In biographical criticism, the critic attempts to relate the life of an author to their works. C S Lewis hated biographical criticism of others, and would have deplored any attempt at biographical criticism of his own writing. The Inklings, by Humphrey Carpenter, is a biographical criticism of C S Lewis's own writing. There is a difficulty here! For one thing, Carpenter finds himself in disagreement with Lewis himself:
Lewis's attack was partially justified. In its extreme form this 'biographical' tendency in criticism is objectionable. Yet there are also grounds for supposing that Lewis's attitude to it grew from something deep-seated in his own personality.
Realising the evident irony here, Carpenter immediately backtracks and attempts to justify his argument:
In saying this one is of course falling into the very Personal Heresy that he attacked.
But the justification that he attempts in the next sentence turns out to be no justification at all:
Nevertheless it needs to be said.
One of the advantages of writing about the dead of course is that they so very rarely argue back. But you encourage other scurrilous critics (or bloggers) to do the very same thing about yourself when you're dead. (Hi Humphrey! Hi future readers!)
In other respects, The Inklings is a very good book, detailing the history of Lewis, his literary friends, and their regular meetings that took place during and after the war. Of course, some of the best passages are quotes from Lewis and his friends themselves (the book would be only one-third the size minus the quotes). Often these quotes seem to be taken out of context - I suspect that Carpenter may have taken the words of Inkling Charles Williams to heart:
... he chanted lines of verse almost as if they were magical formulae. They were not always lines that made any great sense out of context - 'And thus the Filial Godhead answering spake' from Paradise Lost and 'Felt in the blood and felt along the heart' from Wordsworth's 'Tintern Abbey' were among his favourites - but he did not believe that the actual meaning of such lines was especially important. 'There has been a great deal too much talking of what the poets mean,' he wrote in The English Poetic Mind. And in another context he said: ' It isn't what poetry says, it is what poetry is.'
Writerly squib for those interested in such things: when he started writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien apparently referred to Strider/Aragorn as 'Trotter'.
UPDATE - Of course, the best biography of C S Lewis was written by C S Lewis himself - Surprised by Joy.
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
- John Bangsund's Threepenny Planet
- Broken Biro
- Poetry 24
- Superlative scribbles
- Kirstyn McD!
- Rorrim a tsomla almost a mirror
- More Sterne
- Cam the man from the Dan.
- Too hot to Raaaaaaandallllllll!
- Erin's Excellently Everlasting Effervescements!
- Slammy Infamy
- Hail Paco!
- Baron Blandwagon, purveyor of cyberbunnies, hawker of Roger Corman, and Misruler of the Multiverse
- The Bolta. Aiyeeeeee!!!!!
- Bad Apple Audrey
- The cartoon church
- Sir Martinkus
- A Zemblanian abroad and at home
- A hodge podge of hotzeplotz
- THE SLAMMA!
- Jottlesby's nottings, or should that be Nottlesby's jottings?
- The Snarking of the Hunt
- Jazzy Hands
- David of Metal City
- David the Barista
- The Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony
- Be an Opinion Dominion Minion!
- ... and Fel
- His brilliant career - from whale sushi to crumbed prawn
- Jo Blogs
- Yet another Tim
- Was two peas, now three peas
- ... Still Life - now with extra rotating cats!
- An Amazingly Awesome Australian Ampersand!
- Blink and you'll miss 'er
- Red in the land of the tigers!
- Wire of Vibe
- Chase him, ladies, he's in the cavalry!
- The Non-palindromical Editrix in Germanium
- Old Sterne
- The briefs...
- ... and the brieflets
- The Purple Blog
- Blairville, lair of all that is wicked and perfidious
- The enticingly acronymical CSH
- EXTREEEEEEEME WYNTER!
- Mark of California
- Silent Speaking
- Lexicon the Mexican
- ► 2016 (71)
- ► 2015 (106)
- ► 2014 (135)
- ► 2013 (173)
- ► 2012 (275)
- ► 2011 (261)
- ► 2010 (288)
- ► 2009 (290)
- On sounding like a pompous git, #451: letters to t...
- Duck Cat Dog Friday
- Muslim cemetery decreases quality of life for dead...
- Etiquette quiz
- Biographica critica
- On poetry by journalists
- A poem about the curly clouds outside my work wind...
- Quadruple entendre
- A horrifying confession
- Foot-in-the-door-in-the-foot journalism
- Confusing confusion, and passwords
- Ad Homonym!
- Buddy, you got any faith to spare?
- The live dog and the dead lion
- It's a party at my house and no-one's invited
- Bloody hell
- Yet another further further fable for our time
- I also liked their plastic icecream desserts
- Sweeping generalisation
- On the eve of ultimate destruction, I have a sligh...
- Disaster strikes in the wrong place!
- Important things to note on a Saturday morning
- Gentlemen, cognite your engines...
- Guess the headline!
- Stuff sold on ebay
- Short short story
- Pay attention, drones
- It's a coffee cup catchphrase masquerading as a bl...
- ▼ September (28)
- ► 2007 (392)
- ► 2006 (373)
- ► 2005 (287)