Biography of C. S. Lewis
Like so many of England's great men, Clive Staples (Jack) Lewis was born in Ireland, in Belfast on 29 November 1898.
His mother was a devout Christian and made efforts to influence his beliefs. When she died in his early youth her influence waned and Lewis was subject to the musings and mutterings of his friends who were decidedly agnostic and atheistic. It would not be until later, in a moment of clear rationality that he first came to a belief in God and later became a Christian.
C. S. Lewis volunteered for the army in 1917 and was wounded in the trenches in World War I. During the fighting he promised a comrade that if the young man did not return home to England, that he would look after his mother. Lewis kept his promise, providing the widow with a home and support until she died.
After the war, he attended university at Oxford. Soon, he found himself on the faculty of Magdalen College where he taught Mediaeval and Renaissance English.
The wound he received in the First World War would affect him physically throughout his life, yet the Second World War had a more profound effect on his writing. The new mechanized and bureaucratized society that rose up during the war years held a fascination for him. His witty observations on it can be perused in the "Screwtape Letters". During the Second World War he also became quite famous for his radio broadcasts on religious matters.
Throughout his academic career he wrote clearly on the topic of religion. His most famous works include the Screwtape Letters and the Chronicles of Narnia. The atmosphere at Oxford and Cambridge tended to skepticism. Lewis used this skepticism as a foil. He intelligently saw Christianity as a necessary fact that could be seen clearly in science.
For much of his life, C. S. Lewis was a member of a brilliant if informal society called the Inklings. It frequently gathered together in a small pub in Oxford. Other members of this group included J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and Charles Williams.
"Surprised by Joy" is Lewis's autobiography chronicling his reluctant conversion from atheism to Christianity in 1931. The book mainly focuses on Lewis's years as an atheist, and shows what thoughts and events led up to his conversion.
Late in his life, the 1950's, he met an American woman, living in England with her two sons. She was converted by his works. They fell in love and married. When she died, in 1960, he was led to question his faith. Yet, in spite of the tragedy and a great deal of reflection, his faith, in fact, grew. Some of his best works on Christianity were written after this trying period of his life. The movie, "Shadowlands", portrays the sorrow and pain of this episode of his existence.
Lewis died 1963. Most of his published works are still in print and available for purchase through our bibliography page.