Letters reveal private life of CS Lewis

Published Monday, 20 August 2012
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A rare collection of letters from renowned writer CS Lewis that explore his creationist views has been unveiled at Queen's University.

Letters reveal private life of CS Lewis
Rev Acworth with Deirdre Wildy from Queen's University. (© Pacemaker)

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898 and is most well-known for his children's fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia which have sold millions and have been translated into 30 languages.

The series of seven novels contained strong Christian themes and reflected the writer's unyielding faith.

A total of 11 of the author's letters to Captain Bernard Acworth, founder of The Evolution Protest Movement, were donated by the Captain's son, the Rev Dr Richard Acworth.

Captain Acworth was founder of the Evolution Protest Movement in the 1930s and was dedicated to opposing the teaching of the theory of evolution as scientific fact.

In his letters to Lewis, written between 1944 and 1960, he corresponded with the author on his views on the incompatibility of evolution and Christianity.

"I don't know how they first met," Rev Acworth commented.

"They began by discussing the subject of evolution and they became quite close friends. My father quite often stayed with him in Oxford and the later letters are more sort of chatty than the earlier ones."

He said the letters suggest that Lewis's view that evolution and Christianity were compatible began to change later in his life.

"My father was a convinced Christian, as was CS Lewis," said Rev Acworth.

"My father had a particular view: he was strongly opposed to the teaching of evolution of being certainly true and the full explanation of things and he got in touch with CS Lewis about this.

"Originally Lewis was more or less agnostic on that subject but it seems in the course of the correspondence he gradually became much more of my father's way of thinking."

These letters are fascinating, because they reveal that during the last years of his life, Lewis was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the claims being made for organic evolution.

Rev Richard Acworth

"They also contain insights into various aspects of Lewis' private life, including when he married his wife at her bedside in hospital as she was dying of cancer and she seemed to make a miraculous recovery," he added.

"He also talks of visiting Donegal, describing the scenery in North Donegal as 'lovely' and South Donegal as having a 'sinister character'.

"I am delighted that my daughter Phyllida, a Queen's English graduate, is here with me today. I know my father would have been happy to have his letters preserved as part of the C.S. Lewis collection at Queen's."

Deirdre Wildy, Head of Special Collections & Archives at Queen's said: "The works of CS Lewis are enjoyed the world over.

"We are delighted to be in receipt of the Acworth Collection, and will be pleased to facilitate access to the letters as they are likely to be of great interest to researchers in several subject areas. This generous donation will be a valuable addition to our manuscript holdings in Special Collections & Archives at Queen's."

The handover of the letters took place at the CS Lewis Reading Room in the McClay Library at Queen's, which is entered through a replica wardrobe door used in the feature film adaption of Narnia novel The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

© UTV News
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