Quotations and Allusions in
C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
compiled by Arend Smilde (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
References are to paragraph numbers in the first edition (Oxford University Press 1943); for greater certainty the first four words of each paragraph referred to are added in small capitals. No references are given where Lewis gave adequate notes, and no information from his notes is repeated here. The list is based on the notes added tot my Dutch translation of The Abolition of Man, published in 1997 (De afschaffing van de mens, 5th edition 2011).
I have pointed out several small differences between The Abolition of Man’s first (1943) and second (1946) editions. These improvements in the second edition have found their way, as far as I know, into all American editions. The British Fount edition (1978) however has not incorporated them and consistently follows the 1943 text.
Another page of the present website offers a 2,000-word Summary of the book, followed by a much briefer of just over 300 words.
I apologize for telling you that Shelley was “an English poet” if you already knew that, and further apologize for not telling you that Plato was “a Greek philosopher”, should that be news to you. I still hope there will be at least a couple of interesting items for any user. Double question marks – ?? – indicate my failure to find the information I wanted to give. Corrections and additions (including new entries) are welcome.
Chapter I: MEN WITHOUT CHESTS
So he sent the word to slay, etc.
From the Christmas Carol, “Unto us is born a Son”. “...This did Herod sore affray, / And grievously bewilder, / So he sent the word to slay / And slew the little childer.”
para. 1 [i doubt whether we...]
Gaius and Titius, The Green Book
This book is The Control of Language: A critical approach to reading and writing, by Alex King and Martin Ketley, published in 1939. “Gaius” and “Titius” are, in classical Latin, generally representative standard fictitious names; in colloquial Italian, un tizio is still used as a word for “a guy”, “a fellow”.
para. 2 [in their second chapter...]
the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (1772–1834), English poet and philosopher. Lewis
appears to be referring to a passage in Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections of a Tour in Scotland, A.D.
1803 (published in 1874, edited by
J. C. Shairp), and to rely on The Green Book
for the way he cites it. There are considerable differences with the original
account, although the point Lewis wants to make can still be based on it.
Dorothy was the sister of William Wordsworth (see note to next par.) and was making the tour with him and Coleridge. The scene at the waterfall – Cora Linn, near New Lanark – appears in her account of 21 August 1803 (p. 37 of the 1874 edition):
... we had different views of the Linn. We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic waterfall.” “Sublime and beautiful,” replied his friend. Poor Coleridge could make no answer, and, not very desirous to continue the conversation, came to us and related the story, laughing heartily.
No one actually calls the waterfall “pretty”, and there are no signs of actual “disgust” on the part of Coleridge. What presumably made him laugh was that the gentleman was using “sublime” and “beautiful” as near-equivalent terms. Educated literary people like Wordsworth and Coleridge in those days were all familiar with Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756), in which the two terms are completely opposed to each other:
Indeed, terror is in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently, the ruling principle of the sublime. (II.2, “Terror”)
By beauty I mean that quality or those qualities in bodies, by which they cause love, or some passion similar to it. (III.1, “Of Beauty”)
Coleridge was perhaps not so much rejecting the gentleman’s judgement as
making fun of his sloppy language and thinking. At the same time he probably
felt some real concern about the wrongness of the epithet “beautiful” for the
In 20th-century language, Coleridge’s sense of incongruity here was certainly better rendered by the word “pretty” than by “beautiful”. The Green Book being intended for school children, the authors were therefore justified in retelling the story this way – although it would perhaps have been advisable and easy for them to make their point wit a different story without so much editing. The same is true for Lewis; but he was criticizing their point, not their example. A little confusion is added by Lewis only when he calls the story “well-known” while citing a very imperfect version of it.
para. 5 [before considering the philosophical...]
Johnson’s famous passage
Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), English writer, poet, literary critic and lexicographer. The fame of this passage, like Johnson’s own, is partly due to his biographer James Boswell. It was Boswell who selected this passage as an example of the “sublimity” of Johnson’s style.
Island on the western coast of Scotland, site of an ancient abbey dating from the sixth century A.D.
William Wordsworth (1770–1850), English poet.
Lamb, Virgil, Thomas Browne, Mr. de la Mare
Charles Lamb (1775–1834), English essayist, critic, poet, a friend of Wordsworth and Coleridge; Virgil (70–19 B.C.), Roman poet, author of the Aeneid; Thomas Browne (1605–1682), English physician and writer famed for his “poetical” prose; Walter de la Mare (1873–1956), English poet, novelist and short-story writer.
para. 6 [but it is not...]
The book referred to is The Reading and Writing of English (1936) by E. G. Biaggini. The pseudonym is the name of an ancient Roman language teacher, Lucius Orbilius Pupillus. According to Horace (Epistulae II.1, 70) his rude treatment of pupils translating Homer got him the nickname “Orbilius with the Ferule”, Orbilius Plagosus. The idea to use this name for a modern language teacher (and so to accuse him of rudeness) likely came to Lewis from the example of Thomas Fuller’s Worthies of England (1662). Writing about Richard Mulcaster, language teacher of the young Edmund Spenser in the years 1561–1569, Fuller describes Mulcaster’s “severity” and calls him plagosus Orbilius. See Lewis’s English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, p. 350, where Lewis appears to construe this “severity” as “cruelty”. Michael Stapleton in his Cambridge Guide to English Literature (1983) describes Mulcaster as “a teacher of formidable quality and a man with a passionate devotion to the possibilities of English as a literary language; the schoolboy Spenser was already practising the poet’s craft as Mulcaster’s pupil.’
Ruksh and Sleipnir and the weeping horses of Achilles and the charger in the Book of Job
– Ruksh is Rustum’s horse in Matthew Arnold’s poem “Sohrab and Rustum” (1853). “So arm’d, he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse, / Followed him like a faithful hound at heel” (270–271). Ruksh grieved over the fate of his master Rustum and the latter’s son Sohrab: “and from his dark, compassionate eyes / The big warm tears roll’d down, and caked the sand” (735–736).
– Sleipnir, in Germanic mythology, is Wodan’s eight-legged horse.
– The Greek hero Achilles’s two horses, Xanthus and Balius, appear in Ilias XVI.148–154, XVII.426–428 (where they weep over the death of Patroklos), and XIX.400–424.
– The “charger” is the horse described in Job 39, 19–25.
Principal character in the “Uncle Remus” stories, by J. C. Harris (c. 1848–1908).
Principal character in the children’s book of the same name, by Beatrix Potter (1866–1943).
The phrase certainly anticipates the references to Augustine’s ordo amoris and Aristotle’s “ordinate affections” in para. 10, notes 11 and 13.
para. 8 [but i doubt whether...]
Ivor Armstrong Richards (1893–1979), British linguist and literary critic; his books include The Meaning of Meaning (1923), Principles of Literary Criticism (1924), Science and Poetry (1925), Practical Criticism (1929), and How to Read a Page (1942). See also Lewis’s second note to Chapter II.
para. 10 [until quite modern times...]
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), English poet.
Thomas Traherne (1637–1674), English mystical prose writer, poet and divine. The Centuries of Meditations were not published until 1908.
NB “Century” in the book’s title means not one hundred years, but a hundred simply: the book contains “hundreds of meditations”.
Plato said that the Good was “beyond existence”
Plato, Republic, Book VI (509c), in Jowett’s translation (1894; Dover Thrift Editions 2000, p. 174):
...the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.
In Robin Waterfield’s translation (World’s Classics, Oxford U.P. 1993, p. 236):
...it isn’t only the known-ness of the things we know which is conferred upon them by goodness, but also their reality and their being, although goodness isn’t actually the state of being, but surpasses being in majesty and might.
Lewis referred to the phrase in a letter of January 1928 to Owen Barfield; see Collected Letters III, p. 1634.
Wordsworth ... through virtue the stars were strong
A reference to William Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty” (1805), stanza 7:
Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead’s most benignant grace;
Nor know we any thing so fair
As is the smile upon thy face;
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;
And Fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the Stars from wrong;
And the most ancient Heavens through Thee are fresh and strong.
para. 11 [this conception in all...]
A fundamental concept in ancient Chinese philosophy. Lewis is adopting the Confucian interpretation of it while disregarding the rival Taoist view. Confucius (551–479 B.C.) and the Confucian school talked of Tao as “the Way” – a more or less obviously recommendable code of conduct. Taoists, on the other hand, following Lao Tze (c. 600 B.C.) and the Tao Te Ching, have always insisted on the impossibility of saying anything about Tao. For them, Tao is “the Whole”. Since there can be nothing else beside “the Whole”, and the function of words is (in Taoism) to mark the boundary between what a thing is and what it is not, Tao can be said to be in a very literal sense indefinable. There are no words about it because there are no boundaries to it.
para. 14 [perhaps this will become...]
dulce et decorum
(Latin) “sweet and seemly” – as Lewis translates at the beginning of this paragraph. Quoted from Horace, Odes III.2, 3.
para. 16 [but this course , though...]
the chest – the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity
Alanus ab Insulis, or Alain de Lille (c. 1125–1203), was a French scholar reputed to be a universally learned man. As a theologian he contributed towards a mystical counter-movement against Scholasticism; as a defender of the Christian faith he presented it as founded on self-evident basic principles. His poem De planctu naturae (‘Nature’s Complaint’or “The Plaint of Kind”) is a satire on human vice. In The Allegory of Love (1936), C. S. Lewis describes him as a poet in the “School of Chartres”; and admitting that the Plaint “is difficult to read, and rather more difficult to buy”, he translates two long fragments, one of which includes the remark about Magnaniimity (Allegory, p. 109).
Chapter II: THE WAY
para. 1 [the practical result of...]
εν δε φαει και ολεσσον
(Greek) “Kill us in broad daylight!” Homer, Iliad XVII, 647. (Sorry for omitting the diacritics!)
para. 2 [however subjective they may...]
It would not be difficult to collect...
In the first edition, the word “difficult” was followed by “(though it would be unkind)”. Thus the passage ran, “It would not be difficult (though it would be unkind) to collect...’
para. 11 [finally, it is worth...]
British writer and philosopher (1886–1950); his works include what he called “fantastic fiction of a philosophic kind”. Denying that religion and a belief in immortality were of any use, he postulated a sort of god-in-development. His philosophical works include A Modern Theory of Ethics (1929), Philosophy and Living (1939) and Beyond the “Isms” (1942). Much like C. S. Lewis, he would deliberately blend his view of life into his science fiction books – which include Last and First Men (1930), Odd John (1935), Star Maker (1937), and Sirius (1944).
para. 12 [the truth finally becomes...]
Probably a reference to Dante, Inferno V, 100; Amor, ch’al cor gentil ratto s’apprende (‘Love, rapidly clinging to noble hearts”).
the Chün-tzu, the gentleman or cuor gentil.
In the second edition this was changed into “the Chün-tzu, the cuor gentil or gentleman.’
‘Do as you would be done by” say Jesus and Confucius both.
In the second edition this was changed into “...says Jesus.’
Humani nihil a me alienum puto
(Latin) “Nothing human is alien to me.” Terentius, Heautontimoroumenos (‘The Self-Tormenter”) I.1, 25. More fully quoted by Lewis in the Appendix, I ( b).
para. 14 [the innovator, for example...]
a duty to our own kin, because they are our own kin, a part of traditional morality
In the second edition, “a part of” is preceded by “is”. The corrected passage runs: “a duty to our own kin, because they are our own kin, is a part of traditional morality.’
para. 17 [a theorist about language...]
a great poet, who has “loved, and been well nurtured in, his mother tongue’
John Keats (1795–1821), The Fall of Hyperion I, 13–15. “Since every man whose soul is not a clod / Hath visions, and would speak, if he had loved / And been well nurtured in his mother tongue.’
para. 18 [in the same way...]
...the Tao admits development from within.
In the second edition (1946), Lewis inserted after this sentence a long passage almost literally taken from his essay “The Poison of Subjectivism”. The inserted passage is the one running from From the [Stoic and] Confucian “Do not do to others... until ...eating bricks and centipedes instead.” After that, the 1943 text is resumed, “Those who understand the spirit of the Tao and who have been led”, etc.
Chapter III: THE ABOLITION OF MAN
It came burning hot into my mind, etc.
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, ed. James Blanton Wharey, 2nd edition revised by Roger Sharrock (Oxford 1960), Part I, p. 70. The passage comes from the discourse between Christian and Faithful, shortly after the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Lewis quoted the same words at the end of his essay “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” as published in 1949.
para. 5 [i am not yet...]
Clotho is one of the three Moirai, or goddesses of Fate, in the ancient Greek pantheon. Each was considered to perform an important task regarding a human being’s “thread of life”; Clotho was the one who spun it, Lachesis gave it out, Atropos cut it off.
para. 6 [for the power of..]
Sir Thomas Elyot (c. 1490–1546), British scholar, diplomat and Member of Parliament. The Governour (1531) is his principal work.
John Locke (1632–1704), British philosopher and physician.
para. 8 [to some it will...]
to scorn delight and live laborious days
John Milton, Lycidas (1637), 72.
In full, a petitio principii, a case of “begging the question”; a logical error which consists in setting out to prove something by argument and then quietly or onconsciously assuming it to be self-evident.
para. 9 [yet the conditioners will...]
sic volo, sic jubeo
(Latin) “This I will, this I command.” Juvenal, Satire VI (against women),
line 223. The full saying is Sic volo, sic iubeo; sit pro ratione voluntas: “This I will, this I command: let [my] will
takes Reason’s place.’
para. 10 [at the moment , then...]
Ferum victorem cepit
(Latin) “...and captured her savage conqueror.” Horace, Epistles II.2, 156–157. The “savage conqueror” is Rome, “capturing” Greece on the battlefield in 168 B.C. only to see the Greeks “capturing” Rome in the field of arts and culture. The full passage is Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes intulit agresti Latio, “Greece, when captured, captured her savage conqueror and brought the arts into rustic Latium.’
para. 11 [my point may be...]
Nature is a word of varying meanings
In a later book, Studies in Words (Cambridge University Press, 1960), C. S. Lewis spent fifty pages on the various meanings of “Nature”.
para. 12 [from this point of...]
always conquering Nature, because “Nature” is...
In the second edition, the word “because” is not in italics.
para. 14 [i am not here...]
Greek for “matter”, “raw material”; also for timber or firewood.
para. 15 [the true significance of...]
In the second edition this was changed into “H.C.F.” So apparently what Lewis realized he actually meant was not Lowest Common Multiple, but Highest Common Factor.
para. 16 [nothing i can say...]
Francis Bacon (1561–1626), British statesman, philosopher and essayist. See also his later work Novum Organum (“New Instrument”), I.3 and I.81. It is quite usual, and certainly no original idea of Lewis’s, to characterize Bacon as “chief trumpeter of the new era” or something similar. Bacon himself famously called an earlier Italian philosopher and scientist, Bernardino Telesio (1509-1588) “the first of the moderns” (novorum hominum primum), but was not an unqualified admirer of him (Parmenidis, Telesii et Democriti Philosophia, in The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. Basil Montagu, Vol. 11, 1829, p. 144).
The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus, a tragedy in blank verse and prose by Bacon’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593). Faustus was a semi-legendary magician and astrologer in early sixteenth-century Germany. He became the habitual hero of stories about the magician selling his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power – or chiefly for power, as Lewis suggests.
Pseudonym of Theophrastus von Hohenheim (1493–1541), Swiss physician and alchemist. He considered the human body to be a microcosm reflecting in each of its parts some particular part of the Macrocosm, or Universe.
para. 17 [is it, then, possible...]
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), founder of Anthroposophy, editor of Goethe’s scientific works. He assumed the existence of a spiritual world which we might get knowlegde of by (a training of) our highest cognitive powers.
German Jewish theologian, Biblical scholar, Bible translator, philosopher of religion and a master of German prose (1878–1965). Having abandoned early mystical views about union of God an man, he published his Ich und Du (‘I and Thou”) in 1923. An encounter (not union) of God and man is here presented as, ideally, a model for all human relationships, especially those with fellow-humans. The reduction of any Thou to an It ought to be resisted. As Buber explained, in some other century he might have felt impelled to preach the opposite message, but clearly his own time called for a rehablitation of this “Thou”.
para. 18 [perhaps i am asking...]
Legendary snake-like animal, a frequent subject or element of stories from ancient times until the seventeenth century. Eyes were not its only weapon; among other things its breath, too, was thought to be lethal.
(Latin) “a class of its own”, not reducible to or explainable from anything else.
14 August 2008 (two corrections in references to Iliad)
8 Febrary 2011 (added notes on Plato and Wordsworth in ch. I, para. 10)
16 March 2011 (added note on the Bunyan quote serving as the motto for ch. III)
8 January 2012 (expanded note on the well-known story of Coleridge in ch. I, para. 2); with thanks to Sam Schulman and Jan Dirk Snel)