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Suppressed by Jack

The man. The myth.

Suppressed by Jack

Postby The Quangle Wangle » 31 May 2009, 12:13

So what was the 'huge and complex episode' that C S Lewis omitted from Suprised by Joy?
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby Sven » 31 May 2009, 17:27

Mrs. Moore.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby The Quangle Wangle » 01 Jun 2009, 11:43

Is that definitely known to be the case?
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby Leslie » 01 Jun 2009, 23:16

It 's the only thing known about him that fits the description of "huge and complex" to that point in his life that he doesn't mention in SBJ, and the timing is right for where he mentions it in SBJ - just as he returned to Oxford after WWI, which is when Mrs. Moore and her daughter moved to Oxford from Bristol, and Lewis writes to Arthur Greeves about regularly spending each afternoon with the Moores. He also says in SBJ that through the missing episode his "earlier hostility to the emotions was very fully and variously avenged" -- so the love affair seems to fit the bill.

So unless someone can suggest another 'episode' that better fits the record, the Mrs Moore theory has to be the most plausible one.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby moordarjeeling » 15 Nov 2009, 20:09

We might all try minding our own business.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby larry gilman » 18 Nov 2009, 20:59

Eh? You mean, read no biographies and no letters collections? Or only those that contain nothing that their subjects would not have confessed through a megaphone from a rooftop? It's one possible policy, I suppose . . .
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby rusmeister » 19 Nov 2009, 04:08

Mordarjeeling is absolutely right.
She is talking about the primarily prurient interest in uncovering details about an alleged sin of Lewis's. I don't think she means "read no biographies or letters". But if those letters were actually intended to be private, and not shared (particularly information of an intimate nature), then what about the admonition to not read other people's mail? Would we want people airing foolish and hurtful sins, sexual or otherwise; IOW, do unto others...? Do not we all wish that our sins would really be taken away and remembered no more?

Of course, CS Lewis was a sinner. But I am the chief of sinners, and when it comes to examining sins, I should, generally speaking, stick to my own.

"Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!" should be our prayer when we even hear about things like this.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby moordarjeeling » 19 Nov 2009, 06:56

What did Lewis himself say about such poking into authors' private lives?

On the one hand, that was in another century, and most of its people are dead. Far on that hand, I haven't heard that Lewis disapproved looking for the historical Beatrice or the Dark Lady.

On the other hand, in _The Personal Heresy_ and _The Poison of Subjectivism_ Lewis rejects the notion that literature is about the writer's personality and/or personal life. So there goes that possible justification for poking around in case the secret should turn out useful in criticism.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby moordarjeeling » 19 Nov 2009, 07:23

Leslie wrote: the love affair seems to fit the bill.


Shouldn't that be "the alleged love affair"? We don't know that there was any love affair with Mrs. Moore. Lewis introduced her as his mother, keeping his promise to her son. Are we to assume Lewis was a liar on this point?

So unless someone can suggest another 'episode' that better fits the record, the Mrs Moore theory has to be the most plausible one.


That would be," suggest another episode [among the episodes of Lewis's life that we know about]." We have not heard of all the episodes in Lewis's life.

In quite a different context, in _Pilgrim's Regress_ Reason speaks strongly against jumping to conclusions. Much less, I'd say, a conclusion that makes Lewis a fornicator, a liar, and dishonors the older woman he chose to adopt as his mother.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby larry gilman » 19 Nov 2009, 15:57

Rusmeister:

But I am the chief of sinners, and when it comes to examining sins, I should, generally speaking, stick to my own.


Oddly, this objection to frank biography -- let the sins be covered -- only seems to come up when the sins of the flesh are at issue. There appears to be a sense that it is naughty, dirty, nasty to want to understand the sexual side of Lewis’s life -- but not the rest of it. When he confesses pride again and again, when his letters reveal adolescent contempt for various folks, etc., in short, when his public and private writings reveal sins of the sort that Lewis himself explicitly said were worse than sexual sins, I have never once heard an objection that we should cover these realities with a blanket of humble silence, etc. By that logic, of course, we couldn't even read Lewis's autobiography.

I have two points:

(1) It is perfectly possible to be prurient (in the sense of relishing-while-condemning) about any sins at all, including those (e.g., pride, hate) that Lewis thought the worst and whose open discussion seems completely uncontroversial. Yet there is resistance only to openness about sexual facts. This implies a double standard.

(2) It is possible to be as non-prurient about sexual facts as about any other aspect of biography. The distinction is not in the facts discussed, but in the minds of the discussants. To assume that anybody who wants to know CSL’s life as fully as possible is moved by “primarily prurient interest" is to broadcast a grave charge without evidence. In fact, I have found, and perhaps some other readers have found, that a fuller knowledge of these aspects of Lewis’s life (as of other lives) has encouraged in me an increase of compassion for him, myself, and other people. Isn’t that the main (non-scholarly) reason for reading biography at all -- to gain a better understanding of human life, one’s own and others? Are we going to achieve such understanding if the “sins” of biography's subjects are selectively (no naughties allowed!) put down the memory hole?

Forgiveness is not erasure of knowledge: it is love acting amidst knowledge. Love is not a synonym for amnesia.

Re. reading people’s mail: The idea that it is inherently unethical to read the mail of the long-dead is, to my mind, falsely fastidious. As a professional scholar and voracious general reader, Lewis himself almost certainly read numerous letters collections. His opinions in The Personal Heresy etc. have nothing to do with biography, letters, or journals, but go instead to the question of why we read literary books -- whether we read them to get at the personal essence of the author, or to have an experience that arises uniquely between reader and text. Lewis plumped for the latter. In that respect, he anticipated one of the actual insights of the postmodernists (though some of them have taken the insight to silly extremes).

moordarjeeling writes:
Shouldn't that be "the alleged love affair"? We don't know that there was any love affair with Mrs. Moore. Lewis introduced her as his mother, keeping his promise to her son. Are we to assume Lewis was a liar on this point?


What we are to do is stick to our sources. As for Moore, Lewis himself never said he took care of Mrs. Moore as a result of a promise to her son: that story may be true, for all I know, but our only sources for it are Mrs. Moore -- in a letter to CSL’s father -- and, in a slightly different version, Walter Hooper. The alleged promise is, so far as I know, nowhere mentioned in Lewis’s writings. (If you think there is a CSL direct source, please name the volume and page.) But even if such a promise was given, its existence would not logically rule out the occurrence of an affair once the household had been set up. And I read Lewis's references to Moore in later years as “his mother” -- I specify “later years” because nobody has ever thought the sexual affair continued after CSL’s conversion -- as simply a polite way of naming his commitment to take care of her for life. Lewis was not a lifelong “liar,” in my book, if he failed to carefully introduce Janie Moore to all callers as “my lover in the 1920s, but not since then” until her death in 1951.

As for whether the Lewis/Moore love affair was “alleged,” there is no “assuming” going on here. All of Lewis’s biographers, without exception [unless Colin Duriez, whom Leslie mentions below, is an exception], both hostile (e.g., AN Wilson) and friendly (e.g., George Sayer), including former denier Walter Hooper (“the notion of sexual intimacy between the two must be regarded as likely,” intro to CSL journal volume All My Road Before Me, 1990), have for many years admitted that the circumstantial evidence is very strong that the Lewis/Moore relationship was sexual prior to Lewis’s conversion. During the period in question, CSL’s father referred to the connection between the two as an “affair.” Warren Lewis once asked CSL why he was living with Moore, and was told to mind his own business. In the 1997 intro to his biography of CSL, George Sayer, formerly “uncertain about whether they [CSL and Moore] were lovers,” said that he was by that time “quite certain that they were,” based on “conversations with Mrs. Moore’s daughter, Maureen, and a consideration of the way in which their bedrooms were arranged at the Kilns.” There is more in the biographies.

Admittedly, this not courtroom-standard evidence, there’s no video footage or DNA evidence if that’s your standard, but this is not a “beyond reasonable doubt” context -- this is biography, an effort to be honest and accurate about the historical facts. And everybody who has looked carefully at the biographical evidence has, so far as I know, came to the same conclusion about it -- while admitting that juridical certainty is not possible.

In human affairs, if not in clinical medicine, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Last edited by larry gilman on 19 Nov 2009, 16:43, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby Leslie » 19 Nov 2009, 16:13

moordarjeeling wrote:
Leslie wrote: the love affair seems to fit the bill.


Shouldn't that be "the alleged love affair"? We don't know that there was any love affair with Mrs. Moore. Lewis introduced her as his mother, keeping his promise to her son. Are we to assume Lewis was a liar on this point?


One very plausible explanation, such as that suggested by Colin Duriez in The C.S. Lewis Chronicles is that while their actual relationship was more like mother and son, Lewis was infatuated with her. He wrote letters at the time saying that he was in love. I don't think we need to call Lewis a liar to think it possible that these conflicting emotions were part of the complexity of the situation.

moordarjeeling wrote:
Leslie wrote:So unless someone can suggest another 'episode' that better fits the record, the Mrs Moore theory has to be the most plausible one.


That would be," suggest another episode [among the episodes of Lewis's life that we know about]." We have not heard of all the episodes in Lewis's life.

Lewis documented his life fairly well in his letters. It is possible that there is another 'huge and complex' emotional episode around that time, but we have no record of any such, so it seems very unlikely. We know that he began a relationship at that time with Mrs Moore, which lasted for the next 30 years or so. Taking on an adopted mother and her daughter and suppporting them on a very small income is fairly huge. This is the largest aspect of his life that is not mentioned in SBJ. I see no reason why we must assume the existence of some other entirely unknown episode when this one seems to fit very well with Lewis's hints in SBJ. If your only objection is the perception that the relationship was sexual, see below.

moordarjeeling wrote:In quite a different context, in _Pilgrim's Regress_ Reason speaks strongly against jumping to conclusions. Much less, I'd say, a conclusion that makes Lewis a fornicator, a liar, and dishonors the older woman he chose to adopt as his mother.

It is entirely possible that the relationship was not sexual -- it is possible to be in love or infatuated with someone without sex. Duriez suggests that Mrs. Moore was aware of Lewis's infatuation, but 'her own feelings for him remained motherly'. There is no need whatsoever to read sex, lies, and dishonour into the relationship without direct evidence. If anyone is jumping to conclusions, it is those who assume that the relationship must have been sexual.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby larry gilman » 19 Nov 2009, 16:34

Leslie:

If anyone is jumping to conclusions, it is those who assume that the relationship must have been sexual.


That's a straw man, Leslie. Nobody that I know of is "assuming" what "must" have been. Of course that would be invalid. What has happened is that almost all of CSL's biographers have drawn an admittedly tentative conclusion based on strong circumstantial and testimonial evidence. Caricaturing the way those people think is not going to get us anywhere.

The mere-infatuation theory remains, sans actual counterproof, of course a possibility. But there is actual evidence -- not proof, nobody has ever claimed proof, but evidence -- e.g., the testimony of Maureen Dunbar (nee Moore) to CSL's friend and biographer George Sayer -- that the affair was sexual.

What's the big deal anyway? To paraphrase how Hooper put it in his intro to All My Road Before Me: "sensual young atheist" shares household with still-attractive, religiously indifferent married woman separated from her husband -- likelihood of a sexual affair? Reasonably high. (Not that I back the "young atheist" part of that quote, come to think of it: Christian teens who take abstinence pledges are just as likely to have sex as other teens, and even more likely to do it stupidly, i.e., without condoms or other birth control: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/januaryweb-only/101-31.0.html).
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby rusmeister » 19 Nov 2009, 18:18

larry gilman wrote:Rusmeister:

But I am the chief of sinners, and when it comes to examining sins, I should, generally speaking, stick to my own.


Oddly, this objection to frank biography -- let the sins be covered -- only seems to come up when the sins of the flesh are at issue. There appears to be a sense that it is naughty, dirty, nasty to want to understand the sexual side of Lewis’s life -- but not the rest of it. When he confesses pride again and again, when his letters reveal adolescent contempt for various folks, etc., in short, when his public and private writings reveal sins of the sort that Lewis himself explicitly said were worse than sexual sins, I have never once heard an objection that we should cover these realities with a blanket of humble silence, etc. By that logic, of course, we couldn't even read Lewis's autobiography.

I have two points:

(1) It is perfectly possible to be prurient (in the sense of relishing-while-condemning) about any sins at all, including those (e.g., pride, hate) that Lewis thought the worst and whose open discussion seems completely uncontroversial. Yet there is resistance only to openness about sexual facts. This implies a double standard.

(2) It is possible to be as non-prurient about sexual facts as about any other aspect of biography. The distinction is not in the facts discussed, but in the minds of the discussants. To assume that anybody who wants to know CSL’s life as fully as possible is moved by “primarily prurient interest" is to broadcast a grave charge without evidence. In fact, I have found, and perhaps some other readers have found, that a fuller knowledge of these aspects of Lewis’s life (as of other lives) has encouraged in me an increase of compassion for him, myself, and other people. Isn’t that the main (non-scholarly) reason for reading biography at all -- to gain a better understanding of human life, one’s own and others? Are we going to achieve such understanding if the “sins” of biography's subjects are selectively (no naughties allowed!) put down the memory hole?

Forgiveness is not erasure of knowledge: it is love acting amidst knowledge. Love is not a synonym for amnesia.

Re. reading people’s mail: The idea that it is inherently unethical to read the mail of the long-dead is, to my mind, falsely fastidious. As a professional scholar and voracious general reader, Lewis himself almost certainly read numerous letters collections. His opinions in The Personal Heresy etc. have nothing to do with biography, letters, or journals, but go instead to the question of why we read literary books -- whether we read them to get at the personal essence of the author, or to have an experience that arises uniquely between reader and text. Lewis plumped for the latter. In that respect, he anticipated one of the actual insights of the postmodernists (though some of them have taken the insight to silly extremes).

moordarjeeling writes:
Shouldn't that be "the alleged love affair"? We don't know that there was any love affair with Mrs. Moore. Lewis introduced her as his mother, keeping his promise to her son. Are we to assume Lewis was a liar on this point?


What we are to do is stick to our sources. As for Moore, Lewis himself never said he took care of Mrs. Moore as a result of a promise to her son: that story may be true, for all I know, but our only sources for it are Mrs. Moore -- in a letter to CSL’s father -- and, in a slightly different version, Walter Hooper. The alleged promise is, so far as I know, nowhere mentioned in Lewis’s writings. (If you think there is a CSL direct source, please name the volume and page.) But even if such a promise was given, its existence would not logically rule out the occurrence of an affair once the household had been set up. And I read Lewis's references to Moore in later years as “his mother” -- I specify “later years” because nobody has ever thought the sexual affair continued after CSL’s conversion -- as simply a polite way of naming his commitment to take care of her for life. Lewis was not a lifelong “liar,” in my book, if he failed to carefully introduce Janie Moore to all callers as “my lover in the 1920s, but not since then” until her death in 1951.

As for whether the Lewis/Moore love affair was “alleged,” there is no “assuming” going on here. All of Lewis’s biographers, without exception [unless Colin Duriez, whom Leslie mentions below, is an exception], both hostile (e.g., AN Wilson) and friendly (e.g., George Sayer), including former denier Walter Hooper (“the notion of sexual intimacy between the two must be regarded as likely,” intro to CSL journal volume All My Road Before Me, 1990), have for many years admitted that the circumstantial evidence is very strong that the Lewis/Moore relationship was sexual prior to Lewis’s conversion. During the period in question, CSL’s father referred to the connection between the two as an “affair.” Warren Lewis once asked CSL why he was living with Moore, and was told to mind his own business. In the 1997 intro to his biography of CSL, George Sayer, formerly “uncertain about whether they [CSL and Moore] were lovers,” said that he was by that time “quite certain that they were,” based on “conversations with Mrs. Moore’s daughter, Maureen, and a consideration of the way in which their bedrooms were arranged at the Kilns.” There is more in the biographies.

Admittedly, this not courtroom-standard evidence, there’s no video footage or DNA evidence if that’s your standard, but this is not a “beyond reasonable doubt” context -- this is biography, an effort to be honest and accurate about the historical facts. And everybody who has looked carefully at the biographical evidence has, so far as I know, came to the same conclusion about it -- while admitting that juridical certainty is not possible.

In human affairs, if not in clinical medicine, sunlight is the best disinfectant.


Hi, Larry,
I said that the interest in this particular (alleged) sin of Lewis is mostly prurient - and I really do believe that. There is a certain thing about sin that makes the subtlest and greatest sins, such as pride, less attractive to be discussed by others - we really do hate pride when we see it, and find nothing especially attractive in pride repented. But there is something about the seamy physical sins that have a dark side in their very discussion - specifically, in the motivation for the discussion. Here people do really find interest and attraction that is hardly motivated by higher spiritual goals. All of the intellectual talk of theories and conclusions merely sidesteps this broad fact. You don't, for example, see people tuning on "Jerry Springer" or whatever to see exposes of pride, anger, or selfishness as such. but you do see them doing it by the millions for sexual ones.

I think it is quite possible that the allegations are true, and don't deny things that most people have said. But I see no value for anyone in pursuing them, and do see definite harm.

So I didn't mean my comments to be taken to mean a blanket condemnation of discussion of sin - only the personal sins of this particular nature.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby Leslie » 19 Nov 2009, 18:26

replaced by post below
Last edited by Leslie on 19 Nov 2009, 19:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suppressed by Jack

Postby Leslie » 19 Nov 2009, 19:18

Larry, as I look back I see that I did present a very muddled argument. I had three things going on in my head:

1. The 'non-sexual theory' does not negate the 'Mrs Moore' answer to the original question of this thread.

2. If the sexual relationship ceased when Lewis became a Christian, then 'liar' and 'fornicator' apply only to his non-Christian period, and need not detract from the integrity of his Christian writings.

3. If moordarjeeling finds the sexual theory too jarring for his or her sensibilities, there are other theories that permit Lewis to be 'in love' with Mrs Moore, as he stated in his letters, without sex. So I was trying to give him or her something to cling to. But I shouldn't have called the sexual theory 'jumping to a conclusion'.
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