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Re: [mythsoc] George Sayer, RIP

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  • John D Rateliff
    Sorry to hear about George Sayer s death, though 91 is certainly a goodly age. We should always be grateful to him for persuading Tolkien to make those
    Message 1 of 8 , Nov 1, 2005
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      Sorry to hear about George Sayer's death, though 91 is certainly a goodly age. We should always be grateful to him for persuading Tolkien to make those recordings of the Gollum chapter from THE HOBBIT and all those excerpts from LotR back in '52. I like to think of his biography of CSL and Wilson's as a complementary pair: Sayer portrays him as he would probably have liked to be remembered, while Wilson portrays him as those who were not in his circle saw him.
      Speaking of Sayer, I was recently reminded of that passage in Warnie's diaries when he was devastated by Sayer telling him CSL would still have been alive if he'd done x and y instead of z; a week or two ago there was a piece in the local paper that sheds some light on CSL's osteoporosis. This is common in elderly women but rare in men, and Lewis himself apparently considered his illness less an affliction than a miraculous sign that Charles Williams' theory of Exchange, the literal bearing of one another's burdens, really worked after all (i.e., that it was the price CSL paid for his wife's remission from bone cancer). I've always considered this of a piece with CSL's belief that Joy's remission was medically inexplicable and hence miraculous (miracle it may have been, but it was also exactly the result her doctors hoped for from the chemotherapy they were giving her at the time). This article was about the effects of smoking on slowing healing from any bone injury, and mentioned in passing that osteoporosis was sometimes the result of heavy smoking. We know CSL was a very heavy smoker, which suggests to me that it was simply one more consequence of his not taking care of himself physically.
      In any case, it was an interesting article, so here's the link.

      ---------------------------------------------------------------

      Giving up cigarettes may help bones heal
      WASHINGTON -- Smokers' broken bones take a lot longer to heal.
      But scientists now are studying whether giving up cigarettes for
      even a week or two after a fracture might make the difference
      between a speedy recovery and months of easy-to-reinjure mushy
      bones.

      * Read the full article at:
      http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/244934_smokers18.html

      ---------------------------------------------------------------
      -----Original Message-----
      From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
      Sent: Oct 30, 2005 12:08 PM
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] George Sayer, RIP

      At 09:01 AM 10/30/2005 -0600, Stolzi wrote:

      >Ouch on the "Tolkein" spelling.

      Not the only name misspelled in that obit.

      Sayer came to the Tolkien Centenary Conference in 1992 and told the story
      of how he got Tolkien to read parts of the then-unpublished Lord of the
      Rings into a tape recorder. And, of course, he wrote that very fine
      biography of Lewis.

      David Bratman
    • Mike Foster
      George Sayer lived a goodly 91 years in every sense of the word. I had been rereading -Jack- for an upcoming presentation and was struck again by his visit to
      Message 2 of 8 , Nov 1, 2005
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        George Sayer lived a goodly 91 years in every sense of the word.

        I had been rereading -Jack- for an upcoming presentation and was struck
        again by his visit to Lewis in hospital near the end, when Lewis begged
        Sayer to get him cigarettes. Sayer writes: "I only meant to give him
        one."

        In fact, he gave Jack more than the one. Mercy trumps justice again.

        Mike

        John D Rateliff wrote:

        >Sorry to hear about George Sayer's death, though 91 is certainly a goodly age. We should always be grateful to him for persuading Tolkien to make those recordings of the Gollum chapter from THE HOBBIT and all those excerpts from LotR back in '52. I like to think of his biography of CSL and Wilson's as a complementary pair: Sayer portrays him as he would probably have liked to be remembered, while Wilson portrays him as those who were not in his circle saw him.
        > Speaking of Sayer, I was recently reminded of that passage in Warnie's diaries when he was devastated by Sayer telling him CSL would still have been alive if he'd done x and y instead of z; a week or two ago there was a piece in the local paper that sheds some light on CSL's osteoporosis. This is common in elderly women but rare in men, and Lewis himself apparently considered his illness less an affliction than a miraculous sign that Charles Williams' theory of Exchange, the literal bearing of one another's burdens, really worked after all (i.e., that it was the price CSL paid for his wife's remission from bone cancer). I've always considered this of a piece with CSL's belief that Joy's remission was medically inexplicable and hence miraculous (miracle it may have been, but it was also exactly the result her doctors hoped for from the chemotherapy they were giving her at the time). This article was about the effects of smoking on slowing healing from any bone injury, and mentioned
        > In any case, it was an interesting article, so here's the link.
        >
        >---------------------------------------------------------------
        >
        >Giving up cigarettes may help bones heal
        >WASHINGTON -- Smokers' broken bones take a lot longer to heal.
        >But scientists now are studying whether giving up cigarettes for
        >even a week or two after a fracture might make the difference
        >between a speedy recovery and months of easy-to-reinjure mushy
        >bones.
        >
        >* Read the full article at:
        >http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/244934_smokers18.html
        >
        >---------------------------------------------------------------
        >-----Original Message-----
        >From: David Bratman <dbratman@...>
        >Sent: Oct 30, 2005 12:08 PM
        >To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        >Subject: Re: [mythsoc] George Sayer, RIP
        >
        >At 09:01 AM 10/30/2005 -0600, Stolzi wrote:
        >
        >
        >
        >>Ouch on the "Tolkein" spelling.
        >>
        >>
        >
        >Not the only name misspelled in that obit.
        >
        >Sayer came to the Tolkien Centenary Conference in 1992 and told the story
        >of how he got Tolkien to read parts of the then-unpublished Lord of the
        >Rings into a tape recorder. And, of course, he wrote that very fine
        >biography of Lewis.
        >
        >David Bratman
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        >Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • John D Rateliff
        Found the passage in Warnie s diaries that I was thinking of re. his conversation w. Sayer: George told a story which gave me a nasty stab, his informant
        Message 3 of 8 , Nov 2, 2005
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          Found the passage in Warnie's diaries that I was thinking of re. his conversation w. Sayer:

          "George told a story which gave me a nasty stab, his informant being Humphrey [=Dr. Havard]. The latter said that J [=CSL] killed himself by not going sick before that fatal term at Cambridge--a term which, though ill, he undertook for the characteristic reason that if he had backed out, someone else would have had to undertake his examining. The result was that all day sittings drove his bladder complaint into poisoning his kidneys, and this affected his heart. By the time he eventually reported sick the disease was incurable, but had it been taken in time there was no reason why he should not have lived another ten years or even twenty years. I wish George hadn't told me this, for it will remain with me until the end as the most poignant "If only--" of a lifetime." (BROTHERS & FRIENDS, page 272, entry for Tuesday 7th March 1967).

          This comes when the Sayers, with typical hospitality ("a house in which one always feels at home"),* had Warnie up for a visit a few years after his brother's death. I don't know whether there's anything to the idea that sitting up too much could cause a bladder complaint (his catheter?) to spread to the kidneys, but it does pretty well establish the extent to which CSL ignored his own health, no doubt as part of his belief that paying undue attention to the self was a distraction from things that really mattered.

          --JDR

          *in fact, the only person I've ever heard of who didn't like the Sayers was Joy Lewis.
        • Stolzi
          Others, I think, believe that Havard s own doctoring was part of the problem. One s friends aren t always the best (thinking here of how my in-laws finally
          Message 4 of 8 , Nov 3, 2005
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            Others, I think, believe that Havard's own doctoring was part of the
            problem.

            One's friends aren't always the best (thinking here of how my in-laws
            finally quit going to their dentist even though they loved both him and his
            wife, but they couldn't take the unnecessary pain any more).

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "John D Rateliff" <sacnoth@...>
            To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 3:19 PM
            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] George Sayer, RIP


            > Found the passage in Warnie's diaries that I was thinking of re. his
            > conversation w. Sayer:
            >
            > "George told a story which gave me a nasty stab, his informant being
            > Humphrey [=Dr. Havard]. The latter said that J [=CSL] killed himself by
            > not going sick before that fatal term at Cambridge
          • John D Rateliff
            From: Stolzi Others, I think, believe that Havard s own doctoring was part of the problem. Yes, that s Wilson s view: that Havard s
            Message 5 of 8 , Nov 4, 2005
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              From: Stolzi <Stolzi@...>

              "Others, I think, believe that Havard's own doctoring was part of the
              problem."

              Yes, that's Wilson's view: that Havard's ineptitude of having Lewis wear an old-fashioned catheter led to the poisoning of CSL's kidneys and weakening of his heart. Douglas Gresham also has a poor opinion of Havard. But then Gresham thinks Havard and Satan, not necessarily in that order, were responsible for his mother's death from cancer, so I don't take his view too seriously.

              Wilson I do take seriously, but this is one of those times that I think he lets himself get misled by preconceptions. He thinks it's outrageous that a world-famous author, one of the most famous men of his day, was being treated by a local M.D. rather than getting the best medical treatment available at the time. But that's projecting today's view back into the past; Lewis thought of himself as someone who had once briefly been famous, and while Oxford had affection for him as one of the local characters ("there goes C.S. Lewis. It must be Thursday") they didn't treat him with that kind of deference, and he would have been horrified if they did. I also think Wilson and Gresham are misled by one of Havard's nicknames, "U.Q" (Useless Quack), into thinking he wasn't a good doctor. They might as well conclude that the Inklings dubbed him "the Red Admiral" in recognition of his great naval strategic abilities or bloodthirstiness. The whole point of the nickname was how inappropriate it was; kind of like Tolkien's point in OFS about the Frog Prince.

              By contrast, I think the account of Lewis's ill health in his final years in Sayer's book v. well done: he was there at the time, and incorporates first-hand observation into his account. As Sayer tells it, Havard recommended surgery when Lewis started having prostate trouble, but CSL put it off. Havard seems to have proscribed the catheter as a stopgap measure, since otherwise Lewis could not have left the house. When CSL finally did agree to have the surgery, it was too late: the untreated prostate disease had caused uric poisoning, which led to partial kidney failure, which had in turn damaged his heart. His doctors told him to stop smoking, which he ignored, and put him on a low-protein diet, which he also seems to have largely ignored. He continued drinking large amounts of caffine and, I suspect, alcohol (though he seems to have tried to have cut down on the latter). Not an ideal patient, and it's sad but not surprising that he didn't get better.


              "One's friends aren't always the best (thinking here of how my in-laws
              finally quit going to their dentist even though they loved both him and his
              wife, but they couldn't take the unnecessary pain any more)."

              Perfectly true, but I have more confidence in the judgment of Tolkien, the Major, CSL, and Sayer on this point than in that of Gresham and Wilson. Don't forget that Havard was well-enough thought of that he was recalled from active duty during the war in order to do medical research at Oxford. Tolkien thought well enough of his abilities and judgment that he continued to consult him about Edith's health, even after Havard had retired and moved to the Isle of Wight.

              --JDR
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