Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Favorite Parts: C.S. Lewis Collected Letters Volume 1

Shadows of Splendor: Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis Volume 1.

I've been reading Lewis' Collected Letters for the past few weeks. The Scobells bought them for me and mailed them. Isn't mail wonderful? Especially surprise packages. I've finished the first of three volumes, about 1,000 pages apiece. I wouldn't do this for just any author. It's been so interesting watching Lewis develop themes that will become major works later in life. So far I've caught hints of Perelandra, Out of the Silent Planet, Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Allegory of Love and Surprised by Joy. The most astonishing thing of all is how much like Lewis he sounds, even as a teenager. Pompous, arrogant, full of himself, priggish, and an atheist, but still Lewis. Same vocabulary. Here are my favorite Lewis quotes from the first volume:

"Of course Handel is not your ideal or mine as a composer...Of course the inappropriateness of his tunes is appalling - as for instance where he makes the chorus repeat some twenty times that they have all gone astray like sheep in the same tone of cheerful placidity that they'd use for saying it was a fine evening." (From a letter to his brother, 22 December 1914)

"It's just a sign, isn't it, of how some geniuses can't work in metrical forms - another example being the Brontes." (Letter to Arthur Greeves 7 March 1916 - In the same letter he says, "you may even make a Christian of me.")

"...Style is the art of expressing a given thought in the most beautiful words and rhythms of words. For instance a man might say 'When the constellations angelic spirits loudly testified to their satisfaction.' Expressing exactly the same thought, the Authorised Version says 'When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy'. Thus by the power of style what was nonsense becomes ineffably beautiful. See?" (To Arthur, 4 August 1917. From Job 38:7, which in my Bible has a note by me noticing how Tolkien that section is.)

"The trouble about God is that he is like a person who never acknowledges one's letters and so, in time, one comes to the conclusion either that he does not exist or that you have got the address wrong." (To His Brother, 1 July 1921)

Discussing what pleasure he got from knowing that several of his favorite authors knew each other...a foreshadowing of the Inklings "...How delightful to find out suddenly that the Wartons and Collins were at school together and made a sort of poetry club there as boys and had evolved it together." (To his father, 5 January 1926)

"I should like to know, too, in general, what you think of all the darker side of religion as we find it in old books. Formerly I regarded it as mere devil worship based on horrible superstitions. Now that I have found, and am still finding more and more, the element of truth in the old beliefs, I feel I cannot dismiss even their dreadful side so cavalierly. There must be something in it: only what?" (To Arthur, 22 December 1929)

"But it is a real book: i.e. it's not like a book at all, but like a thunderclap. Heaven defend us - what things there are knocking about the world!" (Letter to Arthur 13 January 1930 - referring to Phantastes by George MacDonald)

"Tolkien is the man I spoke of when we were last together - the author of the voluminous unpublished metrical romances and of the maps, companions to them, showing the mountains of Dread and Nargothrond the city of the Orcs." (To Arthur, 9 February 1930.) Describing the members of Kolbitar, a group that met to read the Norse Myths in the original language.

"Terrible things are happening to me. The 'Spirit' or 'Real I' is showing an alarming tendency to become much more personal and is taking the offensive and behaving just like God. You'd better come on Monday at the latest or I may have entered a monastery." (To Arthur 3 February 1930)

"Why do women write such good novels. Men's novels, except Scott, seem to me on the same level as womens' poetry." (Arthur, June 22 1930)

(at the end of a discussion about the difference between German Myths based in the earthy and metallic, and Celtic Mythology based in elements and frivolity. Paganism is ultimately shallow because it will never grow into a religion) "In fact, add Roman civilisation to [paganism] and you get - France." (3 August 1930)