C S Lewis Essay

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the death of CS Lewis (22 November), Cambridge University Press is publishing a new collection of criticism and reviews by Lewis which includes a never-before-seen essay rescued from a fire at the Lewis family home. Written in a ruled school notebook (the kind that Lewis favoured) and possibly intended for publication by TS Eliot in the Criterion, the title essay "Image and Imagination" is an extraordinary rumination on the relationship between art and truth, literature and the imagination. The following is an extract:

What we do when we imagine is to suppose a reshuffling of universals taken from the actual world. When we imagine Britomart we take our idea of "a girl", which is part of our general knowledge, and our idea of "medieval knight", which is another part of our general knowledge, and put them together. To get into imagination itself what we mean by either of the two terms is impossible. They are not imaginations: they are summarised knowledge of the real. Always the real world is the bank on which the poet draws his cheques; and though a metaphysical lyric may be a fine and private place, all the meanings embraced within it are but passengers who come there from the public, eternal, objective world of reality and haste thither again.

Aristotle was right. Poetry presents οια αν γενοιτο, things that might be – it recombines elements which belong to the real, and to appreciate poetry involves at every moment a knowledge of those elements and therefore of the real.

What obscures this truth is the fact that we may find fairies as well as towers in our story. If all literature were realistic the doctrine which isolates "art" from human experience as a whole would not be even plausible. The sort of monadism which I am rejecting may be regarded as one of the many attempts to explain the marvellous in literature: parallel to the allegorisations with which our ancestors excused their pleasure in Ovid, and equally shallow. In fact, the wildest passages of Italian or Indian epic conform to Aristotle's definition as easily as one of Thackeray's novels. Let us try the experiment. Disturb the realism of Roland's dark tower a little. As Roland approaches, let the bells within the tower begin to ring. But instead of sounds let them give forth great birds: and yet we understand somehow that the birds are the sounds. This seems a far cry from the real world. Yet even these birds affect us only because of their hypothetical connection with reality.

For example, "bats" would have a different poetical value from birds. Yet the images will scarcely be distinguishable: and neither their bat nature or their bird nature will be explicitly imagined. It is enough to give them the one or the other name and they will affect us accordingly: and this because we know what bats and birds are in the real world, and therefore what these would be in the real world.

And however we vary the fantasy we shall find the same result. Let these bell-born birds be no common birds but the souls of dead men whose blood was used to temper the bells: and let them fly out singing with human voice Justorum animae.

Does anyone suppose that the imaginative value of such fantasies can be divided for a moment from our knowledge of death, and blood, and Christianity? You may say, indeed, that it is not our crystallised knowledge of these things that counts, but the emotions which have gathered about their names. But it is easy to answer that where a reader depends merely on the associations roused by the words, he will be right only by accident: as many a young reader has found to his cost.

Good reading implies, and good writing demands of its readers, that the emotion should depend not on the name alone, but on the name understood. The name, indeed, rouses emotion, but rouses it through the memory of the thing; that is, through knowledge. And we have seen that no degree of unrealism in the imagination impairs this principle a whit. We can cut the bells off from the sound which they would really have and substitute birds; but then the quality of such a marvel depends on our having expected sounds, and we expected them because of our knowledge of real bell-hood. The birds again affect us by their hypothetical connection with real zoology: cut this off, and the whole process is repeated with the dead men. In other words, we can sever any number, one by one, of those connections which our imagined objects would have in reality, but for every one we sever we set up a new one. The monadist is fighting with a hydra. If A were real it would imply B. We can remove B and substitute C which A could not have in reality. But if C is to have any poetic significance for us, then C in its turn will be determined by its hypothetical connection with the real: C will imply D. You can change D if you choose, and D again will have meaning for us in virtue of its hypothetical E. Remove E and it will be the same again. You must stop somewhere: and wherever you stop you will find reality waiting for you. You may change, as much as you please, the character which your objects would have in reality: but reality furnishes both that which is changed and that by which you change it.

•Image and Imagination: Essays and Reviews by CS Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper, is published by Cambridge University Press, £12.99

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The writings of C. S. Lewis.


  • The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (1936)
  • Rehabilitations and other essays (1939; two essays not included in Essay Collection [2000])
  • The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (with E. M. W. Tillyard, 1939)
  • The Problem of Pain (1940)
  • The Case for Christianity (1942)
  • A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)
  • Broadcast Talks (1942)
  • The Abolition of Man (1943)
  • Christian Behaviour (1943)
  • Beyond Personality (1944)
  • The Inner Ring (1944)[1]
  • Miracles: A Preliminary Study (1947, revised 1960)
  • Arthurian Torso (1948; on Charles Williams's poetry)
  • Transposition, and other Addresses (1949)
  • Mere Christianity: A Revised and Amplified Edition, with a New Introduction, of the Three Books, Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality (1952; based on radio talks of 1941–1944)
  • English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama. Oxford history of English literature; Clark lectures. 3 (paperback ed.). Oxford University Press. 1975 [1944]. ISBN 0-19-881298-1. .
  • Major British Writers, Vol I (1954; contribution on Edmund Spenser)
  • Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955; autobiography)
  • Reflections on the Psalms (1958)
  • The Four Loves (1960)
  • Studies in Words (1960)
  • The World's Last Night and Other Essays (1960)
  • An Experiment in Criticism (1961)
  • A Grief Observed (1961; first published under the pseudonym «N. W. Clerk»)
  • They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses (1962; all essays found in Essay Collection [2000])
  • Selections from Layamon's Brut (ed. G L Brook, 1963 Oxford University Press; introduction)
  • Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)
  • Beyond The Bright Blur (1963) — a limited run 30-page excerpt taken from Letters to Malcolm and "published as a New Year's greeting to friends of the author" according to the opening page.
  • The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1964)
  • Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1966; not included in Essay Collection [2000])
  • On Stories: and other essays on literature (ed. Walter Hooper, 1966)
  • Spenser's Images of Life (ed. Alastair Fowler, 1967)
  • Letters to an American Lady (1967)
  • Christian Reflections (1967; essays and papers; all essays found in Essay Collection [2000])
  • Selected Literary Essays (1969; not included in Essay Collection [2000])
  • God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (1970)
  • Undeceptions (1971; essays; one essay not included in Essay Collection [2000])
  • The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1980)
  • Of Other Worlds (1982; essays; one essay not included in Essay Collection [2000])
  • The Business Of Heaven: Daily Readings From C. S. Lewis (Walter Hooper, ed.; 1984)
  • Present Concerns (1986; essays; all essays found in Essay Collection [2000])
  • All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis 1922–27 (1993)
  • Compelling Reason: Essays on Ethics and Theology (1998)
  • The Latin Letters of C.S. Lewis (1999)
  • Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories (2000)
  • Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church (2000)
  • Collected Letters, Vol. I: Family Letters 1905–1931 (2000)
  • From Narnia to a Space Odyssey : The War of Ideas Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (2003)
  • Collected Letters, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts and War 1931–1949 (2004)
  • Collected Letters, Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950–1963 (2007)
  • Language and Human Nature with J.R.R. Tolkien (draft discovered in 2009)[2]
  • Image and Imagination Essays and Reviews (2013)


  1. Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
  2. Perelandra (aka Voyage to Venus) (1943)
  3. That Hideous Strength (1945)
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
  2. Prince Caspian (1951)
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
  4. The Silver Chair (1953)
  5. The Horse and His Boy (1954)
  6. The Magician's Nephew (1955)
  7. The Last Battle (1956)


  • Spirits in Bondage (1919; published under pseudonym Clive Hamilton)
  • Dymer (1926; published under pseudonym Clive Hamilton)
  • Poems (ed. Walter Hooper, 1964, a collection of Lewis poems not included in Dymer or Spirits in Bondage)
  • Narrative Poems (ed. Walter Hooper, 1969; includes Dymer, Launcelot, The Nameless Isle, and The Queen of Drum.
  • The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis (ed. Walter Hooper, 1994; expanded edition of the 1964 Poems book; includes Spirits in Bondage)
  • C.S. Lewis's Lost Aeneid: Arms and Exile (ed. A.T. Reyes, 2011; includes the surviving fragments of Lewis's translation of Virgil's Aeneid, presented in parallel with the Latin text, and accompanied by synopses of missing sections)
  • The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis: A Critical Edition (edited by Don w. King, 2015; Kent State University Press; ISBN 978-1606352021)

As editor[edit]

  • George MacDonald: An Anthology (1947)
  • Essays Presented to Charles Williams (1947)

Further reading[edit]

  • John Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion. Eerdmans, 1985. ISBN 0-8028-0046-7
  • Ronald W. Bresland. The Backward Glance: C.S. Lewis and Ireland. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's University of Belfast, 1999.
  • Brown, Devin. Bringing Narnia Home; Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe (2015; Abingdon Press; ISBN 978-1426791628)
  • Brown, Devin. Discussing Mere Christianity (2015; Zondervan; ISBN 978-0310699842)
  • Brown, Devin. A Life Observed; A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis. (2013; Brazos Press; ISBN 1587433354)
  • Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their friends. George Allen & Unwin, 1978. ISBN 0-04-809011-5
  • Joe R. Christopher, C. S. Lewis. Twayne Publishers, 1987. ISBN 0-8057-6944-7
  • Joe R. Christopher & Joan K. Ostling, C. S. Lewis: An Annotated Checklist of Writings a;bout him and his Works. Kent State University Press, n.d. (1972). ISBN 0-87338-138-6
  • Clare, David (February 2010). "CS Lewis: An Irish Writer". Irish Studies Review. 18 (1): 17–38. doi:10.1080/09670880903533409. .
  • James Como, Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis, Spence, 1998.
  • “A Note on C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.” The Anglican Digest 49, no. 2 (2007): 55–58.
  • James Como, Remembering C. S. Lewis (3rd ed. of C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table). Ignatius, 2006
  • Sean Connolly, Inklings of Heaven: C. S. Lewis and Eschatology, Gracewing, 2007. ISBN 978-0-85244-659-1
  • Michael Coren, The Man Who Created Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis. Eerdmans Pub Co, Reprint edition 1996. ISBN 0-8028-3822-7
  • Derrick, Christopher (1981). CS Lewis and the Church of Rome: A Study in Proto-Ecumenism. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN 978-99917-1-850-7. 
  • David C. Downing, Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C. S. Lewis. InterVarsity, 2005. ISBN 0-8308-3284-X
  • David C. Downing, Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. Jossey-Bass, 2005. ISBN 0-7879-7890-6
  • David C. Downing, The Most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis's Journey to Faith. InterVarsity, 2002. ISBN 0-8308-3271-8
  • David C. Downing, Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C. S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy. University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. ISBN 0-87023-997-X
  • Colin Duriez and David Porter, The Inklings Handbook: The Lives, Thought and Writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Their Friends. 2001, ISBN 1-902694-13-9
  • Colin Duriez, Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship. Paulist Press, 2003. ISBN 1-58768-026-2
  • Edwards, Bruce L (2005). Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual World of Narnia. Tyndale. ISBN 1-4143-0381-5. .
  • ———————— (2005). Further Up and Further In: Understanding C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Broadman and Holman. ISBN 0-8054-4070-4. .
  • ————————, ed. (2007). CS Lewis: Life, Works, and Legacy. Praeger Perspectives. ISBN 0-275-99116-4. .
  • Bruce L. Edwards, Editor. The Taste of the Pineapple: Essays on C. S. Lewis as Reader, Critic, and Imaginative Writer. The Popular Press, 1988. ISBN 0-87972-407-2
  • Bruce L. Edwards, A Rhetoric of Reading: C. S. Lewis's Defense of Western Literacy. Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature, 1986. ISBN 0-939555-01-8
  • Alastair Fowler, 'C. S. Lewis: Supervisor', Yale Review, Vol. 91, No. 4 (October 2003).
  • Jocelyn Gibb (ed.), Light on C. S. Lewis. Geoffrey Bles, 1965 & Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1976. ISBN 0-15-652000-1
  • Douglas Gilbert & Clyde Kilby, C. S. Lewis: Images of His World. Eerdmans, 1973 & 2005. ISBN 0-8028-2800-0
  • Glyer, Diana (2007). The Company They Keep: CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien as Writers in Community. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0. .
  • David Graham (ed.), We Remember C. S. Lewis. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001. ISBN 0-8054-2299-4
  • Roger Lancelyn Green & Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography. Fully revised & expanded edition. HarperCollins, 2002. ISBN 0-00-628164-8
  • Douglas Gresham, Jack's Life: A Memory of C. S. Lewis. Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-8054-3246-9
  • Gresham, Douglas (1994). Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. SanFrancisco: Harper. ISBN 0-06-063447-2. .
  • William Griffin, C. S. Lewis: The Authentic Voice. (Formerly C. S. Lewis: A Dramatic Life) Lion, 2005. ISBN 0-7459-5208-9
  • Joel D. Heck, Irrigating Deserts: C. S. Lewis on Education. Concordia Publishing House, 2006. ISBN 0-7586-0044-5
  • Edward Henderson (ed.), C. S. Lewis and Friends: Faith and the Power of Imagination. London: SPCK; Eugene, Ore.: Cascade, 2011.
  • Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide. HarperCollins, 1996. ISBN 0-00-627800-0
  • Walter Hooper, Through Joy and Beyond: A Pictorial Biography of C. S. Lewis. Macmillan, 1982. ISBN 0-02-553670-2
  • Jacobs, Alan (2005). The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of CS Lewis. San Francisco: Harper. ISBN 0-06-076690-5. .
  • Carolyn Keefe, C. S. Lewis: Speaker & Teacher. Zondervan, 1979. ISBN 0-310-26781-1
  • Jon Kennedy, The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia. Adams Media, 2008. ISBN 1598694278
  • Clyde S. Kilby, The Christian World of C. S. Lewis. Eerdmans, 1964, 1995. ISBN 0-8028-0871-9
  • W.H. Lewis (ed), Letters of C. S. Lewis. Geoffrey Bles, 1966. ISBN 0-00-242457-6
  • Kathryn Lindskoog, Light in the Shadowlands: Protecting the Real C. S. Lewis. Multnomah Pub., 1994. ISBN 0-88070-695-3
  • Susan Lowenberg, C. S. Lewis: A Reference Guide 1972–1988. Hall & Co., 1993. ISBN 0-8161-1846-9
  • Wayne Mardindale & Jerry Root, The Quotable Lewis. Tyndale House Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0-8423-5115-9
  • Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis – Eccentric Genius; Reluctant Prophet. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2013. ISBN 978-1-4143-3935-1.
  • David Mills (editor) (ed), The Pilgrim's Guide: C. S. Lewis and the Art of Witness. Eerdmans, 1998. ISBN 0-8028-3777-8
  • Mueller, Steven P., Not a Tame God: Christ in the Writings of C. S. Lewis. Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, Mo., 2002. ISBN 0-570-05296-3
  • Markus Mühling, "A Theological Journey into Narnia. An Analysis of the Message beneath the Text", Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-525-60423-8
  • Joseph Pearce, C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church. Ignatius Press, 2003. ISBN 0-89870-979-2
  • Thomas C. Peters, Simply C. S. Lewis. A Beginner's Guide to His Life and Works. Kingsway Publications, 1998. ISBN 0-85476-762-2
  • Justin Phillips, C. S. Lewis at the BBC: Messages of Hope in the Darkness of War. Marshall Pickering, 2003. ISBN 0-00-710437-5
  • Victor Reppert, C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason. InterVarsity Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8308-2732-3
  • George Sayer, Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times. Macmillan, 1988. ISBN 0-333-43362-9
  • Peter J. Schakel, Imagination and the Arts in C. S. Lewis: Journeying to Narnia and Other Worlds. University of Missouri Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8262-1407-X
  • ———————— (1984). "Reason and Imagination in CS Lewis: A Study of "Till We Have Faces"". Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-1998-2. Archived from the original on 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2013-09-24. 
  • Peter J. Schakel, ed. The Longing for a Form: Essays on the Fiction of C. S. Lewis. Kent State University Press, 1977. ISBN 0-87338-204-8
  • Peter J. Schakel and Charles A. Huttar, ed. Word and Story in C. S. Lewis. University of Missouri Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8262-0760-X
  • Stephen Schofield. In Search of C. S. Lewis. Bridge Logos Pub. 1983. ISBN 0-88270-544-X
  • Jeffrey D. Schultz and John G. West, Jr. (eds.), The C. S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia. Zondervan, 1998. ISBN 0-310-21538-2
  • G. B. Tennyson (ed.), Owen Barfield on C. S. Lewis. Wesleyan University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8195-5233-X.
  • Richard J. Wagner. C. S. Lewis and Narnia for Dummies. For Dummies, 2005. ISBN 0-7645-8381-6
  • Walker, Andrew; James, Patrick, eds. (1998). Rumours of Heaven: Essays in Celebration of CS Lewis. Guildford: Eagle. ISBN 0-86347-250-8. .
  • Chad Walsh, C. S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics. Macmillan, 1949.
  • Chad Walsh, The Literary Legacy of C. S. Lewis. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979. ISBN 0-15-652785-5.
  • Michael Ward, Planet Narnia, Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-531387-1.
  • George Watson (ed.), Critical Essays on C. S. Lewis. Scolar Press, 1992. ISBN 0-85967-853-9
  • Michael White, C. S. Lewis: The Boy Who Chronicled Narnia. Abacus, 2005. ISBN 0-349-11625-3
  • Erik J. Wielenberg, God and the Reach of Reason. Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-521-70710-7
  • A. N. Wilson, C. S. Lewis: A Biography. W. W. Norton, 1990. ISBN 0-393-32340-4


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