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      The Life of C.S. Lewis
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C. S. Lewis Home

Enter Narnia


Journaling with Lewis

Send a C.S. Lewis e-card

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Shadowlands, the story of the relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman Gresham

A handful of observations from our archives on the works of C.S. Lewis

The latest books on Lewis


C.S. Lewis and
The Inklings Resource Site

C.S. Lewis Foundation

C.S. Lewis Institute

Large Index of Photographs,
Bibliographies & Links

Into the Wardrobe

The New York C.S. Lewis Society

Understanding Mr. Lewis: Life, Times, Works

C.S. Lewis Chronicles

Harper Collins C.S. Lewis Site

Narnia Confidential
an excellent resource site for all seven books in the series


Who is C.S. Lewis?

a brief biography by Emilie Griffin
a timeline of Lewis's life

Clive Staples Lewis—known to his friends and family as “Jack”—is one of the most influential writers on Christian faith of the twentieth century. Author of more than 70 titles, including works of science fiction, fantasy, poetry, letters, autobiography and Christian apologetics, Lewis’s book sales are reported to be more than 2 million annually. That number promises to skyrocket with the release of Walden Media’s new screen version of Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Born in Belfast in 1898, Lewis was educated at home and at boarding schools in Britain. After his mother died when he was almost ten, “Jack” grew closer to his brother Warren, who was two years his senior.

Lewis studied English and philosophy at Oxford and served in the military. He became a university man who taught (mostly English literature) at Oxford’s Magdalen (pronounced “Maudlin”) college for much of his life. Later in life he was appointed to a professorship at Cambridge. As a member of the Oxford faculty, Lewis developed a strong reputation in English literary criticism and a much larger reputation as a witty and imaginative writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction works on Christian faith.

In a time of growing secularism, Lewis was a persuasive defender of Christianity. Some of his best-known books began as broadcast talks in which he explained the essentials of the Christian faith to a broad listening audience. To do this, he spoke in simple terms, using homely comparisons. These talks were collected and published as Mere Christianity, one of the most popular books about Christian belief in recent history. Mere Christianity has brought many people to the Christian faith and contributed to ecumenical dialogue, moving easily across Christian denominations by focusing on the basic teachings that most Christians believe.

Lewis also wrote an amusing book about temptation called The Screwtape Letters, popular on both sides of the Atlantic. The novel, cast in the form of a correspondence between a senior and a junior devil, offered a fresh angle on Christian belief. Screwtape landed Lewis on the cover of Time magazine.
“Jack” Lewis also tried his hand at fiction, quite successfully.

Long a lover of adventure stories, he wrote three widely read novels (The Space Trilogy) about interplanetary travel. These space travel narratives were also about redemption, partly inspired by Lewis’s reading of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven tales for children inspired by Lewis’s interest in myth and fairy tale. Written with an underlying Christian theme, the Chronicles have been enjoyed by children and adults for generations.

How did Lewis, who was essentially a professor of English literature, become such an influential writer? C.S. Lewis was raised on books. Wide reading shaped his thought from childhood onwards. He had a vivid imagination and a broad education in ancient and medieval literature.

As a young man, Lewis was agnostic—possibly even an atheist— though he had been raised as a Christian. After serving in World War I, he returned to Oxford to teach, and there he experienced a religious conversion. His religious quest was stirred in part by literature and vigorous use of the intellect. He was partly influenced by friends at Oxford who were thoughtful believers, among them J.R.R. Tolkien.

Because of his conversion experience, Lewis turned his creative energy toward Christian writing. Many of his books were attempts to answer his own nagging questions. The Problem of Pain took up the perennial question of how God, if he is good, permits suffering. Miracles examined questions about divine intervention and supernatural events. Lewis also wrote two treatments of his own conversion—The Pilgrim’s Regress, in which he attempted a modern narrative inspired by John Bunyan; and Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, which traced his own pursuit of faith in a strongly literary vein, describing how books and events had converged to bring him to his knees. Lewis became a faithful member of the Church of England and developed a strong spiritual life.

Friendship—especially male friendship—was vital to Lewis. Together with his brother Warren, a former military man and a writer, C.S. Lewis took part in a literary circle known as “The Inklings.” Over decades this group met to share their works in progress. Such works as Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were first read at the Inklings. Many of these scholars and writers had a common view of literature and faith. One important member of the Inklings was the writer and editor Charles Williams. Williams was a poet and an authority on Milton and Dante. He also wrote a series of remarkable novels about Christian faith.

Another of Lewis’s ventures was the Socratic Club, in which he argued questions of faith with any atheists who were rash enough to debate him. In his personal life, Lewis had two important domestic alliances. For many years he lived with and helped support Mrs. Jane Moore, the mother of his friend “Paddy” Moore, who had been his comrade in World War I. When Paddy died in combat, Lewis fulfilled his promise to care for Paddy’s mother and sister. Lewis and the Moores shared a household near Oxford. Eventually Warren Lewis lived with his brother as well. (Lewis also maintained rooms in college.)

Late in life, after Mrs. Moore’s death, Lewis became involved with an American divorcée, Helen Joy Davidman. Their romantic friendship and clandestine marriage are dramatized in the play Shadowlands (also a television drama and a film). Speaking of his marriage, Lewis told his longtime friend Nevill Coghill: “I never expected to have, in my sixties, the happiness that passed me by in my twenties.”

Joy’s death from cancer shattered that happiness. Lewis captured his agony in a touching memoir, A Grief Observed. The influence of their marriage is also found in his book, The Four Loves, which he dedicated to his late wife.
Lewis died at his home, "The Kilns," in Headington Quarry, near Oxford, on November 22, 1963, after a brief illness. On his gravestone is a line from King Lear—one of his mother’s favorites: “Men must endure their going hence.”

a timeline of Lewis's life

copyright ©2005 Emilie Griffin


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