Thursday, 21 November 2013

Memories of CS Lewis

I have been reading various pieces about C S Lewis, honouring the anniversary of his death, and thought I'd add my ha'porth.

I don't remember him myself, as I was only a babe when he died, and we never met; but my late mother attended his lectures in Oxford, and became good friends (as a result) with Charles Williams.

What she said about Lewis was firstly that you could always tell when he was lecturing (which he did in Magdalen Hall) because the pavement outside Magdalen would be four or five bikes deep for a hundred yards or so.  He was by all accounts an outstanding lecturer, and undergraduates loved to hear him.

Another thing she said was that he was an excellent teacher (which is not always the same thing). Infinitely patient with even the simplest question: and keen to lead any student on from a very basic question to a rich and profound understanding of the matter at hand.

There has been a lot of speculation about whether he would have converted to Catholicism had he lived longer.  Walter Hooper clearly believes that he would have done so, others believe he would not.  They cite what is sometimes referred to as his tribal Northern Irish protestantism that hated the Catholic Church.

My mother's view was different.  She said that whilst, as noted above, he was infinitely patient with even the most basic question, there was one exception.  That was when people asked whether he would convert to Catholicism.  That question he gave short shrift - but the drift of his answer was always the same: that he (and the Church of England) was part of the Catholic Church. Thus he saw no need to convert.

My own hunch, for what it's worth, is that as the CofE drifted inexorably away from its tradition he would have found that notion challenged, and that the ordination of women would have been the last straw and prompted him to convert (had he not done so previously). But that, of course, is mere speculation.

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