For those who study authors of the past, you will soon discover that the publication lists and bibliography of an author are not always terribly helpful. After all, writing, editing, and publishing a book are stages that can each take years. Knowing something is published in 1822 or 1946 tells us little about the writing process. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien each had books that took nearly two decades to write. Ezra Pound spent more than a half-century on his famous Cantos–carrying the poems through his London period and WWI, through various parts of France and Europe in the 1920s, into an American prison camp, to a treason trial in the U.S., and to a mental ward where he did some of his best work. In his last decade in Italy he finally published the whole, though parts were published at various points between the years of 1917 and 1948.
A publication date of “1968” doesn’t help us much as historians of Ezra Pound, any more than 1954 suits as the publication date of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring or Lewis’ English Literature in the 16th Century, Excluding Drama.
Over the last five years, then, I have developed a habit of speaking about when C.S. Lewis or one of the Inklings wrote a book, rather than when they published it. I haven’t been perfectly consistent with this on the blog, but have generally put the writing period in brackets rather than the publication date.
To do this, I discovered that I was slowly building myself a cheat sheet to help me remember when Lewis was writing a book so that I can connect it with what was going on at the time. The cheat sheet includes completed books and incomplete fragments of what would have been a book. I’ve decided to share this cheat sheet with those of you who are interested. This might save you time or inspire you to make connections between Lewis’ work and his life patterns. And, perversely, I’m hoping to draw more people into the project of reading Lewis chronologically, and have provided resources here, here, and here.
I’m also hoping that in sharing you will be able to point out errors. For example, I probably should put the 1916 “The Quest of Bleheris” on this list as a fragment. Or perhaps if someone is able and interested they could format this into some kind of useful internet tool. Whether to make it better or to use it for yourself, if the excel sheet can be of help, email me: junkola [at] gmail [dot] com.
If you decide to print this off and keep it with your Lewis books-to-read pile, I would encourage you to use it with a basic timeline like the one published by the C.S. Lewis Foundation. Digging deeper, Joel Heck’s “Chronologically Lewis,” now complete after 13 years of work, has all the details you could need if you want to press in on a particular period. Critical to pulling this kind of list together were the three-volume Collected Letters, edited by Walter Hooper, and Hooper’s C.S. Lewis: Companion and Guide (1996). Some of the dates on here were adjusted based on facebook discussion groups, blog posts, and notes in three biographies of Lewis, by Alister McGrath (2013), by George Sayer (1988), and by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper (1967). See also critical biographies of the Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter (1978) and by Carol Zaleski and Philip Zaleski (2015), as well as historical work by Diana Pavlac Glyer’s The Company They Keep (2008).
I have left in the fallow years following Lewis’ conversion, but after Lewis found his literary voice in the early 1930s, he was rarely without a book or essay on his desk. A post next week will chase down “The Periods of C.S. Lewis’ Literary Life.”
|C.S. Lewis Book Production (Publication Year and Completion Date)|
|Year||#||Book/Fragment (Pub. Year)||Working Period & Notes|
|1918||1||Spirits in Bondage (1918)||1914-1918 poems; done Summer 1918|
|1925||1||Dymer (1926)||1916-1925; esp. Apr 1922-Apr 1924|
|1927||0.5||The Easley Fragment (2011)||Fall 1927|
|1930||0.5||Launcelot Fragment (1969)||1930-1933; cf “Nameless Isle” Aug 1930|
|1931||0.5||Early Prose Joy Fragment (2013)||Written late 1930 or early-mid 1931|
|1932||1||The Pilgirm’s Regress (1933)||Aug 1932; incl. poems 1929-32, esp. poems of summer 1930 after theistic conversion|
|1933||0.5||Queen of the Drum Fragment (1969)||Work in 1927 and 1933; read aloud in 1938|
|1935||1||The Allegory of Love (1936)||begun Apr 1928; complete Sep 1935; in proofs Mar 1936|
|1937||1||Out of the Silent Planet (1938)||Finished Sep 2, 1937|
|1938||2||The Personal Heresy (Ed/Col 1939); Rehabilitations (Col 1939)||Personal Heresy Essays 1930, 1936, 1938; Lewis-Tillyard Debate Feb 7, 1938; Rehabilitation Essays 1934-1938|
|1939||0.5||The Dark Tower Fragment (1977);||Approx. date of Dark Tower as authentic could be 1939 to mid-1940s|
|1940||1||The Problem of Pain (1941)||Nov 1939-May 1940|
|1941||2||The Screwtape Letters (1941/1942); A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)||Screwtape written Aug 1940-early 1941 and preface written Jul 1941; lectures for Preface Fall 1939 & Dec 1941|
|1942||2||Broadcast Talks(1942); Christian Behaviour(1943)||1st & 2nd talks Aug-Sep 1941 & Jan-Feb 1942; 3rd series Sep-Nov 1942|
|1943||3||Perelandra (1943); The Abolition of Man (1944); That Hideous Strength (1945)||Perelandrawritten Nov 1941-May 1942; Abolition lectures Feb 23-25, 1942; THS written Fall 1942-Dec 29, 1943|
|1944||2||Beyond Personality (1944); The Great Divorce (1944-45)||Beyond Personality BBC talks Feb-Apr 1944; Great Divorce written 1st half of 1944|
|1945||2||Miracles: Preliminary Study (1947); George MacDonald: An Anthology (1946)||Miracles complete by May 28, 1945, with essays 1943-1945; Anthologycomplete by May 20, 1945|
|1946||1||Arthurian Torso (1948)||Torso begun May 1945 and to OUP by Nov 1946; letter to widow on Mar 13, 1947; includes lecture on Charles Williams from Fall 1945|
|1947||1||Essays Presented to Charles Williams (1947)||Editorial work for Essays begun in 1945 and complete by Fall 1947; CSL’s “On Stories” began as “Kappa Element” in 1940|
|1949||2.5||The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950); Transpositions/The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses(1949); Language and Meaning (2010)||Writing of Lion Mar-May 1949, including mixed result conversaitions with Inklings; unknown editing schedule of sermons & addresses 1939-1947; unknown date of notes for book with Tolkien|
|1950||2||Prince Caspian (1951); The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)||Prince Caspian typed by Feb 21, 1950; Dawn Treader finished by Feb 21, 1950|
|1952||2||Mere Christianity (1952); English Literature in the 16th Century (1954)||Reprint of BBC talks, unknown editing; OHEL commission in 1935, odd refs in 1940s, Clark Lectures 1944, sabbatical 1951-52, complete June 1952, biblios and proofs 1953|
|1953||3||The Silver Chair (1953); The Horse and His Boy (1954); The Last Battle (1956)||Silver Chairdraft by Mar 6, 1951, complete by Mar 21, 1953; Horse & Boy submitted Mar 20, 1953; Last Battle complete May 21, 1953|
|1954||2||Surprised by Joy (1955); The Magician’s Nephew (1955)||working on Joy Mar 1954, likely done 1954; Magician’s Nephew begun in 1950 with draft in 1951 uncertain completion in 1954 or 1955|
|1955||1||Till We Have Faces (1956)||begun by Mar 1955, full draft by July 1955|
|1957||1||Reflections on the Psalms (1958)||finished fall 1957, invited to Revise the Psalter in 1958 (worked on 1959-62)|
|1958||1||Studies in Words (1960)||began with Easter term lectures 1956, repeated each spring, complete text Christmas 1958|
|1959||4||The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast (2d 1960); The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (1960); The Four Loves (1960); Miracles (2d, 1960)||“Screwtape Proposes a Toast” and preface complete Nov-Dec 1959; Essay collection of 1951-59 essays completed in 1959; Four Loves lectures written and delivered summer 1958, book done June 1959; revision of Miracles began with Anscombe in 1948, then abridgement in 1958; CSL rewrote ch. 3 of Miracles and made corrections in 2nd half 1959|
|1960||3.5||A Grief Observed (1961); An Experiment in Criticism; Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces (1965); After Ten Years Fragment (1977)||Grief in Aug 1960 following Joy’s death; proofs for Experiment by Jan 1961; Toast contents, preface and notes by Lewis c. Apr-May 1961, incl. essays from 1940s-1950s; on Fragment see Roger Green in Green & Hooper|
|1961||1||They Asked for a Paper (1962)||details worked out June 1961|
|1963||2||Letters to Malcolm (1964); The Discarded Image (1964)||attempted in early ’50s, idea returned in 1962, Malcolm done by Apr 1963; based on “prolegomena” lectures begun in 1934, it is Lewis’ last book|
Note: in copying over the Excel sheet I lost all the formatting, so books are not in italics.
He is one of my favorite authors and a major reason I took up writing myself. I am impressed by how prolific he was.
Oh, that’s great. He was very prolific. He just kept writing.
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Thank you so much for this!
How do you approximate the time that Lewis worked on The Dark Tower fragment? I know Hooper’s guess is that he began to write it in 1938 immediately after Out of the Silent Planet was finished, but I would be interested in knowing how you decided on the timeframe and if there are other resources that can be found. Thank you!
It’s a good question, Elizabeth. I don’t know, exactly. The manuscript we have has writing in two chunks and looks like a second draft. Charlie Starr, handwriting expert, thinks the draft is later in WWII, but content-wise it feels earlier to me. I don’t know. Certainly between 1938 and 1944. It should be before 1943, when That Hideous Strength was being written.
Each of these choices I made came with a lot of research, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to share all the choices. This chart, plus the Lewis letters, plus Arend Smilde’s website, plus Joel Heck’s chronology, plus Walter Hooper’s “Companion”–those are the key resources.
Thanks for the note!
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