On November 22, 2013, the 50th anniversary of his death, C.S. Lewis will join a 600-year-old fellowship of the greats: Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, London. He will join Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Austen and other figures of worldwide literary and artistic fame – a significant recognition of Lewis’s contribution to English letters.
Dr Michael Ward, director of HBU’s C.S. Lewis Centre, is the lead organizer of the C.S. Lewis in Poets’ Corner Memorial. He was recently interviewed by Lancia Smith about this Memorial and why it’s important.
What is Lewis’s legacy?
Michael Ward: “It’s too big and too varied to speak about in just a short answer. You only need to look at the huge numbers of books and articles that are published about Lewis every year to see the size of it. Some people dislike Lewis intensely. Some people simply disagree with him. But the vast majority of those who engage with him seriously, find him stimulating, helpful, even inspiring in a number of different ways, as a scholar, as a thinker, and as a writer.
“I think that, as time goes by, people are coming to realize that Lewis, whether you happen to agree with him or not, is a very substantial figure who needs to be reckoned with. His combination of intellect, imagination, and faith is rare. It’s influential. At the very least, it’s interesting. I think it’s not insignificant that the publishing houses of Lewis’s two universities, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, have in recent years begun to publish scholarly works that address and analyse his impact. OUP has to date published three titles on Lewis, and CUP has published The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, which I had a hand in.
“As time goes by and Lewis’s readership shows no sign of waning – on the contrary, it only seems to be growing and deepening, – he is coming to the attention of many people who wouldn’t automatically regard him as worth consideration. But an enduring audience, fifty years after death, is unusual and can’t be ignored for ever.
“And I think the fact that Lewis’s great friend, Tolkien, is also showing no signs of disappearing from the cultural landscape reacts favourably on Lewis’s own standing. The two men together are now established, I think, as unavoidably major figures from the middle of the last century. If you want to understand the intellectual and imaginative history of the English-speaking world over the last sixty or seventy years, you have to take these two into account. They’re becoming increasingly rooted as a pair of giants, like Wordsworth and Coleridge, for example, from the previous century.”
(From Part 2 of the interview – read the whole of Part 2 here.)
Fundraising is continuing for the Memorial – the Abbey has given permission for its installment, but all costs for the Memorial are raised independently. They have reached about 1/4 of the necessary sum and need to raise about £15,000 more by November. You can donate directly online at the Lewis in Poets’ Corner page – and you will become part of history:
Michael Ward: “The names of contributors will be compiled into a list and deposited in the Bodleian Library in the University of Oxford, among the papers of the Oxford Lewis Society, so that future generations of scholars can see who helped this memorial to be realized. We won’t mention the size of your contribution, because we understand that people have all sorts of claims upon their giving and the amount you donate is not really the relevant thing. Any amount is very gratefully received, be it large, medium or small.
“What we want is for this list to demonstrate the extent of Lewis’s readership; and it will also provide an opportunity for people whose lives have been deeply impacted by Lewis’s work to put that on record in a permanent form in the library of the university where Lewis spent most of his career.”
(From Part 1 of the interview – read the whole of Part 1 here.).
Additionally, in an audio interview with William O’Flaherty, Michael discusses the Memorial and associated conference, which may very well end up to be the biggest and most significant single event celebrating Lewis that has ever happened!
Michael Ward: “If you pray, please pray that this whole project will be edifying and successful. If you want to attend the events, please feel free to come to London in person on 21st and 22nd November. And if you don’t pray or can’t come, then please at least make a donation or encourage others to do so, and please spread the word in general through social media. We still need to raise nearly £15,000!”
The main website is: www.lewisinpoetscorner.com