Lewis in Dictionary of Irish Biography
- There's a nice article on Lewis in the new Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge U. Press) by Patrick Maume
In particular, there's an interesting couple of paragraphs on his relation to Irish culture and history:
In 1914 Lewis befriended Arthur Greeves, the sickly son of a long-established Belfast linen family, who shared his fondness for `northern' literature, such as the librettos of Wagner's operas and the works of William Morris; Lewis's letters to Greeves provide important evidence of his intellectual development (including a conscious sadism). Like Forrest Reid (qv), rival guru of Arthur Greeves, and a possible influence on Lewis's The magician's nephew, 1955), Lewis is most of all a product of Edwardian Belfast, in his reaction against its cultural limitations and in his quest for imaginative escape.
The mature Lewis loved the Down countryside and retained many ties of family and friendship with Northern Ireland, but he spoke of Orangemen as representing a political deformity of religion (though at a crucial moment in That hideous strength, a good character hums an Orange ballad). His letters home in the 191421 period often referred to the political situation and he praised the Ulster division's charge at the battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, perhaps because it would please his father. In the mature Lewis suspicions of Irish catholic `bograts' and `papists' combined with uneasy awareness of historic wrongs. His defence in The allegory of love of the protestant sensibility of Edmund Spenser (qv) notes that the cruelties in which the poet participated in Ireland corrupted his moral sense and his literary responsiveness. His moral outrage at the prospect that space travel might spread the cruelties of empire to the stars reflects early modern studies, as well as reaction against jingoism. Prince Caspian's discovery that he is the descendant of pirates who conquered Narnia, massacred the native population, and pretended that they never existed is not simply a critique of ahistoric rationalism. It is occasionally suggested that a Hibernocentric Lewis seeking the `Celtic twilight' instead of the Nordic myths might have been a greater artist, but he might also have been a provincial crank, as were several of his intellectually frustrated relatives.