Today, Amber Buchart examines the wardrobe of Marie Antoinette and she is examining a portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette dressed in a chemise gown. She was painted wearing the dress. It caused a scandal in the French Court. The portrait shows the Queen wearing her underwear! Fashion had played a role in the French Revolution and Amber explores the role that it played in the fall of the French monarchy. What can the recreation of the Chemise tell us about Marie Antoinette? What does Amber learn about the Queen?
The gown Marie Antoinette wore was a complete departure in comparison to the stiff garments of the French Court. Is the dress as simple as it looks? Amber and Ninya talk about the dress and the materials that were used to create it. Muslim was used to create the dress. She would have been wearing stays under the dress. The dress would have been a radical departure from the normal dress. It was essentially underwear. Ninya and her team will have their hands full with this recreation. Not only will the stays be recreated, but there will also be yards of hand sewing.
The Chemise Dress Portrait was displayed to the public. When it was displayed it caused a huge scandal because the queen was shown in an informal dress, let alone showing a queen in her underwear. The portrait was taken away and a new portrait was put up. Marie Antoinette had the same pose but was dressed formally. However, that did not stop the chemise dress from being the unofficial uniform at Marie Antoinette’s court. The chemise dress portrait was the beginning of the end for Marie Antoinette.
Harriett works on the stays and is trying to lay out the pattern for the stays. They do not want to cut the silk brocade wastefully. It will be stiffened with reeds. The material for the dress arrives. Harriett and Ninya look over the material.
Butchart continues to explore Marie Antoinette and examines a surviving chemise gown. The chemise gown would have given off a pastoral vibe, a romantic view of the countryside. Even though it would have been considered a simple gown, it would have been expensive. The muslin would have been expensive because it was importing. Keeping it white would have been a challenge. It took a great deal of time and labor to keep things white. When Butchart reflects on it, it would have been patronizing to the peasants.
Amber catches up with everyone on the project. Ninya talks about sewing a really fine hem and how much work it has to take on such delicate material. Harriett is working on the stays and Hannah is working on the sash. Harriett allows Amber to cut on the stays and talks about the history of cutting fabric. Amber is nervous about cutting into the silk. Everyone watches Amber as she cuts the fabric.
After this experiment, Amber examines a wardrobe book of Marie Antoinette. Inside this book, there were fabrics swatches and Marie Antoinette would select the fabrics that she wanted to wear for the day. There are pinpricks in the fabric, demonstrating her fashion choices. It is a tangible link to the past and the mind of Marie Antoinette. Leon was the center of silk production at the time, so when she wore muslin that was a shock to these silk makers. She was accused of putting the silk makers and merchants out of work. So when she tried to simplify her wardrobe, it turned heads.
To see how the chemise gown turned out continue to watch this episode.
This would be an excellent episode to show to a home economics class as well as a history class. If you have an independent study student, then put this show on their list as well.
A Sitch in Time - Black Prince
Good morning! Today on Stitch in time Amber Buchart is wearing armor! Again this is an excellent series to show in a home economics class.
The Black Prince was the hero to the English and he died young. He was a warrior. He lies in Canterbury Amber Buchart is going to have his cloth armor remade. This cloth armor identified who he was and was worn over metal armor. What will this cloth armor tell us about the Black Prince? Will Ninya be able to come up with a way to recreate this garment?
Amber Buchart chose the Black Prince as her inspiration for the garment because during the Fourteenth Century fashion started to emerge. The cloth armor is a military item and a fashion item. It hung over the tomb in Canterbury Cathedral until World War II. It would have been a significant garment for the Black Prince.
Armor was worn by the fashionable men of the day. Amber explores an armor collection and talks with an armor historian. In the Fourteenth Century, cloth armor would have been common. Armor is “anything protective.” Padded textiles were the most important part of protection because large metal pieces could not have been made. Heraldry was also important for the armor because it identified the leaders on the front lines. That would affect soldier morale for the better.
The cloth armor would have been padded, the one on the Black Prince’s effigy would have been made out of silk. Ninya will make the cloth armor according to the garment that hung in the cathedral. There would have been a great deal of embroidery and she had arranged for a team to hand embroider the pieces. How would have the cloth armor been padded? It would have been padded with cotton, sheep's fleece, and flaxseed fiber. Ninya and her team will have to come up with a way to quilt the padded armor.
Amber then meets up with another historian to learn more about the Black Prince. Not much is known about the Black Prince. How did he get the name the Black Prince? In the Sixteenth Century, he was first referred to as the Black Prince. His tournament arms may have had black in them and hence the nickname. He was known as a brutal military campaigner and that nickname came from the French. His court was at the height of fashion. He wanted to display his wealth and be shown as a warrior.
Ninya and Harriett experiment with how to quilt the garment. Ninya sews channels and stuffs the channels with cotton. Harriett spreads out the cotton on a square and then sews the cotton into channels. The team believes that sewing channels then stuffing them will work the best. Amber brings the two experiments with her as she examines the original cloth armor. Old textiles are rare and it takes a special reason for them to be looked at. Amber talks with a textile historian about the item. The cloth armor spoke of status and wealth. Did the Black Prince wear the item? It would be something that he would have worn. The textile historian examines the two experimental pieces and determines Harriett’s version would be more correct for the reconstruction.
Ninya and her team start working on the cloth armor armed with that information. The piece comes together and the embroidery is sewn onto it. How did this cloth armor turn out? Tune into this episode to find out more about this garment.
Again, this is a good episode to show in a history class as well as a home economics class. If there is an independent study student interested in Medieval history, then this is a documentary for them. Teachers, you are limited by your imagination as to how to use these documentaries.
A Stitch in Time - Hedge Cutter
I want to thank Absolute History YouTube Channel for posting this fantastic series on their channel. This series demonstrates that history is not limited to textbooks but can be experimental as well! I hope that one day Amber does the second series of this fantastic series.
Amber Butchart explores the world of the Hedgie Cutter recreated in this episode of a Stitch in Time. Amber is taking inspiration from a portrait of a gardener. This is a highly unusual painting because of the low-class birth of the man in the portrait. So why was this portrait painted? Who was he? Who painted the portrait? What will Amber learn about the clothing of everyday people? Ninya prepares to take the challenge of recreating the Hedge Cutter’s coat.
Amber and Ninya carefully examine the coat of the hedge cutter. It could have been a posh man’s coat at one time and was passed down to the hedge cutter. Ninya brings out a pair of Napoleonic leather trousers and she examines them to give her ideas on how to make the coat. The coat is also patched up, demonstrating years and years of repairs. Will the coat have patches? Ninya is keen to make the coat at how it looked at the start of its life. It should be an interesting recreation.
Amber then looks at the life of the hedge cutter. Who was he? Why was his portrait painted? The portrait is owned by the Fines family and they bring it down for Amber and an art historian can examine it closer. The art historian believes that the portrait was painted in the 1780s. Since the clothing was passed down over the years, could lend credence to this date as well. The hedge cutter is also smoking a pipe and a pipe could easily date the portrait as well.
Is there anything comparable to this portrait? Yes, there was a series of portraits done by an artist showing the working class. It scandalized the viewer because they were used to seeing members of polite society. The later date delights Amber because it will help in the recreate the jacket in the portrait and it would have been a second-hand garment. Clothing was the most valuable thing people would own.
The patches are proving to be a challenge to the recreation. Harriett came up with a mock-up that included the patches. The patches seem to indicate that the hedge cutter was throwing himself around while he was cutting the hedges. Harriett and Ninya examine the mock-up carefully and comment that it would have been a lovely coat. They then unwrap the leather that is going to be used for recreating the coat and try to figure out how to cut the pattern and what bits will be sewn and which way.
Amber explores the textile collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. She examines a coat from the 1750s with another fashion historian. It was a second-hand coat and had new life with another owner. It is possible that the coat came from a theatre. The actors had to purchase their costumes, so there would have been a trade-in second-hand clothing. The people would have held onto their clothing because it was so valuable and only after it could no longer be repaired it would then be sold to the rag and bone man and made into paper.
To continue to learn more about the hedge cutter and his coat continue to watch this episode.
This would be another excellent series for an art history classroom, as well as the history and home economics classroom. If you have an independent study student interested in fashion, you can recommend this episode.
A Stitch in Time - Arnolfini Gown
You have no idea how much it thrills me to continue blogging the Stitch in Time Series with Amber Butchart. This is an excellent series for a sewing classroom. Today’s episode is about the Arnolfini gown featured in a portrait by Jan van Eyck.
The Arnolfini portrait had a complicated interpretation for decades after it was painting. However, Amber Butchart shows the portrait in a new light: a middle-class couple showing off their wealth. It was considered one of the most complex paintings in Western Art. Capitalism was emerging during this period. Trade was having an impact on what was worn. A merchant class was growing showing social mobility. Amber focuses on the green dress in the portrait. It is a bonus that she loves the color green.
So how will Ninya recreate the dress? As they examine a digital image of the portrait, she points out that there was a high volume of fabric involved. She will use a doeskin fabric to recreate the dress. Wool was a luxury fabric and was one of England’s best exports. Additionally, there was firm trim and on the possibility, it could have been an Arctic fox. The fur would have been another expensive luxury. The portrait was an opulent display of wealth.
Amber then talks with Jenny an art historian. The portrait contains members of the Arnolfini family and it was a display of these members' wealth. It has been interpreted in many different ways. The overriding theory was that the woman was pregnant, but the portrait shows her holding up her dress. The portrait screams status. Strict laws were dictating what people wore. So what the Arnolfini family wore challenged the status quo. The way the merchants dressed was blamed for the start of a civil war.
Ninya starts working on the interpretation of the gown. The sleeves are proving to be a challenge. They will have to cut into the wool to see how the sleeves behave. Wool was the primary fabric used. Quality varied according to who wore them. It could be even more expensive than silk. Amber explores a factory that made the fabric. This was a good section to see how the fabric was created and gives a hint as to why doeskin was expensive. Amber then learns about the dying process. Dark shades were still a challenge to achieve and dying was just another way the growing middle classes showed off their wealth.
Ninya and her team start working on the dress and Amber examines the dress on the form. They had to be careful with how to cut the pattern and the fabric. The complex features of the gown and the pleating were the most complicated features of the gown. They worked in piquing the sleeves. It is one giant experiment. Amber tries piquing the sleeves. The nature of the cloth allows for piquing because the wool does not fray. Ninya and her team are continually learning about the techniques of tailors of the past. Harriett, one of the team, is working on stitching linen to the front of the dress to put the pleating in. The fur will prove to be heavy for the wearer. The sleeves will be lined with fur including a great deal of the gown.
So will Ninya and her team finish the Arnolfini gown? What will Amber learn about the gown after she puts it on? Stay tuned to this episode to find out!
This would be a good episode to show for an art history class as well as a home economics class. Remember teachers, you are limited by your imagination as to how to use these documentaries for a classroom.
A Stitch in Time - Charles II
YES! I am so glad that I can finally blog about fashion history. Absolute History has posted the series A Stitch in Time with Amber Butchart. In this series, she uses historical portraits to recreate the clothes the people were wearing.
Amber Butchart explores the life of King Charles II and his impact on Royal Fashion. The fashion she is having recreated is the three-piece suit in a portrait of him and his gardener. King Charles II was the Restoration King and used fashion to consolidate his power. King Charles had a rival in his cousin King Louis of France and he wanted to use fashion to one-up his cousin as well.
Butchart talks with historical tailor Ninya Mikhaila to carefully examine the portrait and talk about the suit in fashion. Although the King was dressed simply, his clothing was still expensive. The cloth could change colors. The ribbons on his britches required yards of silk. One thing King Charles did was encourage the use of English cloth. Even though it was a simple suit, it was an expensive piece of fashion.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has an ornate outfit from Charles II. When he needed to dress for ceremonial purposes he went all out. This outfit was completely different from what was portrayed in the portrait. Butchart talks about how this outfit showed King Charles II as a walking contradiction. However, the coat, a utilitarian garment, was declared as court dress and so would need to be blinged up.
Ninya starts to work on putting the patterns on the cloth. Although he was King, it was waste not, want not. The clothing was made piecemeal, using as much of the material as possible. She talks about the history of tailors and tailoring. As a woman, she would not be allowed to work in a tailor’s shop. Then she sews the pieces to complete the pieces with linen thread. The King would have thought of nothing to have those extra seems in the clothing.
When King Charles was painted, he was dressed in ceremonial outfits, but in public, he was dressed more simply. He had to find the balance between Kingship and extravagance. He had to distance himself from his father. King Charles II dressed simply day to day, only on ceremonial he would dress up. However, as a king, he was a more relatable man. Despite this, the public still thought the court extravagant because the court had French taste. King Charles II invented the vest and was credited with inventing the three-piece suit. This changed the male profile. Word was received that the King of France had his servants dress in vests.
Next, Amber returns to the historical tailor shop and learns who would be making the suit. She works on making buttonholes. She is finding sewing the buttonhole a bit of a challenge. This is why tailors had apprenticeships of seven years. To make a suit would take hours of labor.
After this, Amber explores the details of King Charles’ wardrobe and looks at his account books. The first expenses were for his coronation robe and it was about the image of the king. He ordered 30-40 new suits a year. He wore muted colors because he could not be seen as an extravagant king. The vest makes its first appearance in the account books and it would become part of English fashion.
So how successful are Ninya and her team will be when recreating this suit? What will Amber say when she wears the outfit? Tune into this episode to find out!
A Stich in Time is an awesome series to show in a history class as well as a home economics class! It has elements of experimental history, sewing, and royal history.
I am going to be a little bit controversial today for the blog and introduce the TV Series America Unearthed. This series is hosted by Scott Wolter and he is a geologist and adventurer. The premise of the show is that history as we have been taught is wrong and that there is a hidden history that needs to be revealed. This first episode is about Ancient Mayan Secrets in Georgia.
Evidence has emerged about a Mayan connection, only this connection was found in Georgia. Massive stone ruins were found in Georgia that may have been Mayan in origin. It is found in the Chattahoochee National Forest and is known as Table Rock. There is evidence of walls and terraces on the site. What does this site tell us about history? Is this really evidence of Mayan settlement in North America?
Scott Wolter kicks off this episode. He had been denied entry to see the ruin in the Chattahoochee National Forest by the Federal Government. He speaks to a man who will bring photos and videos of the site to him. Jon Haskell is the photographer of the site. The video shows rock walls and terraces around the site. He tells Scott to contact Richard Thornton to learn more about the site. Scott returns to Georgia to talk with Richard Thornton about the site.
Thornton is an expert on the Creek. He is a believer in the Mayan-Georgia connection. This belief is based on that there are architecture as well as cultural and language similarities. The site has been radiocarbon-dated to 1000 BC. However, the academic community has come out strongly against the Table Rock Site. Thornton had mapped out the site and created a map of the site. He is also doing some historical experimentation at his home to see what was going on at the Table Rock Site.
Scott then takes a plan armed with LIDAR to get a map of the site. The site is mapped out using LIDAR. Scott sees some topography changes in the initial scans. Is it a man-made feature? A map will have to be generated for the site. While the data is compiled and the map is being made, Scott drives down Georgia further to investigate a stone.
This stone is standing in a park and he talks with Gary Daniels to investigate the Georgia-Maya connection. The Creek and the Mayans used similar symbols to describe events. Daniels believes that the rock is a star map to record an event that happened in space. Gary and Scott then talk about Maya Blue, and it was a long-lasting color that the Mayans created. The clay that was used to create the Maya blue could have originated in Georgia.
Scott and Gary then investigate another site. It is a spiral mound in the middle of a forest. The only other site that has a spiral mound is in Mexico. It was where the Creek Indians performed the Snake Dance. Florida also had a potential Maya connection, as three tribes around Lake Okeechobee had “Maya” in their name. Were the Creeks related to the Maya? Why are there so many coincidences between the Creek people and the Maya? Please, continue to watch this episode. You can access this video here.
Overall this was a fascinating episode to watch. It makes you think. Who knows? Maybe our ancient ancestors traveled around more than you initially thought. Maybe our ancestors were in contact with people over long distances? This would be a more appropriate series for an independent student. If you wanted to use this in a history class, then have the students apply the scientific method to the thesis Scott presents in this episode.
Victorian Bakers - Episode 3
Good morning, we will continue to explore the world of the Victorian Baker. This time four bakers are facing the conditions of 1900. They are working in a London Suburb. The British Empire is at the height of its power and London is the biggest city in the world. The Four Bakers find themselves In a high street location.
The Four bakers are working in a bakery shop. Previous to this, the bakers had to deliver what they made. Now there is a shop. The bakery they are using was established during this period and continues to operate to this day. The bakery kitchen in the back was taken back to this period for this show.
Now the bakers will not only have to make bread, but they will also make confectionaries as well. They will have the assistance of machines, gas, and electricity. This time the team will have to wear uniforms and dress like high-end chefs. This gave the customer a better impression of the baker.
The first challenge for the baker is to make a pastry dough. This time the team will use more butter, eggs, and sugar for this recipe. Bakery at this time was not only about subsistence, it was about treating the customer. The bakers start working on tarts. The bakers find it awkward to make tarts and the factory owner wishes he was back to make bread. Bakers during this time had to learn new skills to meet the customer demand. The team works together to get the tarts put together. Even now, it is rare for bread makers to make cakes and tarts.
During the 1880s, bread became affordable. This was possible due to imports of wheat and machines. Wages were going up. However, it became a challenge for bakers. Bread consumption halved. The bread was linked with poverty. It turns out if the Victorian had a little money they could spend money on different types of food. Candy and confectionaries became more common because of more access to sugar. Bakers saw the opportunity to expand into different markets.
Small pastries could prove to be a moneymaker for the Victorian baker. Three of the bakers, long to make bread. They comment on having access to all this flour they are not allowed to make bread. So the baker had to get creative in their bread making. The next task the Victorian Bakers work on is Vienna bread. Vienna bread were morning rolls and was found on the breakfast tables in the upper class. Vienna bread had a lovely glaze on them and to get the glaze the later Victorian Bakers had use of steam.
Steam was the innovation in the Victorian Bakery. They no longer had to worry about stoking fires or gathering coal. Another innovation in the Victorian Bakery was machinery. There were electric mixers in the shop. Early machines were operated by steam or hand-cranked. For the majority of the century, bakers relied on mixing by hand. Victorian Bakers still were nervous about the hand mixer because it could mean that they could be out on the street.
Another thing that was introduced in the Victorian Bakery was loaf tins. Bread dough was put into these tins and baked. Victorian Bakers hoped that by putting bread in a different shape than they would still be able to sell bread. Would this innovation help our Victorian bakers sell more bread on the high street? Will Victorian bakers be able to adapt to this new technology? Tune into this episode to find out.
This is a good TV series to show to a history class or a food science class. The commentary for this episode from the bakers was excellent. They were skeptical about the changes at first, but they threw themselves into the changes and were impressed with how these changes worked out.
Victorian Bakers - Episode 2
Good morning, we will continue to explore the world of the Victorian Baker. This time four bakers are facing the conditions of the 1870s. Victorian England had a population boom and the people needed the bread. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing as well. Baking became more industrialized. Alex and Annie lead the four bakers to their new bakehouse.
John Foster, the factor baker, is looking forward to the machinery available in the new bakehouse. The bakehouse is smaller, which surprises the bakers. Foster is disappointed that there are no fancy machines. Alex and Annie explain how the bakehouse worked to the bakers. Now the bakers have to put theory into practice.
The bread was the staple of life. Birmingham had 300 bakehouses. Sacks of flour were 200 pounds and that churned out a lot of bread. Rolls were also part of the diet. The Bakery had a hierarchy as well. The bakers also worked as shifts. John Foster immediately gets down to business to figure out how to make bread. Duncan Glen-Denning lights the fire with coal. That scares him because he is usually on top of cleanliness. His hands are covered with coal dust now.
The bakers prep the dough and mix it by hand. The bakers find it challenging because they had to make more dough. It is exhausting work. They are mixing 20 stone a day in the dough. The dough is so dense and heavy, so John Foster kneads the dough with his feet. The dough trough is creaking although he is doing a good job kneading flour. The work is exhausting. The average life expectancy for a baker is 42 and John is in his fifties.
Alex explains that in urban bakeries, they were underground. The rural bakeries had windows so there was ventilation. In the rural areas, families ran the bakeries. In the city, there was an absentee owner who hired people for low wages. The four bakers go to sleep while the dough rises.
City bakers had it hard. They were underground. Flour was flying around in the air. A health commission found that two-thirds of bakers suffered from lung disease. Often time the city baker returned home to a slum. The major source of calories was bread, as the people were too poor to purchase anything else that would provide some variety in the diet.
After their nap, the bakers start to make bread. They have to make about 90 loaves of bread. All bread in Victorian Britain was white and was sold for eightpence. This was more than a third of the income of a Victorian worker. The Victorian Baker had to work overnight for the city folks to get their bread. The four bakers work on making fancy loaves for the city folks. The Victorian Age gave birth to the middle class and the middle class had money to spend. These loaves of bread were sweeter and the Victorian baker could charge more.
After a long night of baking, two of the bakers, Duncan and John are expected to deliver the night’s products. The idea of a baker owning a shop did not exist until later in the Victorian Period. They sell their bread door to door to a variety of customers. At the end of the day, the four bakers meet down in the pub to talk about the experience of the Victorian Bakers.
There was a threat to the Victorian bakehouse, and to discover what this threat is to Victorian Baker continue to watch this episode.
This is a good TV series to show to a history class or a food science class. This episode address how Victorian Bakers added things to their flour to drive down the cost of bread, which would lead to some good discussion in a food science class.
Victorian Bakers - Episode 1
Today I am going to do a History Meets Reality TV series. This series is called Victorian Bakers. This series is hosted by Alex Langlands and Annie Gray. The bakers stood between starvation and keeping a nation well fed.
Four modern bakers will be sent back to Victorian Times. They will start in the rural bakeries of the 1840s, to industrial bakeries, and finally the high street bakery. Our four bakers will experience 63 years of history. They will experience the conditions of a Victorian Bakery. The bakers will experience hard work and will try things that have not been baked in over a century. They will learn more about the bakery trade.
In 1837, when Queen Victoria became Queen a majority of the British population lived in the countryside. The challenge for our hosts is to find a working rural bakery from the Victorian period. Lucky for our hosts one such bakery exists. The bakery was built next to a millhouse and had an average staff of three to four people. Four modern bakers were recruited and they come from different aspects of the bakery. One owns a factory, one is an artisan baker and one owns a business.
The baker was steeped in tradition and the community depended on them for making bread. The modern bakers are a bit shocked at what they found in the bakery. The dough will be mixed by hand. The bread oven was a rare survival and based on the Medieval oven. These bakers will experience a seismic change in baking over their experience. The space is small and primitive.
The first challenge the Victorian Bakers will be is to make Victorian Bread. The traditional Victorian loaf took nine hours. The bakers will have to gather fuel for the fire and gather materials. The bakers were left with manuscripts that talked abbot the life of the Victorian Baker. How will the modern bakers react to the challenge, Alex and Annie can only speculate?
They will have to figure out where the fire goes first. The oven is small and much smaller than what the Victorians used. One of the bakers is a factory baker and he talks about how the Victorians were pure in their baking and made the machines. Alex guides two of the bakers in how to heat the oven. It was unusual for our modern bakers to start a fire in the oven and then rake out the coals.
Two other bakers work with yeast and flour. Yeast was purchased by the barrel and was wet. The Victorian Baker needed to separate the frosty part of the beer to get the yeast. Then the dregs of the beer needed to be drained off. The ancestor of one of the bakers would have done the same process. Buying yeast from the brewer would have been the biggest expense for the baker. The yeast would be mixed with a little flour and would be let rise for six hours.
Alex explores the additional history of the bakery. Oftentimes, the bakery would be tied with the millhouse and would often be owned by the same family. Wheat would be brought to the millhouse and turned into flour. In Victorian times, there were hundreds of types kinds of wheat grown and it would impact the taste of the bread.
So will our modern bakers get a hold of Victorian technology? What will Victorian bakers learn about baking? Tune into this series to find out more.
Victorian Bakers would be an excellent series to show in a food science class as well as a history class. If you have an independent study student working in food science or history then they could take a look at this documentary and try out some of the techniques used by the bakers.
AN Wilson narrates the story of C.S. Lewis in Clive Staples Lewis: The Lost Poet of Narnia. He was a teacher and writer. Lewis grew up in Northern Ireland. Wilson wrote a biography about Lewis and now revisits his subject. Although he wrote other prose, Lewis is best known for the Chronicles of Narnia Series.
Wilson starts with Lewis’ childhood. Lewis grew up surrounded by books. He was known as Jack. With his brother, he created a fantasy world. He loved the natural world. It gave him a sense of longing. Lewis read stories about talking animals, so he invented his world with talking animals. Jack was happy in his imaginative world.
Unfortunately, when he was eight years old, his mother died of cancer. Lewis was suffering from a toothache. He cried out for his mother, however, she did not come. It was Lewis’ father who informed him that his mother had died. This put a shadow on Lewis’ world. Alistar McGrath wrote the most recent biography of CS Lewis. His mother’s death had a huge impact on his life. She provided stability for the boy. Lewis’ father would send Jack to boarding school. Although his intentions were good, it was a horrible experience for Jack.
Taking the boat over to England, he felt like an alien. Lewis hated his English schools. He retreated to his imaginative world. He was not athletic and could not catch a ball. Soon he ran into a man that would change Lewis’ life. Realizing that Jack was unhappy, Mr. Lewis sent him to a man named William Kirkpatrick, who had taught him. Kirkpatrick tutored Jack.
Jack learned to read the classic works in the original languages. He became an orator. He became an atheist during this period, like Kirkpatrick. In 1917, Lewis volunteered for active service during World War I. He made friends with another man, and they made a pact to take care of each other's parents if either one did not come back. His friend was killed and so Jack looked after his mother.
After the war, Jack went to college at Oxford. Lewis lived with his friend’s mother. They lived in modest lodgings. Jack hid his friendship with this woman from his mother. His letters to his father always had his college address. Oxford had strict rules about how their students lived. This woman gave Lewis stability and the family he needed. He presented this woman as his landlady and eventually as his mother.
He would form a society with J.R.R. Tolkein. They talked about literature and theology. They were a loud group. Jack dreamed about becoming a poet. He failed with war poetry and then tried again. His poetry was poorly done. It was a flop. He resented the fame of his contemporary poets. He was successful as a Medieval Scholar.
He tutored students and was described as heavy. His students could not see the point of reading such dense literature. It often led to confrontations between students. He could entertain his pupils. Lewis was a little older than his pupils and often looked after him like he was a father. His relationship with his father was more complicated. Lewis felt his treatment of his father “his greatest sin.” They reconciled before his death.
It is nice to see AN Wilson going beyond the Victorian Age and doing this biography on C.S. Lewis. Wilson is a warm narrator. I could listen to Wilson on anything all day. This documentary has a good pace to it as well. Students will discover something new about C.S. Lewis.
This is a good biography to show in an English Literature class. You could show this in a history class as well if you have a student doing a biography on C.S. Lewis.
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