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C. S. Lewis (Clive Staples Lewis) Biography

(1898–1963), (Clive Staples Lewis), The Pilgrim's Regress, The Allegory of Love

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Mary Lavin Biography to Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

British literary scholar, critic, Christian apologist, and novelist, born in Belfast, educated at University College, Oxford. Among several academic posts he was Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge. His literary reputation was established in the 1930s, after his conversion to Christianity, partly reflected in The Pilgrim's Regress (1933). The Allegory of Love (1936) was the first of several significant critical works, which include A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942), English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (vol. 3 in the Oxford History of English Literature, 1954), and The Discarded Image (1964). Lewis, though a theological layman, became widely known as a Christian writer; books such as The Problem of Pain (1940), Miracles (1947), and The Four Loves (1960) were highly influential, as were his general and apologetic writings such as The Screwtape Letters (1940)—letters from a senior to a junior devil—and Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964). Lewis's extensive reputation was largely due to his popular radio talks on religious themes, collected in Mere Christianity (1952). Out of the Silent Planet (1938) was the first volume of an uneven science fiction trilogy, followed by Perelandra (1943; retitled Voyage to Venus, 1953) and That Hideous Strength (1945). Much more consistent are the seven children's novels about the imaginary world of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) in which the lion Aslan, a representation of God, is introduced. Both series are broadly allegorical and owe much to Lewis's friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. All three were members of the Inklings, a circle meeting in Oxford (193962) for the purpose of mutual literary criticism and conversation. In 1956 Lewis married Joy Davidman, an American author on Christian subjects, to guarantee her residency rights in Britain. This marriage of convenience deepened into a real love affair and a second, Christian wedding took place in 1957 when Joy was in hospital suffering from cancer; she died in 1960. Shadowlands, a play by William Nicholson, tells the story of their relationship, and Lewis—writing as ‘N. W. Clerk’—published A Grief Observed (1961), describing his own pilgrimage of grief after bereavement. Among several critical assessments and biographical works is A. N. Wilson's C. S. Lewis: A Biography (1990).

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