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16327Re: [mythsoc] Re: A. N. Wilson's biography

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  • John D Rateliff
    Feb 2, 2005
      On Jan 31, 2006, at 2:26 PM, Mike Foster wrote:

      > A detailed and well-deserved demolition of Wilson's anti-hagiography.
      > As to footnote #3, a look at the transcripts of Lyle Dorsett's
      > interviews with D. Gresham and G. Sayer at Wheaton [Ill] College's
      > Wade
      > Collection might have been helpful to the author of this review--as it
      > would have been to another recent CSL biographer reviewed elsewhere.
      > Mike

      Have to disagree with you on that point, Mike. As it happens, Wilson
      did not make this up; I was present when Douglas Gresham said that he
      saw his mother and CSL having sex. For years I thought it was during
      his 1983 Wade Lecture, but recently I listened to my tape of the
      event (which unfortunately stops before he wrapped up) and it's not
      on that, so I think it must have been at the reception back at the
      old Wade Center afterwards.

      The issue was not, of course, whether CSL had remained a lifelong
      virgin; that's just a typical piece of Wilsonian hyperbole (having
      edited the Lewis-Greeves letters, Fr. Hooper knew better). But at
      that time Hooper was maintaining that CSL and Joy Gresham never
      consumated their marriage; that the bedside religious service had
      been an act of charity on Lewis's part to humor a dying woman no less
      than the earlier legal marriage. Thereafter ill health and no doubt
      religious scruples would have kept their relationship platonic (I
      believe he has since abandoned this position). Lyle Dorsett, in the
      course of researching Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis's life, was
      convinced otherwise; among other things he had turned up letters she
      had written to a friend back in America describing how pleased she
      was to discover that Lewis was good in bed. These could of course be
      dismissed as flights of fantasy by a very very ill woman or
      comforting lies so her friends wouldn't worry, but that would have
      been profoundly out of character for J.D.G.L. When Lyle asked Gresham
      what he thought, Douglas G. replied that he knew for a fact that
      their union was consummated because he'd once walked in on them
      inadvertently. I don't think he said when this occurred, but I assume
      it was at the Kilns and so after the marriage.

      I don't know why Wilson changed the original passage; probably
      because after the point was challenged he couldn't confirm what he'd
      written from the public record and so hedged his bets.

      Still not had time to read all the Dutch piece, but a quick glance
      isn't reassuring. I suppose one person's salutary chastisement is
      another person's carping, but I found it altogether too smug.
      Interesting, though.

      A pity Sayer, who researched his biography in the years immediately
      following Lewis's death, didn't write it up until two decades later,
      when he was a very old man and details had faded from his memory; I
      admire his book as a wonderful memoir of his friend, but Wilson's for
      all its flaws is better as a biography. A pity Wilson let Carpenter
      goad him into being more iconoclastic than would otherwise have been
      the case. An even greater pity that Lyle, whose book on JDGL is an
      amazing piece of work, hasn't written a biography of CSL himself.

      On Feb 1, 2006, at 10:29 AM, Stolzi wrote:
      > I'm also waiting for a Frey-type parody which explains all the
      > major, major
      > lies in SURPRISED BY JOY. Mr Bratman? Dr Williams?

      Well, one of Lewis's fellow Inklings said the title should have been
      SUPPRESSED BY JACK, which implies that those who knew him best were
      well aware that the book was a polemic with a clear didactic goal in
      mind and not straightforward autobiography. The same has been claimed
      for A GRIEF OBSERVED, but that point is hotly debated. And then
      there's Barfield's contribution to LIGHT ON C.S. LEWIS, which Tolkien
      said got closer to the real truth about Lewis than any other


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