I love this 8-part interview with C.S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham.
As you may already know, over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some brief thoughts on each part of the interview, and I invite you to share your own as well in the comments below. Here’s part two:
In part two, Douglas discusses the contrast between C.S. Lewis’ perception of how well he got on with children, and the reality. You see, Lewis thought he didn’t do well with children, but as Douglas puts it, “I don’t think I ever met a man who was better with children.”
“I think he felt that he could not recapture his own sense of childhood just because he was with children, and therefore had to be an adult with children, and found this to be something of a defect in his personality. I don’t think it was at all, I think the opposite is true.”
It’s funny isn’t it? To imagine that Lewis—the writer of CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, and someone who is remembered as being full of fun and joy and great with children—was insecure about his ability with them?
I think what he perceived as a failure (his inability to stoop completely to the level of a child) was in fact a great strength. Children don’t trust an adult who speaks down to them. They trust an adult who speaks up to them, who treats them with dignity and respect. Lewis may not have known he was doing it, but in his discomfort, he was actually giving the children he met a great gift.
I also enjoyed this bit Douglas recounted regarding Lewis as his stepfather,
“It’s interesting that Jack never tried to replace my father, he was very careful not to, I think. Someone once suggested, I forget who it was, that I should have my name changed to Lewis, and I said to Jack ‘what do you think about that?’
Jack said, ‘no, I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ and I said, ‘why not?’
He said, ‘because that would not be honoring your father, as we are commanded to do in the Bible.’
And he was using the word honor in the old-fashioned, King James Bible sense, which doesn’t mean pay respect to a parent who isn’t worthy of it. It means to honor one’s father in the sense that one admits to who your father is.”
Isn’t that lovely? Your name is a public statement to everyone you meet about who it is that you belong to. It can tell people something about you, about where you come from, and about the kind of person you are. On the other hand, if your name has a bad reputation, your behavior has the ability to change what people think they thought they knew.
Not all of us have fathers, not all of us have fathers who loved us, but we all of us have a True Father. The one who made us. And who has loved us from since before the foundation of the world.
And whether or not you know his name, he knows yours.
“From my mother’s womb He has made mention of my name.”
What part of the interview did you most enjoy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
PS: To read some thoughts on the first part of the interview, click here.
These snatches of insight into the thoughtful integrity of C.S. Lewis are providing me with more reason to esteem him. Thanks for sharing these comments. His imagination has brought joy to many of all ages.
Hi Linda–so glad you are enjoying these interviews (and btw also great to hear from you)
I loved that Jack was fun!! Laughing and laughter and good fun.
That comment was for Part I. Now here on Part 2 ( had them both up at the same time) , Lewis said to honor your father by keeping his name. I didn’t know his real father commited suicide. Thanks for posting these!