Friday, December 23, 2016

C. S.Lewis ~ "Homeliness

Featured Author ~ C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was born in Belfast, Ireland, the son of a solicitor and a clergyman’s daughter.  He taught medieval literature at Oxford University and at Cambridge University and was a prolific writer.  C. S. Lewis’ better known works include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in his space trilogy.

The following is an excerpt from Lewis’ autobiography Surprised by Joy.

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“At the same time I exchanged Wyvern for Bookham I also exchanged my brother for Arthur as my chief companion.  Though my friendship with Arthur began from an identity of taste on a particular point, we were sufficiently different to help one another.  He was a man of more than one talent:  a pianist, and in hope, a composer, and also a painter.

“In literature he influenced me more, and more permanently, than I did him.  His great defect was that he cared very little for verse.  Something I did to mend this, but less than I wished.  He, on the other hand, side by side with his love for myth and marvel, which I fully shared, had another taste which I lacked till I met him and with which, to my great good, he infected me for life.  This was the taste for what he called ‘the good, solid, old books,’ the classic English novelists.

“Under Arthur’s influence I read at this time all the best Waverleys, all the Brontës, and all the Jane Austens.  They provided an admirable complement to my more fantastic reading, and each was the more enjoyed for its contrast to the other.

“The very qualities which had previously deterred me from such books Arthur taught me to see as their charm.  What I would have called their ‘stodginess’ or ‘ordinariness’ he called ‘Homeliness’ – a key word in his imagination.  He did not mean merely Domesticity, though that came into it.  He meant the rooted quality which attaches them to all our simple experience, to weather, food, the family, the neighborhood.

“He could get endless enjoyment out of the opening sentences of Jane Eyre, or that other opening sentence in one of Hans Andersen’s stories, ‘How it did rain, to be sure.’  The mere word ‘beck’ in the Brontës was a feast to him; and so were the schoolroom and kitchen scenes.  This love of the ‘Homely’ was not confined to literature; he looked for it in out-of-doors as well and taught me to do the same.

“But for him I should never have known the beauty of the ordinary vegetables that we destine to the pot.  ‘Drills,’ he used do say.  ‘Just ordinary drills of cabbages – what can be better?’  And he was right.  Often he recalled my eyes from the horizon just to look through a hole in a hedge, to see nothing more than a farmyard in its mid-morning solitude, and perhaps a gray cat squeezing its way under a barn door, or a bent old woman with a wrinkled, motherly face coming back with an empty bucket from the pigsty. 

“But best of all we liked it when the Homely and the unhomely met in sharp juxtaposition; if a little kitchen garden ran steeply up a narrowing enclave of fertile ground surrounded by outcroppings and furze, or some shivering quarry pool under a moonrise could be seen on our left, and on our right the smoking chimney and lamplit window of a cottage that was just settling down for the night.”

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