Monday, February 20, 2012

C.S. Lewis: Near the Journey’s End: XIV

On October 17, 1963 Lewis writes to Mary Willis Shelburne:

“Perhaps I might be able to make up what is lacking of your hospital coverage. How much wd. it be?”

On October 17 he also wrote to Thomas Congdon:

“I’d like to have a try at that article but I must warn you I may fail.”

“It wd. be impossible to discuss the ‘right to happiness’ without discussing a formula that is rather sacred to Americans about the ‘right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”

On October 18 Lewis writes to Colin Bailey:

“Thanks for your kind words. Perelandra is my favourite too”

[All excerpts from letters taken from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Walter Hooper editor, Harper San Francisco.]

The letter to Mary Willis Shelburne is the last letter to her appearing in The Collected Letters. In a previous letter to Shelburne Lewis was struck by Shelburne’s difficulty in obtaining medical treatment due to the lack of a comprehensive health-care system in America.

Lewis’s letter to Thomas Congdon is in response to Congdon’s invitation to write a piece for the Saturday Evening Post addressing whether we have a “right to happiness”. Lewis’s essay, the last article he wrote, appeared in the December 21 – 28 issue of the magazine and is reprinted in God in the Dock. The foil that Lewis uses in the article is sexual fulfillment; a man divorcing his wife because she is no longer attractive to him and a woman divorcing her husband for the same reason. One wonders what Lewis would have thought had he seen what would transpire in the 1960’s; and had his crystal ball provided a glimpse of where we are today not only in terms of sexuality, but in terms of a hedonistic – materialistic society, a society where pleasure is the rationale for decision-making.

I include the short note to Colin Bailey because of its reference to Perelandra.

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