Frequently Asked Questions About

C.S. Lewis

This FAQ is adapted from an FAQ that can be found at The Socratic Page:

Who was C.S. Lewis?
C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. He was educated in England, first at a prep school that he later likened to a concentration camp, then at Malvern College and finally by a private tutor. He enlisted in the army in 1917, saw front-line combat and was wounded at Arras. He returned to his studies after the war, graduated in 1922 and became a fellow of Magdalen college in 1925. An atheist in his boyhood, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931 and became famous as a result of his wartime religious talks on the BBC, and his children's books. Lewis was part of the Oxford literary circle known as the Inklings, whose members also included J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. In 1957 he married Joy Davidman Gresham, an American with whom he had corresponded for a number of years. Joy had been a "Jewish atheist" and a communist; she converted to Christianity partly as a result of reading Lewis's books. Joy was already suffering from bone-cancer at the time of their marriage, and died in 1960. Lewis himself died on November the 22nd 1963, the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

Why was C.S. Lewis known as "Jack"?
He didn't like the name "Clive" and as a small child had a pet dog called Jacksie, which was run over by one of the first cars in Northern Ireland. Jack decided that from thenceforth he would answer to nothing but "Jacksie," and this became "Jack" in due course. The only person who seems ever to have called him Clive was William Kirkpatrick, his boyhood tutor.


Who was Mrs. Moore?
Janie King Moore was the mother of Paddy Moore, Lewis's closest comrade-in-arms during the First World War. Lewis reported that the two young men made a pledge that if either man didn't make it home, the survivor would take care of Lewis's father and Moore's mother. Paddy Moore died in the war, and Lewis fulfilled that pledge for years, contributing towards Mrs. Moore's finances when he was still a poor student and setting up a home with her and Moore's young sister Maureen when he obtained a teaching position and could afford one. When her declining health (years later) required professional care, he faithfully visited the nursing home until she died. Maureen later succeeded to a Scottish title and became Lady Dunbar of Hempriggs.

The exact nature of Lewis's relationship with Mrs. Moore is not certain: many readers have surmised that it is connected with the "enormous emotional episode" that Lewis refers to in Surprised by Joy but says that he is not at liberty to write about. Walter Hooper writes that "The combination of motive, means and opportunity invites, though it does not demand, the conclusion that Janie King Moore and C.S. Lewis were lovers."

Mrs. Moore is sometimes represented as the villain in the story of C.S. Lewis. Owen Barfield says people have turned her into "a sort of baleful stepmother." Warren Lewis described her relationship with his brother as a "strange, self-imposed slavery." On the other hand, George Sayer writes:

"Some of those who have written about C.S. Lewis regard his living with Mrs. Moore as odd, even sinister. This was not the view of those of us who visited his home in the thirties. Like his other pupils, I thought it completely normal that a woman, probably a widow, would make a home for a young bachelor. We had no difficult accepting her, even when we came to realise that she was not his mother."


Who is Walter Hooper? What is his connection with Lewis?
Walter Hooper is a sort of literary manager to C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. He met Jack briefly in 1963, and has since dedicated his life to bringing Jack's works before the public. He is originally American but has lived in England for many years.


Did C.S. Lewis really lose his faith after the death of his wife?
Some people got this idea from Shadowlands, but it is not true, as Lewis's autobiographical book A Grief Observed makes plain. He did go through a period of questioning God's goodness, but this seems to have lasted for only a few hours. (A Grief Observed contains a few pages in which Lewis speculates that God might be wicked, followed by the line "I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought.") One of Lewis's best Christian books -- Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer -- was written in the last years of his life, after Joy had died.


What biographies have been written about C.S. Lewis? Are they reliable?
There are many, some better than others, including:

Douglas Gresham, Lenten Lands, My Childhood With C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman
A personal account by Lewis's stepson.

William Griffin, CS Lewis --The Authentic Voice
A nice lively read with a lot of quotes from letters, diaries, books, joined up in a fairly dramatised style.

Walter Hooper & Roger Lancelyn Green, CS Lewis: A Biography
An "official" version by two friends of Lewis.

Walter Hooper, C.S Lewis: A Companion & Guide
Includes a biography, detailed bibliography, overviews of all Lewis's writings, and guides to the people, places and things associated with his life. Almost certainly the definitive Lewis reference book.

W.H. Lewis, Memoir of C.S. Lewis
This extended essay, by Lewis's brother, can be found in the Letters of C.S. Lewis. Walter Hooper described this memoir as "the best thing ever written about C.S. Lewis."

George Sayer, Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times
Part memoir and part biography by a friend and pupil of Lewis. Douglas Gresham recommends this as the very best biography available.

Brian Sibley, Shadowlands
A short biography of Lewis and Joy Davidman, concentrating on the last years. Note this is not to be confused with the novelisation of the screenplay of the movie version of Shadowlands, which is a every bit as bad as you would expect.

A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis: A Biography
A well-written, interesting version.


What did C.S. Lewis write?
For an full bibliography, see

Academic Books
The Allegory of Love -- 1936
A scholarly study of medieval allegory and courtly love.

The Personal Heresy -- 1939
A debate with E.W. Tillyard about literary criticism. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms describes it as "urbane, courteous and continuously stimulating; a model of how people should agree to differ in their search after truth."

Preface to Paradise Lost -- 1942
An introduction to Milton's epic.

The Oxford History of English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama -- 1954
A text book, regarded as controversial, and nicknamed the "O Hell!" by Lewis.

Studies in Words -- 1960
An analysis of how words have changed their meaning over time.

An Experiment in Criticism -- 1961
An attempt to analyse literature from the point of view of the reader.

The Discarded Image -- 1964
A description of the medieval world picture.

Plus numerous literary essays, prefaces, and reviews.

Books About Christianity
The Problem of Pain -- 1940
Lewis's first attempt to explain why God allows suffering.

The Screwtape Letters -- 1942
Lewis's famous series of letters "from one devil to another."

Mere Christianity -- (As Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality, 1942, '43 & '44: in its present form, 1952.) The transcripts of the radio talks that made Lewis famous: a simple explanation of what Christianity is and why an intelligent person can and should believe in it.

The Abolition of Man -- 1943
Lewis's defence of the idea of "natural law."

Miracles -- 1947
Lewis's exploration of whether miracles can -- in theory -- ever occur.

Reflections on the Psalms -- 1958
A series of reflections on the Psalms.

The Four Loves -- 1960
Essays on affection, friendship, erotic love, and charity.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer -- 1964
Devotional letters to an imaginary friend -- Lewis's last book.

Christian Reunion
Christian Reflections
Fern Seed and Elephants
First and Second Things
God in the Dock
Of This and Other Worlds
Present Concerns
Screwtape Propose at Toast
Timeless at Heart

All the above are collections of essays and articles on a wide range of subjects.

Note that Lewis's wide range of essays have been anthologised in various editions over the years; the above are the titles of the most recent UK collections. American readers may find editions under different titles. A detailed bibliography can be found in Hooper's Companion and Guide.

This contains Spirits in Bondage, Lewis's first published work, written before he was a Christian, and many short poems written at various times during his life.

Narrative Poems
This includes "Dymer," the long poem that Lewis wrote as an undergraduate.

Fiction, Allegory, Imaginative Works
The Pilgrim's Regress -- 1933
Lewis's first "religious work" written only a year after his conversion, of which the book is an allegorical account.

Out of the Silent Planet --1938
Perelandra -- 1943
That Hideous Strength -- 1945
The so-called "interplanetary trilogy"; science fiction books, under the influence of H.G. Wells, but with a strong Christian theme.
The first paperback edition of Perelandra was published under the much more imaginative title of Voyage to Venus in 1953. An abridged paperback edition of That Hideous Strength was published in 1946 under the title The Tortured Planet

The Great Divorce -- 1945
Lewis imagines what would happen if a group of damned souls were allowed to visit heaven. Described by George Sayer as Lewis's most perfect book.

The Narnia Chronicles -- 1951-56 (see below)
Lewis's children's tales of Lions, Dragons, Princes, and Wardrobes.

Till We Have Faces --1956
A Christian version of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Lewis's favourite of all his fiction.

The Dark Tower -- 1975
Posthumous fragments, including the abandoned beginning of a fourth book in the interplanetary trilogy (see below).

Surprised by Joy -- 1955
Lewis's account of his childhood and his conversion to Christianity.

A Grief Observed -- 1961
The diary which Lewis kept in weeks following the death from cancer of his wife.

All My Road Before Me -- 1991
Lewis's diaries from his undergraduate years.

Although the complete letters of C.S. Lewis is still awaited, a selected edition and a number of smaller volumes have been published:

Letters of C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper
A sample of Lewis's many correspondences, with excerpts from his diaries and comments from Warnie.

They Stand Together
The lifelong correspondence between Lewis and his best friend Arthur Greeves.

Letters to an American Lady
Pastoral letters to an anonymous American admirer.

Letters to Children
Lewis's answers to the many young people who wrote to him with questions about Narnia, Christianity, and the craft of writing.


Why is my set of the Narnia books numbered in the wrong order?
There are two ways of numbering the Narnia books. When the American publisher Macmillan decided to put numbers on their editions they chose to use the order in which the books were originally published, i.e.:

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
2. Prince Caspian (1951)
3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
4. The Silver Chair (1953)
5. The Horse and His Boy (1954)
6. The Magicians Nephew (1955)
7. The Last Battle (1956)

When Harper Collins took over the publication of the books in America, they decided to keep numbering the books, but on the recommendation of Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham, they adopted the order that follows Narnian Chronology, i.e.:

1. The Magicians Nephew
2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
3. The Horse and His Boy
4. Prince Caspian
5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
6. The Silver Chair
7. The Last Battle

This is also the order followed by the current British editions, published by Fontana Lions.

A case can be made for both orders. Lewis himself came down in favour of the chronological order, which is why Douglas Gresham recommended it. In a letter written in 1957 to an American boy named Laurence, Lewis wrote the following:

"I think I agree with your order {i.e. chronological} for reading the books more than with your mother's. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn't think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last. But I found as I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I'm not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published."


Is Narnia an allegory?
All readers of Narnia must realise that Aslan the Lion, who is the Son of the Great Emperor Across the Sea, who breaks the power of the White Witch by his death and resurrection -- and who, as C.S. Lewis pointed out to one of his young readers "arrived at the same time as Father Christmas" -- is a picture of Jesus Christ. Does it follow that the books as a whole are allegories?

C.S. Lewis used a very strict definition of the word "allegory" -- after all, one of his most important academic books was a study of this subject. He wrote to some Maryland fifth graders in 1954:

"I did not say to myself 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia'; I said, 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.'"

"The whole series" wrote Lewis in another letter "works out like this:

The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia,
The Lion etc. - the Crucifixion and Resurrection,
Prince Caspian
- restoration of the true religion after a corruption,
The Horse and His Boy - the calling and conversion of the heathen,
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep),
The Silver Chair - the continuing war against the powers of darkness,
The Last Battle - the coming of Antichrist (the ape). The end of the world and the last judgement."

So, in today's loose terminology the books can probably be said to be "allegorical." If you want to use that term, then a number of characters might be said to be allegories:

The White Witch represents the Devil, as does Tash.
Peter represents the valiant and wise Christian.
Reepicheep is the very soul of chivalry with both its virtues and its failings.
"Edmund," wrote Lewis "Is, like Judas, a traitor and a sneak. But unlike Judas he repents and is forgiven (as Judas no doubt would have been if he'd repented)."
Father Christmas -- who gives gifts to Aslan's followers to help them fight the powers of darkness -- may be a picture of the Holy Spirit.


Is it true that there are differences in the British and American editions of the Narnia books?
Some very minor changes were made to The Lion ... and The Voyage ... for their American publication. For example, the name of the witch's agent is changed from "Maugrim" to "Fenris Ulf" and Peter's title from "Sir Peter Wolfs-Bane" to "Sir Peter Fenris-Bane." In the English edition, Aslan says that the Emperor's magic is written "in letters as deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones of the Secret Hill." In the American he says "in letters as deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the world ash-tree." The current (1994) Harper Collins American editions have been standardised with the English versions.


What film and TV versions of Lewis's books have there been?
a: 1967 -- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Black and white TV adaptation, nine twenty-minute episodes, shown on British ITV.

b: 1979 --The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Two one-hour episodes by the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation of Atlanta and the Children's Television Workshop (creators of Sesame Street and The Electric Company), animated by Bill Melendez.

Note that when the film was shown in the UK in 1980, the sound-track was re-recorded with a cast of British actors including Arthur Lowe (Mr. Beaver), June Whitfield (Mrs. Beaver), Leo McKern (the Professor), and Steven Thorn (Aslan).

c: 1988 -- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Colour, live action version produced by BBC TV. Six, thirty-minute episodes.

d: 1989 -- Prince Caspian / The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
A sequel to the 1988 Lion with many of the same cast. A total of six, thirty-minute episodes.

e: 1990 -- The Silver Chair
The last BBC adaptation to date, a further 6 colour episodes.

The three BBC serials are available on BBC video.


What's this I hear about a new movie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?
Paramount Pictures have bought an option on The Lion and have a screenplay in development. John Boorman was originally scheduled to direct. In the draft script, the non-Narnian sections of the book were updated to modern Los Angeles. The children are staying with the Professor in order to avoid an earthquake, rather than air-raids: in an earlier draft, they were sent away as a punishment because Edmund had shop-lifted a CD. Other delights apparently included a Narnian trades-union (ALON: "Allied Leopards of Narnia") and centaurs that graze. The first draft evidently had Edmund asking the White Witch, not for "Turkish Delight" but for "Cheeseburger and Fries"!

As of spring 1997, John Boorman was replaced by Robert Minskoff as director. As a result of this, a new script writer will also be chosen and a new version of the screenplay produced, possibly by the team who wrote the screenplay of The Lion King. At time of writing (summer 1998) the project seems to be at a standstill.


What was The C.S. Lewis Hoax?
The C.S. Lewis Hoax was a book by Kathryn Lindskoog published in 1988. It directed a number of allegations at Walter Hooper and the C.S. Lewis estate: most notably that Hooper had lied about rescuing unpublished works by Lewis from a bonfire; that he had exaggerated the length and intimacy of his friendship with Lewis; and that some of Lewis's minor posthumous works, including The Dark Tower and two of the essays in Boxen are not by Lewis at all, but forgeries by Walter Hooper. A follow-up to the book, Light in the Shadowlands, was withdrawn under threat of legal action from the C.S. Lewis Foundation of Redlands, CA.

It does seem to be a fact that Hooper only worked with Lewis for a period of a few weeks in 1963 (this fact is agreed by all Lewis's biographers) and not the "many years" claimed in some dust jacket blurbs.

In 1995, forensic document examiner Nancy H. Cole of Palo Alto, CA compared the MS of the Dark Tower and other contested works with known examples of Lewis's and Hooper's handwriting. Although it is true that Hooper's handwriting is very similar to Lewis's, Cole lists six characteristics which the Dark Tower shares with the Lewis texts, but not with the Hooper samples. Therefore, in her professional opinion, the Dark Tower is certainly written by Lewis. She concludes: "There is no base to the charge that Walter Hooper has forged these documents, and he is deserving of apology."

Cole's credibility as a handwriting analyst has been called into question by Kathryn Lindskoog's. Her side of the argument can be found on the web at:


Is Screwtape Proposes a Toast a sequel to The Screwtape Letters?
Not exactly. Screwtape Proposes a Toast is a separate essay in which Screwtape gives a speech praising recent developments in the English education system. This is one essay in the collection entitled Screwtape Proposes a Toast.


Is there any more posthumous Lewis material awaiting publication?
There will eventually be a complete Letters of C.S. Lewis to replace the present one volume selection. There is also some unpublished poetry.


Are there any tapes of Lewis speaking available?
The five essays that make up The Four Loves were originally radio talks commissioned by the Episcopal Radio and Television Foundation of Atlanta Georgia in 1957. (They were not very widely broadcast, supposedly because the Foundation thought that audiences might be shocked by the fact that Lewis "several times brought sex into his talk on Eros.") These talks are available on audio cassette from the Foundation.

The Foundation has published two other cassettes of Lewis speaking. One, entitled C.S Lewis: Comments and Critiques contains a number of Lewis's BBC broadcasts: his preface to The Great Divorce; a talk on Charles Williams; a talk on The Pilgrim's Progress; and perhaps most excitingly a version of his inaugural lecture at Cambridge.

Sadly, only one of the wartime talks that Lewis gave on the BBC and which later became Mere Christianity seems to have survived. This is the chapter entitled "The New Men" from the final section of the book. The Foundation's 1982 tape of Michael York reading Mere Christianity also included this precious recording. However, this tape is no longer available.


Were Lewis's proofs of the existence of God from Miracles refuted by Elizabeth Anscombe?
On 2nd February 1948, Elizabeth Anscombe read a paper criticising the third chapter of C.S Lewis's Miracles to the Oxford Socratic Club. Anscombe was a student of Wittgenstein, a student of philosophy but also a convert to Catholicism. At the Socratic Club debate, she argued against Lewis's position: she was not attacking his faith, but the philosophical validity of his argument. Lewis must have accepted the criticisms, since he later rewrote the chapter: changing the title from "Naturalism is Self-Refuting" to the less ambitious "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism."

According to George Sayer, Lewis's friend and biographer, Lewis regarded the debate as a defeat, and felt humiliated by it:

"He told me that he had been proved wrong, and that his argument for the existence of God had been demolished. ...The debate had been a humiliating experience, but perhaps it was ultimately good for him. In the past, he had been too proud of his logical ability. Now he was humbled ....'I can never write another book of that sort' he said to me of Miracles. And he never did. He also never wrote another theological book. Reflections on the Psalms is really devotional and literary; Letters to Malcolm is also a devotional book, a series of reflections on prayer, without contentious arguments."

Derek Brewer goes even further, saying that Lewis recalled the meeting "with real horror" was "deeply disturbed by it" and described it in terms of "the retreat of infantry thrown back under heavy attack."

On the other hand, the minutes of the Socratic Club do not report such a dramatic and humiliating defeat, merely recording that:

"In general it appeared that Mr. Lewis would have to turn his argument into a rigorous analytic one, if his motion were to stand the test of all the questions put to him."

Anscombe herself did not remember "humiliating" or "defeating" Lewis. She wrote:

"The fact that Lewis rewrote that chapter, and rewrote it so that it now has those qualities, shows his honesty and seriousness. The meeting of the Socratic Club at which I read my paper has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience which upset him very much. Neither Dr. Havard (who had Lewis and me to dinner a few weeks later) nor Professor Jack Bennet remembered any such feelings on Lewis's part... My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms, which Lewis's rethinking and rewriting showed he thought was accurate. I am inclined to construe the odd accounts of the matter by some of his friends -- who seem not to have been interested in the actual arguments of the subject-matter -- as an interesting example of the phenomenon called projection."


Was Lewis a Roman Catholic? Didn't he believe in Purgatory?
Lewis was not a Catholic. He was and remained an Anglican (Church of England) for his post-conversion life, describing himself as "neither particularly 'high,' nor particularly 'low'." He was critical of some specific aspects of the Catholic faith -- memorably commenting that if the Virgin Mary is like the best of human mothers, she doesn't want attention directed at herself instead of her Son! On the other hand, in Letters to Malcolm and elsewhere, he defends the idea of Purgatory as a necessary "cleaning up time" for the soul before entering the company of heaven -- although he acknowledged that the doctrine was open to abuse. "I hope," he writes "that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am coming round, a voice will say "Rinse your mouth out with this." This will be purgatory."

In the essay Christian Reunion he states that the real disagreement between Catholics and Protestants is not about any particular belief, but about the source and nature of doctrine and authority:

"The real reason I cannot be in communion with you is ... that to accept your Church means not to accept a given body of doctrine but to accept in advance any doctrine that your Church hereafter produces."

When Lewis was working on Mere Christianity, he had Book II vetted by Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian clergymen, to avoid any hint of denominational bias creeping in. In a telling passage in Allegory of Love he recognises the potential flaws in both the Catholic and the Protestant paths:

"When Catholicism goes bad it becomes the world-old, world-wide religion of amulets and holy places and priest craft; Protestantism, in its corresponding decay, becomes a vague mist of ethical platitudes."


What did Lewis think about the Bible? Was he a fundamentalist?
Here we again run into semantic difficulties -- what is meant by "fundamentalist"? Lewis did believe that the Bible was the Word of God, but he also believed that we were given our minds to use them. In his Reflections on the Psalms Lewis says:

"At one point I had to explain how I differed on a certain point from both Catholics and Fundamentalists: I hope I shall not for this forfeit the goodwill or the prayers of either. Nor do I much fear it."

The "certain matter" is, again, the source of authority: although he regards much of the Bible as being the historical truth, he cannot regard it as a source of absolute certainty, as fundamentalists do. [Emphasis added.] His two most sustained discussions of the Bible are "Fern Seed and Elephants" (an essay in the collection of the same title) and the chapter "Scripture" in Reflections on the Psalms.

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