Monday, March 19, 2012

C.S. Lewis – Near the Journey’s End: XVIII

On November 7, 1963, Lewis writes to Bonamy Dobre:

“Thanks, I am, as you say, being ‘very good’. But so far I rather like it. It was lovely to feel that I need not read Rowse on the Sonnets! Instead I re-read The Iliad, the Daisy Chain, Bleak House and In Memoriam: a good balanced diet.”

Lewis didn’t travel far during his life. Other than serving in France during WWI, I don’t recall that he travelled to France, though he may well have – I’m relying on memory. While Lewis and his wife Joy toured Greece, I don’t recall Lewis visiting any other countries outside the UK other than Ireland on his many visits to Ulster.

Lewis’s vacations consisted of two types that he reveled in; walking tours in Britain and visits to Ulster and Ireland. The former were taken with combinations of friends and his brother throughout his life, the latter were coordinated and enjoyed with his lifelong friend Arthur Greeves. While to the observer in Oxford or Cambridge Professor Lewis might appear an “indoor” man, he loved the outdoors and he loved enjoying the outdoors with friends. But of course Lewis also loved books and books are to be found indoors. Outside Lewis read and enjoyed the book of creation, inside Lewis enjoyed literary creations.

While Lewis didn’t physically travel to the far corners of the globe, he spanned the latitudes and longitudes of the globe through reading, returning again and again to his favorite places, including The Iliad and Paradise Lost. Long before physical space travel Lewis ventured beyond Earth’s gravity in his reading; he also led others into space through his Space Trilogy and short stories. Despite appearances Professor Lewis was a well-travelled man.   

If re-reading is re-experiencing the pleasure of a book, and if re-reading is discovering previously unobserved vistas and nuances, and if re-reading is akin to our favorite comfort foods – then it is no surprise that those who love reading and literature return again and again to their favorite books. Lewis the invalid was Lewis the world traveler, Lewis the invalid was Lewis the time traveler, Lewis the invalid was Lewis the space traveler. Lewis began his life reading, he lived his life reading, and as we see from the above letter, Lewis concludes his life reading.

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