Thursday, April 15, 2010


So, yesterday I was struck by an idea. So today I looked up some dates and did a little math.

Janie Moore's age when Lewis met and fell in love with her: just turned 45.

Lewis's age when he fell in love with Joy Gresham: 58.

I get the impression that a lot of people are incredulous that CSL could have fallen in love with someone as old as Janie Moore, but no one seems to doubt that Joy Gresham fell head over heels for someone as old as Lewis.

Odd, that.



Cole Matson said...

What is the evidence that Lewis fell in love with Mrs Moore?

David Bratman said...

>Janie Moore's age when Lewis met
>and fell in love with her: just
>turned 45.

Lewis's age at that time: 18.

>Lewis's age when he fell in love
>with Joy Gresham: 58.

Joy's age at that time: just turned 42.

Don't you think there's a little difference between a teenage boy falling in love with a middle-aged woman over 26 years his senior, and a middle-aged woman falling in love with an older middle-aged man over 16 years her senior?

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Cole
It's in THEY STAND TOGETHER, in the juxtaposition of two passages from letters in the early twenties (I can't point you to the exact quotes, since I read the book some twenty-eight years ago. I'll make sure to make a note of them next time I come across them).

Hi David.
Frankly, I find Lewis's relations with both the women he loved odd in just about every way, except for the fact that he did love them both.
Both were married throughout the time he lived with them (Janie in fact and Joy in the eyes of the Church).
Both had underage children, who he took under his wing.
Both were about the same age when he fell in love with them.
Both were, on the surface, unusual matches for a Medieval/Renaissance scholar and lifelong academic.
re. yr pt regarding Joy, I'd say she'd been in love with him for at least five years by the time he fell in love with her, making her just about 37 or so. But in any case I'm not interested in why Janie or Joy fell in love with Lewis but the other way around, why Lewis fell in love with them.
Not that we ever really know the answer to such questions.

--John R.

David Bratman said...

Well, do the vice versa on my second rhetorical question; the point is the same. A relationship between two people aged 42 and 58 may be odd, depending on circumstances, but the age difference itself doesn't have the inherent oddity of 18 and 45, a much larger gap and involving a much younger junior partner, where age differences are more significant.

You know how Lewis tried to excuse the marriage in the eyes of the church? Bill Gresham had been divorced from a previous wife before he married Joy; so on the grounds that married cannot be contracted to a divorced person, Joy's marriage to Bill was never legitimate at all, leaving her free to marry Lewis. Ingenious argument, though I'm not sure if anyone bought it.

Cole Matson said...


Are you referring to the following two passages?

Letter 71, 28? Oct 1917

"Since coming back & meeting a certain person [identified by Walter Hooper as Mrs. Moore] I have begun to realize that it was not at all the right thing for me to tell you so much as I did. I must therefore try to undo my actions as far as possible by asking you to try & forget my various statements & not to refer to the subject. Of course I have perfect trust in you, mon vieux, but still I have no business to go discussing those sort of things with you. So in future that topic must be taboo between us."

Letter 73, 14 Dec 1917

"Just the proverbial few lines to answer your letter & to thank you for writing to Mrs Moore - she appreciated it very much and you may perhaps understand how nice & homely it is for me to know that the two people who matter most to me in the world are in touch."

They're not from the early 20's, but I didn't find any passages from the 20's that seemed to fit using the index references to Mrs. Moore.

Also, what do you make of the following passage from 17 Oct 1929:

"He [Owen Barfield] said among other things that he thought the idea of the spiritual world as home - the discovery of homeliness in that wh. is otherwise so remote - the feeling that you are coming back tho' to a place you have never yet reached - was peculiar to the British, and thought that Macdonald, Chesterton, and I, had this more than anyone else. He doesn't know you of course - who, with Minto, have taught me so much in that way [(in that way? No, no.).]"

What do you think of that last bracketed bit, juxtaposed with the discussion of homeliness, considering the fact that Arthur Greeves was the one that Lewis wrote to as a youth about his sexual and romantic inclinations? Is it possible he could be saying "both you and Minto have taught me that feeling of homeliness [Greeves through sharing that sense of Sehnsucht, Minto through actually making a home with him]," but denying that it was that kind of a home (i.e. one in which they stood as a kind of husband and wife)?

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David.
Yes, it's odd, esp. given the culture of the time. But of course it does occur (cf: MRS. ROBINSON). It occurs far more often with the gender roles switched (cf: LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, a cross-generation romance between Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn).
And yes, I know CSL's argument that Joy had never 'really' been married so it was okay for him to marry her. Bishop Carpenter didn't agree for a minute, which is why CSL had to find someone willing to defy the bishop's orders to perform the ceremony (Fr. Bide). I've always been uneasy by Lewis's insistence on a line of reasoning that wd have had really unfortunately consequences (if Bill & Joy had never been married, what about the legitimacy of his stepsons?).

Hi Cole
No, neither of those is one of those I was thinking of, but I'm glad to have them; thanks for searching them out. Afraid I can't reciprocate; just three weeks or so left to finish my Kalamazoo paper. Plus, I was down and out this week with food poisoning, which didn't do me or my schedule any good at all.

Re. the french-bracketted reference in the final quote: no, I'm afraid this is a reference to "IT", as Lewis sometimes called it -- his sadism, which he had confided to Arthur (himself a masochist). Which he turned his back on when he went off to war; a deliberate (and apparently largely successful) effort to change his fundamental personality by willpower. Impressive!