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C. S. Lewis

(1898—1963) writer and scholar


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(1898–1963)

British author and scholar, many of whose works deal with religious and moral themes reflecting his Christian faith.

Born in Belfast, Lewis was sent after his mother's early death to various preparatory schools and then to Malvern College. In 1916 he won a classical scholarship to University College, Oxford. However, he first joined the army, fought in France, and was wounded at Arras (1918). While convalescing from this wound he began his long friendship with the mother of one of his friends who had been killed in the war, and he shared her house in Oxford until her death in 1951. At Oxford Lewis enjoyed academic success in the fields of classics and English and in 1925 Magdalen College appointed him to a tutorial post, which he held for nearly three decades. His rooms there were for many years the meeting-place of a group of friends, the ‘Inklings’, which included J. R. R. Tolkien. Even when he became professor of medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge (1954–63) he kept his Oxford connections very much alive.

Lewis's first major critical work was The Allegory of Love (1936). A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942), The Abolition of Man (1943), English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954), and The Discarded Image (1964) were all based on his lectures. He became a convinced Christian and wrote several popular works on Christian ethics, the most famous of these being The Problem of Pain (1940), The Screwtape Letters (1942), and Mere Christianity (1952). He also wrote a trilogy of allegorical science-fiction novels (beginning with Out of the Silent Planet, 1938), the seven Chronicles of Narnia (1950–56) for children, and a volume of autobiography, Surprised by Joy (1955). Till We Have Faces (1956) is a sequel to The Allegory of Love in the form of a novel set in an antique world. A Grief Observed (1961) expresses his distress over the illness and death of his wife, Joy Gresham, whom he married in 1956. This painful episode in Lewis's life inspired William Nicholson's popular stage play Shadowlands and Richard Attenborough's successful film adaptation (1993).

Subjects: Literature.


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