22 November, 2013

Quotable Friday (19)

A special anniversary quotation today. No, not the epic 19th Quotable Friday celebration, but the commemoration of an important date. 50 years ago today, the world lost a great man. He died before his time. Known affectionately as Jack to his closest friends and as a genius to many, his influence continues to be felt half a century after his death. I am talking, of course, of CS Lewis.

CS Lewis's death (like that of fellow-writer Aldous Huxley) went largely unnoticed at the time, occurring as it did on the same day as a rather famous assassination. But I'm pleased to see there have been some attempts to commemorate this great man this year. By coincidence I happen to be reading the new biography of Lewis - CS Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet - by Alister McGrath at the moment. It's a little academic, but I'm enjoying it.

I've quoted from Lewis's wonderfully witty Narnia books on the blog before here and here. So today I'm going for something a bit different. I've always been charmed by the friendship between Lewis and another great writer, JRR Tolkien. How wonderful that these men were friends! Anybody who knows much about CS Lewis will know that Tolkien ("Tollers") played a important part in Lewis's final acceptance of Christianity. For that reason, Tolkien can be said to have played his part in the writing both of the Narnia series and all the theological books CS Lewis went on to write following his role as "the wartime apologist" for the BBC.

Not everybody might realise that CS Lewis was just as crucial in the writing of The Lord of the Rings. This is what dear JRR had to say about it in a letter to Rayner Unwin after Lewis's death:

"The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] is not "influence" as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my "stuff" could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The L. of the R. to conclusion."

All writers need a CS Lewis! Imagine if he hadn't encouraged his friend to continue with his "second hobbit book". Encouragement is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone - whatever stage they're at.

Now... points to anyone who knows JRR Tolkien's first three names without looking them up!

10 comments:

  1. Like you I've always loved that two such big names in fantasy writing could have also been friends. Its like magic :)

    I also competely fail at knowing what JRR stands for, so I'm going to guess Jonathan Roger Rupert Tolkein. Am I right?

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    1. I also like that they were friends with Dorothy L Sayers - everybody knew everybody.

      No. I'd like to say you got one name right. I'd be lying. Though Rupert is a better name than any of his.

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    2. I googled it after I commented and thought I had got one name right (or a variation of...)

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    3. They are similar I grant you, and some people might shorten one to the other, but that's not quite the same as being actually Christened that. I guess it would be like somebody actually Christened Katy not being called Katherine. You can have half a point! (50 points for anyone who gets the second 'R'!)

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    4. Fair enough, I'll take half a point (particularly since it was a guess). I started with the shortened version and then decided that that was silly so lengthened it. Should have stuck to my guns!

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    5. You should have done! (I guessed Jack.)

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  2. An active and supportive group of writers - ideally all of a similar standard - is a valuable resource. The Inklings also numbered Charles Williams and Owen Barfield, alongside JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Sadly, I don't even know JR Ewing's names.

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    1. It's been interesting to read about The Inklings more in this biography. Quite an amazing group. It's a shame Tolkien and Lewis didn't remain such good friends in the end, though Tolkien was at least one of the very few people at Lewis's funeral. I happened to read the bit about his death in the biography today - felt very poignant on this particular date!

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  3. No clue what JRR stands for.

    I also didn't know CS Lewis died 50 years ago today. Makes me kinda feel bad for him (and Aldous Huxley) because I'm pretty sure they didn't get hardly any coverage in in the US. A president dying is big, but when it's an assassination, that's huge.

    Both Huxley and Lewis are authors I've always wanted to read more of, but never get around to it. I should just buckle down and do it.

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    1. It got almost no press over here either! The murder of JFK kinda took over the whole world's news I think. But today CS Lewis has been given his place in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey (where people like Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dickens are buried or commemorated) which is rather lovely.

      Start with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe! Wonderful book. Written for children but definitely not only for children.

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