About the Author
Clive Staples Lewis, was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1898. As a child, he was fascinated by the fairy tales, myths, and ancient legends recounted to him by his Irish nurse. The image of a faun carrying parcels and an umbrella in a snowy wood came to him when he was sixteen. Many years later, the faun was joined by an evil queen and a magnificient lion. Their story became The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. Six further Chronicles of Narnia followed, and the final title, The Last Battle, was awarded the United Kingdom's prestigious Carnegie Award.
Lewis was Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, and later was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, where he remained until his death in 1963. He wrote numerous books of literary criticism and on Christianity, the best-knowing being The Screwtape Letters, as well as four novels for adults. The seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia were his only works for children.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group|
About the Author
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, theologian, broadcaster, and lecturer. He is best known for his fictional works, including The Screwtape Letters, The Space Trilogy, and The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the second book in the seven-book Narnia series, often tops must-read lists of classic children's literature; the series has been adapted for film, radio, TV, and the stage.
Date of Birth:November 29, 1898
Date of Death:November 22, 1963
Place of Birth:Belfast, Nothern Ireland
Place of Death:Headington, England
Education:Oxford University 1917-1923; Elected fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925
Read an Excerpt
My dear Wormwood,
I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïve? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous -- that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.
The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if aparticular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it 'real life' and don't let him ask what he means by 'real'.
Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said 'Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,' the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added 'Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,' he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of 'real life' (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all 'that sort of thing' just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about 'that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic'. He is now safe in Our Father's house.
You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can't touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don't let him get away from that invaluable 'real life'. But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is 'the results of modern investigation'. Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!
Your affectionate uncle
ScrewtapeThe Screwtape Letters. Copyright © by C. Lewis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Reading Group Guide
Originally published in The Guardian from May 2 to November 28, 1941, Lewis conceived of The Screwtape Letters in the summer of 1940. On the evening of July 20th, he heard a broadcast speech by Hitler and later wrote to his brother, Warnie: "I don't know if I am weaker than other people, but it is a positive revelation to me that while the speech lasts it is impossible not to waver just a little." Lewis went on to explain that he was "struck by an idea for a book which I think would be both useful and entertaining. It would be called As One Devil to Another and would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first 'patient.' The idea would be to give all the psychology of temptation from the other point of view." This reversal, whereby God becomes "The Enemy" and "Our Father's House" is not heaven but hell, is crucial to understanding The Screwtape Letters and also accounts for much of its power. All questions of Christian faith are approached from the perspective of a devil who wants to undermine that faith and capture the soul of "the patient." This radical shift allows Lewis to reveal, as the patient moves precariously through one temptation after another, both what is required to maintain one's virtue and the precise nature of the forces of darkness deployed to destroy it.