At A Pilgrim in Narnia, we have an occasional feature called “Throwback Thursday.” By raiding either my own blog-hoard or someone else’s, I find a blog post from the past and throw it back out into the digital world. This might be an idea or book that is now relevant again, or a concept I’d like to think about more, or even “an oldie but a goodie” that I think needs a bit of spin time.
For today’s Throwback Thursday, I am returning to the story of C.S. Lewis’s life. I suppose I am always returning there. I find it compelling to think about his fiction in tandem with his work and letters and experiences. My most recent article was, in a sense, retelling the story of an aspect of Lewis’ life–his relationship with T.S. Eliot’s poetry and public works–with a note from J.R.R. Tolkien about the person of Lewis that we might not know about from his own autobiography or letters. As a couple of “timeline” posts and other biography articles continue to be popular, I thought I would bring them together for today’s Throwback Thursday feature.
Whenever I have done talks and fireside chats about C.S. Lewis’ life, it usually takes me an hour or so to capture an outline of the live that Lewis lived. A recent lecture where I walked through Lewis’ life using his own words–his letters, diaries, prefaces, autobiographical notes, and his memoirs–took 100 minutes. As someone who lived a rich life, writing book after book that changed the way we think … there just always seems a lot to say.
However, what about an introduction for those who are new to Lewis’ works or just want a little background to the person who wrote the Narnian chronicles they love or who inspired them to study Milton or Dante in new ways? My challenge, then, was to create a 20-minute version of this life, one that gives an outline of the whole without losing Lewis’ large personality.
To create the kind of focus I wanted, I made a timeline. As I did with my previous “Timeline of C.S. Lewis’ Major Talks,” I used JBS Timeline’s app to capture key moments in Lewis’ life that would allow us about 20 minutes of conversation.
As you can imagine, there are challenges in selecting out just a few key moments that capture Lewis’ life for readers and students–even when covering just the major events! However, it is a visually tight presentation. Unfortunately, JBS Timeline is not yet embeddable in WordPress, but you can click here to get “A Life of C.S. Lewis Timeline.”
I then used this timeline to create a video talk, and I think it worked pretty well! You can click here to see the entire 20-minute lecture.
This video and timeline are part of a series of C.S. Lewis biography resources here at A Pilgrim in Narnia. For example, you can check out my “5 Biographies of CS Lewis for 5 Seasons: A 10 Minute Book Talk“:
In a recent series on Lewis studies, I went further into some of the more recent biographies with my piece, “Good C.S. Lewis Studies Books That Did Not Win the Mythopoeic Award: Part 2: C.S. Lewis Biographies,” which includes another 6 biographical resources that might interest you–most of them fairly accessible. And you should check out my “5 Affordable Ways to Purchase Digital Books By and About C.S. Lewis” and “5 Ways to Find Open Source Academic Research on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Inklings” posts. It is also important to think of the work of Walter Hooper, who I call in this legacy piece, “C.S. Lewis’ Better Than Boswell.”
What follows are some other blog posts and articles that I have written about C.S. Lewis’ life.
I always love when Lewis shares his autobiography accidentally. He does this all the time in his nearly four thousand published letters, but also in prefaces and dust-jacket descriptions. Because C.S. Lewis keeps telling his own story (as I argue in this piece), here are a few resources that come to accidentally, as it were:
- In the end-flap of the 1st American Edition of Perelandra, we have “C.S. Lewis’ Accidental Autobiography“
- “Not Because I am Anyone in Particular”: C.S. Lewis’ Original Preface on Mere Christianity
- A note from Lewis on his friend Owen Barfield: “On the Shoulders of Giants: C.S. Lewis’ Preface to “The Allegory of Love” (1935)“
- A note from Lewis on his friend Charles Williams: “A Peculiar Dedication: C.S. Lewis’ Dedication of A Preface to Paradise Lost to Charles Williams (with a Note on Lewis Prefaces)“
- Be Careful What You Read… C.S. Lewis’ Literary Encounter with George MacDonald
- Balder the Beautiful Is Dead, Is Dead: C.S. Lewis’ Imaginative Conversion
- C.S. Lewis’ Teenage Bookshelf
- The Transformative Power of Memory: Lewis and the World Wars
- The Poets Behind C.S. Lewis’ Paragraph about WWI, with Wilfred Owen
- C.S. Lewis’ Normal and Not-So-Normal Life as a Student
- Splendour in the Dark: C. S. Lewis’s Dymer in His Life and Work by Jerry Root
- Was C.S. Lewis Wrong about His Own Conversion?
- False Starts and Missteps: How C.S. Lewis Found his Literary Voice
- “A Sense of the Season”: C.S. Lewis’ Birthday Pivot and the Cambridge Inaugural Address
- Surprised by Joy: How Joy Davidman Shaped C.S. Lewis by Dr. Crystal Hurd
- The Women That Changed C.S. Lewis’ Life
As you can see from this list, I believe that Lewis’ imaginative and literary awakenings are critical parts of his life story. You can see these outlined in “The Periods of C.S. Lewis’ Literary Life.” Among these moments are the tributes and encouragement of Lewis’ friends and students. Here are some examples:
- The Tolkien Letters that Changed C.S. Lewis’ Life
- C.S. Lewis And J.R.R. Tolkien: The Unpayable Debt of Writing Friends
- Great and Little Men: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letter about C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot (which I mentioned in the introduction)
- An Obituary of C.S. Lewis’ Life as an Oxford Don, by John Wain
- George Watson’s Provocative Comments on C.S. Lewis as Literary Critic
- John Lawlor’s Memories and Reflections on C.S. Lewis
Finally, by far my most popular C.S. Lewis video is my Lecture, “A Grief Observed, with C.S. Lewis.” It is a little less about biography and more about Lewis’ reflection on his experiences of loss and grief, but I think it is still a valuable resource.