CS Lewis Age 48
CS Lewis 29/11/1898-22/11/63
Grew up in Belfast, left for school in England in 1908 when his mother died. Brother Warnie already there.

After serving in France in WW1, he lived out his eve-of-battle commitment to fellow soldier Paddy Moore, taking care of the man's mother and sister (Jane Moore and her daughter) for more than 30 years (Jane Moore died in 1951). In 1925 Lewis became a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, which lasted until 1954. In 1930, Lewis and Warnie and Jane Moore bought the cottage "The Kilns" in Oxford.

Published "Out of the Silent Planet" 1938, "Problem of Pain" 1940, "Screwtape Letters" 1942, "Voyage to Venus" 1943, "That Hideous Strength" 1945, "The Great Divorce" 1945, "Mere Christianity" 1952
Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950, followed by the other six Narnia books each year until 1956.

Joy Davidman
Joy Davidman 18/4/15-13/7/60

Grew up in the Bronx, New York, a secular middle-class Jewish family from Poland and the Ukraine, with a younger brother. A child prodigy, who scored above 150 on IQ testing with exceptional critical, analytical and musical skills. She read H. G. Wells's The Outline of History at the age of eight and was able to play a score of Chopin on the piano, after having read it once and not looking at it again. At an early age, she read George MacDonald's children's books and his adult fantasy book, Phantastes. She wrote about the influence of these stories: "They developed in me a lifelong taste for fantasy, which led me years later to C. S. Lewis, who in turn led me to religion." A sickly child, suffering from a crooked spine, scarlet fever and anemia throughout her school years, and attending classes with much older classmates, she later referred to herself at this time as being "bookish, over-precocious and arrogant".

In 1935, she received a master's degree in English literature from Columbia University in three semesters, while also teaching at Roosevelt High School.

She married her first husband, a writer, William Lindsay Gresham, in 1942 after becoming acquainted with him through their mutual interest in communism. They had two sons, David Lindsay Gresham (born 27 March 1944) and Douglas Howard Gresham (born 10 November 1945). Bill Gresham had become disillusioned with the Communist Party while volunteering in Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) to fight fascism and influenced Davidman to leave the Communist Party after the birth of their sons. The marriage was marred by difficulties that included financial problems, as well as her husband's alcoholism and infidelities.


Davidman had become interested in C. S. Lewis while still in America. She first met him in August 1952, when she made a trip to the United Kingdom, after a two-year correspondence with him. She planned to finish her book on the Ten Commandments that she had been working on, and which showed influences of Lewis's style of apologetics. After several lunch meetings and walks accompanying Davidman and his brother, Warren Lewis wrote in his diary that "a rapid friendship" had developed between his younger brother and Davidman, whom he described as "a Christian convert of Jewish race, medium height, good figure, horn rimmed specs, quite extraordinarily uninhibited." She spent Christmas and a fortnight at The Kilns with the brothers. Though Davidman was (apparently) deeply in love with Lewis, there was no reciprocation on his side.


She returned home to the US in January 1953, having received a letter from Gresham that he and her cousin were having an affair and he wanted a divorce. Her cousin Renée Rodriguez had moved into the Gresham home and was keeping house for the family while she was away. Davidman intended to try to save the marriage, but she agreed to a divorce after a violent encounter with Gresham, who had resumed drinking.

In November 1953, Davidman returned to England this time with her sons. Davidman found a flat in London and enrolled David and Douglas at Dane Court Preparatory School, but she soon ran into financial difficulties when Gresham quit sending money for support.


Lewis paid the school fees and found Davidman and her sons a house in Oxford close to The Kilns, 56 miles north-west of London.
That same year, Lewis accepted the newly founded chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge (84 miles north-east of Oxford), where he finished out his career during the week while returning to Oxford on weekends. This lasted until his death in 1963.


Davidman's book Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments was published in England with a preface by C. S. Lewis. It sold 3,000 copies, double that of US sales.
"Surprised by Joy", an autobiography of C S Lewis's conversion in 1929, was also published that same year.


Davidman's visitor's visa was not renewed by the Home Office, requiring that she and her sons return to America. Lewis agreed to enter into a civil marriage contract with her so that she could continue to live in the UK, telling a friend that "the marriage was a pure matter of friendship and expediency". The civil marriage took place at the register office, 42 St Giles, Oxford, on 23 April. Lewis's brother Warren wrote: "For Jack the attraction was at first undoubtedly intellectual. Joy was the only woman whom he had met ... who had a brain which matched his own in suppleness, in width of interest, and in analytical grasp, and above all in humour and a sense of fun."

The couple continued to live separately after the civil marriage. In September "The Last Battle", the 7th Narnia book was published. In October, Davidman was walking across her kitchen in Oxford when she tripped over the telephone wire and fell to the floor, thereby breaking her left upper leg. At the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, she was diagnosed with incurable cancer, it having metastasized (transferred) to her bone from her breast. It was at this time that Lewis recognized that he had fallen in love with her, realizing how despondent he would feel to lose her. He wrote to a friend: "new beauty and new tragedy have entered my life. You would be surprised (or perhaps you would not?) to know how much of a strange sort of happiness and even gaiety there is between us." Davidman underwent several operations and radiation treatment for the cancer.


In March 1957, Warren Lewis wrote in his diary: "One of the most painful days of my life. Sentence of death has been passed on Joy, and the end is only a matter of time." Friend and Anglican priest, Reverend Peter Bide, performed a Christian Marriage ceremony at Davidman's hospital bed on 21st March. Upon leaving the hospital a week later, Joy was taken to The Kilns and soon enjoyed a remission from the cancer. It lasted 2 years. She helped Lewis with his writing, organized his financial records and wardrobe, and had the house renovated and redecorated. The couple went on a belated honeymoon to Wales and then by air to Ireland.

The marriage did not win wide approval among Lewis's social circle, and some of his friends and colleagues avoided the new couple.


The Four Loves, a set of radio talks, criticised in the US for their frankness about sex. Published as a book, two years later.


In October 1959, a check-up revealed that the cancer had returned, and as of March 1960, was not responding to radiation therapy, as before. In April 1960, Lewis took Davidman on a holiday to Greece to fulfill her lifelong wish to visit there (and the first time Lewis had been overseas since 1918 — WW1 in France), but Joy's condition worsened quickly upon return from the trip, and she died on 13 July 1960.

C. S. Lewis wrote an epitaph originally on the death of Charles Williams; he adapted it to place on his wife's grave.

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In **lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.

**40 days that starts on Ash Wednesday

Some of his mourning, his notebooks, published as "A Grief Observed" under a pseudonym N.W.Clerk in 1961, exhibits doubt and asks many fundamental questions of faith throughout the work. Because of his candid account of his grief and the doubts he voices, some of his admirers found it troubling. They were disinclined to believe that the Christian writer could be so close to despair. Some thought that it might be a work of fiction. Others, such as his critics, suggested that he was wisest when he was overcome with despair.

C S Lewis Illness and death

In early June 1961, Lewis began suffering from nephritis (inflammation of the kidney), which resulted in blood poisoning. His illness caused him to miss the whole autumn term in September at Cambridge, though his health gradually began improving and he returned in April 1962. According to his friend George Sayer, Lewis was fully himself by early 1963. On 15 July 1963, he fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. He suffered a heart attack at 5:00 pm the next day and lapsed into a coma, unexpectedly waking the following day at 2:00 pm. After he was discharged from the hospital, Lewis returned to the Kilns, though he was too ill to return to work. As a result, he resigned from his post at Cambridge in August.

Lewis's condition continued to decline, and he was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure in mid-November. He collapsed in his bedroom at 5:30 pm on 22 November, exactly one week before his 65th birthday, and died a few minutes later.

Media coverage of Lewis's death was almost completely overshadowed by news of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, which occurred on the same day (approximately 55 minutes following Lewis's collapse), as did the death of English writer Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World.


Click here for a postscript regarding Douglas Gresham, a recent interview by him in 2022, with Netflix signing up for movie adaptations of the Narnia stories

**End of article

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