Commemorating the Life of C.S. Lewis

By:  Charles Scaliger
Commemorating the Life of C.S. Lewis

Fifty years ago today, C.S. Lewis died of kidney failure at his home in Oxford, England, and Great Britain is observing the 50th anniversary of the death of one of her finest writers.

Fifty years ago today, while John F. Kennedy was aboard Air Force One en route to Dallas, Texas, from nearby Fort Worth, C.S. Lewis died of kidney failure at his home in Oxford, England. Though his death preceded President Kennedy’s by about an hour, C.S. Lewis’ passing was not noted in the papers until several days later, because of coverage of Kennedy’s assassination. This week, however, Great Britain has been observing the 50th anniversary of the death of one of the finest men of letters ever produced on British soil, culminating in a ceremony today with the dedication of a memorial stone in Poet’s Corner in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey.

Clive Staples Lewis, born November 29, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland, was far more than a poet. A precocious student of the humanities, Lewis (who was known to friends and family as “Jack”) developed a fascination for a broad range of topics, including Norse, Irish, and Greek mythology, and nature. A series of elite tutors enabled his literary brilliance, leading to a scholarship offer from Oxford University at age 16.

Arriving at Oxford, Lewis found himself in a foreign but withal intoxicating new environment that seemed a world away from his native Ireland. A loyal subject of the British Empire, Lewis interrupted his university studies to volunteer for military service in 1917. He was sent to the Somme Valley, where he, along with so many luminaries of his generation, experienced the incomparable horrors of trench warfare. Lewis was severely wounded by friendly fire, an errant British shell that killed two of his comrades-in-arms on April 15, 1918, and was assigned to duty back in England for the duration of the war.

With the conclusion of the “War to End All Wars,” Lewis returned to Oxford, where he would remain until 1954. Beginning in 1920, he received several degrees in subjects as far-ranging as Greek and Latin literature, Philosophy, and English. He was soon thereafter appointed a tutor in philosophy, and eventually became one of Oxford’s most distinguished teachers, scholars, and writers.

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Photos of mural depicting characters from Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and of C.S. Lewis at age 50

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