CS Lewis

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Sun Dec 19 19:39:25 EST 2004

JOdel at aol.com

Oh, Lewis was *deffinitely* springboarding off of Nesbit. I wouldn't be surprised if she wasn't one of his favorite authors when he was a boy. He was born in '98 and her career was just getting off the ground about then. But I get a distinct impression from his work that once he reached the point of considering himself "grown up" he not only didn't read a lot of stories written for children (unless the author was a personal friend of his), but would have scorned the idea that there were adults who did.

The first part of this is certainly correct, but I think you're mistaken about the last point. For example, in his autobiography Surprised by Joy I think he says that he still rereads the Story of the Amulet with delight. But his definitive statement on is in his essay "Three Ways of Writing for Children", where the idea he scorns is precisely the one that adults should not read children's books. I don't have the essay to hand, but he says that the acquisition of adult tastes, and of maturity, ought in general to mean the supplementing rather than the replacement of the tastes of childhood. His analogy is: a tree grows by putting on rings: a train does not grow by leaving one station and hurrying on to the next. There's also the dedication to LWW (which I do have to hand): 'My dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realised that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again' [and the rest - is this still printed in the modern editions, btw?]

It's quite true that his story and even more so his idioms are old-fashioned, and that he hadn't kept up with the latest in children's literature (though I doubt there's much written in the '30s and '40s that would have appealed to him) but this wasn't born of a scorn of children's books as such. Probably more the lack of a direct stimulus to read them in the form of close child friends.

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