Quotations and Allusions in

C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm


compiled by Arend Smilde (Utrecht, The Netherlands)




C. S. Lewis’s last book, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer was published posthumously in 1964. Like most of his books it contains a great number of references – from the vaguest of allusions to literal quotations – to a great variety of sources. While it is perhaps never vitally important to know these sources, tracing them can be a rewarding enter­prise. What follows is a listing by chapter of many such words and phrases with brief notes on what I have found to be their origins and, occasionally, on their relevance to the context in which Lewis uses them. I have also included a few other items where a short explanation may be useful to some readers.


The notes are intended for a possibly worldwide public of all educational levels. Every user is therefore kindly invited to skip those details or explanations which seem superfluous. Double question marks in bold type – ?? – indicate my failure to find the information I wanted to give. Corrections and additions, including proposed new entries, are welcome. A survey of updates is given at the end.


last update: 21 February 2021






1/1, i am all


the Republic

One of the main works of the Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 b.c.); its theme may be very briefly described as Virtue and Justice. There is much variation in the way the Greek title, Politeia, is rendered in different languages and even within some single languages – or indeed between different editions of the same translation. Thus in Dutch the book has been published as De Staat, Constitutie, Het bestel (i.e. ‘The System’) and also as Politeia.


1/5, but every novelty


the Grail

In Arthurian legend, the Grail or Graal is a mysterious object of great significance and infinite value, often conceived to be a bowl or chalice.


“’Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god”

Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida II.2.

’Tis mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god.


1/6,  a still worse


Feed my sheep

Gospel of John 21:15-17 (Christ speaking to Simon Peter).


1/7, thus my whole


habito dell’arte

“The practice of [one’s] art”. Dante, Paradiso XIII, 78.

Ma la natura la dà sempre la scema,
Similemente operando all’ artista,
Ch’ ha l’ abito dell’ arte e man che trema.

But nature always gives it defective,
working like the artist
who has the practice of his art and a hand that trembles

Lewis’s habito is possibly a variant spelling of abito, but more likely it is a typo or writing error.


1/9, and that brings


The shepherds go off, “every one to his own way”

Cf. Isaiah 53:6.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The swapping of roles between shepherds and sheep in Lewis’s reference is no doubt intentional.


1/11, i think it


a new Book

i.e. a new manual of church services for the Church of England, replacing the Book of Common Prayer which was introduced in 1662. The Alternative Service Book (ASB) was introduced in 1982.


1/15, for whom are


“truly and indifferently administer justice”

From the Book of Common Prayer, “The order for the administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion” (i.e. the Offertory); a prayer “for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in earth”. “And grant unto her [i.e. the Queen’s] whole Council, and to all that are put in authority under her, that they may truly and indifferently administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of true religion, and virtue.”


1/17, i know there



Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), principal author of the Book of Common Prayer. As Archbishop of Canterbury he was a very loyal servant of Henry VIII; after the accession of Mary Tudor he more than once recanted his long-time support for the Reformation but in the end withdrew these recantations and was burnt at the stake for heresy. “Like many figures of the Reformation, Cranmer would seem to belong to history rather than literature. But his influence was considerable and the majestic language of The Book of Common Prayer is also an object lesson in precision and economy” (Michael Stapleton, Cambridge Guide to English Literature, 1983).


1/18, yet we all


“Let your light so shine before men”

Matthew 5:16.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

In the Book of Common Prayer, this is the first of a series of  “Sentences” (i.e. Bible passages) in the Offertory, to be read while “the Alms for the Poor, and other devotions of the people” are received “in a decent bason to be provided by the Parish for that purpose.”


that they may be seen by men

Matthew 6:5.

They [the hypocrites] love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” This passage in the Sermon on the Mount is preceded by similar admonitions about alms-giving, and leads up to the Lord’s Prayer.





2/1, i can’t understand


the Imitation

i.e. The Imitation of Christ, or De imitatione Christi, an early-15th-century devotional tract by Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471). It is unclear which passage Lewis had in mind; he may have been imperfectly remembering passages in Book I.10, De cavenda superfluitate verborum, “Of avoiding superfluity of words”, e.g. “We very willingly talk and think of such things as we most love and desire, or which we imagine contrary to us ... If it be lawful and expedient to speak, speak those things which may edify.” – ??


2/2, now about the


the Rose Macaulay Letters


Dame Emilie Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), English novelist, essayist, biographer and travel writer. When Lewis wrote Letters to Malcolm, two of three volumes of her letters had recently been published, edited by Constance Babington-Smith: Letters to a Friend 1950-52 (1961) and Last Letters to a Friend 1952-1958 (1962). The one volume to follow was Letters to a Sister (1964).


objets d’art

(French) “objects of art”; any small man-made thing that is cherished for its beauty.


2/3, but though, like


the luck to meet her

The occasion is mentioned in two 1956 letters found in Macaulay’s Last Letters to a Friend (mentioned above). The addressee is her cousin, the Rev. John Hamilton Cowper Johnson, of the Society of St. John the Evangelist (or the “Cowley Fathers”), then at the Monastery in Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts. In a letter of 14 October 1956, Macaulay writes:

Next Sunday [i.e. 21 October 1956] I discuss with C. S. Lewis (before the St Francis Society in Cambridge; Fr Lothian Sumner is its head), with Dr [Owen] Chadwick in the chair, “Some Difficulties which keep people out of the Christian Church.” I put the difficulties; C.S.L., who is full of resource, supplies some answers. I have grabbed the easier role, as he says; but I obviously couldn’t take the other. There will be a discussion after it, in which the under­graduate audience takes part. Dr Lewis says, “I can’t fight Logical Positivists, and that is what we shall get.” So think of us on Sunday next, 21st, undergoing this from 4.30 to 5.30. I shall have time too to call on my Conybeare cousins, and perhaps see E. M. Forster ….

And in a letter of 14 November 1956:

It was quite interesting meeting C. S. Lewis at St Francis House. He is very good and quick and witty in public speech, and I enjoyed him. It was my part to stimulate him with questions and the evening went quite well. He is a great influence among under­graduates.


2/5, all the same


Pascal, “Error of Stoicism”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées, No. 350 (Brunschvicg edition).


2/8, writing to you


Solomon said ... each man who prays knows “the plague of his own heart”

I Kings 8:38.


2/10, first, it keeps


“sound doctrine”

From Paul’s epistles to Timothy and to Titus, here especially II Tim. 4:3 and Titus 1:9.


“the faith once given”

Epistle of Jude, 3; see note to 22/2.


2/11, secondly, it reminds


“what things I ought to ask”

Lewis might have been thinking here of the phrase in Romans 8:26, “we know not what we should pray for as we ought...”


2/12, finally, they provide


Petrarch or Donne

The Italian poet Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, 1304-1374) and the English poet John Donne (1573-1631) are both chiefly famed for their love poetry.


2/13, i fully agree


“the Wholly Other”

An ancient theological term of unknown origin (??). The original Latin phrase is totaliter aliter and has been variously used to describe God as well as Heaven or the afterlife in general. The great twentieth-century champion of the idea of God’s total otherness was the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), but it was also affirmed by Rudolf Bultmann (cf. note to 10/2, below).

    However, Lewis may also have been thinking here of a passage in Martin Buber’s I and Thou (part three, section four): “Of course God is the ‘wholly Other’; but He is also the wholly Same, the wholly Present. Of course He is the Mysterium Tremendum that appears and overthrows; but He is also the mystery of the sef-evident, nearer to me than my I.” But in so far as Lewis later on develops Buber’s view, he takes his cue from his friends Owen Barfield and Charles Williams rather than from Buber (cf. note to 14/6, below, “This also is Thou” etc.). All the same, it is interesting to note that Buber’s original German reads “das ganz Andere” not “der ganz Andere”, i.e. “something different”, not “someone different”.


“I fell at His feet as one dead”

Revelation 1:17.

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the first and the last.


2/14, i think the


“low” church milieu

i.e. those people within the Anglican Church who are the most explicitly Protestant or Evangelical, and the least inclined to assimilate Roman Catholic teachings or liturgical forms.


at ease in Sion

Amos 6:1 (AV/KJV), “Woe to you that are at ease in Sion.” The NIV text has complacent for at ease.
     In the Old Testament, Sion or Zion is often used as an alternative name for Jerusalem; in the New Testament and afterwards it came to function as a name for “the Heavenly Jerusalem” or, simply, Heaven.


the great apostles ... affected him [Dante] like mountains

Dante, Paradiso XXV.38.

...ond’ io levai gli occhi ai monti,
Che gl’ incurvaron pria col troppo pondo.

Wherefore mine eyes I lifted to the hills,
Which bent them down before with too great weight.
                            (translation by Longfellow)

Dante is thinking primarily of the three apostles Peter, James and John as representatives of Faith (Canto XXIV), Hope (XXV) and Charity (XXVI) respectively. In the present Canto it is thus the apostle James who is really “starring”: his encouraging words in the preceding stanza (“Leva la testa” etc.) have caused Dante to lift his eyes.

    The Italian phrase is very close to Psalm 121:1 in Latin, Levavi oculos meos in montes etc., “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help”. However, the Medieval idea to think of these mountains as apostles, or of the apostles as mountains, was perhaps more readily drawn from places like Psalm 87:1 and Matthew 5:14.





3/1, oh for mercy’s


a Manichaean

Manichaeans were, originally, the followers of a third-century Persian prophet called Mani. His teachings were based on the idea that the universe is essentially composed of two equally strong and eternally competing elements, Good and Evil.



the “holiness” of sex … the poor Bishop of Woolwich

John A. T. Robinson (1919-1983), New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop of Woolwich 1959-1969. Lewis is probably referring to Robinson’s role in the trial following a 1960 lawsuit under the Obscene Publications Act brought against D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). In the end the publisher, Penguin Books, was acquitted.

    Robinson’s testimony included the comment that, in his view, Lawrence had portrayed sex “as something sacred, in a real sense as an act of Holy Communion” (The Trial of Lady Chatterley, edited by C. H. Rolph, 1961,  p. 71). See also Lewis’s short 1962 essay “Sex in Literature”.


3/2, i’m not saying


“whether we eat or drink”

cf. I Corinthians 10:31.



The ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty; the Romans called her Venus.


3/4, the consoling thing


“With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven”

Hymn of Praise to conclude the “Proper Prefaces”, i.e. prayers immediately preceding the Communion, in the Book of Common Prayer.

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord most High. Amen.


3/8, a man to whom


“work is prayer”

A common inversion of the Latin phrase, ora et labora, “pray and work”. The latter maxim is sometimes attributed to St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine monastic order; but its real origin may be a nineteenth-century popular book on Benedictine life written by a German abbot called Maurus Wolter.



(Latin) prayer.


3/9, when one prays


Bless the body

cf. George Macdonald, “The God of the Living”, in Unspoken Sermons, I (1867):

It is by the body that we come into contact with Nature, with our fellow-men, with all their revela­tions to us. It is through the body that we receive all the lessons of passion, of suffering, of love, of beauty, of science. It is through the body that we are both trained outward from ourselves, and driven inward into our deepest selves to find God. There is glory and might in this vital evanescence, this slow glacier-like flow of clothing and revealing matter, this ever uptossed rainbow of tangible humanity. It is no less of God's making than the spirit that is clothed therein.

The passage appears as Nr. 52, “The Body”, in Lewis’s George Macdonald: An Anthology (1946).





4/2, The ideal opening


“making your requests known to God”

Philippians 4:6. “Let your request be made known to God.”


“for your heavenly Father knows you need all these things”

Matthew 6:31-32. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (...) For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”


4/6, We are always


“freedom is willed necessity”


4/7, to put ourselves


it is by the Holy Spirit that we cry “Father”

Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6.


4/8, but i should



Martin Buber (1878-1965), German-Jewish philosopher of religion; author of Ich und Du (1923), which was published in English as I and Thou in 1937. See note to 2/13 on “the Wholly Other”.


4/9, This talk of


“Not thus, not thus, neither is this Thou”

cf. note to “This also is Thou” etc. in 14/6, below.


4/12, how important must


what old writers call our “frame”; that is, our “frame of mind”

The Oxford English Dictionary (i.v. Frame sb. II.6) “Mental or emotional disposition or state (more explicitly, frame of mind, soul etc.)” One example in the OED comes from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), “In this thankful frame I continued”. The word, or phrase, appears to have acquired this meaning in the second half of the seventeenth century.


4/14, we all know


St. Augustine ... “ordinate loves”

The City of God XV.22. “So that it seems to me that it is a brief but true definition of virtue to say, it is the order of love...” The original Latin runs “Unde mihi videtur, quod definitio brevis et vera virtutis ordo est amoris”; thus the original phrase is ordo amoris. When Lewis used it twenty years earlier in The Abolition of Man (ch. 1, note 11), he gave a precise reference and indeed mentioned two other places in De civitate Dei (IX.5 and XI.28) where the same idea is expressed.





5/5, and here can


Queen Victoria didn’t like “being talked to as if she were a public meeting”

The British queen Victoria (r. 1831-1901) is reputed to have said this – “he speaks to Me as if I was a public meeting” – with reference to her conversations with William Gladstone, one of Great Britain’s famous prime ministers during her reign. The alleged quotation appears in G. E. W. Russell’s Collections and Recollections (1898), chapter XIV, where it is in fact pointed out how unlikely it is that Gladstone should ever have behaved uncivilly towards the Queen.


5/8, the peg for


“the same mind which was also in Christ”

Philippians 2:5.


5/10, but more than



A poem of John Milton, on the early death of a friend who perished at sea (1637).


5/13, and the joke


“Unless a seed die...”

John 12:24. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”


5/14, i expect we


“things requisite and necessary as well for the body as for the soul”

Book of Common Prayer, “Morning Prayer”; opening address after the first Sentences. “Dearly beloved brethren ... although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we most chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul...”


what Burnaby calls the naïf view of prayer … Our Lord’s teaching

John Burnaby (1891-1978), Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and Regius Professor Emeritus of Divinity, contributed an essay on “Christian Prayer” to the 1962 volume Soundings: Essays Concerning Christian Understanding, edited by Alec R. Vidler (see various notes on chapters 6, 7 and 11, below).
    As summarized in the essay’s “Synopsis” (Soundings, p. 220), Burnaby’s overall argument is that “a Christian theology of prayer must be grounded not on meta­physical assumptions but on the nature of the Gospel”: if we understand “God
’s saving work as the work of love, taking effect through men who are united to God by the Spirit of Christ”, then prayer is to be seen as “affirmation of this union, not appeal for God’s action conceived as separate from all that man can do.”
    The notion of “naïveté” appears in the following passage from sections II and III of the essay (pp. 223-

No doubt the life of Christ was (in the famous phrase which Origen applied to the life of sainthood) “one great unbroken prayer”. But his recorded teaching assumes that when we pray it is to ask God for what we need. … All the evidence of the Acts and the Epistles goes to show that prayer in the primitive Church was what we should expect it to have been – in St Paul’s words, the making of our requests known to God, requests which there was no thought of confining to “spiritual blessings (...). This at least was what the early Church meant by proseuché, though we can be sure that thanksgiving and praise had their due place in its devotions. (...)

For the present we need only note the complete simplicity or naïveté with which the Apostolic Church did its praying. To make “in everything our requests known to God was for St Paul the cure for all worldly worry (...) and no more for Paul than for Jesus himself was the belief that the Father knoweth what things we have need of, before we ask, the least discouragement to prayer.

Passages in later chapters of Malcolm seem to confirm that Lewis is in effect accepting Burnaby’s term, “naïveté” (see note to 11/5, below), as well as Burnaby’s point (see note to 7/1, on Gethsemane).


5/16, i was never


Juvenal ... numinibus vota exaudita malignis

From Satires X, 111, by the Roman poet Juvenal (c. 60-140). Lewis quoted this same line in his essays “Petitionary Prayer: A problem without an answer” (1953) and, in translation only, in “Work and Prayer” (1945): “Enormous prayers which Heaven in anger grants.” Juvenal was perhaps the best-published ancient Roman author during the Middle Ages after Cicero, Vergil and Ovid. He wrote his sixteen Satires in the character of an eloquent grumpy old man. Nr. 10 is about the vanity of human wishes, especially desires for power, honour and wealth. In the fragment quoted he is talking of Julius Caesar, Pompeius and Crassus:

What was it that overthrew the Crassi, and the Pompeii, and him [i.e. Caesar] who brought the conquered Quirites under his lash? What but lust for the highest place pursued by every kind of means? What but ambitious prayers granted by unkindly Gods?

(Prose translation by G. G. Ramsay, 1918)


5/17, i don’t often


de jure

(Latin) according to law, by right, legally.


de facto

(Latin) according to the deed, whether legally recognized or not.


“beauty so old and new”

Augustine, Confessions X.27 (38).


“light from behind the sun”

from “The Calling of Taliessin”, a poem in The Region of the Summer Stars (1944) by Charles Williams. “In a light that shone from behind the sun; the sun / was not so fierce as to pierce where that light could”. Lewis quoted these lines as his motto for chapter XIV, “The Grand Miracle”, in his book Miracles (1947).





6/2 about vidler



Alec R. Vidler (1899-1991), Anglican theologian; warden of St Deiniol’s Library, Hawarden 1939-48; editor of monthly journal Theology 1939-1964; canon of St George’s Chapel, Windsor 1948-56; Dean of King’s College, Cambridge 1956-1966.


the programme which created all that scandal

A television programme on Sunday 4 November 1962, mentioned by John A. T. Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich (see notes to 3/1-2) in the preface to his book Honest to God (1963):

I believe, regretfully, that Dr Alec Vidler’s conclusion in a recent broadcast, which was bitterly attacked, is only too true: “We’ve got a very big leeway to make up, because there’s been so much suppression of real, deep thought and intellectual alertness and integrity in Church.”



This volume, subtitled Essays concerning Christian understanding and edited by Vidler (see notes above), was published in 1962. After four reprints a paperback edition appeared in 1966. In the introduction Vidler placed the book in an Anglican tradition that includes Essays and Reviews (1860), Lux Mundi (1889), Foundations (1912) and Essays Catholic and Critical (1926). He defined the task of the present group of authors as “to try to see what the questions are that we ought to be facing in the nineteen-sixties.”

    Soundings contains eleven essays by nine Anglican theologians, most of them from Cambridge: John Burnaby (mentioned by Lewis in 5/14 and 7/7),  J. S. Habgood, G. W. H. Lampe, Hugh Montefiore, Howard Root, J. N. Sanders, Ninian Smart, H. A. Williams, G. F. Woods and the editor. Afterwards Vidler wrote about the backgrounds and effects of both Soundings, Robinson’s Honest to God, and similar though technically unrelated publications of the period in a little book published in 1965, 20th Century Defenders of the Faith, chapter 5, “Christian Radicalism”, and in his autobiography, Scenes from a Clerical Life (1977), 176-180.


Much of what he quotes from F. D. Maurice and Bonhoeffer seems to me very good

Lewis is referring to Vidler’s essay, “Religion and the National Church”, the final piece in Soundings (pp. 239-263). Vidler is quoting passages from Maurice and Bonhoeffer where these authors are exposing “religion” as – what Vidler calls – “man’s most subtle substitute for God’s own revelation of himself”; Bonhoeffer actually proclaimed a “religionless Christianity”.

    John Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872), English theologian and writer, was Professor of English history and literature at King’s College, London from 1840 onwards and from 1846 that same college’s first Professor of Theology as well, until he was dismissed on charges of heterodoxy following the publication of his Theological Essays (1854). He combined an ardent belief in social reform with adherence to the Church of England and thus became an early Christian Socialist. Alec Vidler wrote three books about him.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German theologian who spent the last few years of his life in prison and was executed by the nazis. He was held in high esteem by many liberal theologians during the second half of the twentieth century.


his own arguments for the Establishment

Vidler in Soundings, pp. 261-263:

As regards the Church of England’s relation to the state (...) we may well prefer to maintain the status quo, and to be satisfied with minor adjustments, until we are much clearer about what we want to put in its place. (...) A national church (...) is a standing witness to the fact that man, every man, is a twofold creature with a twofold allegiance, whether he realizes it or not. (...) A man is not only a political creature, but also a spiritual being (...). Then again, the constitutional conjunction of church and state is a sign that the authority of the state is neither final nor absolute. (...) Once more, the constitutional recognition of a national church, whose ministry and services are available throughout the country, is a practical acknowledgment that human beings need more than the state can ever do for them (...).


6/3, at any rate


Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons

John Henry Newman (1801-1890), English theologian who entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1845 and was made a cardinal in 1877. His Apologia pro Vita Sua is one of the English classics of spiritual autobiography. The Parochial and Plain Sermons were published in eight volumes in 1834-1843 and thus date from his pre-Catholic days. The remark about Heaven as a church is in the first volume’s first sermon, “Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness”.


6/5, religion, nevertheless, appears


Simone Weil

French philosopher (1909-1943), often considered to be one of the great modern Christian mystics although she never formally joined any church or religion. He writings did not become widely known until after her death.


6/6, none of them


“When the means are autonomous they are deadly”

Charles Williams, “Bors to Elaine: On the King’s Coins”, line 69, in Taliessin through Logres (1938). “When the means are autonomous, they are deadly; / when words escape from verse they hurry to rape souls; / when sensation slips from intellect, expect the tyrant...”


6/7, i read in


Voilà l’ennemi

This French phrase got currency from its use by the French politician Léon Gambetta in his speech before the National Assembly on 4 May 1877. He was defending the newly founded secular French republic against the forces of political and social conservatism as supported by the Catholic Church: Le cléricalisme, voilà l’ennemi!


6/8, one must, however


D-Day ... Normandy

Metaphors derived from the Allied attack on nazi-occupied Western Europe in June 1944.


6/9, but i suspect


the “faith once given”

See note to 22/2.


6/10, well, he certainly


“outgrown” or “survive chiefly as venerable archaisms of as fairy stories” ... continued guidance of the Holy Spirit

Vidler in Soundings, 254-255:

Many of the religious elements in historic Christianity and much that has gone under the name of religion may thus be outgrown, or survive chiefly as venerable archaisms or as fairy stories for children, and we cannot tell in advance how they will be replaced or which of them will need to be replaced. We are at the beginning of a period in which we must be willing to prove all things and to hold fast only to what is good. It would be foolish to discard what is old until it is manifestly otiose, or to suppose that new forms of Christian spirituality and community will develop and commend themselves quickly. The qualities mainly called for are openness to the future, a willingness to travel light or in the dark, patience and imagination in experiment, a large toleration of variety and diversity based not on indifference but on trust in the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit.


Vidler calls it “the fact”

See quotation of Vidler’s “arguments for the Establishment”, above.


6/12, many modern psychologists


malades imaginaires

(French) “imaginary patients”. From the play Le malade imaginaire (1673) by the French playwright Molière.


6/14, i don’t at all


St. John: “If our heart condemn us...”

I John 3:8.


6/17, if i am right


Herbert, “Peace, prattler”

George Herbert (1593-1633), English poet and divine; the words quoted are the beginning of his poem “Conscience”.





7/1, if you meant


the psalm: “Lord, I am not high minded”

Psalm 131:1 (Coverdale).


Our Lord in Gethsemsane made a petitionary prayer

Matthew 26:39, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Also in Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42.

    See note to 5/14, above, on the term “naïf” as borrowed from Burnaby. A later passage in Burnaby’s 1962 essay “Christian prayer” (Soundings, p. 234) could almost have been written by Lewis:

It would indeed reduce our theology of prayer to an absurdity if it followed that the most instinctive and universal cry of the troubled soul – “Lord, help me!” – could not, since charity seeketh not her own, have the true character of Christian prayer. The disciple is not above his master, and it should be enough to recall the prayer of Gethsemane.


7/3, the servant is


the servant is not greater … than the master

John 13:16, 15:20. “The servant is not greater than his lord.” Also quoted in the next chapter.


7/7, another argument


Another argument, put up (but not accepted) by Burnaby in Soundings … a predictable world … God must be in this respect un-free

On pp. 225-226 of Soundings, Burnaby writes,

The thoughtful Christian … will have learnt to take for granted the observable uniformities of the natural world, and to attribute the unpredictable character of human history to the existence in men of a real power of deliberate choice and effective action. He will regard human freedom and moral responsibility as a necessary corollary of belief in a God whose relation to men is to be conceived in the terms of Christ’s teaching and he will recognize that such freedom could only have purposeful exercise in the stable environment of a world whose processes are subject to an order that is discoverable. He will be disposed to think that if God has given us both freedom and the means of controlling our environment, he intends us to use both. Yet he will find in the Church’s prayers what seems to be a disavowal of this freedom, and an appeal to God to replace it by action of his own.

The conclusion mentioned by Lewis, that “Therefore … God must be in this respect un-free”, is not mentioned by Burnaby; and the argument as “put up” by Burnaby is not, as Lewis suggests, about a “predictable world”. Lewis’s recognition that Burnaby doesn’t himself “accept” the argument  actually reflects a similar wish in both men to avoid a clear stance on Determinism as part of their present lines of thought. However, these lines are altogether different, and Lewis appears to give a little twist and extension to Burnaby’s non-accepted argument so as to make it properly disputable, and a springboard for his own further thought.

    Lewis is making a practical and philosophical point about predictability; Burnaby makes a theological point about many of “the Church’s prayers”. What Burnaby rejects is, in fact, the way these prayers appear to “disavow” human freedom; he objects to their “thorough-going Augustinianism”, which he thinks is bound to reduce the meaning of prayer to its “reflexive” effect, that is, to the psychological effect of prayer on the praying person themselves. Yet, as Burnaby reflects, “If we are to pray as Christians, we must be able to pray for others, and to believe that our prayer can help them” (226-7). See note to 5/14 on Burnaby for his summarized answer to this problem.


7/11, later in his


Later in his essay Burnaby seems to suggest that human wills are the only radically unpredictable factor in history … predictability of events … necessary to human life

Lewis is probably referring to a passage on pp. 232-233 of Burnaby’s essay:

The Christian faith implies …: (a) that the kingdom of God is to be promoted in human history by no other power than the power of love, and (b) that the power of God’s love takes effect in human history in no other way than through the wills and actions of men in whom that love has come to dwell.

As in the previous reference to Burnaby, Lewis seems to subtly modify Burnaby’s point so as to include an overall “predictability if events” and serve as a springboard for his own point.



Francis H. Bradley (1846-1924), English philosopher, leading figure of the Idealistic, neo-Hegelian school; Ethical Studies, one of his main works, was published in 1876.



Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), English social, religious and literary critic and poet. His works of religious criticism include St Paul and Protestantism (1870), Literature and Dogma (1873), God and the Bible (1875) and Last Essays on Church and Religion (1877).



King of the Huns in the first half of the fifth century. He devastated large parts of the Roman Empire.





8/2, not of course


Macbeth ...“He has no children”

Thus Macduff about Malcolm, when the latter suggests a silly remedy against grief after Macduff has heard that his wife and children have been murdered; Shakespeare, Macbeth IV.3, 216.


8/3, the temptation is



General Practitioner, a non-specialist physician or family doctor


8/8, at the end


an angel appeared “comforting” Him

Luke 22:43.


8/9, we all try


the servant is not greater than the master

John 13:16, 15:20. “The servant is not greater than his lord.” Also quoted in the previous chapter.


8/10, does not every


raison d’état

(French) reason of State, i.e. “political expediency” from a national government’s  point of view.


“Why hast thou forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.


8/12, as for the last


It is saints ... who experience the “dark night”

The Spanish saint and mystic John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz, 1542-91) wrote a famous eight-stanza poem, , which title is usually rendered in English as “Dark Night of the Soul”. Two of the saint’s prose works took the form of (unifnished) commentaries on this poem; the second of these has usually carried the same title as the poem.


one of the Seventeenth Century divines

Thomas Traherne (1637-74) in Centuries of Medi­ta­tions, Second Century, Nr. 20.

Hence we may know why God appeareth not in a visible manner, is because He is invisible. Those who are angry with the Deity for not showing Himself to their bodily eyes are not displeased with the manner of revelation, but that He is such a God as He is. By pretending to be visible He would but delude the World which as Plato learnedly observeth is contrary to the nature of the Deity. But though He is invisible, yet say they, He may assume a body, and make Himself visible therein. ...


“sensible consolation”

A term from Catholic mystical or pastoral theology; “sensible” here of course means “(almost) palpable”.


tempering the wind to the shorn lamb

From Les Premices (Geneva 1594), a collection of “epigrammatized proverbs, or proverbialized epigrams” by the French scholar and publisher Henri Estienne (1531-98). This is No. 47, “Dieu mesure le vent à la brebis tondue”, famously quoted near the end of Lawrence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey  (1768) in the section called “Maria”.



Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), American Protestant theologian. (The umlaut mark in Niebühr is wrong.)


evil is inherent in finitude

Niebuhr, ... ??


8/14, certainly we were


the ancient Persians

as described by Herodotus (??) – cf. Lewis’s diary note for 20 October 1923, as published in All My Road Before Me (1991), p. 276.





9/3, surely there’s no


how astonished St. Augustine was...

See Augustine’s Confessions VI.3. Lewis also referred to this passage many years before in The Allegory of Love, chapter 2, page 64: “In such a passage one has the solemn privilege of being present at the birth of a new world. Behind us is that almost unimaginable period, so relentlessly objective that in it even ‘reading’ (in our sense) did not exist. (...) Before us is (...) the world of (...) the solitary reader who is accustomed to pass hours in the silent society of mental images evoked by written characters.”


9/6, the real problems


God, we believe, is impassible

From Latin impassibilis and Greek apathēs, “not susceptible to pain or injury”; also “not having or revealing emotions”.

    The idea of God’s impassibility is a prime example of pagan Greek influence on early Christianity; it entered Christian theology possibly through the work of Philo of Alexandria. The word’s theological meaning has always shaded into “immutable” or, more specifically, “not susceptible to change by external causes”, which is in fact what Lewis clearly means in the present context. Why he chose the more ambiguous word “impassible” rather than “immutable” is hard to see. The idea that God knows no pain or emotions was abandoned in the course of the twentieth century by most Christians and theologians – including Lewis, as appears from some remarks in chapter 17. His somewhat apodictic statement, here, that “we believe” in God’s impassibility is all the more curious since the word doesn’t appear in any obviously authoritative creed – while the more relevant word “immutable” does appear in the Westminster Confession of 1648.

     See also Lewis’s book Miracles, second half of chapter XI, from the paragraph starting “Why, then do the mystics talk...”:

...the reason why God has no passions is that passions imply passivity and inter­mis­sion. The passion of love is something that happens to us, as “getting wet” happens to a body: and God is exempt from that “passion” in the same way that water is exempt from “getting wet”.


9/7, it is quite


post hoc is not propter hoc

(Latin phrases) “after” is not “because of”.


9/11, one attempt to


“Work out your own salvation ... For it is God ...”

Philippians 2:12-13. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”


Pelagianism ... Augustinianism

Pelagius (c. 360-c. 420), a British monk condemned for heresy in 417, rejected the idea of original sin and taught that humans take their first steps towards salvation by their own efforts without the help of divine grace. His contemporary St. Augustine defended the opposing, orthodox view of man.


9/12, in the end


“whereto serves Mercy but to confront the visage of offence?

Shakespeare, Hamlet III.3, 46­-47.






10/1, i see your point


“Pure Act”

Translation of a medieval Latin theological term denoting the absolute perfection of God. It specially referred to the absence, in Him, of any distinction between “potentiality” and “actuality”, i.e. of possibilities and their realization. God, as Actus purus, was thought to be from eternity making all His potentiality into actuality. All this goes back to Aristotle’s idea of a “Prime Mover”. In the Metaphysics (XII) this Prime Mover is called “God”, causing movement by being an object of desire and love; but in the Physics Aristotle conceives it as a mere postulate from his theory of “four causes” and from his own distinction between potentiality and actuality – an unmoved mover, knowing nothing outside itself, which must have set the universe in eternal motion.


10/2, i suggest two


“de-mythologising” Christianity

From the German word Entmythologisierung; a theological trend of the middle twentieth century championed and exemplified by the New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976).


10/3, i agree that


Pascal’s magnificent dictum

Pensées 513.

“Pourquoi Dieu a établi la prière. 1º Pour communiquer à ses créatures la dignité de la causalité. 2º Pour nous apprendre de qui nous tenons la vertu. 3º Pour nous faire mériter les autres vertus par le travail. Mais, pour se conserver la prééminence, il donne la prière à qui lui plaît.”


10/4, what we must


Pope’s maxim

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), An Essay on Man I.5, 145-146.


10/8, how should the


“To generalise is to be an idiot”, said Blake

The English poet and painter William Blake (1757-1827) wrote a lot of angry marginal notes in the first volume of his copy of The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, edited by Edmond Malone (1797). The present comment does not concern a remark of Reynolds but one quoted from Edmund Burke in a note to the 1798 Supplement to Vol. I, second edition (p. lxxxiv; this is p. xcviii in the edition Blake used). Burke says, “He [Reynolds] was a great generalizer, and was fond of reducing every thing to one system, more perhaps than the variety of principles which operate in the human mind and in every human work, will properly endure. But this disposition to abstractions, to generalizing and classification, is the great glory of the human mind, that indeed which most distinguishes man from other animals; and is the source of every thing that can be called science. I believe, his early acquaintance with Mr. Mudge of Exeter, a very learned and thinking man, and much inclined to philosophize in the spirit of the Platonists, disposed him to this habit.”. Blake commented: “To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit. General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.” See Blake’s Complete Writings, ed. Geoffrey Keynes (Oxford U.P. 1972), p. 451.


infinite lucidity of this vision

The word “this” is probably a misprint for “His”. Read “How should God sully the infinite lucidity of His vision with such makeshifts?”





11/3, how is this


fait accompli

(French) an “accomplished” fact, i.e. an unalterable fact or irreversible deed.


“That which they greatly feared has come upon them”

Job 3:25.


11/5, it is easy


about “crudely” or “naïvely” petitionary prayer

See note on what Burnaby calls the naïf view of prayer in 5/14, above. While the quotations marks may indicate a certain reluctance on Lewis’s part to use the terms, likely enough in using naïvely he was still remembering Burnaby’s use and, again, accepting it (see note to 5/14). See also Lewis’s remark a little further on in the present chapter: “we had better not talk about the view of prayer embodied in Mark XI, 24 as ‘naïf’ or ‘elementary’.”


11/7, shall we then


Vidler’s principles ... “venerable archaisms”

Another reference to the passage from Soundings already quoted in the note to 6/10, “outgrown...”. For Vidler, see notes to 6/2. A more general statement of his principles may be found on page 121 of his little book 20th Century Defenders of the Faith (1965).

What makes me tick or keeps me going as a Christian is ... the whole Christian movement in history of which I am thankful to be an inheritor, into which I am grateful to have been received, which I want to see continuing, however much it needs to be further developed and enlarged, reformed or refined.

Incidentally, this little book by Vidler makes, in spite of its title, no mention at all of C. S. Lewis.



Detective stories.


11/8, before going any


Huck Finn

Huckleberry Finn, hero of Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Lewis is referring to the beginning of chapter 3, with further ruminations on the subject shortly after the beginning of chapter 8. The lady in question is not in fact Widow Douglas but her sister, Miss Watson.


11/10, it seems to me


“Help thou my unbelief”

Mark 9:24. “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”


11/11, how or why


“evidence” ... of things not seen

Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”





12/1, my experience is


Rose Macaulay

See second notes to 2/2 and 2/3.


the Imitation

i.e. Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (cf. note to 2/1). Lewis may be referring to several passages in Book I.20, “Of the love of solitude and silence”.


“not addressed to my condition”

Lewis uses the same expression in the previous 11/8 as well as in 16/6. The phrase, in its original form “spoken to my condition,” seems to have entered the English language through the Journal of George Fox (1624-1691), founder of the Quaker movement:

... I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. ... I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition”; and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory ... I cried to the Lord, saying, “Why should I be thus, seeing I was never addicted to commit those evils?” and the Lord answered, “That it was needful I should have a sense of all conditions, how else should I speak to all conditions!”

–– George Fox: An Autobiography, ed. Rufus Jones (1908), Chapter 1, ‘Boyhood – A Seeker, 1624-1648’; further examples occur in chapters 4, 6 and 8.


12/3, i have only just


our Vicar

The Rev. Ronald Edwin Head (1919-1991), who became the curate of Lewis’s church in Headington Quarry, Oxford in 1952, and its Vicar in 1956. See his contribution, “C. S. Lewis as a Parishioner”, in C. S. Lewis and His Circle, edited by Roger White, Judith Wolfe and Brendan Wolfe (Oxford U.P. 2015), pp. 184:

Letters to Malcolm, number 12, reports on an actual conversation on prayer with me.


12/6, the second is


Mystics (it is said) …

Since Lewis certainly read John Burnaby’s 1962 essay on “Christian Prayer” in Soundings (see note to 5/14, above) shortly before he wrote Malcom, he may be here echoing a passage from that essay’s opening section (pp. 221-222):

“The divine” may be approached as an infinite sea, in which the solitary being of the individual can be embraced or even absorbed … The astonishing similarity in the language with which experts in this kind of prayer, belonging to religious traditions which appear to have little else in common, have described their experience, has encouraged the belief that “mystical” religion is the only one that can aspire to universality. Moreover, the fact that mysticism can flourish with little or no dependence upon particular dogmatic or doctrinal systems has seemed to give it an immunity from sceptical criticism such as none of the (so-called) “positive” religions can claim.


And when he hath the kernel eate...

Last two lines of John Donne’s poem “Community”.


12/7, i am doubtful



Greek/Roman Neoplatonist philosopher (205-270) with mystical leanings. His works were posthumously edited under the title Enneads.


Lady Julian

Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-1413), English anchoress. Her Revelations of Divine Love is a series of meditations on sixteen mystical experiences she had in May 1373, written twenty years after the event.


St. John of the Cross

Juan de la Cruz (1542-91), Spanish Carmelite monk, poet and mystic.


It may be that the gulfs will wash them down

Tennyson, “Ulysses” (1842), 62-63.


12/8, i do not at all


Davy Jones’s locker

A euphemism meaning the bottom of the ocean, a sailor’s grave.


12/10, you may wonder


a mortal glimpse of death’s immortal rose”

The Imagination’s Pride”, line 27, in The Veil and other poems (1921) by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956).


12/11, there can be


in St. Paul’s sense, “flesh” and not “spirit”

cf. for example Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapter 8; or to the Galatians, chapter 5 from verse 16 onward.



a play on the term “cannon-fodder”, used for soldiers who are very likely to be soon killed by enemy fire while their superiors hardly care.


12/12, turning now to


And the other is like unto it.

Cf. Matthew 22:37-39 (KJV)

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.






13/1, i’ve just found


They tell me, Lord...

In a letter to Bede Griffiths of 4 April 1934, Lewis copied this poem in a slightly different version and said he wrote it “over a year ago”. See Collected Letters II, p. 137.


13/2, Dream makes it


If the Holy Spirit speaks in the man...

Probably a reference to Romans 8:26-27.


13/3, you remember the


Owen [Barfield], Saving the Appearances

Owen Barfield (1898-1997) was C. S. Lewis’s chief intellectual sparring partner  in the 1920s and an intimate friend for the rest of his life. Barfield’s book Saving the Appearances, about “the evolution of consciousness”, was published in 1957. Lewis is referring to the beginning of that book’s chapter XXIII, “Religion” (pp. 156-158).


Arnold ... “enisled” from one another in “the sea of life”

From the first line of Matthew Arnold’s poem “To Marguerite: Continued” (1852; also called “Isolation” II). “Yes! In the sea of life enisled, / With echoing straits between us thrown, / Dotting the shoreless watery wild, / We mortal millions live alone.”


13/4, a question at one


Actus purus

See note to 10/1, Pure Act.


13/5, we must, no


“Whither shall I go then from thy presence?...”

Psalm 139:7. “Whither shall I flee from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Lewis is quoting Coverdale’s translation of the Psalms (139:6) as included in the Book of Common Prayer.


13/7, where there is



(Latin) “Let there be...”, as in Genesis 1, Fiat lux, “Let there be light” and Fiat firmamentum, “Let there be a firmament”.


13/9, in pantheism god


“all in all”

I Corinthians 15:28. “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”


13/10, one must be


“He came down from Heaven” can almost be transposed into “Heaven drew earth up into it”

From the Nicene Creed (325 a.d.), fourth article.

Qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de cælis.

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven.

Lewis’s words have a striking affinity with what he had recently written in a passage added to his 1946 sermon “Transposition” as reissued in 1962:

You can put it which ever way you please. You can say that by Transposition our humanity, senses and all, can be made the vehicle of beatitude. Or you can say that the heavenly bounties by Transposition are embodied during this life in our temporal experience. But the second way is the better.

–– They Asked for a Paper (1962), p. 179





14/1, i won’t admit


to create is defined as “to make out of nothing,” ex nihilo



14/2, nor am i suggesting


a theory of “emanations”

i.e. a philosophical idea on how every stage or level of reality necessarily produces the next. “Emanation” is, in this context, the word specifically used for the way this process was conceived in the Neoplatonist philosophy of Plotinus (see note to 12/7, above).


14/4, now the very


the parable of the sheep and the goats

Matthew 25:32ff.


14/5, meanwhile, i stick


Owen’s view

i.e. Owen Barfield’s view, already referred to in 13/3.


14/6, therefore of each


“This also is Thou: neither is this Thou”

Lewis makes further use of this saying in chapters 4 and 17. In using it he was following Charles Williams; see, for example, Williams’s theological study He Came Down From Heaven (1938), chapter 2, par. 17 (as quoted at 21/16, below); also that book’s penultimate paragraph. The saying also occurs in Williams’s 1937 play, Seed of Adam, in his 1943 literary study The Figure of Beatrice, and elsewhere. In the preface to The Descent of the Dove: A short history of the Holy Spirit in the Church (1939), Williams notes that

A motto which might have been set on the title-page but has been, less ostentatiously, put here instead, is a phrase which I once supposed to come from Augustine, but I am informed by experts that it is not so, and otherwise I am ignorant of its source. The phrase is: “This also is Thou; neither is this Thou.” As a maxim for living it is invaluable, and it – or its reversal –summarizes the history of the Christian Church.

If Augustine is an unlikely source, a likelier one may be Gregory of Nazianzus, a Greek Church Father of the third century. His “Dogmatic Poems” include a Humnos eis Theon, “Hymn to God”. Lines 12-14 of this sixteen-line Greek poem contain the idea if not perhaps an exact original for Williams’s phrasing:

Καὶ πάντων τέλος ἐσσὶ, καὶ εἷς, καὶ πάντα, καὶ οὐδεὶς,
Οὺχ ἓν ἑὼν, οὐ πάντα· πανώνυμε, τῶς σε καλἐσσω,
Τὸν μόνον ἀκλήστον;

Latin translation in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, Vol. XXXVII (1857), col. 507-508:

En omnium finis es, et unus, et omnia, et nihil horum,
Non unum es, non omnia ; qui omnia habes nomina, qui te appelabo
Qui solus appellari nequis ?

English by Olivier Clément, 1993):

Thou art the purpose of every creature. Thou art unique. Thou art each one and art not any.

Thou art not a single creature nor art thou the sum of creatures; All names are thine; how shall I address thee,

Who alone cannot be named?

Lewis was using the quotation (or paraphrase) at least as early as 1942 in letter to Daphne Harwood (CL II, 512). In 1948 he included a short account of Williams’s use of it in Arthurian Torso, p. 151:

Two spiritual maxims were constantly present to the mind of Charles Williams: “This also is Thou” and “Neither is this Thou”. Holding the first we see that every created thing is, in its degree, an image of God, and the ordinate and faithful appreciation of that thing a clue which, truly followed, will lead back to Him. Holding the second we see that every created thing, the highest devotion to moral duty, the purest conjugal love, the saint and the seraph, is no more than an image, that every one of them, followed for its own sake and isolated from its source, becomes an idol whose service is damnation. The first maxim is the formula of the Romantic Way, the “affirmation of images”: the second is that of the Ascetic Way, the “rejection of images”. Every soul must in some sense follow both. The Ascetic must honour marriage and poetry and wine and the face of nature even while he rejects them; the Romantic must remember even in his Beatrician moment “Neither is this Thou”.


14/7, one is always



Deism is belief in the existence of God or a Divine Being without a belief in His ability or readiness to reveal himself or to act in whatever way beyond the act of creating the universe and setting it in motion.



A reference to Honest to God, a popular book of theology by the Bishop of Woolwich, John A. T. Robinson (cf. note to 3/1-2, above). It was published on 19 March 1963 as a cheap paperback and was an instant bestseller. Two days earlier, Robinson had published a summarizing article entitled “Our Image of God Must Go” in The Observer, the weekly Sunday edition of The Guardian. A week later, on 24 March, Lewis was among six invited ecclesiastic and academic luminaries responding to the article and/or the book. These responses appeared, under the collective title “Must Our Image of God Go?
    Later that year, Lewis’s piece, along with one of the other five, was included in a large collection of responses to Robinson’s book published as The Honest to God Debate, edited by David L. Edwards. Lewis’s piece was later reprinted (under the title originally covering the six responses) in God in the Dock, edited by Walter Hooper (1970), and in some later collections.


14/8, it is much


“and wield their little tridents”

John Milton, Comus (1634), 27.


14/9, it is well


Burning Bush

Exodus 3:2.



Cf. 6/2 on Vidler’s quotes from Maurice and Bonhoeffer regarding “religion”.


14/10, boehme advises us



German mystical writer (1575-1624); variant spellings of his name also include Böhm or (now usual) Böhme. In a letter of 5 January 1930, Lewis mentioned what seemed to him at the time a momentous experience while reading Böhme’s book The Signature of All Things (i.e. an English translation of De signatura rerum, published in 1621). His early enthusiasm appears to have cooled down pretty soon; the present letter-to-Malcolm is one of the rare places in all his subsequent writings where he mentions Böhme.

    Lewis is probably referring to a passage in Böhme’s two dialogues Of the Supersensual Life, translated by John Ellistone and published in the same 1912 Everyman volume with Signature. On page 233 of that volume, almost halfway through the first dialogue, the Master answers the Scholar,

If thou doest once every hour throw thyself by faith beyond all creatures, beyond and above all sensual perception and apprehension, yea, above discourse and reasoning, into the abyssal mercy of God, into the sufferings of our Lord, and into the fellowship of his interceding, and yieldest thyself fully and absolutely thereinto; then thou shalt receive power from above to rule over death, and the devil, and to subdue hell and the world under thee: And then thou mayest subsist in all temptations, and be the brighter for them.

And on the next page:

… If it were that thy will, O thou of little courage, could break off itself for one hour, or even but for one half hour, from all creatures, and plunge itself into that where no creature is, or can be; presently it would be penetrated and clothed upon with the supreme splendour of the divine glory, … [etc.]


14/11, oddly enough, what


“prevent us in all our doings”

Book of Common Prayer, fourth Collect after the Offertory. “Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help...”





15/1, i won’t admit


The Silent Woman

Probably a reference to Ben Jonson’s play Epicoene, or The Silent Woman (1609), where the hero marries Epicoene because he thinks her quiet enough for him. After the wedding she turns out to be neither silent nor a woman.



Town in the centre of Ireland, about 100 km east of Dublin, Co. Westmeath.


15/4, st. françois de sales


St. François de Sales begins every meditation

St Francis of Sales (1567-1622), bishop of Geneva during the last twenty years of his life, founder of the Order of the Visitation. Lewis is referring to his book Introduction à la vie dévote (1609, “Introduction to a Devout Life”), Part I, chapters 9 through 18. Each of these ten consecutive chapters is called a “Meditation” and begins with a “Preparation” usually consisting of two instructions; the second of these varies while the first is, invariably, mettes-vous en presence de Dieu (or occasionally devant Dieu); in the same book see also Part V, chapter 3, on examining one’s own progress in devotion.


Mettez-vous en la présence de Dieu

“Place yourself in the presence of God.” Again quoted in par. 15/10, below,


15/10, and only now


leaps forth from God’s naked hand

The idea of creation being an act of God’s “naked” hand might have been inspired by a line from Chrétien de Troyes as quoted and translated by Lewis in The Allegory of Love, II.2 (p. 25): “A! Wher was so gret beautee maked? / – God wrought hir with His hond al naked.” (“Don fust si granz biautez venue? Ja la fist Deus de sa main nue.”)


Verbum supernum prodiens

First line (and title) of a sacramental hymn by St Thomas Aquinas.


15/13, or put it


A stage set is not a dream nor a nonentity

Lewis discussed the subject more or less in the same way in his 1956 essay “Behind the Scenes” (published in God in the Dock, 1970 / Undeceptions, 1971 and Essay Collection, 2000).


15/17, of course this


at such a moment ... Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology: “It reminds me of straw”

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1226-74) is reported to have had increasingly frequent mystical experiences toward the end of his life. One of these came while he was celebrating Mass on 6 December 1273, after which he stopped working on his Summa Theologiae. When urged by his friend Reginald of Piperno to go on he refused, saying “such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now, I await the end of my life after that of my works.” He died three months later. – While this is certainly the story Lewis is referring to, it may be doubted whether he had any particular source in mind. I have not myself seen any unambiguously reliable source.





16/4, but i think that


what has been called “Jesus-worship”



16/6. st. ignatius loyola


St. Ignatius Loyola

Spanish ecclesiastic (1491-1556), founder and first general of the Society of Jesus. His Spiritual Exercises (1548) remained the basic manual for the training of Jesuits.


compositio loci

(Latin) “composition of place”, or “putting together the scene”. The term is indeed to be found in Ignatius Loyola’s Exercises, in the “Preludes” to several meditations.


One of his English followers



16/7, the second reason


“Imagination” in the higher sense

This higher sense was famously developed by the poet Samuel Coleridge in his Biographia Literaria (1817), chapter XIII, “On the imagination, or esemplastic power”. Coleridge’s definitions were very briefly repeated by Lewis in Surprised by Joy, chapter 13 (par. 10).


16/11, yet mental images



For Blake see note to 10/8, To generalize is to be an idiot. Lewis is referring to a four-line poem called “Eternity”, Nr. 43 in Blake’s “Note-book” written about 1793.

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.


Plato elevated abstract nouns ... into the supreme realities – the Forms

Plato believed that the world as we experience it cannot possibly be the ultimate reality; everything we meet here must be a mere shadow or reflection of some unchanging “Idea” (eidos) which can only be grasped by the intellect. “Forms” is another word for these Ideas.


16/12, i know very well


in logic God is a “substance”

Lewis is probably thinking primarily of Aristotle’s Categories, i.e. his classification of all reality. In that context, to be in the category of a “substance” (ousia) is to have a separate existence; to have any more features than that is to belong in more categories as well. In other words, to be a thing is in itself not enough to have any quality or relation. Cf. note to 19/5, “substance”, below.


“We give thanks to thee for thy great glory”

From the Book of Common Prayer, after the Communion, “Glory be to God on high,” etc., which is an English rendering of the “Gloria” section in the Latin Mass. The original Latin behind the words quoted is “Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.”


16/13, the wave of



“Mutually inspiring”. This verb was apparently coined by the English poet John Donne (1572-1631) in his poem “The Ecstasy” (or “Exstasie”), 41-44:

When love with one another so
interinanimates two soules,
That abler soule, which thence doth flow,
Defects of lonelinesse controules”.

As Helen Gardner notes in her 1965 edition of Donne’s poems, the great majority of old manuscript sources for this poem have “interinanimates”, not “interanimates”. Yet the latter variety is the one found in the first edition (1633). This may well be why the Oxford English Dictionary only has an entry for “interanimate”, quoting this line of Donne’s as its only source and dubbing the word “rare”.

    C. S. Lewis may have been an uncommonly frequent user of the word as he used it in at least five of his books – always choosing the -in- variety, except here in Malcolm. The other books are The Problem of Pain (ch. 5, penultimate paragraph); Perelandra (ch. 17, last paragraph of the “Great Dance” episode); Miracles (ch. 14, par. 26); and Studies in Words (“Simple” IV, par. 1, and “At the fringe of language” par. 2).


 “The higher does not stand without the lower”

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ II.10.4. “Summum non stat sine infimo.”





17/1, it’s comical that


Forest of Dean

Scenic area in western England, between the Severn estuary and the southern tip of the Welsh border; designated as a National Forest Park in 1938.


17/2-3, you first taught


“all the blessings of this life”  ... “the means of grace and the hope of glory”

Phrases from “A General Thanksgiving” in the Book of Common Prayer. “We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.”


You turned to the brook, etc.

cf. George Macdonald, “The Truth”, in Unspoken Sermons, Series III (1889):

Let him who would know the love of the maker, become sorely athirst, and drink of the brook by the way – then lift up his heart – not at that moment to the maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the inventor and mediator of thirst and water, that man might foresee a little of what his soul may find in God.

A longer passage containing this fragment was selected by Lewis for his George Macdonald: An Anthology (1946) as No. 188, “Water” (where Lewis added capitals for “maker”, “inventor” and “ mediator”, and changed “love” into “ truth”).


17/7, we can’t – or


“That’s a bird”

cf. Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances, pp. 20 and 23 (last two pages of ch. II and first two pages of ch. III)

… I do not perceive any thing with my sense-organs alone, but with a great part of my whole human being. Thus, I may say, loosely, that I “hear a thrush singing”. But in strict truth, all that I ever merely “hear” – all that I ever hear simply by virtue of having ears – is sound. When I “hear a thrush singing”, I am hearing, not with my ears alone, but with all sort of other things like mental habits, memory, imagination, feeling and (to the extent at least that the act of attention involves it) will.

    … I am not, or I am not very often, aware of smelling an unidentified smell and then thinking, “That is coffee!” It appears to me, and appears instantly, that I smell coffee – though, in fact, I can no more merely smell “coffee” than I an merely hear “a thrush singing”. This immediate impression or experience of a familiar world … is plainly the result of an activity of some sort in me, however little I may recollect any such activity.


17/10, i don’t always

“This also is thou”

cf. note to 14/6, above.



(French) “Again!”, “Please repeat!”


17/12, william law remarks


William Law, “amusing themselves”

William Law  (1686-1761), English clergyman, chiefly known for his book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728). Lewis refers to the end of that book’s chapter 22, “...you must not ... fancy how resigned you will be to God, if such or such trials should happen. For this is amusing yourself with the notion or idea of resignation, instead of the virtue itself. Do not therefore please yourself with thinking how piously you would act and submit to God in a plague, or famine, or persecution, but be intent upon the perfection of the present day; and be assured, that the best way of showing a true zeal is to make little things the occasions of great piety.”


“tasted and seen”