“C.S. Lewis’ Arthuriad: Survey and Speculation” by Brenton Dickieson

Whatever else they had in common and apart, one of the features of the central Inklings–J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams–is that they each have left their Arthuriad incomplete. In the case of Tolkien and Lewis, they abandoned early narrative poetry that retold the Matter of Britain and moved on to the other things that made them famous. This should not mislead the reader into thinking they had moved on from Arthur. In this post, blog host Brenton Dickieson offers a rather extensive survey of the subtle Arthurian themes and images that run through Lewis’ entire project of fiction and literary history. He then sets down his serious pen to consider where Lewis may have turned to next, had he lived past his besetting illness of 1963. Perhaps best read as a partner to Gabriel Schenk’s excellent work, this post gives the reader of Lewis a resource to think about his fiction in new ways.

David Llewellyn Dodds, Guest Editor

At a first reading, the reader would not know how important the whole Arthurian world was to C. S. Lewis. A glance at my bookshelf suggests that Lewis’ only immediately identifiable Arthurian story is That Hideous Strength. If, however, I consider unpublished pieces, his literary criticism, and his work that includes literature evocative of Arthur, the shelf begins to fill out. In my chapter for The Inklings and King Arthur, I survey Lewis’ Arthuriad in order to provide readers with a background for the various Lewis papers in the book, and to set up my own argument about how Lewis used other kinds of books (check it out—I’m pretty proud of that chapter). I wanted to share part of that survey a bit more broadly, while also taking some time to speculate in a way I can’t do in a book. Readers here will understand that I am merely playing with possibilities and that this is offered up mostly for conversation and a chance to use our imaginations.

For simplicity sake, I divided Lewis’ writing into three identifiable periods in which Lewis’ Arthurian adoration produces Arthurian work, and one more in which the grand Arthurian universe leaks into the literature he is working on. I think this will show that although Lewis only published a single Arthurian retelling—and a very loose one at that—Lewis’ work is filled with the Matter of Britain. After the lengthy survey, I then offer up the speculation of what might have come next from Lewis’ pen, if he had remained healthy. Readers can also look at my digital humanities posts about Lewis’ writing for a link we don’t get in the book, and I’d love to hear what others might irresponsibly suggest might have come next from Lewis. And this post is a bit incomplete as Don King’s critical edition of Lewis’ poetry came out after I had written the chapter; I think the survey does pretty well though, and should be read after Gabriel Schenk’s Lewis Arthuriana post. And I would encourage you to read the comments. Other Lewis scholars have come in to sharpen my response with clarifications, cautions, and additions (things I didn’t know about).

Stage One: 1915-1925

The first Arthurian period was in Lewis’ late teens. As Gabriel Shenk describes well, and as I survey a bit in my 1916 post, he discovered Malory while being tutored in preparation for Oxford entrance (Sayer 98-104). Some of this Arthurian imagery finds its way to his poetry of the era. Spirits in Bondage (1919), with poems collected at the close of World War I, contains the best of his pubescent poetry.

Lewis teenage poetry–and the poetry of his whole life–is filled with Greek, Irish, and Norse mythology, with echoes of Homer, Beowulf, the Edda, and the Matter of France. Faërie and the medieval world haunt Spirits in Bondage, and twice Arthur is evoked openly. The first is a Twilight of the Gods poem, “Victory,” in which “Roland is dead, Cuchulain’s crest is low” (line 1). Helen and Iseult turn to dust, the fairy woods are empty, Tritan has abandoned the seas, and “Arthur sleeps far hence in Avalon” (8). Avalon is evoked elsewhere in “the mists apart” (“Irish Nocturne” 17), and more overtly as the “Isle of Apples” (“Death in Battle” 3).

Curator of Lewis’ poetic project, Don W. King, has posthumously published Lewis’ most specifically Arthurian extent poem of the period. It begins:

Oh Galahad! My Galahad!
The world is old and very sad,
The world is old and gray with pain
And all the ways thereof are bad (“Lost but Found” 181; lines 1-4).

If King’s date of Christmas 1916 is correct, the poem “Decadence” reflects not only the insatiable war that was consuming Europe and would soon vie for Lewis’ future—captured in titles of poems with Arthurian romance references like “Victory” and “Death in Battle”—but also a literary death that Lewis was mourning at the time: the death of his first attempt at a novel.

During Easter holidays in 1915, sixteen-year-old Lewis began calling his childhood friend Arthur Greeves by the gallant, religious-tinged name “Galahad” (Letters I 115). On Oct 12th, 1916, Lewis wrote to Arthur-Galahad, saying that

“As to Bleheris, he is dead and I shan’t trouble his grave” (Letters I 232).

This “Bleheris” is The Quest of Bleheris, an Arthurian prose tale written in short chapters and sent to Arthur throughout Lewis’ eighteenth year (1916).[1] The serial epic is intentionally constructed in archaic English—as in Tennyson, Morris, and Spenser before him—telling the tale of a young man adrift in his appointed social station who is then suddenly thrust into the adventure of a real quest. Lewis finally buries “Bleheris”—a book that had been suffering for some time—after seventeen chapters. He promises Arthur-Galahad that he will write something soon, though he warns that he is “rather taken up with verse at present” (Letters I 232). Spirits in Bondage emerged out of the turn to verse, though none of the poems sustain a narrative. Lewis’ narrative poem Dymer (1926), written in the years following the war, has little explicitly Arthurian material, though it reads like the medieval allegorical romances that were part of the classic Arthuriad.

Stage Two: 1928-1935

Lewis’ first Arthurian period was a result of his discovery of Malory and the other Arthurian authors in his teenage years. His second Arthurian period was coincidental with his relationship with J.R.R. Tolkien. There are great chapters about Tolkien’s own Arthuriad in The Inklings and King Arthur. On Lewis’ part, his [2] Arthurian works in this period are the incomplete verse narrative, “Launcelot” (Narrative Poems 93-101), and the academic volume, The Allegory of Love (1935). “The Nameless Isle” and “Queen of Drum” from the late 20s-early 30s have some parallels with the Mordred-Guinevere storyline in the Arthuriad, but are not properly Arthurian romances. The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933) is Arthurian in flavour to the extent that it shares features of romance, shared allegorical imagery, and knightly valour with its urtext, Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Because Lewis abandoned “Launcelot” early in its creation—it ends at line 296 in a moment of mounting suspense—it is difficult to know the extent of the narrative, but you can read it for yourself in the Dark Tower and Other Stories collection or in some of the poetry anthologies of Lewis’ work. What remains is a narrative that builds upon Malory and Tennyson’s characters, but with new elements to the quest (King 140-145). After a long delay and Guinever’s anxious waiting for Launcelot, first Gawain and then Launcelot return, but they are changed. The most interesting aspect of the poem may be the promising exploration of posttraumatic stress disorder—or “Shell Shock”—though it is it is possible that it was not war specifically that causes the psychologically problematic trauma.

The twentieth century introduced a golden age of Arthurian studies. While not lacking in critical reflection about the Arthuriad, previous generations were most important for their reworking of Arthurian romances and figures into their own art and literature. By the time Lewis’ magnificent book The Allegory of Love was released in 1936, the academic conversation was underway, though Lewis was at the beginning of a renewal in modern scholarship storyline/narrative taking Spenser’s Faerie Queene seriously.

Indeed, Lewis remained interested in Spenser’s Arthurian allegory throughout his life. He devoted a full chapter of The Allegory of Love and a half chapter in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954) to The Faerie Queene. He also wrote essays on Spenser in 1931, 1954, 1961, and 1963, and used Spenser as a case study in both The Discarded Image and Studies in Words. In 1967, Alistair Fowler drew together and completed C. S. Lewis’ Cambridge lectures on Spenser (Spenser’s Images of Life), and I think there is merit for a full Spenser-Lewis edited volume for someone dedicated to the study.

Beyond Spenser, The Allegory of Love considers Arthurian stories throughout, as it discusses with medieval courtly love literature, including the works of Chrétien de Troyes, Thomas Usk, Malory, and the authors of the Roman de la Rose and Gawain and the Green Knight. Some of these stories were all but lost to scholarship, and Lewis’ attention to them would have caused a chuckle by some more traditionalist critics.

Stage Three: 1935-1947

That second period of Arthurian-connected work of the late 1920s through the mid-1930s did not immediately produce definitively Arthurian fiction. The first Arthurian period emerged out of Lewis’ friendship with Arthur and his discovery of Malory. The second period coincides with his friendship with Tolkien and his academic work in courtly love poetry. Lewis’ third Arthurian period was connected with his friendship with Charles Williams, which began when Allegory of Love was going to print in 1935, and with his discovery of the value of science fiction in telling worldview-laced stories.

Charles Williams first captured Lewis’ imagination with his supernatural thriller, The Place of the Lion. Over the next decade, until Williams’ death, Lewis became intimate with Williams’ incomplete Arthuriad, specifically the poetry of Taliessin Through Logres (1938) and The Region of the Summer Stars (1944), in supernatural novels like War in Heaven (1930), and in didactic form in the unfinished Arthurian Torso—edited and published posthumously by Lewis himself, who provided a commentary to the difficult text.[3] And, of course, this is the period of the Ransom Cycle, beginning with the space romance (adventure tale), Out of the Silent Planet (1937). Dr. Ransom, the hero of the Cycle and the focus of much of my chapter, takes on biblical and Arthurian mythic elements in Perelandra (1943) before he emerges as Pendragon That Hideous Strength (1945)—certainly Lewis’ most overtly Arthurian tale in print.

Stage Four: 1949-1954

This final period I have set aside from the other three because it does not produce specifically or identifiably Arthurian work, and yet it is rich in the textures of Arthur. The period, roughly 1949-1954, covers the publication of English Literature in the Sixteen Century (OHEL) and The Chronicles of Narnia. Arthur and the matter of Britain is considered throughout, as Lewis spent fifteen to twenty years studying sixteenth-century texts, many of which evoke courtly themes and Arthurian tales either implicitly or explicitly. Lewis describes how the rise of humanism and Protestantism in the sixteenth century transformed and reacted to the Medieval worldview of their predecessors. King Arthur’s court was in danger of imaginative death, but was rescued by authors like John Bale and John Leland, who painted Arthur in Protestant colours. There was space, then, for Spenser and Milton. The text of his Sixteenth Century was complete by summer of 1952, at the end of a sabbatical.

By 1949, a number of features may have coalesced for Lewis: his work in the sixteenth century generally and Spenser specifically, the editorial and commentary work on Williams’ Arthuriad, a new reading of Malory’s Morte Darthur with the release of Eugène Vinaver’s production of the Winchester manuscript in 1947, a lifetime of reading tales about chivalry, and a struggle to work out a children’s fairy tale.

This context allows for a particular consideration of the Narnian chronicles, written between 1949 and 1953. Doubtless, they are tales of chivalry. At least three of them are structured like knight’s quests, and the characters have opportunities to show knightly valour in each of the seven chronicles. They are each royal tales, though not all occur in court, with elements of “‘high style’ diction reminiscent of Sir Thomas Malory” (Ward 4). Without going deeply into the tales, a few examples will highlight the Arthurian quality of Narnia.[4]

The “high style” diction focuses at various points, particularly at the close of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950), during the scenes in the Calormene court in The Horse and His Boy (1954), and in moments of pomp and circumstance. Peter, Edmund, Caspian, Rilian, and (probably) Tirian are knight-kings, like Arthur. The example of knights is held up throughout the chronicles by dwarfs and talking beasts as well as humans. The pilgrims in The Silver Chair (1953) are not surprised to meet a Lady and a Knight upon the road, and the scoundrel Rabadash is held to a knight’s standard when his case is weighed by King Lune: “you have proved yourself no knight, but a traitor and one rather to be whipped by the hangman than to be suffered to cross swords with any person of honour” (Horse and His Boy 164).

The Horse and His Boy is one of the quest tales. Shasta is clearly the hero, yet the title notes Lewis’ inversive humour. Since the horse, Bree, is a decorated war horse and a Narnian of honour, the title may also hint at the idea of Shasta as Bree’s squire, a relationship evocative of Malory’s tales. The hero Reepicheep, a member of the Most Noble Order of the Lion (along with the Pevensie kings), defines honour in chivalrous terms and even challenges the hapless Eustace—doubtless better at economics than swordplay—to a duel. Indeed, Reepicheep takes chivalry to such a degree that his chess game suffered when he would sacrifice his knight or castle to save the queen, as a courtly mouse is bound to do (Dawn Treader 55). Though occasionally fierce, he was not unkind. When the bedragoned Eustace was feeling low because of his failure, Reepicheep stuck with him and said that:

…if he had Eustace at his own house in Narnia (it was really a hole not a house and the dragon’s head, let alone his body, would not have fitted in) he could show him more than a hundred examples of emperors, kings, dukes, knights, poets, lovers, astronomers, philosophers, and magicians, who had fallen from prosperity into the most distressing circumstances, and of whom many had recovered and lived happily ever afterwards. (Dawn Treader 81-82)

No other quotation, perhaps, captures the breadth of the Narnian Arthurian narrative landscape than this one. The impetuous chivalry of Reepicheep can create trouble, as does the hasty honour of King Tirian and the unicorn Jewel in The Last Battle (1956). Moreover, Narnia is almost completely devoid of courtly love tales, with the exception of the parody of one at the Tashbaan court in The Horse and His Boy.  In general, however, the moral universe of Narnia is ordered by chivalric honour.

The Magician’s Nephew (1955) is the least Arthurian of the chronicles; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) is the most influenced by the Matter of Britain. While the goal of the Dawn Treader is to search for lost kings, Sir Reepicheep is bound in his heart by a quest to the world’s end. The quest is evocative of the search for the Holy Grail, especially when Reepicheep tosses away his superfluous sword at the end of the quest: it lands upright in the sea, a moment that evokes the bookends of King Arthur’s career.

Also in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy is drawn into a task to save the Dufflepuds from their invisibility. As she flips through a magic book, she comes to a spell “for the refreshment of the spirit” (121). She reads the loveliest story she’s ever encountered, but when tempted to reread it, she founds she is unable to go back to the first page. And when she tries to remember the story, it fades from page and memory: “And even this last page is going blank. This is a very queer book. How can I have forgotten? It was about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill, I know that much. But I can’t remember and what shall I do?” (121). It is, perhaps, a grail story that she has forgotten—and perhaps the grail story that connects the Arthurian Hallows with the Golgotha of history and Aslan’s How of Narnia.[5] These were the kinds of links that Lewis liked to make. At the beginning of Dawn Treader, thinking back to the revolutionary tale Prince Caspian (1951), the narrator says:

“Consequently, when the Pevensie children had returned to Narnia last time for their second visit, it was (for the Narnians) as if King Arthur came back to Britain, as some people say he will. And I say the sooner the better” (15).

Arthurian Critical Work

Across these four life stages, Lewis wrote essays and lectures on Arthurian-related topics throughout his life, some of which I have already hinted at. The Discarded Image, published posthumously, is a collection of Lewis’ “Prolegomena” lectures, which he gave almost yearly at Oxford between 1931-32 and his departure for Cambridge in 1954 (“The Lectures of C. S. Lewis” 447-453). Arthur is one of the topics both in the Prolegomena and in the medieval poetry that The Discarded Image introduces. There are several Arthuriana essays and reviews in Image and Imagination, written during World War II (125-136; 137-146) or in 1960-63 (217-222; 223-232; 248-276). Much of Studies of Medieval and Renaissance Literature references Arthur or focuses on Arthurian texts—typically written in the periods of WWII, 1954-56, and 1960-63—some of which I discuss pretty extensively in the chapter. “The Anthropological Approach” fits also into this latter period and tests a modern literary approach upon medieval texts, including some in the Arthuriad. Lewis also frequently used King Arthur, Arthurian literature, or the Arthurian world as examples in his popular essays.

What Was Coming Next?

There is, perhaps, a discernable pattern of Arthurian influence in Lewis’ life, his reflection on the topic, and then imaginative work that emerges from it. Lewis encounters Malory as a teenager and immediately begins trying to write an Arthurian tale (stage one). Lewis befriends Tolkien while he is working on a history of medieval love poetry, and Lewis again struggles to capture his own Arthurian story in narrative form (stage two). Lewis befriends Williams, writes critically about Williams’ Arthuriad, and then writes his own explicitly Arthurian tale (stage three). With the death of Williams, Lewis’ focussed work on his Sixteenth Century volume, and the publication of Vinaver’s Morte D’Arthur in 1947, Lewis created a world very much patterned after the best of Arthurian romances (stage four).

As there is a new concentration of Arthurian academic work in 1960-63, following his marriage and subsequent bereavement, it could be that a recovery of Arthurian critical work in of fiction work Do they help us peek ahead to what might have come from his dip pen if he had survived his illness of 1963?

The last half of the 1950s was rich for Lewis in more ways than the success of Narnia, which was largely complete by 1953. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was finally published, Lewis’ own books were well received, he recently came off a much-needed sabbatical, he finally finished OHEL (reducing his workload) Beyond these, letter-writing had settled down a little after an uprush in the Narnian period, and his wife had convinced him that he could be cleverer about his publishing career. This led to new essays like “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” (1959), a couple of new editions of Miracles, a lecture series on The Four Loves that spins off into a book, and a number of collections of past essays like They Asked for a Paper (1961) and Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Essays (finally appears in 1965), and rewrites of lectures into full books like Studies in Words (1958) and The Discarded Image (1963).

If we were only following a publication pattern, Lewis looks a little flat in the late 50s with a sudden spike after his wife died. What we see when we actually narrow in one when Lewis was working on things—as we do in my “Cheat Sheet”—we see a steady growth in completed work up until the fall after Joy died, and then a rest. Lewis became ill in parts of 1961 to 1963, but as Joe Hoffman’s chart recognizes, Lewis typically operated with a rest period after a high-output period. If we imagine that Lewis got well in 1963 instead of passing away, where would have turned?

I would argue that we may have seen some further Arthurian work emerge in the mid-1960s, had he lived (cf Green & Hooper 292-293). Lewis wrote Letters to Malcolm at an up point in 1963 and edited the lectures that become The Discarded Image—essays largely about the medieval world behind Arthur. 1960 to 1963 were rich in Arthurian essays, and we see that Lewis’ nonfiction was linked to periods of fruitful fiction writing. Here are some thoughts—completely offered as right-field speculation—of what Lewis might have turned to in the 1960s.

  • It is highly likely that Lewis would have eventually done what Alastair Fowler did in Spenser’s Images of Life. That little book brings together Lewis’ lectures on Spenser and fills them out in narrative style. Lewis may have done this and included Spenser essays that were printed in posthumous volumes.
  • Lewis had a way of coming back to old stories. The Cupid & Psyche myth resonated in him until Till We Have Faces clicked. He worked on a memoir numerous times before he settled on the philosophical approach in Surprised by Joy. I suspect that Lewis never really kept a file of projects, but when he encountered his journals or notes that might have inspired something new. What past projects might have been resurrected?
    • Along the Arthurian line, Lewis may have returned to the possibilities in his Launcelot poem, but may have found a prose adventure tale more suitable (I don’t know if he ever attempted long-form poetry after the early 30s). Certainly, as the 20th century wore on, there has been a good readership of Arthurs retold.
    • When it comes to other types of romances, the unpublished “Nameless Isle” and “Queen of Drum” may have come back to Lewis.
    • I doubt that Lewis would have ever drawn his poetry together into single books as later editors did. Not only did he lack the skill and love of editing—the only books he edited for others were two of his most important influences, Charles Williams and George MacDonald—but Lewis had in a sense given up his life as a poet. Most of the poetry that he published was printed pseudonymously or otherwise veiled, though in 1961 and 1963 Lewis’ publisher suggested returning to publishing the poetry.
  • Not Arthurian, Lewis may have turned attention to the unfinished manuscript of what posthumous editors called “After Ten Years.” This is a retelling of the Helen of Troy legend that is suggestive of rich literary and thematic possibilities if treated like Till We Have Faces.
  • Given the books he was reading in the 1960s—besides the work of his correspondents they were mostly things he had read before—I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis turned either to critical work on Arthurian poets—perhaps even taking a more detailed swing at the new Malory manuscript work—or to another devotional book like Malcolm or Reflections on the Psalms.

Or, Lewis may have done something entirely surprising. Narnia seemed to come out of nowhere, though it was growing in him for years. Out of the Silent Planet landed on a bet. Who knows what a healthy body might have allowed for this lithe mind. I have the suspicion that something Arthurian or Arthur-tinged might have tumbled out of Lewis’ storytelling pen–partly because of the pattern of his writing, but also because it feels that his Arthuriad is incomplete. The lament of the second stanza of Lewis’ teenage poem, “Decadence,” begins with these words,

“The bows of story stand unstrung….”

In the end, whatever Lewis might have turned to, and granting that That Hideous Strength is an Arthur book, Lewis’ Arthuriad is one of these unstrung bows.

Selected Bibliography:

Christopher, Joe. “C. S. Lewis’s Lost Arthurian Poem: A Conjectural Essay,” Inklings Forever VIII (2012): 1-11. Print.

Dickieson, Brenton D.G. “The Unpublished Preface to C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.” Notes and Queries 60.2 (2013): 296-298. Print.

Dodds, David Llewellyn, ed. Arthurian Poets: Charles Williams. Arthurian Studies XXIV. Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 1991. Print.a

Green, Roger Lancelyn, and Walter Hooper. C. S. Lewis: A Biography. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974. Print.

Higgins, Iain Macleod. Writing East: The “Travels” of Sir John Mandeville. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997. Print.

Higgins, Sørina. “Arthurian Geographies in Tolkien, Williams and Lewis.” The Bulletin of the New York C. S. Lewis Society 45.4. Print.

Hooper, Walter, ed. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Vol. 1: Family Letters 1905-1929. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004. Print.

—. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Vol. 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. HarperSanFrancisco, 2007. Print.

—. “The Lectures of C. S. Lewis in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.” Christian Scholar’s Review 27.4 (Summer 1998): 436-453. Print.

King, Don W. “C. S. Lewis’s The Quest of Bleheris as Poetic Prose.” Plain to the Inward Eye. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2013. 36-40. Print.

—. C. S. Lewis, The Poet: The Legacy of his Poetic Impulse. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2001. Print.

—. “Lost but Found: The ‘Missing’ Poems of C. S. Lewis’s Spirits in Bondage.” Christianity and Literature 53.2 (2004): 163-201. Print.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966. Print.

Lewis, C. S. The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition. London: Oxford University Press, 1936. Print.

—. All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 64-77. Print.

—. “The Anthropological Approach.” Selected Literary Essays. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. 301-311. Print.

—. “Dante’s Similes.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Ed. Walter Hooper. London: A Harvest Book, 1991. Print.

—. The Dark Tower and Other Stories. Ed. Walter Hooper. London: Fount, 1977. Print.

—. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964. Print.

—. “Dymer.” Narrative Poems. Ed. Walter Hooper. London: Fount, 1994. 1-90. Print.

—. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama. Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1954. Print.

—, ed. Essays Presented to Charles Williams. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1972.

—. “The Genesis of a Medieval Book.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 18-40. Print.

—. “Historicism.” Fern-seed and Elephants: And Other Essays on Christianity. Ed. Walter Hooper. Glasgow: Fontana, 1975. 44-64. Print.

—. The Horse and His Boy. London: Fontana, 1980. Print.

—. Image and Imagination. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.

—. “Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 41-63. Print.

—. The Last Battle. London: Fontana, 1980. Print.

—. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. London: Fontana, 1980. Print.

—. “The Literary Impact of the Authorized Version.” Selected Literary Essays. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. 126-145. Print.

—. The Magician’s Nephew. London: Fontana, 1980. Print.

—. “The ‘Morte Darthur.’” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 103-110. Print.

—. Narrative Poems. Ed. Walter Hooper. London: Fount, 1994. Print.

—. “A Note on Jane Austen.” Selected Literary Essays. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. 175-186. Print.

—. Out of the Silent Planet. New York: Macmillan, 1964. Print.

—. Perelandra. New York: Macmillan, 1965. Print.

—. The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity Reason and Romanticism. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1981. Print.

—. A Preface to Paradise Lost. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1942. Print.

—. Prince Caspian. London: Fontana, 1980. Print.

—. The Screwtape Letters. London: Geoffrey Bless, 1942. Print.

—. Selected Literary Essays. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. Print.

—. The Silver Chair. London: Fontana, 1980. Print.

—. Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics. Ed. Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. Print.

—. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.

—. Studies in Words. 2d ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967. Print.

—. That Hideous Strength. New York: Collier Books, 1965. Print.

—. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. London: Fontana, 1980. Print.

Lewis, C. S., and Alistair Fowler. Spenser’s Images of Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.

Sayer, George. Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis. 2d ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994. Print.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fall of Arthur. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 2013. Print.

Ward, Michael. Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Williams, Charles, and C. S. Lewis. Taliessin Through Logres, The Region of the Summer Stars, Athurian Torso. One-Volume Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974. Print.

Williams, Charles. The Chapel of the Thorn: A Dramatic Poem. Ed. Sørina Higgins. Berkeley: Apocryphal Press, 2014. Print.


[1] The incomplete and unpublished MS. of “The Quest of Bleheris” is available at the Bodleian, MS. Eng. lett. c. 220/5. I have prepared a transcription, which I hope to publish soon and am presenting at the Taylor conference with a panel on Bleheris in June.

[2] See chapter one, “The Matter of Britain in the Works of Owen Barfield, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams” by Sørina Higgins; chapter eight, “The Elegiac Fantasy of Past Christendom in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur” by Cory Grewell; chapter ten, “The Stripped Banner: Reading The Fall of Arthur as a Post-World War I Text” by Taylor Driggers; and chapter thirteen, “In the World Walking for the Woe of Men: Guinever in The Fall of Arthur” by Alyssa House-Thomas.

[3] Williams also wrote a number of Arthurian poems in the 1920s; Lewis does not take these into account in Arthurian Torso. I would argue that The Chapel of the Thorn, Williams’ 1912 dramatic poem only recently published, is a kind of grail story, and thus in the spectrum of Arthurian tales. See The Chapel of the Thorn.

[4] See also chapter eleven, “Arthurian Waste Lands and Renewal in Lewis and Eliot” by Jon Hooper, which explores Arthurian and quest imagery in the Narniad in great detail.

[5] Green and Hooper (252) note “the plenteous riches of the Arthurian Cycle” in the table and the stone knife. They also add that the Ramandu’s kingdom is patterned after the Fisher King’s castle. In reading a draft of this chapter, Charles Huttar noted that Walter Hooper records a conversation in which Lewis said that Aslan’s “brightness and a sweet odour” found their source in medieval grail descriptions (Past Watchful Dragons 97).

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.
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45 Responses to “C.S. Lewis’ Arthuriad: Survey and Speculation” by Brenton Dickieson

  1. Roger White says:

    Very helpful. Thank you Brenton.

    Compare also Walter Hooper’s Preface to “Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature”…

    “One morning in August of 1963 we were discussing our plans for Christmas and Lewis reminded me that he neither gave nor received Christmas gifts. Then almost immediately he expressed a desire to write something on the Arthurian legend—if only he owned a copy of the ‘Vulgate Version of the Arthurian Romances.’ ‘I have all seven volumes’, I said. ‘Have you?’ he asked, his eyes twinkling. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘Would you like them?’ There was a very long pause. ‘After what I have just said,’ he fumbled, ‘would you—could you part with them?’ It gave me great pleasure to see the noble Arthurian volumes on his shelves and I continue to imagine what golden visions might have sprung from them.” (p. x)


    • Thanks so much for this Roger. I’m a little embarassed that I didn’t think of looking at Walter Hooper’s many prefaces, as he spent a few months of the last year there. But I’m also pleased to see I’m at least on track!


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I did not remember that anecdote, either – which does indeed make it a nice confirmation (unless it was a deeply-buried unconscious seed…!).

        If Williams hadn’t died when he did, there might have been an interesting Arthurian Inklings-interaction branching or burgeoning in the later-1940s, when you see how lively the discussions were over what proved his last novel, All Hallows’ Eve, in which Baptism is a crucial element, and recall his 5 July 1944 letter to a friend saying that another novel “also about death – moves vaguely in my head: this time with some idea of touching on the Eucharist.” Might the Grail have featured – explicitly (again), or implicitly? And how might on-going conversations beneficial to Williams’s novel perhaps have fed Lewis’s (and Tolkien’s) Arthurianism, too?


        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          I have not yet caught up with The Inklings and King Arthur where Tolkien is concerned, but it suddenly strikes me as interesting that Farmer Giles of Ham is written and published in those later 1940s, set, as its translator tells us in his Foreword, “after the days of King Coel maybe, but before Arthur”.

          Reading your paper, Milton’s History of Britain had already come to mind – in addition to his ideas for an Arthurian epic as maybe somehow analogous to Lewis’s scholarly and creative Arthurian work – perhaps since I have only ever browsed around in it to see what he says about Arthur, and other Roman-British matters, as he was trying (as I remember it) to work critically with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History as well as assorted earlier sources.

          Farmer Giles could be slipped in there, somewhere. Arthurian-style adventures as part of a background to Arthur.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hmm, yes. CW’s path had he lived is a little clearer, partly because he had set out some goals (at least in nonfiction and poetry). I wonder how he would have reacted to That Hideous Strength.
          Tolkien’s path is pretty clear too, but we probably got things faster because his son took over! Owen Barfield lived forever, doing an important book every decade or two. Roger Lancelyn Green spun off. Dorothy Sayers would have finished the Paradiso, but I don’t know if she had anything else going. Warren Lewis may have had another productive decade in him if he hadn’t lost his brother, but he made a run at editing Jack’s work.
          All kind of speculation!
          I would have read all of Hooper’s prefaces between 2011 and 2015, so perhaps I have plagiarized by accident here. But it was the trends that made me think of it when writing this chapter.


          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            You have charted that trend amazingly – thank you! It’s excellent the way you get us thinking about how the Arthurian has contributed or may be present in Lewis’s work when that is not explicit – in features of genre and style and imagery.

            Liked by 1 person

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            Interesting to think about that Inklings-interacter, Dorothy Sayers, whose 1946 play, The Just Vengeance, is founded in part on a passage from the Paradiso (and has a tiny Roman-British element) – I’d have to reread The Emperor Constantine (1951) to see just how much pre-Arthurian Roman-British element it has. But she was an Arthurian early on, with her Tristan in Brittany translation (1929) – might she have returned to something explicitly Arthurian? Meanwhile, the latest Wade blog has some surprising and fascinating work both rich and popularizing and playing with the High and Late Mediaeval, contemporary with working on Dante, in the form of Advent calendar and spin-offs: I wish someone would republish them!


            • Cool. All of that is new to me. But for those peaking in (note I spelled it correctly?): it was Charles Williams who set Dorothy Sayers into the world of Dante. Dante is only a little overlapping with Arthur but coming out of similar worlds.


              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Yes – surprisingly, given her scholarly background, Dorothy Sayers had not, or had not really, read Dante, until she read Williams on Dante and that got her very interested, and they were planning to collaborate – and then he died suddenly. Dante does have that very striking Arthurian reference in the Inferno about when a brother- and sister-in-law are reading together about adultery in an Arthurian romance – and then ‘read no more’ but embark on a doubly-adulterous affair by which they damn themselves.

                Speaking of that dark side of ‘courtly love’ (as Lewis does so well), Dorothy Sayers was a great fan of the Three Musketeers (there’s a lovely photo of her with mustache and little beard playing Athos as a teenager), as was Warnie (who has a wonderfully rhapsodic diary entry on 25 February 1969 about reading it once more and not remembering how many times he’d read and enjoyed it since first in 1906), and C.S. Lewis certainly seemed to know and to have enjoyed Dumas, though apparently with some reservations – yet Reepicheep seems to me more at the Musketeery part of the courtly tradition than the mediaeval. But your speculations got me wondering – Dumas wrote Twenty Years After (1845) as a sequel to The Three Musketeers (1844): might Lewis have ventured on a Studdocks and St. Anne’s ‘twenty years after’ novel (where – spoiler alert! – their first born – assuming there is one indeed, which much seems pointing to – is still the destined one foreseen by Merlin – and has come of age, or is about to -?)?


      • Charles Huttar says:

        If you had reread Hooper’s preface to the 1964 _Poems_, which was his maiden voyage as an editor of Lewis, you might have altered this paragraph:
        “I doubt that Lewis would have ever drawn his poetry together into single books as later editors did. Not only did he lack the skill and love of editing . . . but Lewis had in a sense given up his life as a poet. Most of the poetry that he published was printed pseudonymously or otherwise veiled, though in 1961 and 1963 Lewis’ publisher suggested returning to publishing the poetry.”
        Thank you for that last bit of information, which I hadn’t come across before. But now, before proceeding to the main point of this comment, I want to digress and clarify my phrase about Hooper’s “maiden voyage.” Hooper’s name is deservedly linked with a vast array of posthumous publications “by” Lewis. It’s also technically correct to refer to _Letters to Malcolm_ and _The Discarded Image_ as “posthumous” — but in quite a different sense, for they surely must have been well along in the publication process at the time he died (appearing just two and three months [respectively] later). When I first met Lewis in the fall of 1962, he greeted me at the door of his rooms in Magdelene College, Cambridge, holding a set of galley proofs that he had been working on right up until my knock. I have every reason to believe these were proofs of _The Discarded Image_. That we have many instances of Lewis’s altering his works at the proof stage, or even for a second edition, must surely qualify the idea that he “lack[ed] . . . love of editing” — of his own work, at any rate (which surely would include the Poems too).

        Hooper tells us (vii-viii) “about the compiling of this book,” and in his closing paragraph (ix) he acknowledges various ways that those closer to Lewis had encouraged and aided him (in his introduction to the expanded edition in 1994, he mentions especially Owen Barfield’s role) in completing a collection that was already under way. (Your word “returning,” when you speak of the Bles firm’s urging, fits in with this, for the compiling had been begun by Lewis himself “over ten years ago for a volume to be called _Young King Cole and Other Pieces_.” While he was still at Oxford he even wrote an “introductory letter” for this planned volume (see King, ed., _Collected Poems_, 455). Whether he continued this project after moving to Cambridge we cannot say. In the later ’50s there were many other things, personal as well as public, that occupied him. That may be why Bles began prodding him in 1961. Apparently this prodding brought results: I’ll return to this.

        What Hooper had in hand after Lewis died (turned over to him by the executors when Hooper returned to England after Christmas) was a mass of papers that included some poems retyped, others in Lewis’s autograph. Of some there were multiple versions “slightly different.” Poems Lewis had published in periodicals over a quarter-century he had collected in notebooks and marked for revision, including in some cases (it may be) new titles. That, if true, is important (and Hooper does give us on p. viii one instance of a title change by Lewis), for titles are more than just handy ways to refer to a poem. Often Lewis’s title is an integral part of the work of art (compare George Herbert’s “The Pulley”). As we know from _Letters to Malcolm_, in that book Lewis was still revising earlier poems; and even in his final months “he sometimes used to dictate poems” to Hooper and even then proceed to tinker with them (vii-viii).

        Lewis’s failure to finish the project probably has a stronger explanation than his being “hesitant about their publication” (Hooper, viii). The satirical “introductory letter” that he wrote demonstrates not only that “he knew his poems were very unlike most contemporary verse” (viii), but also that he had a pretty good idea of readers’ probable reactions, and that wouldn’t have deterred him. But “up to the time he died,” Hooper tells us, “he was still revising” (_Collected Poems_, 1994, xvi; see also xviii). (This may remind us of Tolkien’s _Silmarillion_, but the motives are quite different.) Lewis had “returned to _Young King Cole_” in 1963 and “was still a long way from completing the task, but he was very eager to get on with it” (xvi; Hooper however misdates the so-called introductory letter).

        Over the next few months Hooper had trouble “determin[ing Lewis’s] final version of a poem,” his “considered judgment.” Hooper had to make his own judgment which text best represented the author’s intention. (In this respect, and in other ways, a true “critical edition” is still sorely needed; the 2015 _Collected Poems_, now widely used, merely aims to give us a snapshot of early versions and makes no attempt to address the question of Lewis’s alterations in text or title. Hooper’s two editions come closer to representing the texts that Lewis wished to appear.) Other aspects of Hooper’s work as editor included “collecting everything I could find among his literary remains,” providing titles for poems that had none, organizing the material (which was “in no particular order”) by topic rather than chronology, and furnishing for those five sections titles drawn “from Lewis’s own works” (vii).

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s an error (which I caught later in the post). I’ll change it. It was just unsuccessful in finding a publisher. (as far as we know)
          “novel” as in non-fantasy, or like TWHF? I’m not sure. There are a lot of great possibilities and this is just really a bit of fun.


        • Charles, thanks so much for taking the time to write this note. Your comment about Discarded Image makes sense time-wise and if you are right is a little addition to our knowledge about the process of that book (though I’d have to look more at Hooper’s prefaces–as is clear now!).
          Is there a technical term that distinguishes a posthumous publication that was already in the hopper and one that is like a found manuscript sent to a publisher after the author’s demise? I could make up a term but that would take creativity I don’t feel on this wet, early morning!
          Did Lewis love editing? For me to claim this against editor-secretary Walter Hooper’s statement to the contrary would take more evidence than I can gather right now. He certainly did not like the herding cats of trying to get the Williams memorial volume together, and his work for the Arthurian Torso (the commentary and introduction) had an unusually high number of edits in it, with whole paragraphs excised (based on the MSS. at the Bod). I would have to re-look at the letters around the Geo. MacDonald project, but I think he wearied by the end.
          I was thinking, really, about Lewis’ editing of other things and obviously not about the publishing process that he undertook dozens of times. Clearly, he got into it in his last decade, pulling together several books from popular and academic lectures (4 Loves, Studies in Words, Discarded Image).
          So my language was fuzzy there, and I do think an academic essay collection would have come, and maybe the Spenser or Arthurian volume. My real reason for putting that statement was that I am convinced that Lewis hated doing work over again, and his galley proofs letters are as brief as they can be and sometimes a little terse (less jocular, for example, with Jock Gibb than when they are chatting over projects). By the end he had tired of aspects and handed over all the translation responsibility to Gibb.
          Clearly, too, I haven’t taken enough time with Hooper’s prefaces. That might reveal something about me: I find them overly sweet. But I also find them fascinating for three reasons. First, Hooper was with Lewis at a period where he didn’t have a lot of contact with others. Second, they show the intense involvement that posthumous editing takes–including the hunting down of articles all over the place and doing things like naming poems and books (which some readers will always hate, though I don’t have a lot of complaints. Third, I have a project idea about those prefaces I’d like to play out sometime.
          Your point about the earlier collection is something I didn’t know, and your Malcolm comment makes sense. As a thought about your excellent clarifications, that introductory letter shows us some of the limits of that poetic project: as poetry, it did not fit in the age. What Hooper saw, what we could see, is that the poetry has interest because of the poet. I don’t know that Lewis ever really saw the power of his name–or if he did, he chose to look away from that.
          As blogs are a kind of living word, I would like to leave my errors in print and highlight your great response (and Roger White’s above).


          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            Jolly to think about different types of ‘editing’: it would be interesting to try to map out in detail, for Lewis. A couple stray observations, meanwhile. Elizabeth Anscombe was favourably impressed by the effort Lewis put into revising Miracles when he got the chance, and by the result. And, as far as I know, he cheerfully undertook to abridge That Hideous Strength for the first paperback edition – which must have been quite a job – and an interesting bit of Arthurian work, to which Colman O’Hare attended in his doctoral dissertation.

            I’m not sure what the full story of The Figure of Arthur is – e.g., what-all Lewis worked from, who else was involved (Raymond Hunt? Margaret Douglas?), and I’ve heard that the surviving source-material includes interesting differences from the published text, but have never tried to look into this myself. (This includes Wade CW / MS-116, but I am not sure what else.) A new edition of that unfinished work (rather than a simple reprint) would be interesting (and someone may be working on it, though I know of no details). But this was Lewis’s only edition of a text by another author,right? With which we may contrast Tolkien’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Ancrene Wisse.

            William Alfred (who had published a translation of Beowulf) used to say in our Old English classes that a translation is always a surreptitious edition, given all the textual editorial considerations a translator has to take into account – and decide upon, in translating one way rather than another. It’s interesting that Lewis, who seems to have delighted in translating quotations in things like The Allegory of Love and (I think) his OHEL volume, never published any translation(s) of any whole work(s) by any other writer(s). Here, contrast both Barfield’s translated and edited works by Steiner and Tolkien’s translations of Old and Middle English works (though not published as a whole during his lifetime).

            Fun to think of editorial aspects of Inklings-interactions, too – though sadly difficult to trace in detail. Though we do know, for example, Lewis came up with the title The Region of the Summer Stars for Williams’s Arthurian volume, even as Williams as professional OUP editor had come up with The Allegory of Love as title.


            • Charles Huttar says:

              David and Brenton,

              This is a reply to the above posts by you both. (And I have to say that you’re both way ahead of me as regards much of the factual information that you offer. That’s one reason on-line exchanges like this are so helpful.

              “Did Lewis love editing?” Well, did he love answering letters (or dread the postman’s knock)? Did he love washing dishes at Janie’s beck and call? He did what he thought needed to be done.

              “Jolly to think about different types of ‘editing’.” Yes, another of those generalized words(like “posthumous”) that serve a good purpose but embrace a variety of specifics, into which it’s sometimes useful to break them down. You mention self-revision, as in Miracles (see also American editions of Narnia; second and third editions of Pilgrim’s Regress — and now, his extensive marginal notes as published by Downing; and how about that #73 bus?) and abridgment (which as we all know, often happens even before publication).

              I can add only “stray observations,” but for what it’s worth….
              Selection: not only Layamon’s Brut but parts of the Faerie Queene for an American undergraduate anthology (with a long introduction to boot); deciding which “other addresses” to combine with a reprint of “Transposition” (and so on).
              Compiling: 365 extracts from MacDonald suitable for daily reading and devotional reflection.
              Assembling: Lewis tried hard to get something from T. S. Eliot for the Williams “presentation” volume (if not an essay, maybe just a poem, please?). I can relate to that experience. Christopher Fry agreed to contribute to The Rhetoric of Vision, but then he had to back out.

              The edges blur. Something akin to editing goes in a book review that calls attention to errors in another person’s work, especially trivial ones; and in converting years of lecture notes for book publication. Arguing in the margins with books that he read.

              How much actual peer-reviewing did Lewis do? To what degree may directing a student’s dissertation amount to editorial work? Re “editorial aspects of Inklings-interactions”: Lewis casting himself in an editorial role as commentator on a Tolkien manuscript in the 1930s (see my March 7 blog).

              “Lewis hated doing work over again.” Possibly so, in a sense, but doesn’t God in the Dock show him more than once doing that very thing, for a new audience (that is, a new rhetorical setting)? That relates to the oft-noted sense we have of — not exactly his often repeating himself — but of all his work being “of a piece.” Placed side by side, “The Funeral of a Great Myth” and “Historicism” exemplify this. Also, he would keep coming back to old work until he finally felt he’d got it right (Dymer; the shape of his early life; and, more radically, Cupid and Psyche). And in another way, all during the war years he kept working (as I think you have pointed out, Brenton) on key themes, in practice work that would eventually be shaped into _Miracles_.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks for this careful response, Charles. Here the dissection leads to life (for me at least). One of the critical flaws of my approach is hinted at in your response: I presumed that Lewis would do things after year 65 that he enjoyed. It leaves out the critical factor of “duty,” which drove him for much of his life. I think the “Miracles” work is much to this question. The individual essays and lectures were written out of a need, I think, that Lewis had to address the question. I don’t think he gave up apologetics because of the debate loss in 1948, but if I can speculate, I think he felt his prime duty discharged, which was providing a response to the descendants of Hume it in popular form (at least as they appeared in Socratic club meetings and smoking room conversations). Perhaps the issue nagged at him, so a decade later he turned to it. Or perhaps when he abridged Miracles in ’57 or thereabouts, it triggered the idea of a debt unpaid, a chapter that needed to be revised.
                So I think “duty” is a category that would inform his retirement age work, even though his college duties might have been done with.


            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              Thank you for the excellent additional “stray observations”!

              Just to pick up on “Selection”/”Compiling”(at least, for now): Helen Gardner said Williams was rather dismissive about his New Christian Year, but that she took him up on that, as to how admirable it is. I agree, and think much the same could be said about the MacDonald Anthology – though I can’t recall what-all I’ve read that Lewis said about preparing it: what a splendid thing it is – and characteristically sending us to look up the sources for more! (‘Inklings centrifugal effect’, if I may…) Williams’s title looked to Keble’s collection of his own poetry for every day of the Christian Year, with a marvellously wide-ranging anthological twist. You can start either at any point and read round till you get there again. Lewis’s MacDonald anthology is even freer in that respect: start at the first selection on any day of the year (even when leap year is involved). They make me realize how little I know of the history of non-liturgical books of daily readings for devotional and general reflection! They have the combined disadvantage for the publisher of not being annual (to sell a new book every year) and advantage of being perennial (to go on selling usually without more work than to reprint as needed). We have a splendid Dutch book of daily selections from St. Augustine, along the same lines, the Augustinus-Brevier, edited by the Benedictine, Louis Janssen (1984), and Otto Dudzus’s Bonhoeffer-Brevier (1963), which my wife had before we met, and I keep meaning to take up to improve my German and my acquaintance with Bonhoeffer. (I don’t know the history of either annual or such free books of daily readings in this part of the world, either!)

              Liked by 1 person

              • Charles Huttar says:

                My knowledge of such books is very spotty, but (apologies for this being so far off-topic) it is surely a genre worth attention. Fifteen years ago in my review of a book about Victorian-era daily devotionals (Cheryl Forbes, _Women of Devotion through the Centuries_ (2001); reviewed in _Christian Scholar’s Review_ 33 (2003): 152–54.) — for example, the perennial favorite _Streams in the Desert_ by Mrs. Cowman and Christina Rossetti’s _Time Flies_ — I called attention to other examples in the 17th century, including ones representative of German Pietism.

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Thank you! It occurred to me that Herbert’s Temple has some resemblance to this sort of book. There are a couple fascinating books by Johannes Stalpaert van der Wiele (1579-1630) which provide Dutch vernacular metrical songs to popular tunes for all the Sundays throughout the year (geared to the Lessons of the day) and for saints’s days throughout the year. I can’t immediately think of any Renaissance English analogues, but would not be surprised if there were some, when I think, for example, of all the excellent metrical Psalms by Sidney and Milton among others. Here are some stanzas from his St. Nicholas one, by way of a sample:

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Bookstooge says:

    I know by now that your posts and your guests posts are like this. But it still amazes me that anyone can be this interested, this deeply, in a subject. I guess I am just not a Scholar & a Gentleman 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Gentlefolk – and (to quote Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream) “rude mechanicals” – of all ages can relax and browse and see if something catches their eye or fancy, sets their imagination going, or their curiosity itching to learn more, nor need anyone be scholar, geek, or nerd to enjoy or be a fan. Internet is great for letting us Sample Without Obligation! (“That’s what I think,” said Pooh. “But I don’t suppose I’m right,” he said. “Of course you are,” said Christopher Robin.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bookstooge says:

        You make my point for me, I think.
        A passing interest, a transitory glance, a looking upon a post, do not result in posts like this. It is the deep desire that fuels posts like this. It is that deep desire that interests me.

        I don’t care about Lewis and his interest, or lack thereof, or whatever, in the Arthurian legend. But I am fascinated by how someone else can be fascinated. Fascinated enough to write such posts.

        My initial comment was not to be taken as a negative. I couldn’t tell if you were taking it that way or not.


        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          No, I wasn’t – nor was I sure you were in any way discouraged, but I wanted to be generally encouraging, lest any readers might miss some enjoyment, by not trying a light approach to something that seemed Too Imposing.

          The phenomenon of such deep interests and desires is fascinating – as are attempts to communicate the ‘why’ of any particular fascination.

          Funnily enough, the last two novels I read are in good part about that, in different ways – C.P. Snow’s The Search (1934) about a young man who gets fascinated by the ‘hard sciences’ – and also discovers the limits of his fascination, and the attractions of other ones. And Elizabeth Goudge’s The Dean’s Watch (1960) about a young man in the 19th century who get so fascinated by horology that he steals money and runs away to London to become an apprentice watchmaker (and who eventually ‘comes out of himself’ by teaching others about it).

          Liked by 1 person

        • It would be ironic if you ended up writing a paper on fascination that you only feel about the fascination and never the thing itself that is fascinating.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe R. Christopher says:

    Brenton, why do you say “The Nameless Isle” is incomplete? I can see nothing incomplete about it.

    As for your predictions of future work, they sound mostly reasonable. But the only thing we can be sure of about Lewis’s creative work, I suspect, is that he would try to avoid repeating himself in the outward details (cf. the differences between the Narnian stories, between the books in the Ransom Trilogy). Also, I’d guess (with less certainty) that, without Joy as editor, he would not have attempted another novel.


    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Do you have a sense whether Lewis would have been more or less likely to attempt a new long verse work, Arthurian or otherwise? Or try his hand at drama, in verse or not? Barfield’s Orpheus was performed in 1948 and both his Riders on Pegasus and The Unicorn were apparently written around 1950, and Lewis mentions David Jones’s Anathemata in his Cambridge Inaugural, while plays by Eliot were appearing in the late 1950s and by Fry on into the 1960s.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an error (which I caught later in the post). I’ll change it. It was just unsuccessful in finding a publisher. (as far as we know)
      “novel” as in non-fantasy, or like TWHF? I’m not sure. There are a lot of great possibilities and this is just really a bit of fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    You’ve got me thinking about something that never occurred to me – if Williams had lived would the Festschrift for him have been combined with or followed up by Lewis lecturing on his Arthurian poetry and then turning it into the first published commentary, in any case – with Williams just getting on with The Figure of Arthur himself, as well as the third volume of Arthurian poetry? And, was it common at Oxford to lecture on the work of living contemporaries, in those days? I enjoyed lectures on Geoffrey Hill’s poetry, I think around the time his Collected Poems appeared, but don’t know if that was an old tradition or not.


  5. Hannah says:

    Your excellent post reminded me of a passage in Diana Glyer’s “The Company They Keep”, pp. 119-121, on the differences in writing process between Lewis and Tolkien: how Lewis tended to mull over his ideas before committing anything to paper …… but then just sat down, dashed it off, and sent it in … Hooper’s comment on Lewis’s manuscripts “There is next to no evidence of rewriting or copious changes” …. But then she shows in detail how he would go back to a work and rewrite it, eg as a novel instead of a poem, as shown in this post and comments …. and would ‘niggle over tiny details’ ……. and “constantly tinkered with his poetry”….


    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Interesting – I really should try to catch up with Diana Glyer’s work, soon!

      This seems to tie in with what Charles Huttar says above: “a true ‘critical edition’ is still sorely needed; the 2015 _Collected Poems_, now widely used, merely aims to give us a snapshot of early versions and makes no attempt to address the question of Lewis’s alterations in text or title.” I remember in a couple cases where I have been able to compare different published versions of Lewis poems how he clearly went on revising and refining.


    • Charles Huttar says:

      _Till We Have Faces_ is probably the best-known example, but another work — which deserves to be better known not only for this reason (Lewis’s revision practices) but also as a very fine work of mythopoeia, challenging to interpret; not just one in the brief list of Lewis’s short stories — is “Light.” After nearly 30 years, it seems, he took an old manuscript out of the drawer and made it radically new, as Charlie W. Starr shows in great detail in his edition. Since the earlier, untitled MS. version had been published by Walter Hooper (“The Man Born Blind”), close comparison between the early and late texts is possible.

      In contrast, another tale published first by Hooper under a title of his own devising (“The Dark Tower”), this one never finished, also exists, it is believed, in a late fair-copy, but here the alterations are less extensive; Lewis’s work in this instance can properly be regarded as editing.


  6. Pingback: Inklings & Arthur on Pilgrim in Narnia | The Oddest Inkling

  7. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Might Lewis have written some sort of sequel to THS? It is interesting to discover that Stephen Hayes has!: “Darwin’s Adders: A Chronicle of Pagan England 2089‘ was written after the thought came to him one July 2009 morning: ‘What if, in That Hideous Strength, the bad guys had won, and 150 years later, an angel came to the mentally handicapped great, great, great grandson of Mark and Jane Studdock and pronounced him The Pendragon?’ He is intermittently working on […] Hecate’s Daughters” – a sequel to Darwin’s Adders!

    Maybe you/we should interview him about these as an addendum to this series!


  8. Pingback: The Inklings and Arthur Series Index | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  9. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thinking about Thomas Costain’s Silver Chalice in a comment-addendum to my 18 April post and tying in a bit with Charles Huttar’s 7 March post, it strikes me that both Till We Have Faces and the unfinished After Ten Years are historical novels set in antiquity with ‘realistic’ period supernatural elements – and to wonder if Lewis might have continued ‘in this vein’. And, as titles spring to mind, I wonder if doing so was very much of its period – e.g., Taylor Caldwell’s Dear and Glorious Physician (1958), several of Lloyd C. Douglas’s and any number of Frank G. Slaughter’s novels, Mary Renault’s The Last of the Wine (1956) and The King Must Die (1958), Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman and Bronze Age works, Pär Lagerkvist’s Barabbas (1950) and subsequent novels, and related films, whether Biblical like The Ten Commandments (1956) or Classical like Hercules (1958), and, for that matter, the publication of Howard’s Conan stories in book form starting in 1950 – and The Lord of the Rings (!).


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