Quotations and Allusions
in C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength
compiled by Arend Smilde (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
… a difficult work to judge. Read it conscientiously from cover to cover, and you will conclude that it is the heaviest of tasks; but then from such a reading something will cling to your memory – odd lines, odd scenes, a peculiar flavour – till you are driven back to it, to find that its faults are just as grievous as you first supposed but that its merits are greater.
–– C. S. Lewis on Stephen
Hawes, Pastime of Pleasure
...it appears confused only so long as we are trying to get out of it what it never intended to give. It becomes intelligible and delightful as soon as we take it for what it is – a holiday work, a spontaneous overflow of intellectual high spirits, a revel of debate, paradox, comedy and (above all) of invention, which starts many hares and kills none. ... There is a thread of serious thought running through it, an abundance of daring suggestions, several back-handed blows at European institutions ... But he does not keep our noses to the grindstone. He says many things for the fun of them, surrendering himself to the sheer pleasure of imagined geography, imagined language, and imagined institutions. That is what readers whose interests are rigidly political do not understand: but everyone who has ever made an imaginary map responds at once.
–– C. S. Lewis on Thomas More, Utopia
...I consider a happy ending appropriate to the light, holiday kind of fiction I was attempting. The Professor has mistaken the “poetic justice” of romance for an ethical theorem.
–– C. S. Lewis on J. B. S. Haldane’s critique of That Hideous Strength
Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength (1945) contains, like most of his books, a great number of allusions to unspecified books and situations. Here is a listing by chapter and sub-chapter of many such words and phrases with brief references to what I have found to be their sources. I have also included a few other items where a short explanation may be of use to some readers. The list is based on notes I made for my Dutch translation of this book, which was published in 2008 as Thulcandra.
I am referring to the full text of That Hideous Strength. An abridgement made by the author was first published in the United States in 1946 as The Tortured Planet and later in Great Britain under its original title. The abridged editions now appear to be no longer available except second-hand.
Double question marks in bold type ( ?? ) mark those places where I am still hoping to find relevant details. Additions, corrections, and proposals for new entries are welcome.
Updates are listed at the bottom of this
Last update: 7 November 2021
A modern fairy-tale for grown-ups
According to Walter Hooper’s bibliography of the writings of C. S. Lewis , That Hideous Strength was released on 16 August 1945. A review by George Orwell appeared that same day in Manchester Evening News. On 17 August, Orwell’s Animal Farm was published with the subtitle A Fairy Story.
Jane Agnes McNeill (1889–1959), a Belfast friend of both C. S. Lewis and his brother W. H. (“Warnie”) Lewis. Warnie also dedicated one of his own books to her. Jane McNeill had a wide literary interest and she was particularly fond of old Scottish poetry. One of her friends was Helen Waddell, a renowned medievalist whom she knew from the days they were classmates at school. Jane could not go to university as she had an ageing mother to care for. She was a long-time editor of The Victorian, the magazine of Victoria College, her school in Belfast. In chapter 10 of CSL’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, she makes a brief appearance as “Janie M”. She did not like That Hideous Strength and was not pleased with the dedication.
Sir David Lyndsay
Scottish poet (1486–1555). Ane Dialog is a long didactic poem on the history of the world. Its full title is Ane Dialog betuix Experience and ane Courteour (1555), more usually known as The Monarche (here is a long fragment which includes Lewis’s book title). The original story of the Tower of Babel is in Genesis XI.4–9. David Lyndsay should not be confused with the modern science fiction author David Lindsay, whose book Voyage to Arcturus (1920) was one important inspiration for C. S. Lewis to write science fiction.
that hyddeous Strength
Lyndsay was certainly using the word Strength here in its now archaic sense of “stronghold” or “fortress”.
The Abolition of Man
A three-part course of lectures given by C. S. Lewis in Newcastle-on-Tyne for the University of Durham in February 1943, and published in that same year by Oxford University Press.
A small cathedral town in Northern England just south of Newcastle, beautifully situated in a bend of the river Wear. See previous note.
English writer and philosopher (1886–1950). His science fiction novel Last and First Men (1930) was one of the things that prodded Lewis into trying his hand at the genre. Lewis’s first attempt resulted in Out of the Silent Planet (1938), the beginning of the Ransom trilogy. Lewis was repelled by the kind of philosophy that seemed to be closely connected with this kind of writing; he wanted to put science fiction to new and better uses. Stapledon in his turn had been much inspired by J. B. S. Haldane’s essay “The Last Judgment”, published in Possible Worlds (1927).
Numinor and the True West, Tolkien
Lewis of course means the fantasy world of his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973). Tolkien started writing down his “private mythology” during the First World War and continued working on it until his death. The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954–1955 after some twenty years’ writing and re-writing and much encouragement from Lewis during weekly sessions in their private literary club, the “Inklings”. Since That Hideous Strength was written in 1943, allusions to Tolkien must be references not to the finished text of The Lord of the Rings, but to some early prefigurations and side products which Tolkien had read aloud to his fellow Inklings. The almost exclusively aural acquaintance with Tolkien’s fantasy world explains why Lewis writes Numinor for Tolkien’s Númenor. The history of Númenor and the True West is contained in The Lost Road and in The Silmarillon, both published posthumously in 1977 and 1987, but written before The Lord of the Rings.
Chapter 1 Sale of College Property
The chapter “Solemnization of Matrimony” in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
English poet (1572–1631). He pioneered a grim type of love poetry – i.e. he gave poetic expression to a grim view of erotic love – which according to C. S. Lewis was the reason why Donne was being overrated by twentieth-century readers (cf. Lewis’s 1938 essay “Donne and Love Poetry in the Seventeenth Century” in Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper, 1969, pp. 106–125). Jane Studdock has chosen a fashionable subject and has fashionable ideas on it.
A poem from Donne’s Songs and Sonnets (1631).
Henry de Bracton
Medieval English lawyer (†1268), author of an important work on common law. He argued that the highest authority in the country, i.e. the King, is not above the law: “The King is under the Law for it is the Law that maketh him a King” (thus quoted and translated by C. S. Lewis in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, 1954, p. 48).
Bracton College, Fellows
British universities (like the fictitious “University of Edgestow” in the present book) are traditionally loose associations of individual “Colleges”, each College having its own name, governing body, staff, buildings, property and traditions. The College buildings were usually grouped around one or more courtyards called Quadrangles, or Quads, as described in chapter 1.3. “Fellow” is the usual designation of a staff member.
elected to a Fellowship
A new Fellow was usually appointed after comparative examinations and a ballot by the sitting staff.
it was still sweet in the mouth
Cf. Job 20:21.
Bill the Blizzard
The name is perhaps modelled on that of Bill the Lizard, a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Friend and adviser to Sherlock Holmes in the detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930).
...liked his papers better than yours
Curry is referring to the comparative exam which Mark had to take when applying for his Bracton fellowship (see note on “elected to a Fellowship”, above).
Properly called Distributism, this is an ideal or theory of small-scale economic organization which had some currency in the early decades of the twentieth century, notably among Roman Catholics. Its chief spokesmen were G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.
English architect and theatre designer (1573–1652).
John Bunyan (1628–88), English Puritan preacher and writer; author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Izaak Walton (1593–1683), a Royalist and an Anglican, was not a regular writer or scholar, but nevertheless wrote two books which became very well-known: the Lives (a collection of short biographies, including one about John Donne) and a book on angling and the English countryside, The Compleat Angler (1653).
Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658), Puritan leader of the parliamentary army during the English Civil War. After the execution of King Charles I, Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth for the last five years of his life. Shortly afterwards the monarchy was restored.
Merlin who was the Devil’s son
In the Historia Britonum, compiled by the Welsh monk Nennius (c. 800 A.D.), there is a story about a boy with prophetic powers who had not been begotten by a father. The boy’s name is Ambrosius and the events take place around the year 430 A.D. In Welsh legend, Merlinus (Myrddin) was originally the name of a bard and seer who lived in the second half of the sixth century, i.e. much later than the aforementioned Ambrosius. Still many more centuries later, about 1140, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the British Kings) which included the story about the unfathered young prophet (VI.17–19). The boy is now called Merlin, however, and elsewhere in the book he figures as a magician. Geoffrey, overlooking a time-gap of some 150 years between Ambrosius and Merlin, explains that Merlinus “was called Ambrosius”. It was also Geoffrey of Monmouth who, in Latinizing the Welsh name Myrddin, had changed d into l to avoid associations with French merde, “shit”. With all its (now) glaring historical inaccuracy, Geoffrey’s book started off the great tradition of Medieval Arthurian literature, which flourished especially in France (Chrétien de Troyes, †c. 1183). In France, this continually expanding tradition was dubbed matière de Bretagne to distinguish it from the matière de France (stories about Charlemagne) – hence the English term matter of Britain. By the early thirteenth century, Merlin’s fatherless provenance was often understood to mean that he was fathered by the Devil.
“red tape” was the word its supporters used
One example of this use which was certainly known to Lewis is in J. B. S. Haldane’s essay “Nationality and Research”, in Possible Worlds (1927):
Probably a standard educational system is an evil, as government officials always tend to demand quantity rather than quality of work, and research flourishes best in an atmosphere where leisure and even laziness are possible. On the other hand, a government department like the Medical Resarch Council in England, which is not dominated by red tape and is willing to subsidize work that may turn out to be valueless (...) can be of enormous use to science.
Further mentions by Lewis of “red tape” in this books are in chapters
– 3.4, Fairy Hardcastle speaking
– 5.1, “an immense programme of vivisection, freed at last from Red Tape and from niggling economy...”
– 5.2, “...what [Mark] had learned, in the Progressive Element, to describe as “settling real business in private”, or “cutting out the Red Tape” ...”
– 6.4, in Mark’s piece of popular journalism.
…that the honour of the College was now involved
Many editions have what is probably a typo here, rendering “now” as “not”: “… the honor of the College was not involved”.
Mrs Dimble ... Cecil Dimble
According to James Patrick, the Dimbles and their salon across the river “are surely drawn from Clement and Eleanor Webb” and their home at Holywell Ford, “a medieval mill house across the water walks from Magdalen” – see Patrick’s The Magdalen Metaphysicals: Idealism and Orthodoxy at Oxford, 1901-1945) (1985), pp. xii and 45, with a portrait on p. xxxvii. Clement C. J. Webb (1865-1954) was an Oxford philosopher and historian with a sideline in theology. He was noted for his scholarly treatment of “the entire succession of philosophers whose thought about God formed the background for twentieth-century natural theology”; of “The Idea of Personality as Applied to God” (title of a 1900 essay); and of the relationship between Christianity and history (Patrick, pp. 36-40).
Lewis also briefly referred to Clement Webb (as “C. J.”) at the end of the Space Trilogy’s first volume, Out of the Silent Planet, chapter 22; and, later, in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, chapter 14, where he mentions Webb as one of “five great Magdalen men who enlarged my very idea of what a learned life should be”.
Sir Thomas Malory (†1471), author of Le Morte Darthur (published in 1485), a large collection of Arthurian stories. King Arthur did not always figure prominently in them; the curious title was originally meant to cover only the last part. Over the centuries the book went through many editions and it is the source for most subsequent English-language versions of King Arthur (except attempts at Celtic reconstructions). A manuscript version of the book was not discovered until 1934 and the first revised edition was published in 1947.
A mysterious chalice or bowl, first mentioned by Chrétien de Troyes in his last, unfinished work Perceval (or Le Conte del Graal). Later authors and re-tellers developed this object into the cup used by Christ during the Last Supper and afterwards used by Joseph of Arimathea to collect the blood of Christ after He died on the Cross. Generally spoken, the Grail in Arthurian stories is an object of great significance and infinite value – often thought or found to possess healing or life-protecting power – while the “Grail King” or “Grail Keeper” usually is an exalted figure, and often a wounded man. In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal, the greatest medieval Arthurian work in German, the Grail is a stone without any specified function or virtue.
Author of a long poem in early Middle English, Brut (c. 1190), which tells the history of Britain from the Fall or Troy to the late 7th century. It is the first text in English mentioning Arthur and several other early British heroes: all the earlier authors, such as Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote in Latin. “Brut” is Brutus, great-grandson of the early Roman hero Aeneas. He is presented as progenitor of the British kings and the name Brittannia is declared to be derived from Brutus.
Chapter 2 Dinner with the Sub-Warden
Latin for “It doesn’t stink”. The full phrase, Pecunia non olet (“Money doesn’t stink”) is ascribed to the Roman Emperor Vespasianus referring to the tax proceeds from public toilets.
Karl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), Prussian general, author of Vom Kriege (On War) and other works on the art of war.
Othello’s occupation would be gone
Cf. Shakespeare, Othello III.3, 357; the aptness of this quotation in the given circumstances is of a wholly superficial nature.
Probably an oblique reference – though not a very significant one – to Strandtown, the area of Belfast, Northern Ireland, where C. S. Lewis had his parental home.
According to Joseph Pearce in C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church (2003), p. 93, this might be a play on the name of Blewbury, a village some fifteen miles south of Oxford. While Lewis wrote the Ransom trilogy, controversies were going on over the foundation of an atomic plant near Blewbury. In 1946, the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE, or “Harwell Laboratory”) was opened at the former RAF base of Harwell, near Blewbury. This was the site of the first nuclear reactor in Europe.
Chapter 3 Belbury and St Anne’s-on-the-Hill
This name – or more accurately “Hengist” – is arguably one of the two first specifically English names in recorded history, as distinct from British (Celtic) names. Some very old sources mention Hengist and Horsa as the two brothers who, by the middle of the 5th century A.D., led the first group of Anglo-Saxon invaders or immigrants to Britain. Horsa didn’t survive very long; Hengist was later declared to be progenitor of the Kings of Kent. His death is recorded in Nennius’s Historia Britonum (see note to chapter 1.3, above), in the same section (§56) that contains one of the earliest mentions of Arthur.
Louis-Victor, Duc de Broglie (1892–1987), French physicist, Nobel Prize winner in 1929. His name is pronounced so as to rhyme with French feuille. In June 1921, de Broglie was present at an academic ceremony in Oxford where C. S. Lewis, still an undergraduate, had to make a brief public appearance as he had won the “Chancellor’s Prize” in an essay contest. Afterwards Lewis wrote about this in a letter to his brother: “From a great deal of snobbish reference, which sounded less vulgar in Latin, I gather he [de Broglie] is of a great house” (Collected Letters I, p. 557).
Almanac de Gotha
Reference work on European nobility and royalty, first published in 1764 in de German town of Gotha.
In view especially of Mark’s talk with the Italian professor in chapter 8.3, it seems just possible that Lewis named him after the Greek writer Flavius Philostratus II (c. 165–250 A.D.). See CSL’s English Literature in the Sixteenth Century III/2, p. 320:
...citing the works of Pheidias, and ... adding those of Praxiteles, [Philostratus] says that they were never produced by imitating nature. “Imagination made them, and she is a better artist than imitation; for where the one carves only what she has seen, the other carves what she has not seen.” (De Vita Apollonii, vi. xix). In the third century Plotinus completes the theory ... Art and Nature thus become rival copies of the same supersensuous original, and there is no reason why Art should not sometimes be the better of the two. Such a theory leaves the artist free to exceed the limits of Nature.
Inglese is Italian for “English(man)”; -accio or -accia is a pejorative suffix.
I.e. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), a children’s book by Beatrix Potter.
Romance of the Rose
A 13th-century French narrative poem, Roman de la Rose. It consists of two very different sections, written by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung respectively. In the first part, a lover in his dream sets out to find the perfect lady; she is symbolized by a rose which he is going to pick in the Garden of Love. The Roman de la Rose is the subject of chapter 3 in C. S. Lewis’s book The Allegory of Love (1936).
A reference to Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal (1882), Act II, and to the medieval poem on which it is based, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal. Klingsor is a wicked sorcerer who has stolen the Holy Lance; Parsifal is the young hero who is going to retrieve it. He gets into Klingsor’s garden where he has to resist the charms of flower-shaped women.
the one book that lay on the table in the middle of the room ... “The beauty of the female is the root of joy to the female as well as to the male” etc.
This unspecified book and the passage found by Jane are part of the fiction, as attested by Lewis in two letters (Collected Letters III, pp. 699 and 1360):
– to Ruth Pitter, 31 Jan. 1956, “The passage is, so far as I know, my own invention, influenced, I think, by Coventry Patmore. I am not now sure that it is very relevant in its place.”
– to Rosamund Cruikshank, 31 July 1962, “The bit Jane reads at St Anne’s is my own.”
One passage which Lewis may have had in mind is found in Patmore’s four-part poem The Angel in the House (1854-62), Book II, Canto II “The Course of True Love”, third Prelude (“Lais and Lucretia”):
Did first his beauty wake her sighs?
That’s Lais! Thus Lucretia’s known:
The beauty in her Lover’s eyes
Was admiration of her own.
Cf. Tennyson, “A Dream of Fair Women” (1832), Stanza 22. “At length I saw a lady within call, / Stiller than chisell’d marble, standing there; / A daughter of the gods, divinely tall, / And most divinely fair.”
my name is Camilla
Lewis very probably named her after the warrior-maiden in Vergil’s Aeneid, VII, 803–817, and Book XI, 498–835.
Early 20th-century name for women who actively advocated female suffrage, i.e. extension of the right to vote so as to include women.
Chapter 4 The Liquidation of Anachronisms
to behave like the Sword of Siegfried
In other words, to prevent lovers from having sexual intercourse; a reference to Richard Wagner’s opera Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods: Act 2, Scene 4). When Brünnhilde accuses Siegfried of having “extorted lust and love” from her, Siegfried denies the charge, pointing out that he has placed his sword Notung between them when he wooed her for his blood-brother Gunther.
I do not know of any story or passage in Arthurian legend or Germanic mythology featuring Siegfried’s sword in this function. There is, however, at least one relevant story in medieval legend about another hero’s sword. Tristan lay his sword between himself and Isolde in their bed when he had cause to fear they might be caught together by Isolde’s husband. Interestingly, this husband’s name is Mark; cf. note to chapter 10.2. The sword lying there was apparently thought to be sufficient proof that they had no intercourse with each other (Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan, XXVIII, 17.398–17.413).
Henrik Ibsen, (1828–1906), Norwegian poet and playwright; Mrs Dimble is referring to the figure of Aline Solness in his play The Master Builder (Bygmester Solness, 1892), Act 3. Aline had been mother of twin boys who had died as babies shortly after a fire in which their home had burnt to the ground. Recalling this, Aline tells her friend Hilda that she doesn’t actually deplore the loss of her boys since “We ought to feel nothing but joy in thinking of them; for they are so happy – so happy now”; but that “it is the small losses in life that cut one to the heart”. These losses include “nine lovely dolls” which had been lost in the fire: “The dolls and I had gone on living together. (...) I carried them under my heart – like little unborn children.”
They will gnaw their tongues and not repent
Cf. Revelation of John, 16:10–11.
Cyrus the Great, King of Persia. In 539 bc, he conquered the New Babylonian empire and shortly afterwards allowed the Jews to leave their place of exile and go back to Palestine. The Jews had an understandably high opinion of Cyrus: in Isaiah XLV.1, he is called the Lord’s “anointed” (messiah).
There is no turning back once you have set your hand to the plough
Luke 9:62. “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Know you not that we shall judge angels?
I Corinthians 6:3.
Raleigh’s fine phrase
Lewis is not quoting the English Renaissance poet and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618), but the first Professor of English Literature at Oxford, of the same name, who died in 1922, a few months before Lewis began studying English there. Raleigh’s letters were published in 1926; the fine phrase is quoted from a letter of 25 January 1912 to the poet and literary critic Edmund Gosse. “I do find the obituary a difficult instrument to play.”
Saeva sonare verbera, etc.
Virgil, Aeneid VI, 557–558: description of the noise coming up from Hell at the gate.
Chapter 5 Elasticity
A puppet government collaborating with a foreign power; named after Vidkun Quisling (1887–1945), a Norwegian collaborator with the Nazis. Miss Hardcastle is referring to the French “Vichy” government led by Philippe Pétain in the years 1940–1944.
A simplified form of English for international use with a vocabulary of less than 1,000 words, designed by two British linguists, C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards (Basic English and Its Uses, 1943); the “free-thinking Cambridge don” is Richards.
monarchist and legitimist
Legitimism is the idea that succession to the throne is to be regulated by a fixed set of rules – usually primogeniture – and ought not to be a matter of choice or deliberation or popular favour.
not the sort of grounds that anyone could walk in for pleasure … a considerable zoo
This passage seems to echo part of the final section of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, an unfinished utopian novel published in 1526. The narrator is privileged to be shown round “Solomon’s House”, an institute embodying Bacon’s ideal of ever-growing human knowledge and power over nature.
“We have also large and various orchards and gardens; wherein we do not so much respect beauty, as variety of ground and soil, proper for divers trees and herbs: and some very spacious, where trees and berries are set whereof we make divers kinds of drinks, besides the vineyards. In these we practise likewise all conclusions of grafting, and inoculating as well of wild-trees as fruit-trees, which produceth many effects. …
“We have also parks and enclosures of all sorts of beasts and birds which we use not only for view or rareness, but likewise for dissections and trials; that thereby we may take light what may be wrought upon the body of man. Wherein we find many strange effects; as continuing life in them, though divers parts, which you account vital, be perished and taken forth; resuscitating of some that seem dead in appearance; and the like. We try also all poisons and other medicines upon them, as well of chirurgery, as physic. …
“We have also particular pools, where we make trials upon fishes, as we have said before of beasts and birds. …”
It was a Friday
This is not in accordance with Saturday being the day of Mark’s first visit to Belbury (chapter 2.2). Counting from there, the present section starts with Mark waking on what ought to be Wednesday. As appears from the letter which he writes later this day, it is 21 October. Counting back from here (Wednesday 21 October), the story begins on Friday 16 October. See also notes to chapters 7.1 and 11.2.
He [Laird] got a third
I.e. he got a third (lowest) degree university diploma. Cf. Curry’s remark in chapter 4.7, “I’m not quite happy about his bad degree”.
nasty, poor, brutish and short
From Thomas Hobbes’s description of humanity in its primeval state: “...continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” – Leviathan (1651), I.13.
A sura is a chapter of the Koran. Lewis here seems to use the word as a fictitious name for a semi-fictitious figure. He may well have been thinking of Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889–1929), an Indian mystic who was born into a Sikh family and became a Christian in 1904. Sadhu is a Hindoo title for a wandering holy man. For most of his life after 1904 Sundar Singh travelled through India and Tibet as a Christian sadhu. He visited Europe (London and Amsterdam, among other places) on two occasions during the years 1920–22. In 1929, travelling on foot to Tibet, he disappeared without a trace in the Himalaya.
Chapter 6 Fog
a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand
1 Kings 18:44. “Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand.”
“Thou fool, that which thou sowest … ” – “It is sown in a natural body …”
I Corinthians 15:36 and 15:44
Senior pupils of a “Public School” who have reached the top of the school’s social hierarchy. C. S. Lewis’s associations with the word bloods are vividly illustrated in chapter 6 of his autobiography, Surprised by Joy (1955).
Ovid, “Ad metam properate simul”
Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love) II, 727 – “hurry on to the finish [i.e. orgasm] together!” Ovid was a Roman poet living from 43 bc till 18 ad.
John William Dunne (1875–1949), Irish pioneer aviator. In addition to flying, he developed a theory of “serialism” from experiences like Janes Studdock’s dreams in That Hideous Strength. He supposed Time to be a thing with infinitely many dimensions, each dimension having its own chain or series of events. He thought it an illusion to think of time as one-dimensional; occasional escapes from this illusion were possible in special circumstances, e.g. during dreams.
witches prophesying on a blasted heath
Cf. the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Small river on the eastern coast of Italy north of Rimini. In 49 bc, Julius Caesar deliberately started a civil war by crossing the Rubicon to the south.
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher (born in Stagira, Macedonia).
A less-than-ingenious pun reminding the British public c. 1946 of their recent “war effort”.
Secret police of Nazi Germany, Geheime Staats-Polizei.
Secret police of the Soviet Union in the years 1923–1934.
Chapter 7 The Pendragon
“We have your letter of the 10th”
The date is impossible: Mark’s letter in chapter 5.2 is dated 21 October and Jane’s letter was written a few – apparently three – days later. The mistake can be explained. From a comparison between the first British and first American editions of That Hideous Strength, it appears that Lewis originally wrote the story having in mind 1 October as Day One but later decided, presumably with a view to the descriptions of the season, to shift the story half a month on. If this is what happened, he further seems to have failed to make all the necessary changes where days and dates were concerned. See also notes to chapter 5.2 and 11.2.
The Fisher King is a personage in (high) medieval Arthurian legend, introduced by Chrétien de Troyes in Le Conte del Graal. Perceval first meets the Fisher King as an old fisherman who shows him the way. Later he meets the same man as a king lying in bed with an incurable wound. A procession carrying the Grail enters the room and passes by the bed where the wounded king lies. Perceval, from a knightly sense of propriety, does not ask questions about the meaning of this, only to discover later on that he would have procured the Fisher King’s recovery by inquiring.
I live like the King in Curdie
A reference to The Princess and Curdie (1883), a novel by George Macdonald (1824–1905). The miner’s boy Curdie discovers that the king has long been given drugged wine; together with the princess he succeeds in providing the king with regular meals of safe, undrugged bread and wine.
The land of giants in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), by Jonathan Swift.
Black and Tans
British volunteer army fighting Sinn Féin in Ireland in the years around 1920; black and tan were the colours of their uniform.
Chapter 8 Moonlight at Belbury
“Be glad thou sleeper and thy sorrow offcast. I am the gate to all good adventure”
After Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowls, 131–132. The author, after reading Cicero’s Dream of Scipio until nightfall, has his own dream of meeting Scipio the Elder, who leads him to a medieval-style Garden of Love. Over the gate of this garden two very different messages are written, one inviting, the other alarming. Each is a regular seven-line stanza, and lines 5–6 of the inviting one are
This is the wey to al good aventure.
Be glad, thow redere [reader], and thy sorwe of-caste.
the Curdie books
George Macdonald, The Princess and the Goblin (1872) and The Princess and Curdie (1883). The latter book was mentioned by the Director in chapter 7.2 (see note there).
Jane Austen’s fourth novel (1814), written between Pride and Prejudice and Emma.
A name borrowed from Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers (1882), by F. Anstey. In this famous school story Mr. Bultitude, a pompous businessman, is magically transformed into his son and the son into his father.
A king cometh, who shall rule the universe...
Chapter 9 The Saracen’s Head
The Saracen’s Head
In the Middle Ages, especially during the Crusades, “saracens” was the usual word for Muslims or Arabs. The turbaned head of an Arab was sometimes used as a “charge”, or decorative element, in heraldry. Such a head also appeared as a decoration over the entrance of inns and taverns and so lend the establishment its name, “The Saracen’s Head”. Lewis is of course referring to Alcasan.
he “discovered in his mind an inflammation swollen and deformed, his memory”
From the long poem “S.O.S.… ‘Ludlow’”, the three-part title poem of a volume by Christopher Hassall (1912-63), published in 1940. At the beginning of part III, the scene is that of daybreak on a lifeboat packed full with survivors from the passenger ship Ludlow, which on the previous day (as described in part II) has been sunk by a submarine on the Atlantic on the way from Egypt to England.
The following extract gives part III, lines 1-5 and 12-18; Lewis is quoting lines 14-15.
Misty, moving, and muted light; stillness of boat and bones;
Everything sopping. Stiff as cadavers, wasted and done-for we were,
Only our eyes unfixed to blink and swivel at the sun
That floated undeveloped like a burning cruiser poised
On the precarious East …
… We woke in flickering stages,
Our consciousness laboriously swept and pieced together
Like a knocked-over vase. Then each discovered in his mind
An inflammation swollen and deformed, his memory;
Ill-matched the orient sweetness on our sight, and our affliction
Of inward concentrated darkness that no outside sun
Could make into a morning.
General Assembly over the water
MacPhee, the “Ulsterman”, is presumably descended from a protestant (Presbyterian) Scottish family that came to Northern Ireland in the late seventeenth century. He appears to stick to an old habit of talking about Scotland as a country “over the water” even though he is now living in England – where a phrase like “North of the Border” would have been more appropriate.
The “General Assembly” is the highest governing council of the Church of Scotland.
Radical Protestants (Scottish Presbyterians) during the English civil war in the mid-seventeenth century.
“Fool, all lies in a passion of patience”, etc. / Taliessin through Logres
The line is quoted from the poem “Mount Badon”, in Taliessin through Logres (1938), a cycle of Arthurian poems by Charles Williams (1886–1945). Taliessin was followed in 1944 by another cycle, The Region of the Summer Stars. Williams was one of C. S. Lewis’s two chief fellow “Inklings”, the other being J. R. R. Tolkien (see note to Preface, above). Among the various Williamsian motifs in That Hideous Strength, perhaps the most important one is the idea of an ancient ideal (viz. Logres, the fallen kingdom of Arthur) kept alive by a small community (here the company of St Anne’s).
Scottish poet (1759–1796).
the spear-head of madness
Lewis here joins together various things associated with the goddess Diana or Artemis – a “moon goddess” who also was goddess of hunting and of wild animals. The madness meant here could be “lunacy”: a “moon-stricken” condition inflicted by the nymphs who follow Artemis on her roamings through woods and fields. As the leader of such a company, Artemis might be viewed as its “spear-head”.
See also Lewis’s ruminations in his essay “The Seeing Eye” (1963), about the prospect of humans traveling to the moon. Stating three reasons to hate this prospect, he mentions as his first, “merely sentimental, or perhaps aesthetic” reason that “the immemorial Moon – the Moon of the myths, the poets, the lovers – will have been taken from us for ever. Part of our mind, a huge mass of our emotional wealth, will have gone. Artemis, Diana, the silver planet belonged in that fashion to all humanity: he who first reaches it steals something from us all.”
the Pendragon of Logres
Pendragon is a Welsh title for a chief or leader. The word originally means something like “head dragon” or “chief dragon”. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Merlin gave this title to King Arthur’s father, Uther, who was henceforth called Uther Pendragon. In medieval Arthurian literature he remained the only one to carry the title, which therefore does not appear to have been inheritable. Logres is derived from Lloegyr, the ancient Welsh name for what came to be called England (Angle-land) from the ninth or tenth century onwards – or at least for that part which was associated with King Arthur. In Charles Williams’s Arthurian poems, a tradition of Companies of Logres is just about to start rather than being an age-old phenomenon. A twentieth-century Pendragon of Logres is probably an original idea of Lewis (see note above). There is a possible source, though, in Evelyn Underhill’s novel The Column of Dust (1909). In 1943 Charles Williams published an edition of Underhill’s letters and in his preface discussed that novel. 1943 was the year in which That Hideous Strength was written.
Pseudonym or pen name of the English novelist Fredrick Rolfe (1860–1913) – whose style Lewis once described as “one of the most preposterous I have ever read, and I doubt if I ever saw so much pedantry combined with so much ignorance” (letter to Arthur Greeves of 1 October 1934, Collected Letters II, p. 143). Corvus is the Latin word for “raven”, a bird closely related to the jackdaw.
Plural form of oyarsa, the incorporeal being governing a particular planet and sharing its name. In Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, Ransom meets the oyéresu of Mars and Venus respectively. An oyarsa is a kind of “eldil” (see MacPhee’s explanation to Jane about the organization of life at the Manor, in chapter 9.3).
Semi-legendary German magician and astrologer from the early 16th century; principal character of some famous plays (Marlowe, Goethe) and musical compositions (Wagner, Berlioz, Gounod).
A magician, main character in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.
A magician in The Faerie Queene, an unfinished long poem by Edmund Spenser (1552–1599).
after the fall of Numinor
In Tolkienian mythology, the end of the Second Age as described in The Silmarillion and in The Lost Road. The episode shows similarities to the story about the Tower of Babel and also to That Hideous Strength.
Swiss alchemist and physician (1493–1541).
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535), German alchemist, physician and philosopher, author of De occulta philosophia.
Francis Bacon (1561–1626), English statesman, philosopher and essayist, whose works include The Advancement of Learning (1605) and the The New Atlantis (unfinished, 1626).
“attained not to greatness and certainty of works”
From the opening sentences of Bacon’s Filum Labyrinthi, sive formula inquisitionis (“Thread of the Labyrinth, or Formula of Inquirry” – a text written in English despite the Latin title):
The knowledge whereof the world is now possessed, especially that of nature, extendeth not to magnitude and certainty of works. The Physician pronounceth many diseases incurable, and faileth oft in the rest. The Alchemists wax old and die in hopes. The Magicians perform nothing that is permanent and profitable. The Mechanics take small light from natural philosophy, and do but spin on their own little threads. Chance sometimes discovereth inventions; but that worketh not in years, but ages. So he saw well, that the inventions known are very unperfect, and that new are not like to be brought to light but in great length of time; and that those which are, came not to light by philosophy.
In the last chapter of The Abolition of Man, Bacon is mentioned in the paragraph beginning “Nothing I can say will prevent some people from describing this lecture as an attack on science.” There, too, Lewis refers to Filum labyrinthi:
Bacon condemns those who value knowledge as an end in itself: this, for him, is to use as a mistress for pleasure what ought to be a spouse for fruit [Advancement of Learning, I.v.11]. The true object is to extend Man’s power to the performance of all things possible. He rejects magic because it does not work [Filum Labyrinthi, i]; but his goal is that of the magician.
Tolkien regarded the story of Númenor as his own adaptation of the Atlantis myth. Plato in his dialogues Kriton and Timaeus described Atlantis as a big island or a continent in the Western ocean which had sunk away and submerged about 9000 years before the days of Solon, who heard this story from an old Egyptian priest, and told it to the son of a friend, who told it to his grandson Kritias, who told it to Socrates (Timaeus 20e, 22b, 23d-25d).
To those high creatures whose activity builds what we call Nature...
Lewis/Ransom is here toying with the idea that terrestrial, “sub-lunary” Nature was created not directly by God but indirectly, through the agency of “created virtue”, as Dante called it (Paradiso VII, 135: creata virtù); cf. Lewis’s The Discarded Image (1964), end of chapter 5. The idea reappears also in Tolkien’s “creation myth” as presented in The Silmarillon and in his posthumously published History of Middle Earth, vol. 5 (1987).
“Life force” – a concept of the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941).
The doctrine that not only humans and animals but also plants and inanimate objects have consciousness.
Latin for “world soul”.
Chapter 10 The Conquered City
Unauthorized, beyond one’s proper sphere of action; a Latin legal term.
The London Metropolitan Police, or more particularly its criminal investigation branch; named after the street near Westminster Bridge where its headquarters were located until 1967. Scotland Yard was under direct control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
souls who have lost the intellectual good
Dante’s Inferno III, 16-18.
siam venuti al luogo dov’ io t’ ho detto
We’ve reached the place I told thee to expect,
(translation Dorothy L. Sayers 1949)
To bluster a little as an injured husband in search of his wife
In the Arthurian tradition, King Mark (or March) is the “injured husband” of Isolde, Tristan’s mistress (cf. note to chapter 4.1 on the Sword of Siegfried).
the sadness that came over him had novelty in it ... Brother Lawrence
Nicolas Herman (1614–1691), born in Lorraine, entered the Carmelite Order in Paris as a lay brother in 1640 and took the name Lawrence of the Resurrection. When Brother Lawrence had died, his abbot compiled two little books from his notes and letters and from reminiscences of conversations with him. The two books together came to be known under the title La pratique de la présence de Dieu (The Practice of the Presence of God; a new critical edition was published in 1991 and a new English translation in 1994).
The words quoted by Dr Dimble are from the second Entretien (Conversation): “Je ne ferai jamais autre chose, si vous me laissez faire”. The confession characterizes one milestone in Brother Lawrence’s spiritual development – the stage where he resigned himself to the fact that an awareness of being near to God must be invariably spoiled by a feeling of utter unworthiness. Lewis’s reference to “novelty” may mean he is suggesting a similar piece of spiritual progress in Dr Dimble. The situation is described toward the end of ch. IV of The Problem of Pain:
... we actually are, at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves. This I believe to be a fact: and I notice that the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware of that fact.
Chapter 11 Battle Begun
They had tried to do that to Merlin
Ambrosius or Merlin – in the old story referred to above (see note to chapter 1.3 on Merlin) – was sent for by King Vortigern after the latter’s three consecutive failures to build a fortress, which collapsed each time. The King’s magicians had advised to find a fatherless child (i.e. a child not begotten by a man), kill it, and sprinkle its blood over the building: this would prevent further collapsings. The boy is found, but he puts the magicians to shame by pointing out the real reason why the building would not stand, and by giving more proofs of “prophetic” powers.
“We are acting on an order dated the 1st of October”
In the first British edition, the date here is 14 October. The latter (and later) date is probably in accordance with Lewis’s final view of the matter: see note to chapter 7.1. Counted back from the dates in chapter 5.2, Day One of the story is Friday 16 October. This same date would have been a suitable one for the order, too, perhaps more so than 14 October.
Eclipse, temporary disappearance from sight.
Scottish writer and politician (1875–1940), author of a 24-volume history of the First World War and some biographies, but chiefly known for his many adventure stories, including Prester John (1910) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915; later filmed by Alfred Hitchcock).
Chapter 12 Wet and Windy Night
The “Great Tongue”, mentioned in chapter 10.4. Old Solar is the interplanetary language which Ransom learned on Mars (Malacandra) and which was also in use on Venus (Perelandra) – see the two previous volumes in the Ransom trilogy.
Barfield’s “ancient unities”
Owen Barfield (1898–1997) and C. S. Lewis were exact contemporaries and as Oxford students they became each other’s best friends for some time. Barfield became a lawyer but also wrote some philosophical works. Lewis gratefully adopted some of his ideas, including the theory of “old single meanings” or “ancient unities” as expounded in Barfield’s Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning (1926, new edition 1952). Barfield shows how primitive man employed many concepts, and had in fact many experiences, which in the course of time have broken up into very different, often irreconcilable parts. For example, “spirit” originally meant (1) breath or wind, and (2) principle of life with humans and animals; but it never meant either one alone: it always meant both. No one would make the distinction, since there was no awareness of a literal as against a figurative sense or even of an object’s different aspects. This theory of primitive speech and thought is further developed into ideas about language and poetry (“language is fossil poetry”) and about the “evolution of consciousness”.
Lewis gives a summary of this view of the “ancient unities” in Miracles, chapter 10, par. 18 (“We are often told that primitive man...”)
the Atlantean Circle / the Great Atlantean
This “background” of Merlin does not go back to any Arthurian stories but was invented by Lewis for the present occasion (cf. note to chapter 13.5 about the “seven bears”).
the Great Disaster
The end of Atlantis or the fall of Númenor; in Tolkienian mythology, the end of the Second Age (see two notes to chapter 9.5, above).
Chapter 13 They Have Pulled Down Deep Heaven on Their Heads
Numinor, the True West
Lewis makes a bad mistake here. In Tolkien’s scheme of things (see notes to Preface and to chapter 9.5, above), the True West is not Númenor, but Valinor. This is the land of the Valar – a species of gods or angels. Númenor is the land created by the Valar to the west of the other, older countries, but still east of Valinor.
Abhalljin, beyond the seas of Lur in Perelandra
“Abhalljin” is an old form (invented by Lewis) of Avalon – the island where King Arthur was brought after being wounded in battle, not in order to die there but to recover and then to return. Lur is a place where the King of Perelandra stayed for some time and received instruction; see the last chapter of Lewis’s Perelandra.
the stroke that Balinus struck
Balin was a hot-tempered knight (or prospective knight) at King Arthur’s court. In a fit of anger he wounds king Pellam with the Holy Lance, the spear that was used to pierce Christ on the Cross. Through this “Dolorous Stroke”, a sacrilege, the surrounding country turns into barren land for many years. The story came up in the thirteenth century and was included in Malory’s Morte Darthur, Book II. King Pellam is one of several characters in Malory’s work playing the part which in earlier Arthurian legend was played by the Fisher King (cf. note to chapter 7.1, above).
Roman author of the 2nd century ad.
Latin author from Carthage, in North Africa, 5th century ad.
Early medieval text, probably originating from 6th-century Ireland or Wales; notorious for its idiosyncratic form of Latin, some other examples of which have been ascribed to Gildas and to St Columba.
This “full name” of Merlin is a development of what very probably began as a piece of sloppiness by Geoffrey of Monmouth; see note to chapter 1.3, above. The development seems to have occurred as early as the twelfth century, when commentaries on Merlin’s prophecies as rendered by Geoffrey began to appear. One was the Explanationum in Prophetiam Merlini Ambrosii Britanni Libri Septem (Seven Books of Explanations of the Prophecy of Merlinus Ambrosius) by Alanus ab Insulis (not the Alanus mentioned by Lewis in the Abolition of Man); this work was condemned by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century but repeatedly printed by protestant publishers in the early seventeenth.
It was so silly not to have realized that he wouldn’t know about forks.
The use of forks for eating was not introduced until the late seventeenth century and after that took a century, or perhaps much longer, to spread from high society down to the lowest social strata – as pointed out by Norbert Elias in The Civilizing Process (1939), Part 1, ch. IV/10. Lewis in chapter 12.6 describes the tramp, too, as someone who “was apparently unacquainted with forks”.
the poem about Heaven and Hell eating into merry Middle Earth
the bit in the Bible about the winnowing fan
The “winnowing fan” is mentioned in Isaiah 30:24; the use referred to by Mrs. Dimble is mentioned in Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17.
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner: but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Browning, “Life’s business” etc.
Robert Browning (1812–1889), The Ring and the Book X, 1235–1237: “White shall not neutralise the black, nor good / Compensate bad in man, absolve him so: / Life’s business being just the terrible choice”.
Fate is the plural form of fata, which is Italian for “fairy” (fata Morgana = Morgan le Fay, King Arthur’s hostess in Avalon). Longaevi is a Latin word used by Martianus Capella (see note to chapter 13.3, above) for “long-lived beings”. C. S. Lewis gave a survey of early medieval ideas about these beings in The Discarded Image (1964), chapters III.D and VI.
Two Greek words for “magic”. During the Renaissance the two words were sometimes used distinctively – magia for white and goeteia for black magic. Magia is also a Latin word for magic, derived from a Persian word for “priest”.
the last of the seven bears of Logres
In a letter of October 1952 C. S. Lewis wrote, “The seven bears and the Atlantean Circle are pure inventions of my own, filling the same purpose in the narrative that “noises off” would in a stage play.” The Atlantean Circle is mentioned in chapter 12.6.
the days when Nimrod built a tower to reach heaven
In Genesis 10:10, just before the story of the Tower of Babel, it is said of Nimrod that Babel and a few other towns in the land of Shinar were “the beginning of his kingdom”. This in itself would not seem sufficient ground to suppose that Nimrod built the Tower, yet the idea has a long tradition which includes Augustin’s De civitate Dei and Milton’s Paradise Lost.
This figure first appeared as Merlin’s secretary in French Arthurian stories around 1300. “Blaise” is a gallicized form of Bleheris, which is the name of a 12th-century Welsh bard.
In Malory’s Le Morte Darthur (1485), he appears as Merlin’s “master Bleise”, i.e. his teacher, in Book I, ch. XVII (or XV in some editions).
In the 19th century, “Bleys” appeared in the first of Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, “The Coming of Arthur”, 147-158.
Then spake the hoary chamberlain and
“Sir King, there be but two old men that know:
And each is twice as old as I; and one
Is Merlin, the wise man that ever served
King Uther through his magic art; and one
Is Merlin’s master (so they call him) Bleys,
Who taught him magic, but the scholar ran
Before the master, and so far, that Bleys,
Laid magic by, and sat him down, and wrote
All things and whatsoever Merlin did
In one great annal-book, where after-years
Will learn the secret of our Arthur’s birth.”
I am not the son of one of the Airish Men. That was a lying story
See note to chapter 1.3 on Merlin. In addition to the Devil, there were other spiritual beings who were sometimes supposed to be Merlin’s father – not all of them necessarily evil spirits (cf. the passage on fate and longaevi in chapter 13.4).
the time when Logres was only myself and one man and two boys
He may be thinking of the episode in Malory’s Morte Darthur I.5 about Merlin, Sir Ector, young Arthur and Kay (with Kay as the “churl”).
This name for China did not yet exist in Arthurian times. (But of course neither did the whole Arthurian tradition exist in Arthurian times.)
Chapter 14 “Real Life is Meeting”
“Real Life is Meeting”
Martin Buber (1878–1965), Ich und Du, part one, section 14 (or 13 in English), last sentence. The book was first published in 1923, translated into English by Ronald Gregor Smith as I and Thou in 1937, and re-published with an added epilogue in 1958. While Lewis began writing That Hideous Strength, in 1942, he was feeling a recent impact from reading I and Thou, as appears from two letters he wrote in the summer of 1942: one to Sister Penelope on 29 July, and one to Owen Barfield a few days later (Collected Letters II, pp. 526 and 528). Remarkably, Lewis did not so much tell these correspondents his own opinion of the book, but asked for theirs. In February 1943, Lewis alluded to I and Thou toward the end of The Abolition of Man. Twenty years later he did so once more, in chapter 4 of his last book, Letters to Malcolm, where he appears to be at last quite unreserved in his praise for Buber.
The Buber quotation here clearly serves to reflect chapter 14’s last episode, on Jane Studdock’s great personal turning point. That episode, in turn, reflects what Lewis later described as an “ambiguous moment” in his own life: “Freedom, or necessity? Or do they differ at their maximum?” – Surprised by Joy (1955), chapter 15, par. 8.
The whole section in Buber is as follows (German & English) –
Das Du begegnet mir von Gnaden – durch Suchen wird es nicht gefunden. Aber daß ich zu ihm das Grundwort spreche, ist Tat meines Wesens, meine Wesenstat.
Das Du begegnet mir. Aber ich trete in die unmittelbare Beziehung zu ihm. So ist die Beziehung Erwähltwerden und Erwählen, Passion und Aktion in einem. Wie denn eine Aktion des ganzen Wesens, als die Aufhebung aller Teilhandlungen und somit aller – nur in deren Grenzhaftigkeit gegründeter – Handlungsempfindungen, der Passion ähnlich werden muß.
Das Grundwort Ich-Du kann nur mit dem ganzen Wesen gesprochen werden. Die Einsammlung und Verschmelzung zum ganzen Wesen kann nie durch mich, kann nie ohne mich geschehen. Ich werde am Du; Ich werdend spreche ich Du.
Alles wirkliche Leben ist Begegnung.
The Thou meets me through grace – it is not found by seeking. But my speaking of the primary word to it is an act of my being, is indeed the act of my being.
The Thou meets me. But I step into direct relation with it. Hence the relation means being chosen and choosing, suffering and action in one; just as any action of the whole being, which means the suspension of all partial actions and consequently of all sensations of actions grounded only in their particular limitation, is bound to resemble suffering.
The primary word I-Thou can be spoken only with the whole being. Concentration and fusion into the whole being can never take place through my agency nor can it ever take place without me. I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou.
All real living is meeting.
Lewis’s phrasing – “Real Life” not “Real Living” – suggests that Buber’s work may have come to his attention through a little book published in England in 1942, Real Life is Meeting by J. H. Oldham. The title of Oldham’s book is also the title of its second chapter, which deals with Buber’s I and Thou.
Waddington ... Existence is its own justification. The tendency to developmental change...
C. H. Waddington (1905–1975), English embryologist and geneticist; here quoted and paraphrased from Science and Ethics (1942). This slim volume contains a brief essay by Waddington, “The Relations between Science and Ethics”, followed by comments from a great variety of other authors and several replies from Waddington. C. S. Lewis attacked Waddington in The Abolition of Man (chapter 2, note 3), summarizing Waddington’s position by quoting the phrase “existence is its own justification” from Science and Ethics, page 14, where Waddington writes:
...there are many propositions for which it is clear that no ulterior criterion for value is necessary. The statement that it is as well not to put your hand in the fire is not based on anything else except the fact that if you do it will cease to be a hand: and existence is its own justification; hands are the kind of things which do not go in fires.
Professor Frost goes on to paraphrase a sentence from Waddington which is also the next thing quoted by Lewis in his note to The Abolition of Man:
An existence which is essentially evolutionary is itself the justification for an evolution towards a more comprehensive existence. (Science and Ethics p. 17)
Huxley himself ... Romanes lecture
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895), English biologist and popular writer on science, leading champion of Darwin’s theory of evolution in his day. The Romanes lectures, given in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, were founded in 1891 by T. H. Huxley’s friend George Romanes (1848–1894), who was also a biologist.
Professor Frost means that if even a man of Huxley’s stature could find no better support for moral judgements than mere emotion, then surely no better support is available. Frost implies that emotions are absolutely futile. He also implies, in using the phrase “Huxley himself”, that Huxley’s views were broadly in line with his own; but this is demonstrably untrue. Huxley’s Romanes lecture, “Evolution and Ethics” (1893), was an eloquent call to follow the banner of ethics against evolution – on the understanding that it was clearly impossible to derive ethics from evolution. The words quoted by Frost can be found in a passage toward the end of the lecture:
...the practice of that which is ethically best – what we call goodness or virtue – involves a course of conduct which, in all respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless self-assertion it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside, or treading down, all competitors, it requires that the individual shall not merely respect, but shall help his fellows; its influence is directed, not so much to the survival of the fittest, as to the fitting of as many as possible to survive. It repudiates the gladiatorial theory of existence.
The lecture was published, along with “Prolegomena” of about equal length and extensive notes, in Evolution and Ethics and other essays (1894); the passage quoted is on pp. 81–82. Huxley’s position is summed up one page further as:
Let us understand, once for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.
In spite of this, the further progress of evolutionary biology inspired some of its later practitioners to make fresh attempts to base ethics on evolution. Notable among these in Great Britain, apart from C. H. Waddington (see previous and next note), was T. H. Huxley’s grandson Julian Huxley (1887–1975). Half a century after his grandfather’s Romanes lecture, he was invited to give one on the same subject, which he did under the subtly changed title “Evolutionary Ethics” (1943). The two lectures, along with the older Huxley’s Prolegomena, were reprinted together in 1947 with an introduction and two further essays by the younger Huxley as Evolution and Ethics 1893–1943.
The view expressed by Frost has perhaps never been expressed so starkly by any real 20th-century scientist, let alone any moral philosopher. However, Lewis’s contemporaries Waddington and Julian Huxley were certainly closer to it than the older Huxley had been. On the question whether Frost is too much of a caricature, see Lewis’s letter of 8 December 1959 (“The devil about writing satire now-a-days is that reality constantly outstrips you”) and Walter Hooper’s note in Collected Letters III, pp. 1104–1105, with rare but highly relevant references to Julian Huxley.
An overview of more than a century of failed attempts to base ethics on evolution is offered in The Temptations of Evolutionary Ethics (Univ. of California Press, Berkeley etc. 1994) by Paul Lawrence Farber. Commenting on J. Huxley and Waddington, Farber notes that “philosophers could have dusted off nineteenth-century critiques on evolutionary ethics in response, but most did not think the musings of scientists important enough to make the effort” (171). One philosopher of the period who did make a brief effort was D. Daiches Raphael in his essay “Darwinism and Ethics”, in A Century of Darwin, ed. S. A. Barnett (Heinemann, London etc. 1958), pp. 334–359, where both Waddington’s and J. Huxley’s positions are demolished.
as an actuarial theorem
That is, as a matter of pure statistics. The word “actuarial” appears in the same passage where Waddington mentions the “definite integral”. The Huxley quotations were also used here by Waddington (Science and Ethics, p. 16–17):
To Huxley, the cosmic process was summed up in its method; and its method was “the gladiatorial theory of existence” in which “the strongest, the most self-assertive tend to tread down the weaker”, it demanded “ruthless self-assertion”, the “thrusting aside, or treading down of all competitors”. To us that method is one which, among animals, turns on the actuarial expectation of female offspring from different female individuals, a concept as unemotional as a definite integral ...
“things of that extreme evil which seem innocent to the uninitiate”
G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (1925), chapter VI, ninth paragraph. After a chapter on pre-Christian “day-dreams”, Chesterton deals with the “nightmare”, i.e. after the human forms of paganism, he describes those perverse and inhuman forms which paganism is always in danger of taking. –
This inverted imagination produces things of which it is better not to speak. Some of them indeed might almost be named without being known; for they are of that extreme evil which seems innocent to the innocent. They are too inhuman even to be indecent. (quoted from p. 141 in the 1947 Hodder & Stoughton edition)
Healthy paganism is embodied in ancient Rome, supremely in the poet Vergil, while “the other kind of paganism” was embodied in Rome’s great enemy Carthage, heir of the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, with its “religion of fear, sending up everywhere the smoke of human sacrifice”. Chesterton describes the Punic wars, i.e. the long struggle between Rome and Carthage, as a major contest of light and darkness and the destruction of Carthage as a major victory of real over perverse civilisation.
The evil role played in Chesterton’s account by Hannibal’s elephants in this struggle (“...it was Moloch upon the mountains ... it was Baal who trampled the vineyards” – ch. VII, par. 15) is curiously inverted by the elephant in Lewis’s chapter 16.1 as it destroys a modern Carthage by its own ancient weapon.
Chief city of Crete in the Minoan (pre-Greek) period, second millennium bc.
Mr. Bultitude’s mind was as furry....
This exercise in animal psychology may well have been at least partly inspired by J. B. S. Haldane’s essay “Possible Worlds”, in the book of the same name (1927). In a passage about dogs he writes, among other things, “I doubt if a dog would ever arrive at our idea of a thing, at least for objects with interesting smells.”
Tiziano Vecellio (1490?–1577), Italian painter in the Venetian school; his works include many mythological scenes. In Surprised by Joy (ch. XIII), Lewis includes Titian among a few examples of what he calls “the resonant, dogmatic, flaming, unanswerable people” (italics mine).
You had better agree with your adversary quickly
Cf. Matthew 5:25.
a terrestrial as well as a celestial Venus
the reference may at least partly be to Plato’s Symposium, 180c-181b (Pausanias speaking):
Phaedrus, … the argument has not been set before us, I think, quite in the right form; − we should not be called upon to praise Love in such an indiscriminate manner. If there were only one Love, then what you said would be well enough; but since there are more Loves than one, − should have begun by determining which of them was to be the theme of our praises. I will amend this defect; and first of all I will tell you which Love is deserving of praise, and then try to hymn the praiseworthy one in a manner worthy of him. For we all know that Love is inseparable from Aphrodite, and if there were only one Aphrodite there would be only one Love; but as there are two goddesses there must be two Loves. And am I not right in asserting that there are two goddesses? The elder one, having no mother, who is called the heavenly Aphrodite − she is the daughter of Uranus; the younger, who is the daughter of Zeus and Dione − her we call common; and the Love who is her fellow-worker is rightly named common, as the other love is called heavenly. All the gods ought to have praise given to them, but not without distinction of their natures; and therefore I must try to distinguish the characters of the two Loves. Now actions vary according to the manner of their performance. Take, for example, that which we are now doing, drinking, singing and talking − these actions are not in themselves either good or evil, but they turn out in this or that way according to the mode of performing them; and when well done they are good, and when wrongly done they are evil; and in like manner not every love, but only that which has a noble purpose, is noble and worthy of praise. The Love who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite is essentially common, and has no discrimination, being such as the meaner sort of men feel …
(Benjamin Jowett’s translation)
Upon them He a spirit of frenzy sent To call in haste for their destroyer
Milton, Samson Agonistes (1671), 1675, about the Philistines gathering in the building where Samson was brought to “bring them sport” (Judges 16:21–31).
Among them he a spirit of frenzy sent,
Who hurt their minds,
And urged them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer.
This demand ... was the origin of all right demands and contained in them.
Cf. George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons III (1889), tenth sermon (“Righteousness”):
...it is the duty of, or at least the honest trying to do many another duty, that will at length lead a man to see that his duty to God is the first and deepest and highest of all, including and requiring the performance of all other duties whatever.
This passage is included in Lewis’s George Macdonald: An Anthology (1946) as part of Nr. 226.
whether it was in the moulding hands or in the kneaded lump
Cf. a further passage from Macdonald’s same sermon, Nr. 235 in Lewis’s Anthology:
Statue under the chisel of the sculptor, stand steady to the blows of his mallet. Clay on the wheel, let the fingers of the divine potter model you at their will.
those who have not joy
?? Probably a quotation or otherwise fixed phrase; source not found.
Chapter 15 The Descent of the Gods
See thou do it not! ...fellow servants
Cf. Revelation 19:10 and 22:9.
the slayer of Argus
In Greek mythology, Argus was a monster with a hundred eyes, whose obvious job therefore seemed to be watch-keeping (hence the expression “Argus-eyed”). Hera, wife to Zeus, asked him to watch Io the priestess and keep her from seducing Zeus. Hermes (=Mercury) was then asked by Zeus to kill Argus. Hermes complied by putting Argus to sleep with a magic wand and then killing him.
Mercury and Thoth
Hermes, the Greek god of commerce and of learning, was identified by the Romans with their own god Mercury, while the Greeks identified him with Thoth, the Egyptian moon god and guardian of writing and arithmetic, among other things.
all Arabia breathing from a box
Cf. Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1714), Canto I, 133-134.
This casket India’s glowing gems
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
“Inconsolable wound” is a phrase possibly borrowed from Ovid, Metamorphoses V, 426:
At Cyane, raptamque deam contemptaque fontis
But Cyane, lamenting both the ravished Goddess, and the slighted privileges of her spring, carries in her silent mind an inconsolable wound, and is entirely dissolved into tears, and melts away into those waters, of which she had been but lately the great guardian Divinity.
(translation by Henry T. Riley, 1893)
English translators of the Metamorphoses have used different words to render the Latin inconsolabile, including “cureless” (J. J. Howard, 1807) and “incurable” (Loeb edition). The comprehensive Latin-English dictionary by Lewis & Short (1879) mentions “incurable” as a “tropical” meaning, referring to this passage in Ovid.
This same use of the word “inconsolable” is found in Lewis’s essay “The Weight of Glory” (1941), fifth paragraph. There he talks of “the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that...” etc.; he is clearly referring to the experience described in Surprised by Joy as “Joy” and an “inconsolable longing” (SbJ chapter 5, second paragraph).
The idea of our being “born with” or “born for” something that hurts is expressed by Lewis also (1) in The Pilgrim’s Regress, VII/9, where Mr Wisdom mentions “the sorrow that is born with us”; and (2) in the last paragraph of Reflections on the Psalms, where Lewis talks of the “tyranny of time” and our hope finally to escape from it “and so to cure that always aching wound (“the wound man was born for”) which mere succession and mutability inflict on us, almost equally when we are happy and when we are unhappy.” The latter instance may well be an unchecked Hopkins quotation (see the last of my Notes on Reflections on the Psalms). The combined idea – of a wound that is both “native” and inconsolable – only appears in the present passage in That Hideous Strength.
Camilla’s eyes flashed towards him … oh if one could have a charge in the old style…
See note on Camilla’s name in chapter 3.3, above.
King William said, Be not dismayed, etc.
From an anonymous song, “The Boyne Water”, celebrating the battle of the Boyne (1690). A Protestant army led by King William of Orange defeated a much larger Jacobite army led by the Catholic James II. It was a decisive moment for the advance of Protestantism in Ireland. Duke Schomberg, a commander in the Orangist army, was shot while crossing the Boyne river, after which
he [William] cried, “be
For the loss of one commander,
For God will be our king this day
And I’ll be general under.”
The song was included in Robert Young’s The Ulster Melodist (1832) and also in Pádraic Colum’s Anthology of Irish Verse (1922).
Mars, Mavors, Tyr
Mavors is an old form of “Mars”. Tyr or Tiwaz is a Germanic deity that was identified with the Roman god Mars. The third day of the week, called Martis dies in Latin and martedí in Italian, was “Tiwaz-day” with the ancient Germans, hence modern English Tuesday, German Dienstag, Dutch dinsdag, etc.
fields of Arbol
Arbol is the sun. In Perelandra, “the field of Arbol” is the usual term for “the Solar system” but on one occasion is used in the plural form, apparently denoting the orbits of planets around the sun. This latter meaning seems to apply here.
Haeckel, McCabe, Reade
Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), German biologist
and philosopher, leading champion of radicalized Darwinism in Germany, author
of The Natural History of Creation (Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte,
1868). In his “monistic” worldview humans are a part of nature and no distinction
is made between god and world; his thought became increasingly animistic or
pantheistic in character. Joseph
McCabe (1867–1955) left both the Franciscan Order and the Roman Catholic
church in 1896 to become a militant rationalist and freethinker and a prolific
Winwood Reade (1838–1875), author of many books on Africa, also wrote The Martyrdom of Man (1872), a popular bird’s-eye view of world history containing much of his criticism of established religion.
For an excellent account of the kind of ideas referred to by these names, see Owen Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind in the 19th Century (1975), especially chapter 7, “Science and Religion”.
I look upon you as one of the makers of mankind.
Jules has been recognized as a caricature of H. G. Wells (1866-1946) at least
since a review of That Hideous Strength in the New York Times Book
Review by Theodore Spencer, published on 7 July 1946 – five weeks before
Wells died. Lewis’s choice for the name “Jules” might be an allusion to the
French 19th-century novelist and pioneer of science fiction, Jules Verne; in a
1947 letter Lewis mentioned Jules Verne along with H. G. Wells as constituting
one of two types of science fiction which he saw fruitfully combined in the
work of David Lindsay (Collected Letters II, p. 753, to Ruth Pitter, 4
Wells was an English novelist, sociologist and utopian popular writer on science, and Lewis acknowledged his debt to Wells at the beginning of his own first science fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet (1938). Director Jules’s present encomium on Filostrato seems to echo the title of Wells’s 1903 book, Mankind in the Making,
The Golden Bough
A thirteen-volume “study in Comparative Religion” by James Frazer (1854–1941), published in 1880–1915; abridged edition 1922.
Chapter 16 Banquet at Belbury
Qui Verbum Dei contempserunt, etc.
?? – This might be a quotation, but it probably isn’t.
Greek goddess of hunting; her Roman counterpart was Diana (cf. note to chapter 9.3 on “the spear-head of madness”).
“made him al the cheer that a beast can make a man”
Malory, Morte Darthur XIV.6, said of a lion that had been fighting a serpent and received help from Sir Percival. Percival thought the lion “the more natural beast of the two”. – “And the lion went alway about him fawning as a spaniel.”
So full of sleep are they
Dante, Inferno I, 11–12. Tant’ era pien di sonno in su quel punto, / Che la verace via abbandonai – “so full of sleep I was at the moment I left the true path.”
A fictitious place-name recalling the opening scene of the trilogy in Out of the Silent Planet where Dr Elwin Ransom, on a walking tour near Sturk, meets Professor Weston and Richard Devine, the later Lord Feverstone.
Chapter 17 Venus at St Anne’s
like starlight, in the spoils of provinces
From Ben Jonson’s play Volpone, or The Foxe (1606), III.7, “Why droops my Celia?”, where Volpone invites his beloved to enjoy all the riches he has to offer her:
What thou art Queene of; not in expectation,
As I feede others: but possess’d, and crown’d.
See, here, a rope of pearle; and each, more orient
Then that the brave Aegiptian Queene carrous’d:
Dissolve, and drinke them. See, a Carbuncle,
May put out both the eyes of our St Marke;
A Diamant, would have bought Lollia Paulina,
When she came in, like star-light, hid with jewells,
That were the spoyles of Provinces.
Frederick I Barbarossa (c. 1123–1190), King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor. Like King Arthur, he was considered to have been cast into an enchanted sleep from which he would return at some future date – originally at the end of the world.
Enoch or Elijah
Two Old Testament figures whose life on earth is described as having ended without death; see Genesis 5:24 and II Kings 2:11 respectively. Enoch has been thought in legend to have spent 300 years learning cosmological and other secrets from the angels; Elijah acquired a role in later Old Testament and in New Testament times as a figure who was to return some day.
the Third Heaven
In medieval cosmology, the Heavens were a system of seven revolving spheres, i.e. hollow globes of different sizes, each sphere being contained by the bigger and containing the smaller ones. At the centre was the Earth. The spheres were wholly transparent but one planet was fixed in each of them and so made their revolving movement visible. From small to large and thus increasingly distant from the Earth these spheres and their planets were called the Moon (“first Heaven”), Mercury, Venus (“third Heaven”), Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The further planets of our solar system have never been taken up in this model as they were not discovered until modern times (Uranus in 1781, Neptune in 1846, Pluto in 1930).
Another fictitious ancient form of the name Avalon (see note to chapter 13.1, above).
there was a moment in the Sixth Century...
The high point in (King) Arthur’s career was the battle of Mount Badon, or Badon Hill (cf. Merlin’s ruminations during the Mars episode in chapter 15.1; see also note to chapter 9.3 on Taliessin). This battle seems to have taken place in the first half of the 6th century or around the year 500 ad.
A nephew or natural son (in some accounts both) of King Arthur; he tried to dethrone Arthur but was killed in the attempt while Arthur was badly wounded and went to Avalon (see note to chapter 13.1, above). The name “Mordred” was originally spelled “Modred”.
Cromwell: see note to chapter 1.3, above. John Milton (1608–74), a great poet and great scholar, was on Cromwell’s side during the English civil war and held a high office in the Commonwealth government. However, he was a much more honourable figure than Cromwell and a keen defender of the liberty of press and of conscience. Milton’s principal work is the long poem Paradise Lost (1667).
The poet Sir Philip Sidney (1554–86), author of the (prose) romance Arcadia, was an able and respected English diplomat. He died in the Netherlands, near Zutphen, from wounds inflicted by a Spanish fusil bullet. In line with commonly accepted evaluations of Sidney both as a poet and as a man, C. S. Lewis has called him “dazzling”: “he is that rare thing, the aristocrat in whom the aristocratic ideal is really embodied” (English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, III/1, p. 324).
English businessman (1853–1902), chief representative of British imperialism in southern Africa. Present-day Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia, after him, in the years 1964–1978.
Uther was King Arthur’s father and the first to be given the name or title of Pendragon (see note to chapter 9.3, above). Cassivelaunus was one of Julius Caesar’s fiercest opponents during the latter’s second expedition to Britain in 54 bc. Geoffrey of Monmouth called him Cassibelaun and a forefather of Uther.
As one of the modern authors has told us, the fire from Heaven must descend...
Charles Williams in He Came Down from Heaven (1938), chapter 2. See also Lewis’s letter to Charles Williams of 7 June 1938 and Walter Hooper’s note 21 in Collected Letters II, p. 227–228.
If we’ve got an ass’s head...
A reference to Bottom in the third Act of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Trahison des clercs
“The Treason of Clerks”; title of the principal work (1927) of the French writer Julien Benda (1867–1956). The “clerks” in question are the educated members of Benda’s own generation, especially in France and Italy; their “treason” was their failure to stand firm for Enlightenment ideals (“knowledge values”) against the rising tide of nationalism and irrationalism (“action values”). In a more general way, it is the kind of treason committed wherever dangerous fads are not being exposed and denounced by the educated class.
Sine Cerere et Baccho
Fragment of a Latin saying taken from the comedy Eunuchus by the Roman author Terentius (2nd century bc). Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus: “Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus will freeze”, i.e. “Without food and drink, love will cool down.”
She comes more near the earth
Shakespeare, Othello V.2, 113–114; not a literal quotation. Othello is not talking about Venus but about the Moon.
So geht es im Schnützelputzhäusel...
Anonymous 18th-century German song, published in 1807 in the Sammlung deutscher Volkslieder (Collection of German folk-songs) compiled by J. G. Büsching and F. H. von der Hagen.
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet I.5, 47.
How had he dared? ... her sacrosanctity ... He was discovering the hedge after he had plucked the rose
Cf. what Lewis wrote towards the end of The Allegory of Love (pp. 343-344) about the allegorical passage in Spenser’s Faerie Queene (IV.x.53) where the old medieval ideal of Courtly Love is finally transformed into the new ideal of virtuously romantic marriage. Scudamour
plucks Amoret from her place among the modest virtues. The struggle in his own mind before he does so, his sense of “Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear”, is a beautiful gift made by the humilities of medieval love poetry to Spenser at the very moment of his victory over the medieval tradition:
heart gan throb
And wade in doubt what best were to be donne;
For sacrilege me seem’d the Church to rob
And folly seem’d to leave the thing undonne.
* added reference to Owen Chadwick in note to chapter 15.5
* added note on Filostrato in 3.2
* expanded note on Sidney 17.4
* added notes on “red tape” in 1.4
* added note on Mr. Bultitude in 14.3
* added note on “things of that extreme evil” in 14.1
* improved note on Walter Raleigh in 4.4
* added note on “Be glad thou sleeper”, in 8.2
* improved note on “things of that extreme evil” in 14.1
* large addition to note on Huxley in 14.1
* corrected note on Ibsen in 4.1
17 November 2010
* added note on “This demand...” in 14.6
20 April 2011
* revised note on “Barfield’s ‘ancient unities’” in 12.5
2 June 2011
* added note on “whether it was in the moulding hands...” in 14.6
27 September 2012
* added note on the Dimbles in 1.5
11 March 2015
* added note on “all Arabia” in 15.1
28 April 2015
* expanded note on “Brother Lawrence” in 10.4
7 June 2016
* various minor corrections
20 May 2018
* added note on “discovered in his mind an inflammation” etc. in 9.2
– with thanks to Michael Blakeley
* expanded note on “the one book that lay on the table” in 3.3
– with thanks to Joseph N. Fortey
* improved note on “the bit in the Bible about the winnowing fan” in 13.4
* added note on “a terrestrial as well as a celestial Venus” in 14.5
– each with thanks to Bill Hollett
* added note on “I look upon you as one of the makers of mankind” in 15.5
– with thanks to Jason Monroe
15 December 2019
* improved and expanded note on “attained not to greatness and certainty of works” in 9.5.
18 December 2019
* added note on the book’s (sub-)tile, “A modern fairy-tale for grown-ups”
31 May 2020
* corrected note to “all Arabia breathing from a box” in 15.1
– with thanks to Guy Keleny
17 August 2020
* added note on “Thou fool” etc, in 6.2
* added note on “Qui contempserunt” etc. in 16.2
– each with thanks to Robert G. Natelson
29 August 2020
* improved note on “Blaise” in 13.5
* improved note on “the inconsolable wound” in 15.1; added note on “Camilla’s eyes flashed …” in 15.1
– each with thanks to Robert G. Natelson
30 November 2020
* added note on “Bill the Blizzard” in 1.2, with thanks to Joseph Porter
30 December 2020
* added note on “not the sort of grounds” etc. in 5.1.
7 November 2021
* added note on “souls who have lost the intellectual good” in 10.2
* improved note on “Merlinus Ambrosius” in 13.2
* improved note on “the stroke that Balinus struck” in 13.3
– with thanks to Jerry Friedman