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C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century's most respected and prolific authors, produced fiction ranging from children's books to fantasy, science fiction, and novels. His scholarly work, from Medieval and Renaissance literature to literary theory, and his witty and imaginative exposition of Christian belief, have made him an intellectual and spiritual mentor to millions.

Born in Belfast, Ireland, on November 29, 1898, Clive Staples Lewis was educated in various secondary schools before entering Oxford University in 1917. His college education was interrupted by his service in World War I as a second lieutenant with the Somerset Light Infantry. Wounded and hospitalized in 1918, he returned to Oxford in 1919, graduated with honors in 1923, and became a lecturer in philosophy at University College, Oxford, a year later. In 1925, Lewis began a three-decade tenure at Oxford when he was named fellow and tutor at Magdelen College, Oxford. He retained the post until 1954, when he was elected professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge, an appointment he held until his death in 1963. He is the author of over 40 books, which includes virtually every genre except biography and drama. Lewis first expressed interest in becoming a poet with the publication of his first two volumes of verse, Spirits in Bondage (1919) and Dymer (1926), both written under the pseudonym of Clive Hamilton (his own first name plus his mother's maiden name).

His reputation as a scholar was established with his 1936 tome, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, which earned the Gollancz Memorial Prize for literature. He ventured into fiction with his 1938 novel, Out of the Silent Planet, the first of his science-fiction trilogy that included Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous Strength (1945), fiction dealing with the cosmic struggle between good and evil.

Lewis' broader reputation rests with his scholarly interpretation of Christianity, a subject the former atheist explored in such original works as The Screwtape Letters (1942), a unique look at life on earth as seen from the viewpoint of the devil, which became one of his most popular books; The Great Divorce (1946), a first-person narrative depicting a busload of souls from hell who travel to heaven to repent their sins; and Mere Christianity (1952), a collection of lectures on the basics of Christian faith broadcast by the BBC during World War II.

In 1950, Lewis turned to the world of fantasy and fairy tales with the first of seven children's books, collectively entitled The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the first book published, introduces the reader to the imaginative land of Narnia, an enchanting world of talking animals ruled by a noble lion, Aslan, which is discovered by a quartet of siblings in a magical wardrobe in an English country house. Lewis published six more volumes, one annually, continuing with Prince Caspian (1951), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), The Silver Chair (1953), The Horse and His Boy (1954), The Magician's Nephew (1955, and the prequel to the first book) and concluded his adventures in Narnia with The Last Battle (1956), the latter honored with the prestigious Carnegie Award, the highest mark of excellence in children's literature. To date, the series has sold over 85,000,000 copies.

Lewis' other works of note include The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism (1933), The Problem of Pain (1940), Reflections on the Psalms (1958), Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (1956) and two autobiographical works—Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955) and A Grief Observed (1961), the former his spiritual journey from atheism to Christianity, and the latter a response to his wife's untimely death from cancer in 1960. Lewis himself died on November 22, 1963, the same day as author Aldous Huxley and assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Three years after his death, his letters, edited and with a memoir by his older brother, W.H. Lewis, were published. With translation of dozens of books into scores of languages and foreign sales in multiple millions, Lewis has become a thinker of international importance.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.

C.S. Lewis Facts

Birth NameClive Staples Lewis
BirthdayNovember 29, 1898
BirthplaceBelfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Date of deathNovember 22, 1963 (Oxford, England, United Kingdom, age 64)

Selected Filmography

Not available.