Belfast born Lewis is famed for his Narnia chronicles.
Clive Staples Lewis was born on the eastern outskirts of Belfast in 1898. Apart from a single term at Campbell College in 1910, he was educated at Malvern College and Oxford, England. Although he returned frequently for holidays in Northern Ireland, his writings display, in the words of one commentator, ‘little trace of his Irish influences and background.’
Lewis's spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy, contains a few slender memories of his childhood home, ‘Little Lea’ at Dundela. The house was ‘almost a character in my story. I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstair indoor silences … Out of doors was 'the view' for which, no doubt, the site had principally been chosen. From our front door we looked down over wide fields to Belfast Lough and across it to the long mountain line of the Antrim shore.’
Lewis retained an ambivalent relationship with his birthplace. He wrote of himself, ‘I’m more Welsh than anything’ and while at Oxford self-consciously experimented with an Irish nationalist outlook, ‘partly from an interest in Yeats and Celtic mythology, partly from a natural repulsion to noisy drum-beating [and] bullying Orangemen.’ Lewis ‘began to have a very warm feeling for Ireland in general [though] not so much our Protestant north,’ but he soon abandoned literary Irishness as ‘a sort of little by-way of the intellectual world, off the main track.’ Heaven was described as ‘Oxford lifted and placed in the middle of Co Down.’
Furthermore, ‘The country is very beautiful and if only I could deport the Ulstermen and fill their land with a populace of my own choosing, I should ask for no better place to live in.’
Best known today for the Narnia chronicles, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), Prince Caspian (1951), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), The Silver Chair (1953), The Magician’s Nephew (1955) and The Last Battle (1956), Lewis was also a literary critic, poet, and Christian apologist. CS Lewis died in November 1963.
The Backward Glance: CS Lewis in Ireland (1999) by RW Bresland; CS Lewis at home in Ireland (1998) by D Bleakley; Suprised by Joy (1955) by CS Lewis. Some of his papers are also held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.