Personal Correspondence

A LETTER TO SARAH written to his goddaughter in 1945. Lewis refers to a 6 week old baby living at his home. During the war, children were often evacuated from London to the country to protect them from German air raids. The Lewis household took in many of these evacuees. Recall that Lewis later began The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with evacuation of the Pevensie children from London to Professor Kirke's country home.

Magdalen College
Oxford 
February 11th, 1945

My dear Sarah—Please excuse me for not writing to you before to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and to thank you for your nice card which I liked very much; I think you have improved in drawing cats and these were very good, much better than I can do. I can only draw a cat from the back view like this. I think it is rather cheating, don't you? because it does not show the face which is the difficult part to do. It is a funny thing that faces of people are easier to do than most animals' faces except perhaps elephants and owls. I wonder why that should be! The reason I have not written before is that we have had a dreadfully busy time with people being ill in the house and visitors and pipes getting frozen in the frost. All the same I liked the frost (did you?): the woods looked really lovely with all the white on the trees, just like a picture to a story. But perhaps you were in London. I suppose it was not so nice there. We now have a Baby, about 6 weeks old, living in the house. It is a very quiet one and does not keep any of us awake at night. It is a boy. We still have our old big dog, he is eight years old. I think this is as much for a dog as 56 is for a man—you find this out by finding what is seven times the dog's age. So he is getting rather grey and very slow and stately. He is great friends with the two cats, but if he sees a strange cat in the garden he goes for it at once. He seems to know at once whether it is a stranger or one of our own cats even if it is a long way off and looks just like one of them. His name is Bruce. The two cats are called "Kitty-Koo" and "Pushkin". Kitty-Koo is old and black and very timid and gentle but Pushkin is gray and young and rather fierce. She does not know how to velvet her paws. She is not very nice to the old cat. I wonder how you are all getting on? Are you at school now and how do you like it? It must be about half way through term by now, I should think. Do you keep a "calendar" and cross off the days till the end of term? I am not going to post this till tomorrow because I want to put in a "book-token". You take it to a book-shop and they give you a book instead of it. This is for a kind of Christmas present, only it is very late. Now I have written you a letter you must write me one—that is, if you like writing letters but not otherwise. I used to like it once but I don't much now because I have so many to write, but my Brother does some of them for me on his typewriter which is a great help. Have you seen any snow-drops yet this year? I saw some two days ago. Give my love to the others—and to yourself. 
Your affectionate god-father, C.S. Lewis

The Kilns
Headington Quarry, Oxford
19/3/56

Dear Mary,

A line in haste about the bits underlined in your letter (which I enclose for reference). Don't be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn't do. Each must do his duty "in that state of life to which God has called him". Remember that a belief in the virtues of doing for doing's sake is characteristically feminine, characteristically American, and characteristically modern: so that three veils may divide you from the correct view! There can be intemperance in work just as in drink. What feels like zeal may be only fidgets or even the flattering of one's self-importance. As MacDonald says "In holy things may be unholy greed". And by doing what "one's station and its duties" does not demand, one can make oneself less fit for the duties it does demand and so commit some injustice. Just you give Mary a little chance as well as Martha! 

The Kilns
Headington Quarry
Oxford, England 
17/2/57

Dear Mary,

There is no great mystery about my marriage. I have known the lady a long time: no one can mark the exact moment at which friendship becomes love. You can well understand how illness—the fact that she was facing pain and death and anxiety about the future of her children—would be an extra reason for marrying her or a reason for marrying her sooner. If I write very shortly it is not because I am reticent but because I am tired and busy. My brother is also ill and causes a good deal of anxiety, and of course I lose his secretarial help; so that I have not only much to bear but much to do. I can't type; you could hardly conceive what hundreds of hours a year I spend coaxing a rheumatic wrist to drive this pen across paper.

What a divine mercy about the last moment money for the rent! Clearly He who feeds the sparrows has you in His care. Never suppose that the amount "on my own plate" shuts up my sympathy for the great troubles you are undergoing. I pray for you every day. Ah well, we shall all be out of it in a comparatively few years. With blessings. 
Yours, Jack Lewis

The Kilns
Headington Quarry, Oxford
Oct 20th, 1957

Dear Mary,

We are shocked and distressed at the news in your letter of the 15th. I think I see from what you say that God is already giving you new spiritual strength with which to meet this terrible affliction—just as he did to us in Joy's worst times. But pain is pain. I wish I could relieve any of it for you—one is so ineffective. The great thing, as you have obviously seen, (both as regards pain and financial worries) is to live from day to day and hour to hour not adding the past or future to the present. As one lived in the Front Line "They're not shelling us at the moment, and it's not raining, and the rations have come up, so let's enjoy ourselves". In fact, as Our Lord said, "Sufficient unto the day". You may be sure you will be very much in our prayers. All my news is good, very good up-to-date, tho' of course we live always under the sword of Damocles. God bless and keep you, dear friend. It'll be nice when we all wake up from this life which has indeed something like nightmare about it. 
Yours, Jack

Magdalene College 
Cambridge 
6/5/59

Dear Mary,

I am sorry you have been worried. Actually I was quite unaware that we owed you a letter. But never assume that anything is wrong if I should make the same mistake again. Remember, I don't type. Also, manlike, I am not naturally a correspondent at all. The daily letter-writing I have to do is very laborious to me.

We are all well. Indeed Joy and I both dig— a thing neither of us expected ever to do again. We also have a Siamese cat. In my heart of hearts I really prefer the great, grey bullet-headed native cat, but the Siamese are delicate and fascinating creatures. Ours adores me because I lift her up by her tail—an operation which I can't imagine I should like if I were a cat, but she comes back for more and more, purring all the time.

The young priest after whose laying-on-of hands Joy began so miraculously to mend now writes to tell me that his own wife is suffering from cancer. His name is Peter. Will you, of your charity, have him in your prayers?

Joy, if she were here, would join me in all greetings and good wishes. 
Yours, Jack

Reprinted from Letters to an American Lady, edited by Clyde S. Kilby, Wm. B. Eerdmans. Used by permission.

By C. S. Lewis

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #7 in 1985]

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