Essay / Misc.

Why C. S. Lewis Was Smarter Than Me Am

Young Lewis
An excerpt from a letter that the 17-year-old C. S. Lewis wrote to his best friend:

12 October 1915

You ask me how I spend my time, and though I am more interested in thoughts and feelings, we’ll come down to facts. I am awakened up in the morning by Kirk splashing in his bath, about 20 minutes after which I get up myself and come down. After breakfast & a short walk we start work on Thucydides a desperately dull and tedious Greek historian (I daresay tho’, you’d find him interesting) and on Homer whom I worship. After quarter of an hour’s rest we go on with Tacitus till lunch at 1. I am then free till tea at 4.30: of course I am always anxious at this meal to see if Mrs K. is out, for Kirk never takes it. If she is I lounge in an arm chair with my book by the fire, reading over a leisurely and bountiful meal. If she’s in, or worse still has ‘some people’ to tea, it means sitting on a right angled chair and sipping a meagre allowance of tea and making intelligent remarks about the war, the parish and the shortcomings of everyones servants. At 5, we do Plato and Horace, who are both charming, till supper at 7.30, after which comes German and French till about 9. Then I am free to go to bed whenever I like which is usually about 10.20.

As soon as my bed room door is shut I get into my dressing gown, draw up a chair to my table and produce, like Louis Moore, note book and pencil. Here I write up my diary for the day, and then turning to the other end of the book devote myself to poetry, either new stuff or polishing the old. If I am not in the mood for that I draw faces and hands and feet etc for practice. This is the best part of the day of course, and I am usually in a very happy frame of mind by the time I slip into bed.

…So glad you too like the ‘Faerie Queen’, isn’t it great? I have been reading a horrible book of Jack London’s called ‘The Jacket’. If you come across [it] anywhere, don’t read it.

–from The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963) , ed Walter Hooper (NY: Collier Books, 1979), pp. 84-86.

I think I once heard Mark Noll describe Lewis’ mind as the product of a very undemocratic allocation of educational resources. Alls I knows is that he started thinking hard pretty early in life, and feeding on the kind of literature that’ll make you smart. Some of us don’t start thinking, really thinking, until considerably later. There’s only so much thinking we’re going to get done on this earth.

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