Ch. 1, pg. 3: the son of a solicitor

A solicitor is one of the two types of lawyers in the United Kingdom. The other type is the barrister. A barrister speaks in court; a solicitor does everything else.

Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A web annotation of C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy

Many readers come to C. S. Lewis’s autobiography from The Chronicles of Narnia series or Mere Christianity, eager to learn about the literary and theological titan’s upbringing. But Surprised by Joy is not an easy read for modern audiences. Although the book was published in 1955, each page is scattered with obscure Edwardian lingo, literary quotations and “public school” slang. While Lewis aims at–and usually achieves–clear prose, he assumes that his readers are familiar with English boarding school structure and slang. He also assumes that readers are encouraged, not put off, by a great wealth of literary allusions and quotes. This literary name-dropping extends through Greek, Roman and Norse prose and poetry; as well as literature in English, German, French and Russian. Even the most zealous Lewis enthusiast may falter.

This annotation aims to clear the cobwebs of history for all readers. I am an amateur Lewis enthusiast and fan of the Inklings, and I hope that these notes might be used for individual study and as well as for groups. I have assumed a command of modern English, although I have annotated particularly obscure and antiquated words. Most author names, works and quotes are annotated. Lewis’s life experiences that appear in his fictional novels in one form or another have been noted. Maps, images and art have been inserted whenever available.

Overall, the notes aim to be a springboard to understanding the factors that shaped and enraptured C. S. Lewis.

These notes are based on the Harcourt paperback edition of Surprised by Joy.

(The ideal format for these notes would be an e-book with mouse-over notes. However, unless Harcourt invites me to be the official editor of the text–or the text goes out of copyright–these notes will have to be independent from the text.)

Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ch. 1, Pg. 3: Happy, but for so happy ill secured. Milton

The epigraph to Chapter 1 comes from Book 4, line 378 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which Satan gazes upon the beauties of the earth and the happiness of Adam and Eve in the garden:

Ah! gentle pair, ye little think how nigh
Your change approaches, when all these delights
Will vanish, and deliver ye to woe;
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy;
Happy, but for so happy ill secured…

By quoting this passage at the beginning of his life story, Lewis compares the destruction of his early childhood happiness to the entrance of evil into the world in the garden of Eden. Lewis would not have meant to imply any sort of victimization; rather, he merely connects himself to the plight of all humanity–that is, that even innocents are touched by sin, no matter idyllic their lives may seem.

I was helped to find this information by page 2 of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Alan Jacobs.

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment