Sunday, 22 January 2012

'Ulster-Scot' a clue to possible C.S. Lewis forgery?

C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), the Ulster born author of 'The Chronicles Of Narnia', called his beloved personal tutor, W.T. Kirkpatrick (1848-1921), an Ulster-Scot (Kirkpatrick had grown up in an Ulster-Scots area of County Down). Indeed Lewis paid the great tribute to his tutor by including him as a character in his third and final science-fiction novel, 'That Hideous Strength' under the name of 'McPhee'. And in Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, the character of Professor Kirke (note the name) who appears in the first few pages of 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' appears to be drawn on Kirkpatrick as well.

Kirkpatrick had been Headmaster at Lurgan College, Co Armagh, when Albert Lewis was a pupil there - Albert was the father of C.S. and his brother, Warnie. Kirkpatrick retired to Great Bookham in Surrey ( to be close to his son, it seems) where Albert Lewis remained in regular touch with his former teacher, relying on his advice with difficult problems. So Kirkpatrick became Warnie's personal tutor to prepare Warnie successfully for Sandhurst.

W.T. Kirkpatrick
Despite his acknowledged ability, C.S. Lewis had never fitted into any of the schools Albert had sent him to. And so Kirkpatrick became Personal Tutor to C.S. Lewis as well, with the boy living with Kirkpatrick and his wife in Great Bookham. The goal in this case was to prepare the boy for entry to Oxford.

C.S. Lewis loved his time at Great Bookham with the Kirkpatricks. Kirkpatrick taught C.S. Lewis Italian so that the boy could read Dante in the original language. He testified to Albert Lewis that his son was the most brilliant translator of Latin verse that he had ever encountered.

The greatest controversy in C.S. Lewis studies concerns the claims of forgery levelled by critic Kathryn Lindskoog. Mrs. Lindskoog claimed that certain works published after Lewis's death as coming from Lewis's pen had, in fact, been forged. Among these work was the unfinished science-fiction short story 'The Dark Tower'.

The character of McPhee appears again in 'The Dark Tower' but this time as a rather wooden and colourless Scot. Note 'Scot', not 'Ulster-Scot'

In his introduction to the original edition of 'The Dark Tower' (1977), the American-born Walter Hooper suggested that the fragment had been written in 1938, to follow Lewis's first science-fiction work, the novel 'Out of the Silent Planet' (1938). Mrs Lindskoog responded by claiming that a Librarian at the Bodleian Library has observed that the ink of the manuscript of 'The Dark Tower' was not manufactured until after the Second World War. More recently, Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis, has opined that the short story was written after the Second World war, in the 1950s.

C.S. Lewis was born and bred in Belfast, but non-Ulstermen may not understand properly the distinction between a Scot and an Ulster-Scot. Dr Philip Robinson of the Ulster Folk Museum is a world authority on Ulster-Scots and author of 'An Ulster-Scots Grammar'. In the 1990s, Dr Robinson was expressing interest in C.S. Lewis and his attention was drawn to this point. As a result he wrote a letter to Mrs Lindskoog, which she published in her quarterly, 'The Lewis Legacy', claiming that "I can say with conviction that there is no possibility whatsoever that Lewis would have characterised his MacPhee in The Dark Tower as a Scotsman after describing him as an Ulster-Scot in That Hideous Strength". 'That Hideous Strength' was published in 1945.

So if the ink tells us that the manuscript could only have been written after the Second World War, and the literary evidence in the Ulster-Scot connection tells us that C.S. Lewis could not have written the story after 1945, when could the author have written it?

Article from An Ulster-Scot by James O'Fee

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