Surprised by Joy

Chronicles of Narnia

via Wikipedia

“I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
 C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

I have been a fan of C S Lewis for as long as I can remember.  We were introduced to his tales by our father.  And even though I was 11 or 12 when the stories were published I was captivated by the Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

In 1947 Time magazine featured Lewis as a writer of international renown, on its cover.  It listed the first of his Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as one of the top 100 English language novels written in the twentieth century.

As I grew up I became fascinated with C S Lewis the man.  I learned that he was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, and both authors were leading figures in the English faculty at Oxford University and in the informal Oxford literary group known as the “Inklings“.

Lewis published his memoir  “Surprised by Joy” in 1955.  This  details his conversion to Christianity and his ongoing search for joy ( I think as expounded by Christians).    This was one year before his unexpected marriage to the American writer Joy Gresham.  They apparently continued a correspondence on many things including Christianity.  She was 17 years his junior, and died of cancer only four years after the marriage at the age of 45.

He was quick to point out that “Surprised by Joy” had been written in 1955 before he married Joy Gresham but he conceded that he was indeed surprised by joy!  The title of the book is thought to be an allusion to Wordsworth’s “Surprised by Joy – Impatient as the Wind”

Surprised by joy — impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport — Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind —
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? — That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

Lewis died one week before his 65th birthday.  He died on the same day as President John Kennedy and also Alduous Huxley, so his death didn’t generate much media coverage.  Lewis’ work has been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularised on stage, TV, radio and cinema.

Of course I have a copy of Surprised by Joy in my bookcase along with the Chronicles of Narnia.  I haven’t seen the movie adaptations as I prefer to picture the characters and the happenings for myself.  I have lived with them in my mind for so many years and think that they may be somehow diminished (and definitely altered) by watching somebody else’s take on the action.

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
C.S. Lewis,
The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays


24 responses to “Surprised by Joy

  1. I don’t think theres ever a wrong age for reading fairy tales. 🙂
    On another note, have you seen the film “Shadowlands” where Anthony Hopkins plays C.S. Lewis ?
    I thought it was good.:-)


  2. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t know here so I really enjoyed reading it.Shadowlands is a great film though Debra winger getting ill and dying always makes me sad.


  3. Loved Chronicles of Narnia. I often find when I need the perfect quote for something that C S Lewis had already said was I was thinking, only more clearly and wiser.


  4. I was going to ask you about Shadowlands too! My favorite quote from the movie: Sorrow is the price we pay for Joy.

    Thanks, Judith.


  5. I’m not sure why, but this makes me tear up a little. I now know what chapter books my 6yr old will read next.


  6. ah C.S. Lewis, one of my favourite authors, I think I had read all his books by the time I was 25 and read them all again by the time I was 40 and just recently was thinking to go back and do it again. My children grew up on Narnia and the books were read aloud to them many times. Now my daughter collects first printings of C.S. Lewis books. I think i will start with re-reading The Great Divorce – one of my favourites.
    walk in beauty this day.


    • Thank you. I haven’t ever read the Great Divorce although we had a copy many years ago. When I next go to the library I shall see if they have a copy. Thanks for reminding me.


  7. Thanks for this post. I love The Chronicles of Narnia. I know what you mean about seeing movies about beloved books. More often than not the movie will be a disappointment.


  8. jacquelincangro

    I’m a fan of the Narnia series, but I didn’t know this background about Lewis. Thanks for reigniting my interest in him. I think I’ll be heading to the library to catch up on some of the books I’ve not read.


  9. Great books! I actually read them all about a year ago for the first time. Before that, I had just seen movies of “The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe”.


  10. The books are always better, I agree. The Screwtape Letters are fun, too. As a longtime Episcopalian, I have enjoyed C.S. Lewis’s writing for many years.


  11. I hadn’t heard of Shadowlands. Love the writings of C.S. Lewis.


  12. Thanks – we all seem to be in agreement here.


  13. Pingback: The Silver Chair by CS Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia #6) « arlasworld

Let's talk

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.