Friday, February 9, 2024

The New York C.S. Lewis Society

I have been a non-attending member of the New York C.S. Lewis Society since I was in graduate school in 1969/70. And I have subscribed to The Bulletin from, I think, the first issue. It always, as you would expect, includes articles about Lewis,—sometimes other Inklings—along with book reviews and accounts of the Society's monthly meetings. The Society's website has recently been redesigned. That site includes, among other things, links to other online resources about CSL and the Inklings, and, for a fee, downloadable back issues of The Bulletin. I am particularly grateful for the latter since I just went looking for back issues that I thought I had saved and haven't found any earlier than the last ten or so years. Did I give them away?

The main article in the current issue of the bulletin is "C.S. Lewis: Supervisor" by Alastair Fowler who, while doing doctoral research at Oxford, was supervised by Lewis, and they became friends. The article was originally published in Yale Review in 2003 and is interesting to people like me because of Fowler's direct experience with Lewis. For instance:
He had almost no small talk; he was courteous but dialectical and sometimes combative. Like his model Dr. Johnson, Lewis was "a very polite man," Claude Rawson remarks, only in self-ignorance. But I think he knew his shortcoming well enough. He generally followed the adversarial system, and not always quietly. Exulting in victory, he argued closely on until his adversary was crushed or ridiculous. For some reason, this method of conversation did not win universal popularity.
...[S]o far was he from standing on ceremony or authority or superior learning that he started his lecture as he came through the door and finished it as he walked out. He was a popular and (not at all the same thing) good lecturer — lecturing sometimes to an audience of three hundred or more. He towered above his colleagues as easily audible (something that could not be said of Tolkien).
By 1962 Fowler had taught both in Britain and America; and renewed his friendship with Lewis.
Lewis, too was a different person from the supervisor I remembered: he had married but lost his wife and was himself seriously ill. Visiting him in the Acland hospital and at the Kilns, I got to know him as a friend. Now our talk, more recollective and ruminative, was about anything and everything: his dreams, plum jam, The Lord of the Rings. On his side at least, it seemed without reserve. .... In the United States, I heard of a Lewis quite distinct from the Lewis I knew. My Lewis smoked incessantly, drank more than was altogether good for him, and appreciated bawdy... If he was a saint, it was not one of an austere or narrowly pious sort. Nor given to angst. He was assured, and talked of his wife, Joy, without difficulty. Retrospection now brought no unbearable sadness.
If you consider subscribing, it can be done at the website. An annual contribution can be as low as $10.

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