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By Michael Ward


Lewis the Letter-Writer

An unconscious autobiography in two volumes of correspondence.

Oh the mails: every bore in two continents seems to think I like getting letters. One's real friends are precisely the people one never gets time to write to." Thus Lewis sounds off to one of those real friends, Dorothy L. Sayers, in the letter closing the second volume of this collected correspondence. Editor Walter Hooper has chosen an interesting note on which to pause for breath before he brings out the third and final volume next year. Lewis' complaint reminds us that a writer's correspondence may reflect duty much more than joy, and in that regard these two volumes show him as the very slave of duty. (His fantastically tireless thank-you letters to Warfield Firor ought to be compulsory reading for all children on Boxing Day.) The complaint also has a delicious proleptic irony for we know that, within a year, Lewis will publish The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and henceforth his mails will be even heavier. He really has only himself to blame.

Once complete, this three-volume edition of Lewis' correspondence will replace all previous collections, gathering up into its comprehensive embrace Letters (1988), Letters to Children (1985), Letters to an American Lady (1967), Letters to Arthur Greeves (1979), and the Latin Letters (1989). 1 However, that is not to say that every single extant letter by Lewis will then have been published. Some, of course, have still not come to light. (Incidentally, those letters which materialized too late to get into volumes 1 and 2 will be given their own appendix in volume 3.) And some letters have been omitted from the first volume to prevent it from being too long. The omissions mostly consist of the weekly "regulation" letters from the schoolboy Lewis to his father and the abstruse letters to Owen Barfield in the 1920s when Lewis was debating—as his brother mockingly put it—"the utterness of the nothingness." They constitute about five per cent of the total correspondence from the period covered by volume 1, and it is to be regretted ...

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