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  • Truths Breathed Through Silver: The Inklings' Moral and Mythopoeic Legacy
  • Richard C. West
Truths Breathed Through Silver: The Inklings' Moral and Mythopoeic Legacy, ed. Jonathan B. Himes, with Joe R. Christopher and Salwa Khoddam. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. xviii, 160 pp. £29.99 / $59.99 (hardcover). ISBN 9781847184443.

This collection was garnered from a decade of annual conferences (I have never attended any of them—alas) beginning at Oklahoma City University in 1998, which gave rise to and were subsequently sponsored by the C. S. Lewis and Inklings Society (incorporated in 2004). The choice of name makes plain on which particular Inkling the Society has its focus, and indeed four of these ten essays are devoted to some aspect of Lewis's work while another three consider Lewis prominently in conjunction with other writers. Readers of Tolkien Studies may be most interested that J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the other writers in two of these cases, an ancillary figure in other essays (notably one discussing Lewis and language), and the primary subject of two chapters. Charles Williams is the only other regular member of the Inklings considered here, along with proto-Inklings (if one may so call them) George MacDonald and G. K. Chesterton.

This is descriptive merely: those interested in other members of the remarkable Inklings group (e.g, Owen Barfield or Nevill Coghill or Lord David Cecil, et al.) are alerted to look elsewhere. It must have been difficult enough to distill papers from ten conferences into a volume of ten essays without also trying to represent more than a few of the Oxford Inklings.

Half of the papers are from keynote speakers at the C. S. Lewis and Inklings Society conferences, and the volume opens with the keynote from the first conference in 1998. Joe R. Christopher identifies "C. S. Lewis's Three Paths to God" as (in essence) via reason, ethics, and the transcendent, with careful distinctions of what these meant to Lewis, and that their conjunction led him to a theistic view of the universe but not specifically to the Christian religion. Interestingly, he focuses on a work that has not been overmuch discussed in Lewis criticism, although it was this author's first published book of Christian apologetics and of prose fiction: The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism (1933; the third edition of 1943 has some very needed explanatory notes). Professor Christopher mines this early Bunyanesque book for concerns that Lewis developed throughout his career, so he also touches on many later works, and shows that Lewis has remained a relevant thinker because his ideas have been found valuable by many people throughout many social changes over many years. He also indicates why Lewis does not persuade those who are committed to natural philosophy only: they tend to be pragmatists. While, for example, they agree that [End Page 309] beings capable of reasoning with some clarity have in fact appeared in a universe they consider non-rational, they no more worry that technically this is logically inconsistent than they used to be concerned when for years it was thought to be mathematically impossible for a bumblebee to fly (the math has since been done to show that it is).

A small point is that he posits a new (and, to my mind, more plausible) theory as to why Lewis largely abandoned his closely reasoned but popular apologetics after the 1940s. The prevailing idea has been that Lewis was discouraged by having his logic challenged by G.E.M. Anscombe from within his own philosophical camp of Christian intellectuals, but this does not seem likely for such a skilled debater who was wont to describe himself as "hungry for rational opposition,"1 and who was able to reply to his challenger quite well on her own highly sophisticated ground. Christopher suggests that he felt he had shot his bolt (or, rather, his three bolts, having much explored the "three paths") and was ready to turn to other modes like the fairy tale in any case; a further point being that Lewis wanted to address the general public and it is difficult to do...


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