower in the building….” About two pages on, the allusion is made; Scudamour is speaking, “‘to the left of the Dark Tower–‘ ‘The what?’ said Ransom. ‘Oh–Orfieu and i call this big building the Dark Tower–out of Browning, you know.'”


        • Tanks for this, Joe. I do know the preface but I had not read the poem until you linked it. I don’t know enough about the Roland legends and see little narrative arc connection with the Lewis Dark Tower fragment. However, there is an interesting section taken by its own that is suggestive:

          So, on I went. I think I never saw 55
          Such starv’d ignoble nature; nothing throve:
          For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove!
          But cockle, spurge, according to their law
          Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
          You ’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove. 60

          No! penury, inertness and grimace,
          In the strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
          Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,
          “It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
          ’T is the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place, 65
          Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”

          If there push’d any ragged thistle=stalk
          Above its mates, the head was chopp’d; the bents
          Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
          In the dock’s harsh swarth leaves, bruis’d as to baulk 70
          All hope of greenness? ’T is a brute must walk
          Pashing their life out, with a brute’s intents.

          As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
          In leprosy; thin dry blades prick’d the mud
          Which underneath look’d kneaded up with blood. 75
          One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
          Stood stupefied, however he came there:
          Thrust out past service from the devil’s stud!

          Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
          With that red, gaunt and collop’d neck a-strain, 80
          And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
          Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
          I never saw a brute I hated so;
          He must be wicked to deserve such pain.


  20. Pingback: How to Read All of C.S. Lewis’ Essays | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  21. bertucassar says:

    Hi, First of all, i wish to thank you for the well researched article. It has helped me a lot making sense of the whole matter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s