I have received news from a credible source that Walter Hooper has passed away, following a brief illness. I have been working on a more significant reflection upon Walter Hooper’s legacy, but I wanted to leave a brief note for readers. While C.S. Lewis’ brother, Major Warren Lewis, edited the first volume of Lewis’ letters and has donated some papers to archives, and while other figures like fellow Inkling Owen Barfield and stepson Douglas Gresham were each critical in maintaining C.S. Lewis’ estate, no other figure has been as important to the Narnian’s literary legacy than Walter Hooper. Through the curation and editing of letters, essays, stories, and pieces nearly lost to time, we have a wealth of inexpensive and constantly-in-print materials. Readers and fans of C.S. Lewis are deeply in debt to Walter Hooper for nearly six decades of literary work.
I am not one of those folks who were very close to Walter–though I met him a couple of times. Lewis scholar Will Vaus once hosted a talk by Walter Hooper at the Kilns in Oxford, and I was able to take my family to enjoy the afternoon. And during my last visit to Oxford, Walter hosted me for tea in his home, where we spoke about Lewis’ literary legacy and some archival matters. He was an affable and generous host, though I was a little shy to dig into what he had yet to reveal of Lewis’ papers. I presume the greatest impression I left on him was that I was willing to share a cab with him to downtown Oxford! I am very curious to know who is the secretary to Lewis’ secretary–the one who will continue on the careful, slow-moving, tedious and beautiful work of archival publication in the future.
Best wishes to Walter’s close friends, many of who are in the C.S. Lewis community, or in his local Catholic community in Oxford. I hope to post within a couple of days an article that readers and scholars can use to think about Walter Hooper’s curation of Lewis’ legacy.
Very sad news about Walter Hooper. He was a lovely man. I never met him but corresponded with him years ago. My mother and father had the pleasure of visiting with him many years ago when they visited England. They had tea with him in his little cottage. It was a very special memory for them.
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Nice, thanks for sharing Lex.
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Walter Hooper was a featured speaker at a Lewis and Friends colloquium, I attended at Taylor University, about six years ago. He was available to speak to anyone one to one. He was unassuming, warm and focused on me when we spoke together. I asked him if C.S. Lewis believed that the recreation of Israel was a fulfilment of Biblical promises. He not only affirmed that C.S Lewis did believe this, but he did as well. Being that close, however brief,
,to someone who was close to C.S. Lewis, is a treasured memory.
Leland P. Gamson
Yes, that’s awesome Leland, Walter’s availability.
I dearly hope and pray that this legacy and literary ministry will continue. It was a great blessing in my spiritual and vocational life. May God bless Walter Hooper’s friends and kin and those who are seeking to continue the contribution of CS Lewis and his friends.
Yes, thank you.
We knew this sad day would be coming. This is a nice, brief tribute to announce his passing. I look forward to reading your more comprehensive article.
Thanks Rob, yes, it had to come eventually. Unfortunately, the root cause was COVID, so this perhaps needn’t have been the year.
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Hmm… his English Wikipedia article in its present form includes “He did not die of Covid-19, despite the prevailing narrative.” Or does “root” point to his suffering more broadly from being “locked-down since March, first in his home and then in a nursing home” (to apply Jacob Imam’s description)?
That’s not there right now. Pulled out? And where is that sponsee thing?
I should have supplied the link at once, given likelihoods of Wikipedian Winston-Smithcraft! Here it is (now, with two comments by Owen A. Barfield!):
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As someone has said today, commenting the sad news, he was C.S.Lewis’s Christopher. Thank you for this touching tribute.
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Perhaps you yourself should take up the mantle from Hooper.
Thanks for the note, Larry. I probably will do my little bit, but I do like the idea of resourcing people with Lewis materials.
From enjoying seeing and talking with Walter Hooper on a weekly basis (at least in Full Term), given his constant generous multifaceted support of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, I have relied on Arend Smilde for occasional updates since I left Oxford – and became acquainted with Arend.
Am I right in thinking Arend’s and Norbert Feinendegen’s edition, The “Great War” of Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis: Philosophical Writings 1927-1930 (Inklings Studies Supplements, No. 1: 2015), is the most substantial publication of Lewis works prepared by someone other than Walter Hooper – though by no means the only one?
Are there any convenient online bibliographies of such works (e.g., several in VII, but also your Ransom Screwtape preface – and what-all else)?
I conjecture the Lewis publishing legacy must be a complex matter, involving both the Estate and the various publishers – and holders of any still unpublished works (whether libraries or private persons)… it would be interesting to hear from someone well informed – Michael Ward, perhaps?
Meanwhile, Walter Hooper’s English Wikipedia article currently (as “last edited on 9 December 2020, at 01:01 (UTC)”) links an In Memoriam worth reading by one of Walter’s “nearly fifty godchildren/sponsees”, Jacob Imam.
Hi David, I don’t know about the Oxford CSL society, alas, but I suspect the “Great War” papers are the most substantial non-Hooper project of paper publication, other than perhaps Warren Lewis’ first edition of the Letters (Don King’s work should be remembered, though most of the poems were already in print). I don’t think there is a full biography of Lewis published works from archives, though I think someone is working on a searchable letter deposit. We’ll see.
I think Douglas Gresham should speak for the publication questions. Experts at the archives can’t do so and most scholars cannot speak of their experiences for all kinds of reasons. Stephanie Derrick’s “The Fame of CSL” has large sections on the publication history and worth reading. There are criticisms of the CSL Co. and Hooper (as well as Barfield and Gresham) because of publication. These complaints run the gamut between beleaguered or alienated scholars and conspiracy theorists.
Who knows what-all prudential – and even contractual – factors are involved in discussing the historical – and current and future – publishing situation? The Own Barfield Literary Estate website list of ‘some key dates’ notes:
1963 Death of CSL; OB and A. C. Harwood are co-trustees for the CSL Estate
1967 OB appoints W. Hooper as co-trustee
1979 OB passes control of the CSL Estate to the beneficiaries, David and Douglas Gresham
Douglas must indeed be in the position to shed light (but what his various considerations are in this context…?).
I remember Walter Hooper always giving a clear impression that Lady Collins was personally very interested in publications of things by Lewis…
I think you are quite right about Don King’s edition of poems (though I have yet to work with it, myself – ah, for good libraries within reach!) – it occurred to me after submitting my comment, but idiotically I did not add a comment as soon as it did – or anytime since till today!
Here’s Jacob Imam’s In Memoriam – which I should have linked at once!:
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Thanks for these links and thoughts, David.
I would be curious if Lady Collins’ personal papers talk about her own spirituality or her interest in Lewis.
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