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C. S. Lewis and Nightmare Alley

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  • WendellWag@aol.com
    In this review, Michael Dirda wonders if C. S. Lewis ever read Nightmare Alley. _http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/12/AR201005120
    Message 1 of 5 , May 16, 2010
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      In this review, Michael Dirda wonders if C. S. Lewis ever read Nightmare Alley.
       
       
      I know of two connections between William Lindsay Gresham and the Inklings.  Besides being Joy Davidman's first husband, Gresham wrote the preface to the first American edition of Charles Williams' The Greater Trumps.  I don't know that Lewis read any of Gresham, and I can't see how it would have influenced his books.  Does anybody know anything further?  I will E-mail Dirda with anything we can come up with, since I know him somewhat.  (And some of you might have met him, since he was a guest at the 1995 Mythcon in Washington.)
       
      Wendell Wagner
    • WendellWag@aol.com
      Oops, it s 1994. Wendell Wagner In a message dated 5/16/2010 12:58:20 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, WendellWag@aol.com writes: at the 1995 Mythcon in Washington
      Message 2 of 5 , May 16, 2010
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        Oops, it's 1994.
         
        Wendell Wagner
         
        In a message dated 5/16/2010 12:58:20 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, WendellWag@... writes:
        at the 1995 Mythcon in Washington
      • Jason Fisher
        By way of introduction to the Gresham piece he included in Tales Before Narnia, Douglas Anderson writes that Lewis is known to have exchanged some letters
        Message 3 of 5 , May 16, 2010
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          By way of introduction to the Gresham piece he included in Tales Before Narnia, Douglas Anderson writes that "Lewis is known to have exchanged some letters with his wife's ex-husband, and after her death in 1960, Gresham went to England to see Lewis and his sons. [...] 'The Dream Dust Factory' was originally published in The Atlantic Monthly for October 1947. It was reprinted in the December 1953 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a magazine Lewis read and to which, beginning in 1956, he contributed poems and short stories. (We know that Lewis read the December 1953 issue in particular because [incidental evidence follows, not about Gresham specifically, but establishing that Lewis read the issue in which his story was reprinted]." (pp. 313-4)

          So it appears Lewis probably read this one Gresham story at least. Maybe others know more.

          Jason


          From: "WendellWag@..." <WendellWag@...>
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Sun, May 16, 2010 11:57:27 AM
          Subject: [mythsoc] C. S. Lewis and Nightmare Alley

           

          In this review, Michael Dirda wonders if C. S. Lewis ever read Nightmare Alley.
           
           
          I know of two connections between William Lindsay Gresham and the Inklings.  Besides being Joy Davidman's first husband, Gresham wrote the preface to the first American edition of Charles Williams' The Greater Trumps.  I don't know that Lewis read any of Gresham, and I can't see how it would have influenced his books.  Does anybody know anything further?  I will E-mail Dirda with anything we can come up with, since I know him somewhat.  (And some of you might have met him, since he was a guest at the 1995 Mythcon in Washington.)
           
          Wendell Wagner
        • David Bratman
          ... There s probably no evidence of Lewis mentioning it, or I suspect Walter Hooper would have brought the matter up in one of his books. But its sole role
          Message 4 of 5 , May 16, 2010
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            WendellWag@... wrote:

            >In this review, Michael Dirda wonders if C. S. Lewis ever read
            >Nightmare Alley.

            There's probably no evidence of Lewis mentioning it, or I suspect Walter Hooper would have brought the matter up in one of his books. But its sole role there is as the source of the financial success that enabled the Greshams to buy a country home.

            Lewis corresponded with Bill Gresham occasionally after he married Joy. Four survive in the Collected Letters, two simply reporting on Joy's and the boys' circumstances; the other two, both from 1957, are more personal and more interesting. They back up Joy's desire not to have the boys return to his custody - according to this, they found him terrifying - and her concerns about his unreliable alimony payments. Joy's views on both these matters are also amply testified to in her own letters to Bill, recently published.
          • John Rateliff
            I wdn t be surprised if Lewis (a voracious reader always on the look-out for new books) read it, if only out of curiosity re. the book his American friend s
            Message 5 of 5 , May 18, 2010
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              I wdn't be surprised if Lewis (a voracious reader always on the look-out for new books) read it, if only out of curiosity re. the book his American friend's husband had written, but I know of any proof one way or the other.

              David points out the recent publication of some surviving letters to Gresham: if you want to get a good idea of his back-and-forth correspondence with Joy, there's a complete listing online at the Wade website: cf. http://www.wheaton.edu/wadecenter/collection/Finding_Aids/L-Gresham_Correspondence.pdf
              Interesting to see if includes not only CSL's four letters to Gresham but two of Gresham's to Lewis. More importantly, it shows that despite their supposed estrangement he wrote to both his sons about once a month or so right up to the time of his own death. A failure as a husband and a father, but there's good evidence he certainly tried.


              On May 16, 2010, at 10:34 AM, David Bratman wrote:
              > WendellWag@... wrote:
              >> In this review, Michael Dirda wonders if C. S. Lewis ever read Nightmare Alley.
              >
              > There's probably no evidence of Lewis mentioning it, or I suspect Walter Hooper would have brought the matter up in one of his books. But its sole role there is as the source of the financial success that enabled the Greshams to buy a country home.
              >
              > Lewis corresponded with Bill Gresham occasionally after he married Joy. Four survive in the Collected Letters, two simply reporting on Joy's and the boys' circumstances; the other two, both from 1957, are more personal and more interesting. They back up Joy's desire not to have the boys return to his custody - according to this, they found him terrifying - and her concerns about his unreliable alimony payments. Joy's views on both these matters are also amply testified to in her own letters to Bill, recently published.



              On May 17, 2010, at 12:51 PM, David Bratman wrote:
              > "Margaret L. Carter" <mlcvamp@...> wrote:
              >> The article identified Joy as his second wife, which I think was an error; he wasn't married before her, was he?
              >
              > No, it isn't an error. He was married before, and from the info we have, he left his first wife (whose name I don't have) for Joy with some alacrity in 1942.
              >
              > This is, interestingly, a critical fact in considering the status of Jack and Joy's marriage. The Church's argument was that it could not marry them because Joy was a divorced woman. But if that makes their marriage impossible, then Bill had been a divorced man and therefore his and Joy's marriage was impossible, which left Joy free to marry Jack. So, at any rate, Lewis argued; but my understanding is that the Church wasn't buying it.



              Yes: Bishop Carpenter (Humphrey's father) refused permission for Lewis to have a church wedding, which is why Lewis went outside Oxford and got a priest from a different diocese to come in and do it under the polite fiction that that priest's own bishop hadn't instructed him not to. I understand there were consequence for the priest afterwards for doing an end-run around church authority, but that wdn't affect the validity or otherwise of the ceremony.

              --John R.
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