This book was originally titled, Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times, and the author, who headed the English department at Malvern College in Worcestershire, was a friend of Lewis’s and occasional attendee of meetings of the Inklings. He met Lewis in 1934 when the latter became the former’s tutor at Oxford, and remained apparently close friends with him until Lewis’s death in 1963. I sought out this book because a recent biographer of Lewis cited it as one of the three best biographies of him (see the parenthetical second sentence in this post), and I was not disappointed. (Addendum: In Between Heaven and Hell, the estimable Peter Kreeft says (120) this is the “best of the Lewis bios.”)
The book is well-written and thorough, without being overstuffed, and contains good summaries of Lewis’s works. The author’s personal relationship with Lewis gives him valuable insights into the great man’s life.
And what a life, what an eventful and inspiring life! Not only his deep faith and his brilliant works, but his work ethic and his joviality and unselfishness — what a blessing for us all, and for us Christians in particular.
A small but perhaps telling note: It’s remarkable that, in a book that runs over 400 pages and quotes extensively from Lewis’s formal and informal writing, in only one instance (page 142) is there a “sic” (Lewis writes “under weigh” instead of “under way” — probably thinking of anchors). Two other notes: Pope John Paul II was a Lewis fan (390); and it’s interesting that Lewis initially disliked but came to respect T.S. Eliot (204, 258, 392, 394).
Lewis died at 64, and I find this also noteworthy since I will be 64 next month. Lewis’s health was in decline, yet the week of his death he met with the Inklings (405). And in letters sent within a month of his death — he died on November 22, 1963, the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated — he wrote (408): “Don’t think I am not happy. … I am re-reading the Iliad and enjoying it more than I have ever done”; and “Yes, autumn is really the best of the seasons; and I’m not sure that old age isn’t the best part of life. But, of course, like autumn it doesn’t last.” Sigh.