Thursday, June 19, 2008

C.S. Lewis and Ronald Knox at Oxford

"This book had led me deeper into [C.S.] Lewis' own writings than any I've read," writes Walter Hooper, longtime trustee and literary advisor to the estate of C.S. Lewis, in his preface to Fr. Milton T. Walsh's new book, Second Friends: C.S. Lewis and Ronald Knox in Conversation (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008). Hooper writes:
This—to quote C.S. Lewis—"is the most noble and joyous book I've read these past ten years." It is also one of the most surprising. After immersing myself in the writings of Lewis for half a century I could not, when I first heard Milton Walsh talk about the book, see how C.S. Lewis and Ronald Knox could benefit from being placed together. I am now totally converted.
Carl Olson of Ignatius Insight interviewed Fr. Walsh about his earlier book, Ronald Knox As Apologist: Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007) last May, and he said this about his second book:
There are many similarities between Knox and C. S. Lewis, and I am currently writing a book comparing their thought. They both came from Evangelical backgrounds; they both combined a love of logic with a romantic view of life. They were both very much at home in the world of Oxford, and wrote in a variety of genres. Knox was about ten years older than Lewis, so they did not know one another in student days. I have found references to each man's writings in the other man's books and letters; they were familiar with one another's work.

When I went to Oxford a couple of years ago I made an interesting discovery. Every afternoon Lewis used to take a walk in the meadow behind Magdalen College, and Knox would take a walk in Christ Church Meadow. I found out they were practically across the street from each other! They had friends in common, and one of them reports that he invited them to lunch one day in 1936. They hit it off very well, and it is enjoyable to speculate what might have happened had Knox not left Oxford a couple of years later. They may have gotten better acquainted, although Lewis' discomfort with "Papists" (excluding such exceptions as Tolkien), and Knox's reticence to go "convert hunting" may have been enough to keep them apart. I like to think they're together now!
Read an excerpt from Ronald Knox As Apologist and the entire interview.

[Acknowledgement: Carl Olson's review posted at Ignatius Insight on June 12, 2008.]

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