Sunday, November 19, 2017

A New Citation of C.S. Lewis on David Lindsay!

Joy Davidman (1915-1960) moved from America to England in November 1953.  She was already friends with C.S. Lewis (whom she would marry in 1956) and his brother W.H. Lewis via correspondence and a previous visit to England from August 1952 to January 1953. Davidman settled in London, and quickly became attached to the group of science fiction writers and fans who met at the Globe tavern in Hatton Garden.  The group had previously met at the White Horse, from 1947 through the end of 1952. But at the very beginning of 1953, after the White Horse came under new management, the popular bartender Lew Mordecai left to work at the Globe, and the science fiction group followed him there, where he served them for the next twelve years.
Frank Arnold (1914-1987) was one of the regular attendees at both pubs for many years, and Rob Hansen has recently selected and transcribed some memoirs from Arnold’s papers. Of especial interest here is the fact that Joy Davidman brought as guests to one meeting C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie, probably sometime early the early months of 1954. Here is what Arnold recorded of the occasion:

"The first distinguished author to call on us at the Globe was no less a man than C. S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, The Screwtape Letters, etc.). One of the great scholars of his time, Professor Lewis was forthright in upholding his own views on all questions of history, literature and theology. If they happened to coincide with fashionable opinion, well and good, but if they did not – well, it was rough luck on fashionable opinion! When he came to the Globe, Lewis did not really know who we were, nor did he need to – enough that here was The Master enjoying an evening off among admiring pupils. What a feast of conversation we had that evening! Lewis hated and loved SF in almost equal measure, and I shall never forget how his eyes lit up when I chanced to mention Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus. ‘An evil book,’ he called it, with relish, for he was as strongly devoted to it as I am. So far from sharing A. M. Low’s belief in the blessings of science, Lewis believed that science was the especial gift of Satan – a view which has since been propagated by many much less exalted thinkers and agitators"

A lovely description of Lewis’s reaction to a conversational mention of David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus, one of the important inspirations for Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra.   


  1. "Lewis believed that science was the especial gift of Satan" -- a more strongly-stated expression of a view one comes across from time to time, in the writings of people who don't know Lewis's work well. Of course what Lewis opposed was social engineering in the name of science, the rejection of the "Tao" or Law of Nature by people who looked to "science" to resolve social problems (when actually science can tell us a great deal indeed about what nature does, but nothing about what we -ought- to do) -- and so on.

    The passage might seem to imply that A Voyage to Arcturus is a "pro-science" book (and that Lewis thought it "evil" for that reason). Of course Lindsay's novel is not "pro-science." What Lewis called elsewhere its shattering and intolerable message was that of a radical rejection of the human condition of embodiment, as opposed to a kind of gnostic eschatology of "pure spirit."

    I love seeing nuggets like this, from people who observed Tolkien and Lewis in person.

    Dale Nelson

  2. What a great find! Thanks for posting it.