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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