Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" by C.S Lewis a critique of American education?

1: Summary

2: Chronology

3: Education in the 1950s

4: English Education or American Education?

5: The Provenance of the Preface

6: English English or American English?

7: Lewis on English Education

8: All Must Have Prizes

9: Conclusion: Lack Thereof

1: Summary


2: Chronology

1941, May-Nov: 'The Screwtape Letters' published as a column in The Guardian (UK religious weekly)

1942: Collected edition of The Screwtape Letters by C.S Lewis published.

1943, Jun: The Norwood Report recommends the introduction of Grammar Schools and the 'eleven plus' exam.

1943, Aug: 'Equality' by C.S Lewis published in The Spectator (UK)

1944, Feb: 'Is English Doomed' by C.S Lewis published in The Spectator (UK)

1944, Mar: 'The Parthenon and the Optative' by C.S Lewis published in Time and Tide (UK)

1944, Apr: 'Democratic Education' by C.S Lewis published in in Time and Tide (UK)

1944, Aug: Butler education act, reforming English education in line with the Norwood Report, becomes law

1959, Dec: Publication of 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast' by C.S Lewis in the Saturday Evening Post (US)

1960: Toast reprinted in 'The World's Last Night' and Other Essays' (US)

1961: Toast reprinted in 'The Screwtape Letters' and 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast' (UK)

1963: Death of C.S Lewis

1964: Incoming Labour government states intention to abolish the eleven plus and introduce Comprehensive schools

1965: Toast reprinted in 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast' and Other Pieces (UK)

1982: Toast reprinted in 'The Screwtape Letters' With 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast' (US)

3: Education in the 1950s

In 1944, English education experienced one of its periodic shake-ups. The school leaving age was raised to 15 (astonishingly, it was not officially raised to 16 until 1972) and secondary schools were restructured in accordance with the recommendations of the Norwood Report. Sir Cyril Norwood, former headmaster of Harrow, believed that there were three different types of mind: those which could deal with pure ideas; those which wanted to apply those ideas; and those which worked more slowly and preferred to deal in facts and the concrete. Owners of these three types of mind obviously required different kinds of education, so the Norwood Report proposed the creation of three new kinds of schools. Grammar Schools would teach traditional academic subjects; Technical Schools would teach arts and applied sciences; Secondary Moderns would teach a more practical syllabus. In the absence of a magic hat, children were to be sorted into the three groups on the basis of an objective intelligence test administered in their final year of primary school: the Eleven Plus.

Astonishingly, this system didn't work terribly well. For one thing, the Eleven Plus exam was based on the probably debunked and possibly fraudulent theories of Cyril Burt. In the second place, very few Technical Schools were ever opened: the system ended up simply splitting eleven-year-olds into the 'clever' and the 'not so clever'. Thirdly, one's chance of getting into a Grammar school depended entirely on how many places were available in a given town: if the school took 200 kids, then the kid with the 201st best mark had blown his chance of having an academic education. Fourthly, and contrary to Sir Cyril's ideals, the Moderns were never as well resourced as the Grammars: the less clever children did not get a different kind of education, but a worse education, in worse schools, with worse teachers. Fifthly, the whole thing ran aground on the rocks of the British class system: when an entirely objective exam was set by middle class psychologists, marked by middle class teachers and administered by middle class civil servants, the children of middle class parents astonishingly and inexplicably turned out to be the ones with the right kinds of minds for the Grammar Schools. Sixthly – and again, contrary to the original idealistic plans the system failed to take into account the possibility that someone could develop intellectually after the age off 11, or indeed, that one might be rather good at French but terrible at Maths. And seventhly, although Norwood believed that his three types of children were equal but different; and that his three kinds of schools should have 'parity of esteem', parents, children and especially primary school teachers came to regard the Eleven Plus as a 'scholarship' which you won a book or a bicycle for 'passing'. Students who, by hypothesis, had the kinds of minds which were better at dealing with concrete facts than with abstract ideas found themselves labelled as 'failures' before their twelfth birthday.

In 1964 the incoming Labour government declared that the Eleven Plus system had failed and that it should be replaced by a Comprehensive system, whereby every child in a particular area, regardless of ability, went to the same school. But due to the complicated balkanization of English education, the old system lingers on in a few parts of the country, where it is allegedly very popular. Whenever anyone suggests that the Comprehensive system be made universal, the cry goes up from Middle England: 'Save Our Secondary Moderns!'

4: Education in 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast'

In 1959, an addition to C.S Lewis's famous Screwtape Letters was published in the U.S magazine The Saturday Evening Post. Where the original letters are about individual morality, the Toast is a social satire. The Devils (who are imagined to feast on the souls of the damned) are disappointed by the low quality of the souls they are getting; but Screwtape points out that they are getting them in great numbers. This glut of low quality souls has, he says, come about through confusing the humans about the term 'democracy'. Although it really only refers to a system of government, it has become bound up with the obvious falsity that everyone is equal, with the happy result that inferior humans say to superior ones 'I'm as good as you!' (which they don't believe) and superior ones actually try to disguise their cleverness – or else become prigs and fanatics. Screwtape points out several methods which the devils have used to bring this about: education, philosophy, the worship of celebrities. He foresees a time when that this love of egalitarianism will have made the 'democracies' so mediocre that they'll be swept aside by Communism. However, mediocre as all these damned souls may be, there is still one source of truly first class sinners – namely, the hypocrites in the Christian Church!

The section on education takes up just less than two pages of a 17 page essay. Screwtape says that the spirit of 'I'm as good as you' makes humans reluctant to allow weak students to feel inferior to able ones. This may have the following results:

1: Everyone will be allowed to go to university, whether they are clever enough or not.

2: Everyone who goes to university will be allowed to pass their exams.

3: Special subjects will be invented so that stupid school children have something to excel at and the pretence will be maintained that these made up subjects are just as good as the real ones.

4: Perhaps children may even be grouped by age rather than ability, so that those fluent in ancient Greek and classical Italian will be held back by the ones who can't read simple English.

5: This will result in 'the abolition of education' – because they'll be no incentive to learn and no disincentive to ignorance. (Humans may even actively prevent the clever ones from learning, the better to maintain the illusion of 'democracy'.)

6: This will apply to everyone, since a socialistic state will monopolize education, and will in any case tax people so hard that they couldn't afford to send their children to private schools even if they want to.

Clearly, this is a social satire: a massively, and comically exaggerated picture of what could happen if certain trends were carried to their logical conclusion.

4: English Education or American Education?

Screwtape prefaces his remarks with the following words:

'My own experience was mainly on the English sector and I still get more news from it than from any other. It may be that what I am now going to say will not apply so fully to the sectors in which some of you may be operating. But you can make the necessary adjustments when you get there. Some application it will almost certainly have. If it is has too little, you must labour to make the country you are dealing with more like what England already is.'

On the surface, this seems pretty clear. Lewis is a British writer, writing for an American audience. So he adds, in Screwtape's persona: 'I only know about England: it's for you to judge whether what I'm saying also holds true in your country. If not, be careful that it doesn't ever become so.'

However, in a preface to the Toast first published in 1982, Lewis says that the opposite is the case. He is really talking about American education; but since he felt it would be bad manners for an Englishman to criticize America in an American paper, he pretends he's talking about England:

'I resorted to a further level of irony. Screwtape is in fact describing American education; he affects to be holding English education up as the awful example. The most intelligent of my American readers would, I hoped, see the game I was playing and enjoy the joke....'

This is surely a rather peculiar approach. An Englishman, fearing that America was going to be overrun by Communism as a result of its terrible obsession with baseball might, I suppose, write a comical piece describing the terrible English obsession with cricket, and adding: 'I don't know if anything similar is happening in your country. You'll have to tell me.' But it would be rather odd to come along three years later and say 'Oh, and by the way, I was really talking about baseball all the time': particularly if the majority of what you had to say about 'cricket' (meaning baseball) turned out to be things which were, in fact, perfectly fair comments about cricket itself. It would be even odder to reveal that cricket means baseball in the preface to an English edition of the satire.

5: The Provenance of the Preface

At the last count, there were four different Screwtape prefaces:

1941: The original preface to the Screwtape Letters ('I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.') (Hereafter 'P1'.)

1961: The preface to the combined UK edition of the letters and the Toast ('It was during the second German war that the letters of Screwtape first appeared in (now extinct) The Guardian.') (P2.)

1965: Brief preface to the Toast in the UK collection Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces. This is in fact an excerpt from P2 ('I was often asked or advised to add to the original Screwtape Letters'). Nothing in the text indicates that this is an excerpt from a longer piece, although it is in no sense taken out of context or misrepresented. (P2a )

1982: New preface to the Toast, in the US combined Screwtape Letters With Screwtape Proposes a Toast. (P3)

In a brief note to the 1982 edition someone – presumably Lewis's editor and acolyte Walter Hooper states that:

'This critique of American education was written in 1962 as a preface to a collection of which the Toast was to be the title essay. After Lewis died, his publisher gave the book a new form, one result of which was that Lewis's preface was lost. Now recovered, it is published here for the first time.'

However, in his 1974 biography of Lewis, Hooper had stated that in 1962:

'Lewis was putting together another volume which was to be called A Slip of The Tongue and Other Pieces. which did not appear until 2 years after his death, shorn of his Preface and of two essays – "Historicism" and "The Vision of John Bunyan"– and renamed Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces.'

And Hooper's 1991 bibliography contains the following rather cryptic and carefully worded paragraph. The 1982 combined edition:

'contains a hitherto unpublished piece by C.S Lewis, which here serves as a Preface to "Screwtape Proposes A Toast".'

In summary, Hooper has at different times made the following statements:

1974: In 1962 Lewis wrote a preface to a book that would have been called A Slip of the Tongue, but it was renamed Screwtape Proposes a Toast and the preface was dropped.

1982: In 1962 Lewis wrote a preface to a book which would have been called Screwtape Proposes a Toast but the preface was dropped when the 'form' of the book change.

1991: A 'piece' from 1962 'serves as' the preface to the Toast in the 1982 combined volume.

It's stuff like this that makes studying Lewis's minor works such fun, and by 'fun' I mean 'like hitting your head repeatedly against a brick wall'.

P2a (the excerpt) and P3 (the diatribe against American schools) both run to around 500 words - a page and a half. P3 would have fitted neatly into the 1965 Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces without any changes to the typesetting of the rest of the book. Therefore a change to the form of the book cannot possibly explain the absence of P3. If Hooper is correct when he says that Lewis wrote P3 for what became the 1965 UK collection, it follows that the editor rejected the new piece, and replaced it with a previously published excerpt of exactly the same length. Why was P3 rejected? How did this result in its being lost? And how and when was it recovered?

Answer: we don't know.

One possible explanation is that it was rejected because it had never existed in the first place. According to Kathryn Lindskoog, whose facts are generally accurate even if her conclusions tend towards the lunatick, says that while P3 is dated to 1962, the publishers did not have sight of it until 1965 (three years after Lewis died). She further claims that three versions of the piece – two typescripts and one handwritten were deposited in the Bodlien by Hooper between 1974 and 1980. That is: we have only Hooper's word that it was intended for what became the 1965 edition; and indeed, only Hooper's word for the provenance of the three MSS. If you give any credence at all to Lindskoog's conspiracy theory about Hooper having forged some of Lewis's posthumous work, this information would be very worrying.

Lindskoog points to the style and quality of the preface, suggesting that some of the phrases 'don't sound like Lewis.' I agree: I doubt that Lewis would have written 'without distinction of race, colour, class and religion'. Since I also think that writers often produce inferior work, particularly when they are seriously ill and, as it turns out, have less than 18 months to live, I don't attach much significance to this doubt. I'm much more worried that the preface seems to be written by someone who has either not read, or not understood, the essay it's attached to.

The authors of the preface thinks that the main subject of the Toast is education. It isn't: it's democracy and equality. Screwtape thinks that the true meaning of democracy is 'a system of voting'. Lewis agreed. In this true sense, Screwtape dislikes democracy:

'Like all forms of government it often works to our advantage, but on the whole less often than other forms.'

(Surely an echo of Churchill's 'Democracy is the worst system of government, apart from all the others.') But the meaning that he, the Devil, wishes to attach to the word is 'I'm as good as you' artificial egalitarianism. Lewis in the Toast is careful to distinguish between the two usages: Screwtape talks about democracy 'in the incantatory sense' and in the 'diabolical' sense. But the author of the preface uses 'democracy' as if it meant 'equality': it is good for education to be democratic in the sense that it is available to everyone regardless of race or religion. And more bizarrely, he writes that some less clever American readers might take his irony literally and think that 'democratic education (in the true sense) had gone further in England' than it had in America. This only makes sense on the assumption that 'true' is a slip of the pen for 'diabolical'.

6: English English or American English?

The text of 1982 (US) version of 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast' differs slightly from the 1965 (UK) version.

UK 'Here is a fellow who says he doesn't like hot dogs. Thinks himself too good for them, no doubt. Here's a man who hasn't turned on the jukebox – he must be one of those highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were the right sort of chaps they'd be like me.'

US 'Here is a fellow who says he doesn't like hot dogs. Thinks himself too good for them, no doubt. Here's a man who hasn't turned on the jukebox – he must be one of those goddam highbrows and is doing it to show off. If they were honest-to-God all-right Joes they'd be like me.'

Now, there is nothing particularly surprising about a writer suiting his language to his audience; and nothing particularly surprising about an editor gently changing a writer's words to make them fit in with the house style of their paper. In the essay 'The Seeing Eye', Lewis remarks that Christianity is cheaper than psychoanalysis 'in dollars' (rather than 'pounds'). In 'Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger' he asks the American liberal theologian how he would set about converting the 'storekeepers, realtors and morticians' (rather than 'shopkeepers, estate agents, and undertakers') in his own city.

So, who is editing who? Did Lewis write 'highbrows' and an American editor change it to 'goddam highbrows'? If Lewis himself wrote 'goddam', was it he, or a British editor, who deleted it for the UK edition?

Answer: we don't know.

The editing, in either direction, hasn't been done very consistently. Rather British sounding phrases like 'la-di-dah' and 'municipal authority' are retained in the American edition. And while I realise that people had probably had the idea of putting sausages between pieces of bread even before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, I think that most English people think that 'hot dogs' are a characteristically American food. In the original Letters, when Lewis wanted an example of a rather lower class, unpretentious meal that an honest to god all right Joe might like, he used 'Tripe and Onions'. Is it possible that in the Toast he might have written 'Here is a fellow who says he doesn't like tripe and onions; if he were the right sort of chap he'd be like me'; that a US editor changed it to 'doesn't like hot dogs, if he was an honest-to-god all-right-joe'; and that a subsequent UK editor dropped 'honest to god' but left in the self-consciously American 'hot dog'?

I certainly can't believe that Lewis would ever have written 'the scholar never says it to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum.' That simply isn't what the word 'bum' means in English English. (The thrice sainted Mrs. Mary Whitehouse still, in the 1960s, regarded it as a Very Rude Word.) And it is very hard to believe that Lewis would have allowed Screwtape to use the words 'god' (twice) and 'damn' in this context. Screwtape calls god 'The Enemy'. Damnation is, from his point of view, a good thing. If Lewis had intended the devil to swear, wouldn't he have made up some funny inversion like 'dishonest-to-Satan'?

I do not think that a single one of these changes affects the tone or the meaning of the piece to any significant degree. But it is extremely interesting that someone – Hooper, the 1965 editor, the Saturday Evening Post sub, or Lewis himself has at some time fiddled with the piece to make it sound either more (or less) American.

7: Lewis on English Education

In the year before the Butler Act became law, Lewis wrote four essays which cover substantially the same ground as the Toast.

'The Parthenon and the Optative' and 'Is English Doomed' are explicitly critiques of the Norwood report – which contained the bonkers recommendation that English Literature should be taught but not examined in schools, and that there was no need for specialist English teachers. Lewis gruffly explains that if there were neither examinations nor teachers, then all the university English departments would close and the subject would cease to exist. (It is of passing interest that Lewis felt that a system that was going to divide children into Philosopher Kings, Artisans and Slaves would also result in the banishment of the poets. Truly, it is all in Plato.) 'Equality' makes out the case that legal democracy (a good thing) should not be confused with actual equality (an obvious falsehood). He uses some of the same language that Screwtape is going to use in the Toast: 'Every intrusion of the spirit that says "I'm as good as you" into our spiritual life is to be resisted. '

But the important essay for our purposes is 'Democratic Education', published in 'Time and Tide' in April 1944. The essay begins:

'Democratic education says Aristotle, ought to mean, not the education which democrats like, but the education which can preserve democracy'

Screwtape has also studied Greats:

'Nor, of course, must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle's question: whether "democratic behaviour" means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy.'

Lewis says that a system in which clever 'boys' were given no advantage over stupid ones, or hard working 'boys' over lazy ones, would in one sense be 'democratic', but that a society organized in that way wouldn't survive for very long. Screwtape also predicted that the 'democracies' which encouraged mediocrity would soon fall to Communism. Lewis admits that 'such total egalitarianism has not yet been openly recommended' but thinks that we, the English, have begun to move in that direction. He affects to believe that the reason that Latin has ceased to be compulsory in most schools is that it's the kind of subject that some 'boys' excel at and some do badly at: he claims (on the basis of 'a letter in one of the papers') that maths may soon cease to be taught for the same reason.

He says that if this approach were to be applied consistently:

'Even the boy who can't or won't learn his alphabet can be praised and petted for something – handicrafts or gymnastics; moral leadership or deportment; citizenship or the care of guinea pigs... Then no boys, and no boys' parents need feel inferior.'

Now: this is not what he thinks is happening. It is a reducto absurdium of what would happen if the logic which has banished Latin were applied consistently. It is, of course, almost word for word what Screwtape says:

'The children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing the things that children used to do in their spare time. Let them, for example, make mud pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the expression – "parity of esteem." '

Again, Screwtape does not claim that this has happened: only that he hopes that it will.

'How far operations there have gone at the present moment, I should not like to say with certainty. Nor does it matter. Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially, as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers are not to be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils.'

As we've seen, it was the Norwood Report that said that Secondary Modern Schools and Grammar Schools should have 'parity of esteem'. Lewis's supposed attack on the American system of education is based on things which haven't happened yet: his one concrete example of something which has already happened is taken from the English system.

Lewis is very clear about what makes the 'boy' who is making mud pies different from the 'boy' who is reading The Divine Comedy:

'In drawing up the curriculum one should always have chiefly in view the interests of the boys who wants to know and who can known. (With very few exceptions they are the same boy. The stupid boy, nearly always, is the boy who does not want to know.)

Similarly. in 'The Parthenon and the Optative' he argues that it is much better to teach difficult grammar than vague literary appreciation: even if some 'boys' don't understand the grammar:

'When the first [kind of education] fails it has, at the very least, taught the boy what knowledge is like. He may decide that he doesn't care for knowledge, but he knows he doesn't care for it and he knows he hasn't got it.'

Similarly, in 'Democratic Education', he thinks that it is positively to the advantage of the dull 'boy' to sit in the back of Latin classes that he doesn't understand, not paying attention and sometimes getting into trouble:

'This priceless benefit he will enjoy: he will know he's not clever.'

It is also to the advantage of society, because boys who know they are not clever are pillars of democracy in the true, elective sense, but don't run away with any ideas about democracy in the bad, egalitarian sense.

'A mild pleasure in ragging [=fooling around in class]; a determination not to be much interfered with is...a valuable curb on the meddlesome of minor officials: envy, bleating "I'm as good as you" is the hotbed of fascism.'

'Democratic Education' (definitely about England) and 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast' (allegedly about America) both present grotesquely exaggerated pictures of what would happen if a particular tendency which Lewis has observed were extended to it's logical conclusion. They resemble the technique used in The Abolition of Man in which it is shown that if we applied the teachings of a particular English text book consistently, it would result in the destruction of the human race. ('The Abolition of Education' would be a good sub-title for the Toast. So, come to think of it, would 'Democratic Education'.) In case we miss the point, there is one reform which even Screwtape admits is far-fetched:

'An even more drastic scheme is not impossible: children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back because the others would get a trauma – Beelzebub, what a useful word! - by being left behind.'

This 'even more drastic scheme' which Screwtape thinks may possibly happen one day is, of course, the one in force in Lewis's time: English schools have always been organized by age, rather than ability. (Am I right in thinking that the American system is more likely to advance a clever child into a higher 'Grade' or keep back a less able one?)

8: All Must Have Prizes

I think it is fairly clear what Lewis's ire, in both the earlier 'Democratic Education' and the later Toast is directed at – and, I have to say, it isn't particularly pretty.

To this day, Grammar Schools and Comprehensive Schools remain a totemic issue for both the political left and the political right. For Old Labour, the Grammar schools represent an elitist system that reproduced and legitimized a previously existing class structure and which effectively wrote-off two-thirds of the population before their twelfth birthday. Plus, they were posh. To the Tories, Comprehensive Schools represent a near Stalinist experiment in social engineering in which all notions of excellence was sacrificed on the alter of spurious inclusivity. Plus, they were common.

However, when the tripartite system was introduced, it was widely regarded as progressive by the Labour Party; and as too progressive by the Tory Party. Labour liked the idea that a poor child who could never afford to go to private school might earn the right to a Grammar school place; Tories were horrified at the idea that their voters' children might have to be educated alongside ghastly people with common accents simply because they weren't very clever. But today, pratically everyone would agree that Grammar schools were part of an 'elitist' system: any debate is between those who think that elitism is a good thing and those who think that it is a bad thing.

So it is disconcerting to realise that Lewis was objecting to the Norwood reforms on the grounds that they were too egalitarian. Norwood seems to have believed in Platonic essentialism; in psychological determinism. People have different kinds of minds; they are born that way; there is nothing you can do about it. The job of education is to find out what kinds of minds people have, and then train them appropriately. You can't be proud of having a Gold, Silver or Bronze mind, any more than you can be proud of being tall or having blonde hair. The three groups have parity of esteem.

Lewis, on the other hand, believes that academic ability is an act of will; almost a moral choice. 'Boys' who want to learn, learn; 'boys' who don't want to learn, don't. 'Boys' are clever if they work hard and stupid if they are lazy. A lazy 'boy' may be a pillar of society and the salt of the earth in other respects but there's no point in pretending that he's the academic equal of the clever one; and there's certainly no point in inventing some new kind of school for his benefit.

Lewis's satirical exaggeration ends up with a future where children are given 'A' levels in playing with plasticine and we are all overrun by the Communists. But the starting point is the idea that Secondary Modern kids should have Parity of Esteem with those at the Grammar School. A British phenomenon.

9: Conclusion, lack thereof

I like conspiracy theories. They are neat, simple and plausible, where real life is messy and unlikely. I do not know why Lewis, having re-cast a fifteen year old essay on English education into a diabolical after dinner speech, then wrote a preface claiming that he was talking about the America all the time, when he plainly wasn't. I don't know why his publishers posthumously rejected this new piece and replaced it with a previously published excerpt of the same length. I don't why he would, in Lindskoog's words, write a muddle headed preface to explain a clear essay. The conspiracy theory, in which a well-meaning acolyte, wanting to make Lewis seem more interested in and relevant to America, and possibly wanting to drum up sales for a new edition of his work, whips up an essay in handwriting that looks quite similar to his master's and then claims to have discovered a long-lost work removes all the difficulties, and is really very attractive.

But that's all it is: a conspiracy theory.

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Bristol SF Group said...

'might, I suppose, right a comical piece'

See me after class.

Paul Connors said...

1) It's 'Parthenon and the Optative'.
2) 'Municipal authority' is perfectly American.
3) Whatever the solution to your puzzle, I think the chance the Lewis was writing about American education is zero. He never visited America, nor is there any clue in his writings or his life as to how he might have come by enough knowledge to be able to do that.

Andrew Rilstone said...


Jo Walton said...

Paul: He might have met educated Americans who talked to him about their education. Indeed, it's likely that he did, at Oxford, as undergraduates. I don't think it's anything like impossible. I don't believe it, but that's a different thing.

Andrew: I do so enjoy your essays on Lewis.

Leizel said...

"(Am I right in thinking that the American system is more likely to advance a clever child into a higher 'Grade' or keep back a less able one?)"

This very much depends. The American school "system" has few nationally standard policies, as much of the decisions are left up to the particular states or municipalities.

In the district where my family attended school, advancing children for being smart was more likely to happen pre-1980s, but still didn't happen often. My impression is that instead of advancing the smarter children, the less intellegent would be left to struggle and finally drop out. Holding a child back was likely to happen to either those who were mentally disabled or had behavioral problems, whereas children who were unintellegent but well behaved would often be helped through.

Today, those sorts of descisions are mostly left up to the parent, and many parents feel it would be socially hard on the child. Supplemental "gifted and talented" programs for those who test as more intellegent are far more common than advancing grades. Keeping children back is increasingly rare.

Keith Schooley said...

As an American reader and lover of the Letters (although not quite so fond of the Toast), I had only read the 1982 US edition, which contains the preface at issue, and I must say I never questioned it. Above the passage you quote, Lewis (or Hooper) wrote, "The tendency in education which I was deploring has gone further in America than anywhere else. If I had been writing 'straight' my article would have been an attack on the 'public schools' in America." So what I gathered was not so much that the actual examples that Screwtape uses were drawn from American public schools, but that the overall tendencies which Screwtape was extolling and Lewis was deploring were more applicable to the US than to England. It's not as though he wrote an essay on baseball, everywhere substituting "cricket" for "baseball," but rather as though he wrote an essay on appalling tendencies in cricket, with a wink and a nod to the effect that, yes, and in America, baseball is even worse.

In addition, you write, "Lewis, on the other hand, believes that academic ability is an act of will; almost a moral choice. People who want to learn, learn; people who don't want to learn, don't." This certainly flies in the face of his own experience with mathematics. One might suspect that certain professors of the hard sciences might have had similar private opinions regarding Lewis's own discipline of English literature to Lewis's opinions of such disciplines as handicrafts or gymnastics. I am not arguing for the sort of blanket intellectual egalitarianism that Lewis was concerned about; I am arguing that a recognition of differing abilities had already allowed Lewis to avoid a discipline in which he did not excel in order to focus on one in which he did. There is such a thing as differing levels of ability; there is also such a thing as differing types of ability.

Andrew Stevens said...

2) "Municipal authority" is perfectly understandable to Americans; it is not perfectly American. There is no occasion to use the phrase in the U.S. with the single exception of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which does have special governmental units called "municipal authorities."

3) Lewis had voluminous correspondence with Americans. Given his profession, it is difficult to imagine he didn't have enough knowledge to write about American education. This is not to say that Lewis was writing about American education. Mr. Rilstone's comparisons to the essay 'Democratic Education' (an essay I've never read) are strong evidence that he wasn't. (We don't need a fraudulent preface to explain this, though. Lewis may have written that preface himself after it occurred to him that the phenomenon he was talking about was more widespread in the U.S. than the U.K., even if that wasn't his thought when he initially wrote it. If he thought the Norwood system was too egalitarian, the U.S. system was quite obviously far beyond that.)

By the way, there is good evidence that Lewis did not believe academic ability was entirely a result of will, though he may well have believed that most ignorant people were willfully ignorant. However, it is refreshing to see anybody refer to will and choices at all since the modern debate is usually whether we are helpless puppets of our genes or helpless puppets of our environment.

Andrew Stevens said...

My post went after Mr. Schooley's and I see he anticipated me. So I'll just say that I agree with him.

Keith Schooley said...

No, Mr. Stevens, you offer much more than mere agreement with my comment. Getting to similar conclusions from a bit of a different angle is corroboration, not mere agreement. It's only mere agreement in a day and age in which only conclusions, and not the reasoning which leads up to them, is valued.

At any rate, your final clause, "the modern debate is usually whether we are helpless puppets of our genes or helpless puppets of our environment," gave me a good laugh. Excellent point.

Paul Connors said...

2) "There is no occasion to use the phrase in the U.S. with the single exception of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania". A simple google search provides evidence directly to the contrary.

3) If Lewis had voluminous correspondence with Americans, and this included the issues of American education, then it would be good to have an actual reference -- that would show the level to which Lewis was in fact knowledgable on the subject. His comments on education that I know of all pertain very appropriately to British educational systems and changes (even the Narnia books), and it is not clear why they apply to American education.

His wife would also have been a source for a view on American education. so it would be interesting to know what her views were, as they must have influenced Lewis.

American education largely is the way it is for practical reasons: local school boards build schools that must serve everyone, and economic concerns dicate how schools run, rather than a particular philsophy (pre 1962, anyway). Evidence otherwise?

Andrew Stevens said...

I get a huge amount of hits for Pennsylvania and a single hit for Muskogee, Oklahoma. Suffice to say that I have never had the occasion to either use or hear the phrase municipal authority my entire life. City Hall or city government, yes (or, more frequently county government out here in the Midwest), but not municipal authority. Of course, this may be different in other parts of the country. If you're an American who uses the phrase frequently and you're not from Pennsylvania, I'll defer to you. (For all I know, it's a common phrase in NYC, which, I would freely grant, makes it "perfectly American.")

In his "Letters to Children" (pp. 83-4), Lewis says, "But beware of the Maths. master who over-marks the work. Generous marking is nice for the moment, but it can lead to disappointments when, later, one comes up against the real thing. American university teachers have told me that most of their freshmen come from schools where the standard was far too low and therefore think themselves far better than they really are. This means that they lose heart (and their tempers too) when told, as they have to be told, their real level." This indicates that he corresponded with American professors about American education, as you would expect him to do, given how often he wrote to Americans in general and his chosen profession.

American education largely is the way it is for practical reasons: local school boards build schools that must serve everyone, and economic concerns dicate how schools run, rather than a particular philosophy (pre 1962, anyway). Evidence otherwise?

Not much disagreement here. All I'm saying is that about the late '40s through early '50s, American education became, in general, less rigorous than it had previously been. The reasons behind this were, probably, the creation of an educational philosophy and the rise of an academic intelligentsia making wise decisions about how children should be educated and disseminating them down to local school boards. Certainly this is the reason for the sweeping of the American school system of "whole language" teaching rather than phonetics as had been previously used. That development was somewhat later, of course. However, American education was, perforce, permeated with American philosophy, which would certainly include the democratic philosophy Lewis was decrying.

Paul Connors said...


I also got hits for California, Texas and Colorado (I expect I would get hits for other states if I looked further). You did say Pennsylvania was the "single exception".

"Suffice to say that I have never had the occasion to either use or hear the phrase municipal authority my entire life." Well, having lived in the UK and the USA for several decades each, I can say that I never heard the term "municipal authority" in the UK either (it would be something like town council, county council, local council, the council, or the borough) -- but that wouldn't prevent me making a good guess as to what Lewis was referring to. I would think that people in the USA could also make a reasonable guess as to what "municipal authority" referred to (though I could be wrong).

The quote you supply from "Letters to Children" is certainly relevant, but doesn't go very far in explaining the numerous things that Lewis complains about in the essay.

Andrew Stevens said...


No, no, you're definitely right that Americans would understand immediately what the phrase meant. I conceded that right away. I had assumed from Mr. Rilstone's comment that municipal authority was a common phrase in the UK (maybe it was once and isn't any more). If it's not a common phrase in the UK, then you're 100% right that it's just as American as English.

I don't think there was very much in Screwtape Proposes a Toast about education at all. As I said in the earlier thread, Lewis clearly saw himself more as a prophet in that passage than an actual critic of any system, British or American. However, what he was complaining about primarily in the essay was more or less what he was complaining about in that letter (low standards). As I said, Mr. Rilstone has convinced me that the most plausible theory is that Lewis was writing about where he thought English education was going to go and then, writing a preface for the American edition, decided that American education (from what he had heard) had gone even further down that road, leading him to write what he did. This is much more plausible than Lindskoog's theory. Lindskoog is a lunatic who has been conclusively proved wrong on a great many of her accusations. And Hooper's motivation for forging a new foreword is, to say the least, obscure.

Unknown said...

Does anyone posting about how common the term "municipal authority" is in the United States actually live in the United States?

Municipal authority is not used very often at all in the United States. And not in that combination. Although a U.S. reader would understand generally what the terms mean, it is not used in that way in most of the United States, ever.

Municipalities are referred to generally as cities. "Authorities" are generally used for special commissions and boards that are NOT city governments such as airports, etc.

So, as a person who has lived in the U.S. their entire life (in several parts thereof) and who actually has one of those graduate-type degrees in political science (you know, the study of those "municipal authority" thingies), it is not "perfectly American."

Simply because "municipal authority" might be used some places in the United States, to say it is "perfectly American" would be like saying that "parish" is perfectly American and everyone American would know what you mean. And they woudl not, parish is a word that's used in Louisiana for what in the rest of the United States is generally referred to as counties.

But, the U.S. is a big place, so I am sure anyone can find something named something different somewhere. That doesn't make the non-conforming name "perfectly American" -- but perhaps that's what they call them in Canada or Mexico, then it could be perfectly "American" as well. In the United States, it's odd and uncommon.

And, someone mentioned Pennsylvania, I've lived in Pennsylvania. There are boroughs, townships, every strange thing you could call local goverments (except Parishes) and in Pennsylvania, a municipal authority is NOT what it is in the U.K. It is something that is NOT a city/borough/township, etc. that exists for a SPECIAL PURPOSE not for general local government work.


Paul said...

As I said in one of the previous comments, I've lived in the UK and the USA for several decades each. When you say: "a U.S. reader would understand generally what the terms mean", that's just what I meant by perfectly American. Because in fact it's the same way in the UK: I would never use the term "municipal authority" there, but I would know generally what is meant by it.

Andrew Stevens said...

Mister Chips, born, raised, and still live in America. (I thought that would have been clear from an earlier post, but rereading it now, it wasn't nearly as clear as I meant it to be.) I was aware that Pennsylvania "municipal authorities" are special governmental units (and mentioned that in an earlier comment) and I believe we have firmly established just how common the phrase is in the U.S. (not very, but comprehensible enough). What seems uncertain is just how common it is in the U.K. If Paul is right, then it's not common either place. I guess we can all agree, though, that "la-di-dah" is more English than American (but perfectly comprehensible in the U.S. as well).

Of course, I really should have referred to the essay itself before engaging in this dispute. It turns out that Lewis is using the phrase "municipal authority" to refer to a person. Again, Americans would pick up what was meant immediately (some bigwig in city government), but I doubt any American would call a person a municipal authority.

Gavin Burrows said...

I am asking only on the off-chance but...

Could this have anything to do with something from the original German?

Andrew Stevens said...

Well, municipal and authority are both from Latin via Norman French, so there is the possibility that the U.S. has substituted a more Germanic phrase in its place, sure.

Andrew Rilstone said...

"Municipal authority" is a nexample.

The substantive point is that there is a mixture of British English ("the right sort of chaps") and American English ("the employable and the bum"); and that this suggests (to moi) that the piece has been imperfectly "translated" -- in one direction or the other.

Are there any concrete examples of where Lindskoog has definitely been shown to be wrong? As opposed, I mean to "not definitely shown to be right"? Handwriting analysis can (I think) fail to prove that something is a forgery, but it can't prove that it is genuine. It seems to me that her central accusation -- that Hooper massively exaggerated the length and intimacy of his friendship with Lewis -- would not now be contested by anyone; and it doesn't seem controversial to say that he has been, shall we say, less than scholarly in his handling of Lewis's MSS. Does this amount to proof of forgery? No. Does this inspire total confidence that things like the Toast preface are definitely authentic texts? No.

Lewis would certainly have had anecdotal evidence about American schools from his wife and stepsons, and from American students, and from his correspondents. It is odd that he doesn't refer to any concrete examples. One might reasonably ask what his source of knowledge about English schools was, as well: he went briefly to a minor public school which he hated, but was primarily taught by a private tutor, and presumably the students he came into contact with were primarily the brightest students at the countries most elite schools. (A state school boy winning a scholarship to Oxford wasn't impossible, but it was preposterously unlikely.) And he claimed not to read newspapers...

Lirazel said...

I might also point out that Kathryn Lindskoog is dead. This is not a reason for referring to her in the past tense, but it does suggest that whatever kookiness or errors may have been hers have probably been corrected by now.

(I sometimes wish I could peer in the window of that great Bird and Baby in the sky...)

Andrew Stevens said...

Lindskoog also correctly showed that Hooper's "bonfire" story was, at least, exaggerated. But showing that a man would lie about his relationship with Lewis and his own importance in rescuing Lewis's lost works is very different from showing he's a forger. (Moreover Lindskoog herself acknowledged the authenticity of a number of the "bonfire works," so showing that the story was exaggerated or made up doesn't really cast doubt on the provenance of the other works in that group as she seems to believe.) Her original claim was that Hooper had stolen the works he originally claimed to have rescued from the bonfire. After Clyde Kilby died, she decided that Hooper had forged them instead.

I can name at least one example where I believe she was conclusively proved wrong. She identified "Modern Man and His Categories of Thought" as a forgery. The World Council of Churches had a copy of this work that they had received from Lewis in 1946 (they were the ones who originally requested it). I doubt that the World Council of Churches is a Hooper front, though I suppose it's possible. Moreover, when Hooper's version was compared, it was determined that Hooper had made only a very few minor editorial changes. (Ms. Lindskoog continued to insist that the text may nonetheless be corrupt, but gave no argument for this belief.) Her evidence against Hooper is very similar to yours. ("This work seems to be beneath Lewis's caliber" or, in her case, "I seem to be able to read homosexual innuendo into this work and therefore it can't be by Lewis.") The rest of her evidence consists of pseudo-scientific "style analysis" such as "cusum" analysis which is entirely unreliable. The evidence for Hooper, handwriting analysis, while surely not conclusive, is a much stronger reed than that nonsense.

Claiming that Lewis's work was edited by someone else and claiming that it was an outright forgery are two entirely different things. If all you wanted to argue was "I believe that Lewis's work here was clumsily edited by an outside hand, quite possibly Hooper, even though he doesn't say so" we might disagree, but I wouldn't say you were definitely wrong.

This is not to say that I think Hooper's claims about what Lewis really believed about Catholicism have any merit.

But, you shouldn't listen to me anyway. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Andrew Stevens said...

By the by, try here for an enlightening discussion on Lindskoog in general and here for The Dark Tower in particular. There is a good reason Lewis abandoned The Dark Tower and I don't think many people argue that it is very good, but Alastair Fowler definitely confirms discussing the book with Lewis in 1952.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Andrew and all for all the fascinating and informative discussion. I had no idea all this was coming when I inquired about "textually problematic"!

Andrew Rilstone said...

On the other other hand: in his introduction to Lewis's poems, Hooper explicitly claims that texts in his own (Hooper's) handwriting might be by Lewis; that Lewis vouchsafed to him (and to no-one else) "true" versions of poems that were never committed to paper; and that he Hooper has taken it on himself to decide which are the "best" versions of particular poems: sometimes following the version that Lewis published in his life-time, but sometimes rejecting a published version and going back to an earlier draft.

"When I was his secretary, he sometimes used to dictate poems. Even after he thought one was completed, he might suggest a change here. Then a change there."

'When I was his secretary' means, of course, 'During the ten days to a fortnight that I was his house guest (when he was sick and I wrote some letters on his behalf.)'

Lewis wanted to take Hooper on as a full time, paid secretary, but it never happened. Someone who read the introduction to the poems, or the all those introductions in which Hooper and Lewis do the washing up while chatting about the difference between "pretty" and "beautiful" wouldn't know that. A.N Wilson cites some Hooper texts which, if real, would amount to actual and obvious porkies -- what Jack said to Walter on their way back from church "one Easter" -- but I don't trust any quote from Wilson unless I have the text in front of me.

What Wilson said Hooper said Lewis said: it's a bit like one of those logic puzzle where one man always lies, one man sometimes lies and sometimes tells the truth, and one man always tells the truth, isn't it....

Andrew Stevens said...

it's a bit like one of those logic puzzle where one man always lies, one man sometimes lies and sometimes tells the truth, and one man always tells the truth, isn't it....

Before I retort, as a childhood fan of Raymond Smullyan, I just want to say that this is a truly great line.

If we're going to psychoanalyze Walter Hooper from a distance, I think we should do so with at least a small amount of charity. Walter Hooper was a 32 year-old man when he met his hero, C.S. Lewis. (He first wrote to Lewis in 1954 when he was 23 and Lewis had told him that he should focus on God rather than on Lewis.) To his great delight, Lewis asked him for some help with writing letters, etc. Even better, Lewis wished him to come back and continue these services in 1964. To his great disappointment, his hero died while he was back in America. When he returned to England, he finds Lewis's estate (by Lindskoog's own account) in some disarray. The executor of his estate, Owen Barfield, was a man who, according to Lindskoog herself, didn't much care for or have much interest in Lewis's fiction and was philosophically quite different from Lewis. (Lewis described Barfield once as the friend "who disagrees with you about everything.") Hooper's offer, as something of an expert on Lewis's work and a known companion to Lewis, to take over this burden from Barfield must have come as quite a relief.

The problem, of course, is that Hooper is now in a position to which he has no particular right. To bolster himself, he foolishly chose to exaggerate his relationship with Lewis. One can sympathize with the man's motives. How many people haven't dressed up a story a bit to make it more dramatic or interesting? I can't even begin to say how many people have told me obvious urban legends, while claiming to have direct personal knowledge of them. Most of these people aren't bad people. Hooper had a further motivation to do this since he knew full well he had no right to the position which had so fortunately fallen into his lap. So his insecurity caused him to make up a few stories. Most of these stories were not outright lies. Most of the time, he simply gave a false impression and did nothing to correct it. To the best of my knowledge, the only actual lie that was published by Walter Hooper was on a dust jacket (which claimed that Hooper was Lewis's secretary "for years") which Hooper probably didn't write himself. I'm not familiar with A.N. Wilson's evidence, however, so I could be wrong about that.

Those are the sins of Hooper's of which we have no doubt. Let us assume that we take a fairly dim view of such sins. Surely, we can agree that there is a difference of magnitude between that and creating his own works, going to all the trouble of forging documents in Lewis's handwriting, and then publishing them as if they were his hero's.

Now, the claim that Hooper has not been a particularly scholarly editor of Lewis's works is true. I'm not going to defend Hooper on that. It ought to be his job, now that Lewis is dead, to publish all versions of the poems and let the readers decide. However, it should be said that this is clearly the academic view of how Lewis's estate should be handled, rather than the commercial view. (Such works wouldn't sell particularly well as Christopher Tolkien can probably attest.)

I am convinced that all the controversy that has been caused by Hooper will eventually be resolved to (just about) everyone's satisfaction once Lewis's copyright expires. My guess is that Hooper will be exonerated of forgery, but, on some occasions, found guilty of heavy-handed editing. (Another good online discussion is at this link. It's an account of a colloquy with Joe Christopher, a Lindskoog supporter and includes an interesting question by Edwin Brown.)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a copyright law expert, but from what I can tell, the Lewis estate (with which Hooper and Douglas Gresham are both connected) will probably use whatever tricks it can to extend the copyright life. They've been pretty aggressive in exploiting commercial possibilities. (Trivia: in the US they've trademarked Narnia-themed lip balm, key chains, toothbrushes, Halloween costumes, and much else; see TM Ser. Nr. 76436251.)

Anyway, why would copyright expiration help? Isn't it rather a question of original materials being made available for public inspection? Or am I being dense about something?

Andrew Stevens said...

Copyright issues matter because that's when scholarly editions of Lewis's work will be worth doing. There isn't any point to doing them now since you're not allowed to publish them. Just a "follow the money" thing. (Not entirely fair since I expect the academics who will eventually do it will actually lose money on the deal, but they will get to publish, which is a fair trade for them.) You are quite correct, though, that these manuscripts are available in various libraries and could be thoroughly checked at any time. Nobody has bothered to put in the time and money necessary to do so yet though, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

By the by, while the copyright might possibly be extended, it's certainly not the Lewis Estate which has the kind of money and influence for something like that. But they might be able to free-ride on somebody else convincing Parliament to extend copyrights.

Andrew Stevens said...

For those who are interested, most of Lewis's manuscripts are held at Wheaton College in Illinois (where Clyde Kilby, one of the earliest Lewis scholars who corresponded with Lewis from 1953-1963, taught for many years) and the Bodleian Library at Oxford. (Manuscripts more likely to be found in the Bodleian, letters more likely at Wheaton.) There may be some manuscripts which are still controlled by Hooper, but I'm pretty sure all of the disputed ones are available to the public.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the scholarly editions. Yes, that makes sense. But just real quick about the expiration issue: it's not that I thought Lewis Pte could get the law changed in the UK, but rather that they would do some sort of repackaging--for instance with corrections in light of known textual variants--that would allow them to hit "refresh" on the copyright, at least in some countries. I dimly recall hearing of such tricks. But again, I'm no expert.

Andrew Stevens said...

I don't believe that's possible in the UK, but I'm certainly no expert either. A quick look at Wikipedia on copyright law in the United Kingdom made my eyes glaze over.


If an unpublished work was published prior to the 1988 Act coming into force and the author had been dead for more than 50 years, then that work remained in copyright for a period of 50 years dating from its publication, plus a period to the end of the year in question. If an unpublished work was published after the 1988 Act coming into force the author had been dead for more than 50 years then its copyright expires at the end of 2039. Later amendments changed this term to the author dying more than 70 years before. So an unpublished work by an author who died before 1969 published after commencement of the 1988 Act expires at the end of 2039. However if a work by an author who died say in 1870 was published in 1960, its copyright would expire 50 years after 1960, or in 2010.

seems to be the relevant section. I believe it says that unpublished Lewis works published after 1988 expire at the end of 2039. If before 1988, then 50 years after publication. So all copyrights will be expired by the end of 2039, but some will expire before then.

Kathen said...

Andrew Stevens,

I am in favour of treating Hooper charitably, but perhaps we could also treat Lindskoog charitably. Calling someone a lunatic because you think she is mistaken is neither charitable nor fair.

Unlike Hooper, Lindskoog does not strike me as dishonest. She was probably wrong in thinking that Hooper forged 'The Dark Tower' but I can understand her reluctance to believe that Lewis wrote that dreadful story.

As for Hooper, I can give you one example of a published lie. In the first edition of his biography of Lewis Hooper writes that he first met Lewis early in 1963 and that he left England at the end of September. In fact, he met Lewis in June and left at the end of August.

Andrew Stevens said...


You are absolutely correct. I was being too harsh on Mrs. Lindskoog when I referred to her as a lunatic. (I could defend myself by saying that in the whole Lord/Liar/Lunatic trilemma, I had to choose lunatic since I don't believe she's a liar or the Lord.) I should say, though, that her whole "homosexual innuendo" obsession is what leads me to this. I have never seen these homosexual innuendos of hers, even after she points them out. "They Stand Together" is not a gay code-phrase anywhere in the world, despite what Mrs. Lindskoog thinks. However, you're not wrong that having a couple of bees in one's bonnet doesn't make one nuts and Mr. Rilstone was correct that Mrs. Lindskoog seems to be normally correct in her facts.

I certainly don't believe Mrs. Lindskoog was dishonest. There is no question in my mind that she believed everything that she said. She was also, I might add, certainly one of the world's foremost authorities on Lewis. Some people assert that her envy over Mr. Hooper's position is what drove her to make her arguments. I don't believe this is true. In fact, I believe she was mostly motivated by distaste for Walter Hooper over what she regarded as his ill-treatment of C.S. Lewis's brother Warren. (It was reading Warren's diary, which had been willed to Wheaton College, which drove Mrs. Lindskoog against Walter Hooper.) And she was also certainly motivated by a genuine love for and desire to protect Lewis's legacy.

On the other hand, she had a tendency to dismiss out of hand any and all evidence that disagreed with her. She never seriously grappled with the finding of "Modern Man and his Categories of Thought" at the World Council of Churches, defiantly continuing to place it on her list of "questionable" works. Many people pointed out to her that nobody but her had ever heard of "they stand together" being used as a gay code-phrase; she ignored them. I believe she viewed herself as something like a prosecuting attorney and she thought this gave her license to ignore exculpatory evidence and use any means in her power to "get" Walter Hooper.

Hooper's lies were, as far as I know, never meant to hurt anybody; they were meant primarily to aggrandize himself. I find such lies fairly forgivable. (I'm not saying that he should have said them, of course. It was both an offense against honesty and a very foolish thing to have done, as I'm sure he is now very well aware.)

I should probably be more charitable to Mrs. Lindskoog. There is no doubt that she placed a lot of weight on the analyses of A.Q. Morton and Carla Faust Jones. I don't, but if I did, perhaps I'd be as convinced of Walter Hooper's guilt as she was. One of the reasons why I linked to Joe Christopher's colloquy is because Mr. Christopher (who wrote introductions to all of Mrs. Lindskoog's indictments of Walter Hooper) strikes me as an entirely fair-minded man who agrees with Mrs. Lindskoog. And he puts virtually all of the argument on these analyses, particularly on the Morton analysis. One of the reasons Mr. Christopher strikes me as fair-minded (along with his acceptance of "Modern Man" as genuine) is because of the following quote, "I do not know what percentage to put on the computer analyses of the manuscript. Morton tended to give huge percentages that he was accurate. I would like to see other types of studies made -- the checking of the document, the checking of the ink, etc. This is the best information we have at the present time." I believe Morton's technique has been discredited, particularly by Pieter de Haan and Erik Schils, hardly surprising since it relies on the highly questionable assumption that an author's habits of speaking/writing remain constant throughout his life, across genres, across writing and speaking, in sickness and in health, etc.

And thanks for the information on the published lie of Walter Hooper; it fits very well into Hooper's pattern of making fairly vague implications that he knew Lewis better than he did. I'm sure he justified it to himself by saying, "June is in the first half of the year so it can be called 'early 1963.'" As for August versus September, it could just be a misrecollection, though I concede that's unlikely and I certainly believe that is probably a knowing lie.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Lindskoog, but I know people who knew her. Based on what I'm told, I'd say the fair assessment is that she had an obsessive personality even before her illness, and that the illness (multiple sclerosis) may have made things worse, both by limiting her range of activities and by its neurological effects. I don't think she was a lunatic, but I think she lacked, or at some point lost, a normally healthy person's objectivity and sense of proportion.

Anonymous said...

To clarify: she lost them when it comes to Hooper and Lewis. I didn't mean to imply that she was equally obsessive in all other aspects of her life.

Andrew Rilstone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Rilstone said...

I once had an e-mail, and, come to think of it, a complimentary copy of "Light in the Shadowlands" from Ms. Lindskoog. I think I had pointed out that "They Stand Together" is a quote from "The Four Loves" about friendship, and therefore a perfectly reasonable title for a book about C.S Lewis and Arthur Greaves. She said that a student had definitely told her that it was gay slang for "they are lovers", as if that settled the question.

Actually, I might be preapred to file this under "oral testimony, collected by the author, uncorroborated but quite interesting." Where Lindskoog strays towards the lunatick is in claiming that Hooper put a picture of Magadelen Tower on the front of the book becase it is shaped like a man's willy and not, say, because it was Lewis's college.

My understanding is that Hooper needs a gay Lewis because that would mean that his relationships with Mrs. Moore and Joy Davidman were celibate; and Lewis has to be celibate in order to qualifiy for canonization. Some of us might have imagined that a bigger obstacle would have been the fact that he was, er, a protestant.

Andrew Stevens said...

A.N. Wilson, of course, took on both sides of this match. He too claimed that Walter Hooper believed in C.S. Lewis's "perpetual virginity" (and also took on Mrs. Lindskoog for other things). The problem with this (for both Mrs. Lindskoog and Mr. Wilson) is that Mr. Hooper believes no such thing and never has. In fact, in 1971 Walter Hooper wrote in Past Watchful Dragons, "Lewis lost his virginity while a pupil at Cherbourg House..." (I am indebted to Arend Smilde's review of Mr. Wilson's biography for this tidbit.) Although I suppose Mrs. Lindskoog could claim that Mr. Hooper was actually suggesting something other than sex with a woman in that passage. Moreover, Hooper has also written, "The combination of motive, means and opportunity invites, though it does not demand, the conclusion that Janie King Moore and C.S. Lewis were lovers." Which is hardly the most fierce of denials.

By the way, is there any evidence for a sexual relationship between Lewis and Mrs. Moore? (There is, of course, plenty for Lewis and his wife.) I know of course that A.N. Wilson says "It would also be amazing, though no evidence is forthcoming either way, if Lewis's thirty-year relationship with Mrs. Moore was entirely asexual." I've never quite gotten why this would be "amazing."

Andrew Stevens said...

Oops, Mrs. Lindskoog did acknowledge Hooper's statement about Lewis and Mrs. Moore (which wasn't made until 1991), so presumably she thinks he was pressured into that one.

Lars Konzack said...

SCULLY: I've heard the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Stevens said...
Lindskoog also correctly showed that Hooper's "bonfire" story was, at least, exaggerated.

For the record (and probably for my sins), I found Doug Gresham's explanation of the Kilns 'bonfire of the vanities' in an old online MereLewis archive. Iirc Doug posted that yes, they kept a trash fire burning pretty constantly at normal times; yes, they referred to it as 'bonfire of the vanities'; and iirc that yes, at Lewis's death papers got burned in it, or set aside to be burned in it, that people later wished had been kept, iirc.

I posted quotes and links of and to this, at my Moordarjeeling blog on iirc Blogspot, a few years ago, while arguing with someone at Dr. Zeus's (now closed). Dunno if my old blog is still accessible.

Anonymous said...

Correction to my own post above.

Here is the link to my excerpt at my own blog:

Here is the excerpt, which I in 2007 took from Doug's post in this MereLewis archive, which no longer comes up for my browsers:

[...] The Kilns had no garbage collection service at all. The answer to this dilemma was a lot simply in those days than it would be today. There was a lot less disposable waste than there is in these days of insane packaging, and there were no regulations about burning things in your back yard and so forth. Fred simply took anything that was considered to need to be disposed of out past the old brick kilns and behind the long, low, brick-drying shed or "the barn" as we called it, to a patch of empty wasteland that Jack and Warnie always called "Gehenna" and dumped it onto the smouldering pyre that burnt there day and night week in week out for all the time that I lived at The Kilns. It took a rare downpour indeed to extinguish this evil-smelling ghat, and the corpses of many unfinished projects met their final dissolution there to say nothing of finished ones in their preparatory stages. On the rare occasions when it did actually go out, Fred would rake out the ashes into a flat layer, and then simply bring out his old "Tommy" wheel-and-flint lighter and light it all up again with a new pile of rubbish. When Fred was on holiday the task of feeding this monster fell to me.
There was a bonfire, all the time, year after year, and I can't help hoping that the house which is today standing on the site where the fire used to burn, is haunted by that egregious smell that hovered around the place for many years.

In this excerpt Doug used the term 'bonfire' but not 'of the vanities'.

In a nearby post I gave examples of 'bonfire' as meaning an ordinary fire of household trash, or sometimes a perennial fire of garden trimmings.