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16539Re: [mythsoc] Re: Alastair Fowler

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  • John D Rateliff
    Apr 17, 2006
      On Apr 14, 2006, at 10:27 AM, Joe R. Christopher wrote:
      > John D Rateliff, I think it was, mentioned Dr. Fowler's _Yale
      > Review_ piece
      > in which he mentioned reading "The Dark Tower" when Lewis was
      > alive. I
      > wrote to Dr. Fowler and asked two questions about the situation.

      I'm afraid I have no memory of this, and I'm so busy finishing up my
      current project that I haven't had time to go back through the list
      archive to see who did post it. Very glad that you've followed up on
      this, though, since I think it's a real discovery. Many thanks for
      sharing those excerpts from Professor Fowler's letter. Since the
      early chapters with the Stingerman had been explicitly singled out as
      the part that couldn't possibly be by Lewis, I think this really
      clinches it that the entire work is just what most people thought it
      all along: an unfinished but authentic fragment by CSL. The part
      about typescript is interesting but not crucial: Lewis may have made
      a typescript which does not survive (though I think this unlikely for
      an unfinished work), or Fowler might be confusing the loose leaf
      manuscript now in the Bodleian with the loose leaf typescript he says
      Fr. Hooper showed him. Hooper does say he showed the story to several
      of Lewis's friends, and it's unlikely that he loaned out the
      irreplaceable unique copy of the manuscript, so I imagine that as the
      first stage when editing the work he made a typescript for limited
      circulation while trying to find out more about the story's origin
      and date. I'm surprised that Fr. Hooper didn't cite Fowler as
      confirmation back in 1977, but then he never did say that Fr. Gervase
      Mathew was the only person who recognized it.
      I don't think that ultimately the 1938 vs. 1944-46 date can be
      definitively proven either way, unless and until more evidence turns
      up; I simply think the evidence is much stronger for the latter
      dating (with Tolkien's letter describing the story as the key). This
      memoir definitely rules out the 1950s date Jared had suggested, since
      Fowler makes clear that he read it in 1952 or very shortly thereafter
      and that it was then a piece Lewis had written some time before and
      abandoned. What I found most interesting is that from Fowler's
      account Lewis knew exactly where it was, and that CSL rated it with
      "After Ten Years" (which he also loaned A.F.) as a piece he'd started
      but not been able to complete; he clearly held onto both because he
      hoped that he would, someday, find the right way to tell that story.
      I wish we knew more about how Lewis organized his files. And who did
      prepare the typescripts of CSL's books? Did he really send manuscript
      to the printers?

      On Apr 14, 2006, at 11:49 AM, David Bratman wrote:
      > 1) When did Dr. Fowler read "The Dark Tower", both the time that
      > Lewis gave
      > it to him and the time that Hooper did? Does he say, either in his
      > letter
      > or the article? All that Joe quotes is "forty years ago," but this
      > must be
      > very approximate for his meeting with Lewis, as forty years ago
      > Lewis was
      > already dead.

      From the Yale Review piece, it's clear that this was sometime
      between 1952, when Fowler arrived at Oxford and asked Lewis to direct
      his thesis, and 1955 when Lewis left Oxford for Cambridge. After a
      little online research, I found it posted at


      The significant section is in the following:

      "Jenny and I rented an attic at 2 Church Walk in North Oxford, the
      same house where the Spenserian Rudolf Gottfried stayed. From there I
      cycled to Magdalen for supervisions. Often Major Lewis sat typing in
      the large sitting room and directed me through to his brother in the
      smaller room. One winter morning I got there frozen; Lewis, wearing a
      dressing gown over his clothes, was engrossed in Astounding Science
      Fiction. Conversation turned to fantasy; I confessed I was trying to
      write one, myself, and had got blocked. He made me describe the
      setting (a paraworld with a slower time-lapse), then said, �You need
      two things for this sort of fiction. The first you already have: a
      world, a mise en sc�ne. But you also need a mythos or plot.� After
      that, Lewis was always keener to know how The Rest of Time was coming
      along than to read the next installment of dissertation. This was
      gratifying, of course, yet somehow depressing to a would-be academic
      author. But it was an article of faith with Lewis that writing
      fiction could never conflict with studying literature. Not that he
      always wrote without difficulty; sometimes he had to set a project
      aside for a long period. He showed me several unfinished or abandoned
      pieces (his notion of supervision included exchanging work in
      progress); these included �After Ten Years,� The Dark Tower, and Till
      We Have Faces. Another fragment, a time-travel story, had been
      aborted after only a few pages. Getting to the �other� world was a
      particular problem, he said; he had given up several stories at that
      stage. His unfamiliarity with scientific discourse may have played a
      part in this. The vehicles of transition in Out of the Silent Planet
      and Perelandra, although suggestive in other ways, are hardly
      plausible as scientific apparatus. In the Narnia stories Lewis turned
      to magical means of entry: teleportation rings from E. Nesbit and
      Tolkien, or else a terribly strange wardrobe.
      Once fully started, Lewis quickly wrote a more or less
      final version, like Anthony Trollope. Unlike Henry James (or
      Tolkien), he never drafted and redrafted. Nevill Coghill might have
      to make ten or more drafts of anything for publication; but when
      things went well Lewis would write only a rough copy and a fair copy
      (with one or two corrections per page). And that was it, except for
      scholarly books like the OHEL volume, which were tried out first as
      lectures. Even the final version would be in longhand; Lewis thought
      a noisy typewriter dulled the sense of rhythm. Fortunately, his
      writing was legible enough to go straight to the publisher, unless
      Warren typed it out. Obviously, composition was not so fast as
      writing; before committing to paper, he must have composed each work
      in his head, retaining it by some �power of memory� (as Tolkien
      called Lewis�s retentiveness of the spoken word). Lewis�s fluency
      suggests that he composed in paragraphs, as Robert Louis Stevenson
      did, and Edward Gibbon in his covered acacia walk."

      The whole piece is quite interesting, from the role Hugo Dyson played
      in putting in a good word for Fowler before Lewis would agree to
      supervise his research to Fowler's own time-travel story THE REST OF
      TIME. Does anyone know if this has been published? If so, it could
      provide the so-called L'Engle link, though personally I've come to
      believe that if there is any influence between the Ransom books and A
      WRINKLE IN TIME it would be from L'Engle being influenced,
      consciously or not, by the severed head scenes in THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH.
      As for "forty years ago", that would be about right for the
      period when Fr. Hooper was asking Lewis's surviving friends if they
      recognized the fragment, but I took it as 'mind you, all this was
      more than forty years ago' and so would not be perturbed by small


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