Sunday, May 1, 2011

Festschrift for Walter Hooper

So, the latest new arrival -- again appearing on my doorstep only two days after being ordered* -- is C. S. LEWIS AND THE CHURCH: ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF WALTER HOOPER, ed. Judith Wolfe & Brendan N. Wolfe, a collection of essays presented to Walter Hooper in honor of his eightieth birthday. I'd heard about this from Chris Mitchell while at Wheaton a few weeks back, although modestly enough he didn't tell me he was a contributor (other familiar names include James Como and Michael Ward).

Now that I have the book in hand, it looks to be an interesting collection. For one thing, it addresses an issue that Lewis scholarship has skirted for decades: CSL's affinities with specific denominations. Lewis himself adopted the pose that his was a 'mere' (essential) Xianity, though in practice this meant conservative Anglican. In his works he was on the whole pretty successful in avoiding taking up positions identified with specific branches of the Anglican communion: neither 'High Church' (Anglo-Catholic) nor 'Low Church' (the more evangelical part of the church, and the closest to what most of us wd call Protestant) and certainly not 'Broad Church' (those who wanted to modernize the church and its theology)-- these last being the group CSL utterly opposed. And yet while Lewis himself was indisputably Anglican, many of his most devoted readers are Roman Catholic or Fundamentalists. There have been a few attempts to look at Lewis's affinity or otherwise with one particularly denomination -- most notably Derrick's C. S. LEWIS & THE CHURCH OF ROME -- but on the whole it's been a topic everyone more or less agreed to de-emphasise, until now.

Of the essays, the Introduction is of immediate interest for its account of the summer when Hooper met Lewis. After that, when I come to read the book I'll probably start with the final section, a set of four essays looking at Lewis from the perspectives of Catholicism, the Orthodox Church, and Evangelicalism. I'm curious to see if it addresses a topic Hooper spoke about when I got to see him address the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society during my 2007 visit to the Bodleian: the fact that the audience Lewis originally wrote for, his fellow Anglicans, have by and large drifted away, while he's acquired a whole new audience, mainly Evangelicals, in America.

In the meantime, here's my own little tribute to Hooper, written as part of an 'Encomium for Walter Hooper' at the time he was presented with the Wade's Lifetime Achivement award (October 2009):

How pleasant to meet Walter Hooper

Whose editing work has been super

-lative. Eight thousand pages

Of the Magdalen sage's

Thoughts on paper, now preserved for the ages.

But oh how pleasant to sit over tea

And talk of good books and of good company

He, with his "soft-spoken Southern courtesy"**

And I, with ears wide open.


*ordered M.4/25, arrived W.4/27 -- amazon's really on the ball these days
**the phrase is Tolkien's

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