01 June 2012

CSLIS Report #7

I'm at Taylor University in Indiana for the 8th Biennial Frances White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis and Friends. Here is my report on the third plenary session. 

An unknown C.S. Lewis MS?!? A mystery? Here are the facts.

The “Light” MS appeared out of nowhere in the 1980s. Changed hands, finally reached Dr. Edwin Duncan Brown. Earlier version, “The Man Born Blind.” Late '80s, accusations that the story was a forgery. Gresham & Barfield said it was authentic, claimed eyewitness, but dated it differently. Where did it disappear to? Which version is real? What about accusations of forgery? What about how strange and shocking the story is?

The Hooper-bonfire story. { Again. Sigh. }

Hooper rescued “The Man Born Blind” and gave it that title.

Dr. Brown collected Lewisiana. A British bookdealer acquired the “Light” MS from a collector, who sold it to Ed Brown. 1997, Dr. Brown's Lewis collection came here to Taylor. It's finally being published—TODAY!!

A literary detective's adventure. When Hooper published it, he thought only Barfield and JRRT had seen the story. Sent out to a magazine, never returned? Could not be, since Gresham heard the story and saw the MS sometime in the '50s. Was it written in the '20s, then, as Barfield said? Or was “TMBB” written in the '20s and “Light” in the '50s? When was it written? Where did it go?

The ink of the “TMBB” MS was “Quink,” available in the '50s. A Boy's Life, 1945, ad for Royal Blue Quink. Barfield must be wrong, then, because this ink wasn't invented until 1931, and Royal Blue not until 1935.

Well, couldn't “Light” be just a revision of “TMBB”? Heading: his name and address. Written on sheets, rather than in a notebook. Has a title. Changes name of Robin's wife from Mary to Ann. To avoid Robin Hood allusions? There is a cross-out in “Light” that proves it comes after “TMBB.”

Ed Brown always thought the two were written at the same time. CSL handwriting changed throughout his life. The letter “g” is the most distinctive, and proves “Light” must be post-1931. The letter “f,” too, points to this late dating. Perhaps there's a “Q” manuscript?

So, finally, Charlie Starr went to see Walter Hooper with his Q and late-dating theory. And Hooper was fine with it. Hooper talked about Lewis as writer and rewriter—Lewis did not see writing as a chore, but as a necessary part of thinking. He very well could have written and rewritten this story three times.

Tentative conclusion, then? “The Man Born Blind” was written between the spring of 1944 and Oct 1945. “Light” is a revision soon after. There's probably still a Q, which was the one Barfield saw in the 1920s.

And what about the interpretation of the story? Well, it's ambiguous. But if the ending could be read positively, then, it is because Lewis consistently uses light as an object: a Platonic metaphor. Glory is made of light. Robin dives into the true light, into rebirth, into enlightenment.

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