Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Young C. S. Lewis Near the Beginning of WWI

I have begun to read/skim The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper (And be sure to get his edition.  Other collections may short-change you.).  And I am glad I have.  I am still in Lewis’ teen years.  But he was a pleasure to read even back then.

I also appreciate getting slices of life from the early 20th Century, particularly during World War One.

Among the passages of his youthful letters that stand out is one from a letter to his closest friend Arthur Greeves.  He steps outside himself and observes himself remarkably well at age 15.  After some negative boarding school experiences, he is happy under the tutelage of W. T. Kirkpatrick even as The Great War begins:

So great is the selfishness of human nature, that I can look out from my snug nest with the same equanimity on the horrid desolation of the war, and the well known sorrows of my old school.  I feel that this ought not to be so: but I can no more alter my disposition that I can change the height of my stature or the colour of my hair.  It would be mere affectation to pretend that sympathy with those whose lot is not so happy as mine, seriously disturbs the tenour of my complacence.  Whether this is egotism of youth, some blemish in my personal character, or the common inheritance of humanity, I do not know.  What is your opinion?

So he asks Greeves in November 1914. 

How would you answer young C. S. Lewis?

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