C.S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces (edited by Lesley Walmsley)25 March 2008
Since the book is so large, there really isn’t a good way to review all of its contents without going on for pages. More’s the pity, in a way.
C.S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces (edited by Lesley Walmsley)
Clocking in at just over 1000 pages, this fairly impressive tome represents just about all of C.S. Lewis’s religious essays and sermons, various short academic pieces, and other stories and story fragments. The Amazon.co.uk review of this edition lists the writings that were not included in this book, and it is disappointing to know that so far it is still not possible to obtain a complete collection of Lewis’s writings — not in the same way that it is theoretically possible to obtain the full twenty-volume set of George Orwell’s books, essays, journalistic works and letters (edited by Peter Davison), for example. But now that the third and final volume of Lewis’s collected letters has been released, it’s worth mentioning this essay collection as a fairly useful attempt at compiling many writings that have been scattered across a number of different books and their reorganised reprints.
The essay collection is organised in eleven sections by general topic: ‘Aspects of Faith’, ‘English and Literature’, ‘The Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers’, ‘Letters’, and others. There’s a section devoted to several of Lewis’s short stories, including the manuscript pages of ‘The Dark Tower’, an unfinished science-fiction/fantasy piece featuring Edwin Ransom of Lewis’s Space Trilogy. I found the section on writing and other writers quite interesting, because it includes Lewis’s thoughts on the work of his contemporaries — J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, for instance, as well as short pieces about George Orwell, Dorothy L. Sayers and Charles Williams. Lewis’s poems ought to have been included as well; it isn’t as if they would take up that much more room, and they would have been a welcome addition to this collection. But for the most part, the essay collection serves as an impressive display of Lewis’s prolific output over the years.
Anyone who is interested in looking for a nice solid edition of the general bulk of Lewis’s non-fiction and collected shorter fiction works would welcome this volume. It is by no means fully comprehensive, as mentioned above, but it is certainly more comprehensive than just about any other edition currently available on the market. And because Lewis’s writings have been printed and reprinted and shuffled between new compilations over the years, it’s nice to have the better part of his writings available in one hefty volume — at least, until someone actually does us all the favour of producing a more complete compilation.