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C.S.Lewis: A Biography Hardcover – 12 Feb 1990

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; 1st Edition edition (12 Feb. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002151375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002151375
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 653,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

A.N. Wilson was born in 1950 and educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is an award-winning biographer and a celebrated novelist, winning prizes for much of his work. He lives in North London.

Product Description

Review

‘The more biography he writes, the better he gets – his life of C. S. Lewis is his best yet. It’s a vivacious and compassionate book. Wilson’s range of interests – religious, literary, human-gossipy and Oxfordian – make him an ideal match for the subject.’ Andrew Motion, Observer

‘Passionate, perspicacious, funny and inevitably partisan.’ Selina Hastings, Telegraph

‘Wilson’s biography is admirable, probably the best imaginable … Mr Wilson is a brilliant biographer.’ Anthony Burgess, Independent

‘It seems fitting that A. N. Wilson should now have written the definitive biography of Lewis, and it is a superb job.’ John Bayley, Guardian

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

“The more biography he writes, the better he gets – this life of C.S. Lewis is his best yet. It’s a vivacious and compassionate book. Wilson’s range of interests – religious, literary, human-gossipy and Oxfordian – make him an ideal match for the subject.”
ANDREW MOTION, 'Observer'

“Passionate, perspicacious, funny and inevitably partisan”
SELINA HASTINGS, 'Telegraph'

“This biography is nothing short of intoxicating. It is wonderfully lucid on every level. Above all it is Lewis’s astonishing fluency which is so captivating. Whether he is describing the method of an Oxford tutorial or defending the humdrum suburban life, he makes you 'see' and tells a rattling good story.”
BRIAN MASTERS, 'Evening Standard'

“Lean and lively … he cuts through all the pious cackle to the heart of the matter.”
ANTHONY CURTIS, 'Financial Times'

“Wilson brings alive Lewis the man, in all his beery, blustery complexity. This is a book which renders previous biographies largely obsolete.”
NEIL PHILIP, 'Times Educational Supplement'

“It seems fitting that A.N. Wilson should now have written the definitive biography of Lewis, and it is a superb job.”
JOHN BAYLEY, 'Guardian'

“Wilson’s biography is admirable, probably the best imaginable … MR Wilson is a brilliant biographer.”
ANTHONY BURGESS, 'Independent'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By E. T. Veal on 11 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
There is great, though, as it turns out, pointless, irony in the fact that the litterateur A. N. Wilson penned this life of a famous Christian apologist while he was in the process of giving up his own Christian faith. One might anticipate from such a juxtaposition some unusual insight into Lewis' (in this case unsuccessful) methods of argumentation. Alas, nothing of the sort occurs. This is simply another Lewis biography, following the familiar outline laid down by Lewis' own "Surprised by Joy" and adding very little, save for catty psychological guesswork, that has not appeared in earlier productions of the prolific Lewis "industry".
The book's great sensation is the assertion that the young Lewis, at around age 20, had an affair with Mrs. Jane Moore, the woman whom he "adopted" as a mother figure for the rest of his life. The theory, borrowed without acknowledgement from the eccentric American Lewis scholar Kathryn Lindskoog (whom Wilson repays with unfair derision), lacks both plausibility and evidence. Lewis had lost his mother at a young age and had chafed under his father's well-meant but wrong-headed tutelage. Mrs. Moore's son, for a while Lewis' closest friend, had died in the Great War. That the two should have formed a substitute family is not at all surprising. Wilson offers no grounds for supposing that the relationship was sexual. Instead, he offers "evidence" of this sort: Lewis' diaries use the Greek letter delta (our "D") as shorthand for Mrs. Moore. Of the many Greek words and names beginning with that letter, he singles out "Diotimia", from whom the Socrates of Plato's "Symposium" is supposed to have learned his theories about eros.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lex on 20 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
CS Lewis and John Betjeman
When I picked up A.N. Wilson’s highly readable C.S. Lewis – A Biography I thought Lewis might get a little rough treatment. That’s because I’d already seen how Wilson dealt with him in his biography of John Betjeman.

It’s true that Lewis and Betjeman couldn’t stand each other, but it wasn’t entirely Lewis’s fault. Lewis, a young man, had become a Tutor of English at Magdalen College, Oxford. Betjeman was one of his very first students.

To Betjeman Lewis seemed overly serious, unimaginative and hard. To Lewis Betjeman appeared affected, unintelligent and lazy, regularly failing to hand in essays on time. In fact, on one occasion Lewis was pleasantly surprised by Betjeman submitting a decent essay and looked forward to the tutorial. He later wrote in his diary, ‘I soon discovered [the essay] to be a pure fake, for he knew nothing about the work when we began to talk. I wish I could get rid of the idle prig.’[i]

He did eventually, and possibly unnecessarily. Betjeman never forgave him and, in letters written years later, referred to Lewis as ‘my old enemy’.

So I expected Wilson to write a fairly tough biography. Warning: Bubble bursting activity ahead.

Lewis in a nut shell
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast on November 29, 1898 and died on November 22, 1963. Although incredibly bright, he hated school, and was moved from place to place until his father finally agreed to have him privately tutored. After gaining a triple first at Oxford he became Tutor of English Literature and Language at Magdalen, Oxford, a position he held for nearly 30 years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By os TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback
This is a thoroughly engaging, well researched and balanced biography. The author explores Lewis's relationships particularly well - his father, mother, Mrs Moore (mother substitute / sometime lover-take your pick) and colleagues such as Tolkien are worked over in detail but minus too much inclination to pointless speculation or lurid imaginings.

We get a real feel for Lewis -the essential goodness amid his often all too obvious failings. Wilson brings him alive in all his complexity- not an easy man to know and certainly not forthcoming about his private life. He could be irascible and not always very tolerant of colleagues or students. However, there is to consider his warmth, his faith, good works and stoicism in the face of tragedy.

If I were to be critical of this biography I would have liked Wilson to balance his analysis of the great man's time at Oxford and Cambridge with much more on why his name is still resonant today, namely the `Narnia' books.

Taken as a whole this is a wonderful book. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keith Haines on 28 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This biography is to be treated with caution. I lost interest (or assurance) by p.26 when Wilson suggests that CSL was taught English by McNeill at Campbell College. This is a gross insult to his actual English teacher, Lewis Alden, who received praise for his teaching from four (including CSL) eminent university professors. McNeill, whom Wilson mentions, taught Mathematics - and had been dead three years before CSL arrived at Campbell!!!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Northumbrian on 6 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
This book deserves two stars for its excellent sections which concern CS Lewis as a literary critic.

Aside from this it is a nasty book, which runs-down Lewis both directly and insidiously: AN Wilson has since acknowledged that he thoroughly-disliked what he discovered of Lewis, and presumably found writing this book an unpleasant chore. It shows.

There is a good critique at: [...]

George Sayers's biography 'Jack' is much better - 4 stars.
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