Wednesday, January 18, 2012

C.S. Lewis – Nearing the Journey’s End: VIII

On August 12, 1963 Lewis writes to John Forbes and Richard Ladborough at Cambridge:

“The bearer, Walter Hooper, will leave on the shelves in my room [at Cambridge] all the books that I want sold…(If either of you sees anything he would like as a keepsake let him pocket it.)…I am ashamed to ask all this of you but Walter has to return to America almost at once and my brother is still away, so I am at my wits end what to do.”

On August 13, 1963 Lewis writes Forbes again about selling books and furniture. Lewis concludes with:

“This is, I am afraid, a dreadful amount of trouble but my situation is rather desperate. Tell all my colleagues I am fit to be visited and should welcome it.”

Walter Hooper writes that Lewis gave him, “…seven pages of instructions about the care and disposal of every book in his library.”

Lewis brother, Warnie, is still away; presumably “drying out” in Ireland. Warnie, Lewis’s lifelong companion is absent in Jack’s desperate situation. Walter Hooper must return to America, Douglas and David are away at school; Jack would welcome visitors.

While Lewis is having a large number of books brought to his home in Oxford, many will now be sold. A portrait of his grandfather is to be shipped from Cambridge to the Parish Hall, Dundela, Belfast. There is no point in bringing the portrait back to Oxford, let it go home to Ireland for Jack will soon be going home himself…going to be with his Lord.

Jack is ashamed to ask for all this help, but what is he to do? No Warnie, a soon departing Walter, absent stepsons; what is Lewis to do? His situation is rather desperate. Here is a man who spent most of his life walking the pathways of England, Ireland, Wales…walking with friends, walking with Warnie, walking, walking, walking. A man enjoying the company and repartee of friends and acquaintances, a man engaged in a flow of correspondence; now he can’t walk, he can hardly write, and he can’t go out to meet friends; and where is Warnie?

Lewis is selling books. Not all of his books, many are being shipped to Oxford, but nevertheless he is selling books. What did he think about the books being shipped home? Did he really think he’d have them much longer? Ah, but they are friends and they represent the corridors of a lifetime of reading – so perhaps he’ll have them around just a bit longer. Of course I don’t know if Lewis had those thoughts or not, but I know that I’d have them, and since Lewis and I are book lovers I think I may be close to the mark. To read Lewis’s early letters to his friend Arthur Greeves about books…well…Lewis writes about books the way some men write about women; affectionately, adoringly, descriptively, passionately. I don’t know that I could write the words, the books that I want sold. Such a final phrase…once they are sold there is no return. But Lewis wrote those words and there was a finality about them.

No Warnie, Walter is leaving, the boys are away, and the books are being sold; the situation is desperate… Tell all my colleagues I am fit to be visited and should welcome it.

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