Upon Lewis’ death, Walter Hooper assisted Inkling Owen Barfield (1898-1997) in overseeing Lewis’ literary estate. He continues to serve as a literary advisor to the estate. Hooper’s Lewisian contributions have grown in magnitude over the years.
He began by co-authoring a biography of Lewis in 1974, written jointly with Roger Lancelyn Green (1918-87). Green had been a student of Lewis, and a member of the Inklings. After writing several other works through the years, in the late nineties he penned C.S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide and C.S. Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life and Works. Priceless resources!
The list of material edited by Hooper is quite impressive. He dutifully, and brilliantly, edited many of Lewis’ writings. The world should be particularly grateful for the three-volume compilation of Lewis’ correspondence. A humble man, Hooper writes sincerely in the preface to the volumes: “The eight years I have spent editing the letters would not have been as fruitful nor as pleasant were it not for the help of many others. My debts are numerous, and nothing I can say can adequately reflect my gratitude.”
Hooper’s meeting with Lewis was providential, coming as it did so near the end of the great author’s life. The following letter describes their arrangement. It reveals how much Lewis appreciated the initial assistance provided by Hooper, and how hopeful he was that Hooper would be able to resume his secretarial duties in the summer of 1963. Lewis remained, however, concerned about how he would meet all of his financial responsibilities in the wake of his medical retirement.
[The Kilns] 20 Sept 63
My dear Walter
We get on reasonably well, tho’ we all greatly miss, not only your utility, but your companionship. No one has ever so endeared himself to the whole household.
The noble Arthurian volumes continue to arrive, but are not yet on the shelves. The work of arranging all my books in their new homes, tho’ delightful, goes on v[ery] slowly, for I am not strong enough to do more than a little each day.
Now, about the future. It is entirely reasonable that you shd have a salary and a darn good one, and I feel I have been rather sponging on your kindness. But what it may be proper for you to ask may also be impossible for me to do.
I dare not at present increase my expenses. In this country one is taxed each year on the income of the previous year. One’s first year in retirement is therefore very alarming. And if, on top of the drop in income, there are the expenses of an illness, and some rather heavy and unexpected expenses for David–well you see.
I am v. ashamed, not of confessing the situation, but of refusing the wholly just demand from a man to whom I already owe more than any money could repay.
But you see, having you as a paid secretary wd. be a luxury, and I’ve no right to imperil those who depend on me for the sake of a luxury to myself.
On other grounds, I couldn’t recommend you to come in January. Mrs Miller and I talked it over and both concluded that an English house in an English winter wd. be misery for you. Our central-heating apparatus is v. primitive (nothing like yours) and we can afford to use it only during very cold snaps.
If you can afford to come in June, you will be thrice welcome. W. is still away. I fear he’ll kill himself if this goes on much longer.
Our plums are splendid this year. With all our loves. Yours Jack
A Wonderful Interview with Hooper
Walter Hooper has been very content to remain behind the scene, and deep in the shadow of the man whose memory he preserves.
Fortunately, in addition to his personal writings and editorial work, Hooper has been willing to speak in various settings. The photograph at the top of the page comes from the unveiling of Lewis’ memorial in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.
We owe a debt of gratitude to “Socrates in the City: Conversations on the Examined Life,” which is produced by Eric Metaxas, a Christian writer and syndicated radio host.
Metaxas took his program from the city of New York, to the city of Oxford to avail himself of the wealth of brilliant speakers accessible there. Among those he interviewed in this casual setting is Walter Hooper. Wonderfully, the Hooper interview was substantial enough that it is presented in three parts. Do check it out.
14 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis and his Secretary”
What insights this man can give. Not only letters but real conversations.
How wonderful all can be captured and recorded for future fans
Yes, amazing insights. And now preserved for posterity. It’s sad how many families allow their “elders” to depart this world having left only a very few verbal artifacts. (Often those stories become unintentionally corrupted.)
With modern video capabilities, there’s little excuse for us not conducting “interviews” with our loved ones, especially those who are elderly.
A very interesting piece, Rob. I love it when I learn something new.
Pleased that you enjoyed it. I learn something new almost every time I write a new post.
Well done. I have benefited tremendously as a scholar from Walter Hooper’s work. I met him, accidentally (or providentially) this summer at the Kilns. My son got to hear him share his reminiscences. Many of the best ones are in interviews or in his prefaces, which is good. If it wasn’t for Hooper, we would have to almost entirely rely on secondary sources or go to archives.
(note: I have a nice email from you: I’m just emerging from a chest cold and just starting to come clear)
I envy you having met Hooper. I envy you having spent time researching in Oxford.
Since envy’s a sin, I guess I have some repenting to do…
Yeah, it was all pretty cool.
It is quiet heroes that really bear the brunt of wonderful things in the world.
These are the people that Lewis surrounded himself with, right?
You just reminded me to be thankful for all of the quiet heroes who surround me. Thanks.
These guys and girls are the rock stars in Heaven.
Walter Hooper was not Mr. Lewis’ subordinate, but his equal partner. It took a partnership of two great men to coordinate their own special gifts so that the world can know what God has written through them. One has penned it and the other has facilitated and protected it. To both men I am equally grateful.
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