Books March 2007
Arc of surrender
On The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis.
In 1940, C. S. Lewis wrote a letter to the German scholar Eliza Marian Butler in which he undercuts a passage from his book The Allegory of Love: “there are parts of it which I don’t feel too happy about now and the passage on symbolism and allegory is one of them.” Conjuring perhaps heavier weather than his correspondent bargained for, he proffers a safe haven, then dashes to his own cover: “I also am an Irishman and a congenital rhetorician: that is why I assume in speaking to you the melancholy privileges of a fellow-patient!”
Forty years ago, the Letters of C. S. Lewis appeared, edited and with a memoir by Lewis’s brother Warren, we were told. In fact, the book was shaped by Lewis’s former pupil Christopher Derrick, when Warren’s alcoholism became an insuperable obstacle to his completing the book. Now, we have the third and final volume of the Letters.
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