Sunday, September 2, 2007

The C. S. Lewis Hoax: Searching for Truth in a Positive Way

Finally a book that looks at the facts without resorting to ad hominem attacks.

Why is it that we are so fascinated by conspiracy theories? From speculation about who really killed JFK (or assertions that he is still alive) -- to UFO's -- to the President Bush's supposed lying about what he knew to get us into a war with Iraq -- books and "documentaries" and Blogs abound trying to "prove" that what really happened is being "covered up." Certainly it is one of the founding principles of this country that we have the right to "get to the truth." Sam Adams wrote, "The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men."1

But there is a difference between "muck-raking" (actively looking for the worst to report) and honest reporting of the truth. One begins with negative ad hominem assumptions and attempts to prove those assumptions. The other seeks the truth and (as much as humanly possible) reports the findings without prejudice. There is a difference in stating someone is evil and trying to prove it and reporting the facts and letting the reader decide.

That is why Kathryn Lindskoog's book, The C. S. Lewis Hoax (1988, Multnomah Press), was unexpectedly refreshing. Rather than make assumptions about the character of Walter Hooper (and others assigned to the stewardship of Lewis's work after his death), Lindskoog simply presents the facts that she has discovered and leaves the conclusions (mostly) to the reader. This is one book any serious student of Lewis cannot be without.

Kathryn Lindskoog was a Lewis scholar from 1954, when she was an undergraduate student at the University of Redlands in California, until her death from MS in 2003. Her biography, C. S. Lewis: Mere Christian, was first published in 1973, which is probably her most famous book. She has written several other volumes about C. S. Lewis, prose versions of Dante's Divine Comedy, and a series of classic fiction edited for young readers. There is a web site with more information on her life and works:
Update, 9/19/2012: Apparently the Lindentree website has been taken down and that web address is now being used by another entity.


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WILL VAUS said...

Apparently you are not aware that Lindskoog's theories have been disproved. There was an article about this earlier this year, I believe, in Christianity Today. I became aware of the falsity of her claims several years ago in conversation with Douglas Gresham, Lewis's step-son, and Dr. Ed Brown, a collector of Lewis first editions. At any rate, you may rest assured that The Dark Tower is not a forgery. Certainly it is not one of Lewis's better works and that is why Lewis himself never finished it or published it, but he did write it.

Mark said...

Thank you for your comments. I am certainly not an expert on this subject, and was not aware of Douglas Gresham's or Ed Brown's opinion. Have their opinions on the subject been published?
Of course, the conclusions of even these two men do not prove that Lindskoog’s claims are totally false. To my knowledge (which I admit is very limited) no one has ever been able to discount many of the discrepancies she delineates--especially the inconsistent claims by Walter Hooper about his relationship with Lewis. And, even if she were shown to be totally wrong on every major point, this would not change my overall opinion of the positive way she pursued this matter.

Jeff said...

Her claims were later disproved by handwriting analysis, in re: The Dark Tower.

Mark said...

Jeff, Lindskoog actually addresses this in Appendix 10 of Sleuthing C S Lewis.

jonathan brewer said...

The late Alistair Fowler told me CSLewis showed him an early draft of what was to be dubbed The Dark Tower.

Mark said...

Interesting, Jonathan. Of course, you are merely providing hearsay evidence. I'm not saying this isn't true, but it really proves nothing.
That said, I must reiterate that the point of my post was not that I am convinced Lindskoog was right. It was about the manner in which she conducted herself and the respect she showed for others in her writings. Especially at this time of year when politicians seem to be able to do nothing but make personal attacks, I still find it refreshing.