Saturday, November 18, 2006

Don't hold back, Hugh, tell us what you really think of C. S. Lewis...

Photograph by Arthur Strong, 1947
"...the face and figure of a hog-reeve or earthy-stopper"
(Image from Wikipedia)

For our prurient erudition, here's a quote from a letter that Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote about C. S. Lewis to Bernard Berenson, describing Lewis with intellectual and aristocratic disdain as:
"a man who combines the face and figure of a hog-reeve or earthy-stopper with the mind and thought of a Desert Father of the fifth century, preoccupied with meditations of inelegant theological obscenity: a powerful mind warped by erudite philistinism, blackened by systematic bigotry, and directed by a positive detestation of such profane frivolities as art, literature and (of course) poetry: a purple-faced bachelor and misogynist, living alone in rooms of inconceivable hideousness, secretly consuming vast quantities of his favourite dish -- beefsteak-and-kidney-pudding; periodically trembling at the mere apprehension of a feminine footfall; and all the while distilling his morbid and illiberal thoughts into volumes of best-selling prurient religiosity and ... reactionary nihilism."
You can read this fine quote in Richard King's review (in "arts, books, other reviews") of Letters from Oxford: Hugh Trevor-Roper to Bernard Berenson (edited by Richard Davenport-Hines, published in England by Weidenfeld and Nicolson).

King, who calls Trevor-Roper "an acquired taste," also cites one of his old teachers, who in commenting on seventeenth century historiography informed him "that it was sad and troubling that the Marxist historian and Master of Balliol Christopher Hill was such a nice man but wrong, whereas the Regius Professor of Modern History, Hugh Trevor-Roper, was a very unpleasant man but right" about politics, economics, and history.

He wasn't right about the forged Hitler Diaries, of course.

For your further reading, the webpage "arts, books, other reviews" is published in the September 2006 issue of the online journal New Directions, which is part of a larger website, Trushare (aka The Cost of Conscience), "an Association of Anglican priests from all over the world ... committed to Safeguarding our Heritage: the Deposit of Faith, once delivered to the saints, which has been entrusted to us for the present time."

Amazing, the places that Gypsy Scholar leads the unwary reader, advancing "swiftly rowld / In tangles" through "wandering mazes lost"(cf. Paradise Lost 9.631-632, 2.561)...

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At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, but what is your view of Lewis?

To be honest, I don't know a lot about him. Did read, "Mere Christianity," however.

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I like Lewis and his books. He's a wonderfully clear writer and even makes a lot of sense.

My nine-year-old daughter has read all of the Narnia books and likes them.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:35 AM, Blogger A.H. said...

Alaister Fowler has a wonderful memory of Lewis as the supervisor who never supervised: Wasn't the art of the put-down so polite, so Oxbridge...David Starkey, today, has the same bitchiness. Interestingly, given the cult of CS Lewis at the moment, publishers have revived his science fiction books--yes, you lead us to wonderful planets.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Eshuneutics, I'll have to read that piece by Fowler. By the way, your link seems to be partly obscured. Let me correct that:

Notes & Reflections on C. S. Lewis

As for the putdown by Trevor-Roper being "polite"? Not sure that it would satisfy a level of old courtesy reminiscent of Gawain, but it's certainly an elegantly expressed, wide-ranging putdown that Lewis himself might have admired.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:28 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I burrowed myself away as a child reading the Narnia series, then read them over again. They were perhaps the first books that I read alone, without the encouragement of my parents. Actually, my mother read the first few pages of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to us on a family vacation, handed the book off and I was hooked. Every time I visit my parents nowadays, my mother has craftily placed a copy of "Mere Christianity" next to my bedside! I've never read it, apart from a paragraph here, a paragraph there, not because I don't want to, or I'm afraid he's going to convert me like so many others who have read the book, but just because I've had other stuff to read. One of these days I'll get around to it, in the meantime I've got Pascal to wrestle with.

I've got a question. I've asked this question to a few people of various religious beliefs. Here it is.
If there is a god who is infinitely benevolent and infinitely powerful, why would he/she/it create a world with evil people? The question assumes that there are evil people, people who seem to have been made to do evil. So, the question isn't "Why would such a God make people who suffer?" but "Why would such a God create people who would cause suffering, because causing suffering seems to fulfill them?" I'm thinking of not just the obvious examples such as serial rapists or killers, but people who get a kick out of taking a stab at someone because they've noticed they're shy and therefore won't strike back. Why would such a God create evil people, and alongside them, a Hell, where they will suffer for eternity? Maybe they have chosen to be evil, but it doesnt seem to me that everyone chooses freely. Do you think people are really as free as Christianity claims?
And along with that, evolution. Why would such a God (infinitely benevolent & infinitely powerful) set up a universe where might makes right, where a species thrives based on how ruthless it is(the reason we have lions running around Africa is because they didn't hesitate a moment before sinking their teeth into their prey), and then expect his creations to act against the way they had been created to act. My question doesn't regard the injustice of this killing as much as it does, why would God create this universe, where might makes right, and then reveal to his creations in a book that he meant for the universe to run conter-clockwise, in a self-less manner instead of in a selfish manner, and whoever does not accept the truth of this book, against the evidence of the universe, shall be punished for eternity?

This is my question, or questions. I don't mean this as an affront to anyone's beliefs, I respect Christianity, and understand why someone would decide to adopt the Christian belief. I am simplifying the situation, but I will limit myself to: Christianity is based upon faith. If everything made sense, and it was clear what was right and wrong because God's voice thundered down from the clouds: "THOU SHALT NOT ETC", then many more people would obey the commandment, but there would be nothing special because it was obvious and straight forward. Who wouldn't obey a mysterious voice that thundered down from the clouds? You would have to be insane not to. My point is, faith is meaningful because of the ambiguity of the world.

However, this faith is not for me. I am at this point an atheist, not an atheist who believes there is necessarily no god, but an atheist who has not found any answers in religion that satisfy. I do not consider myself any more enlightened than the next individual, be he Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or what have you.
Anyway, if you've got any thoughts regarding this question, I would be interested.

At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Herr Richter,

In answer to your question, perhaps you should go ahead and read "Mere Christianity" after all.

At 12:54 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Yeah, I figured he would have addressed this kind of thing. Thanks, DR

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heres the link if you dont need the softcover:


At 3:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, anonymous. The link doesn't seem to be working, but those interested can copy and paste.

Jeffery Hodges

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