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C.S. Lewis, Poetry, and the Great War 1914-1918 by John Bremer

C.S. Lewis, Poetry, and the Great War 1914-1918


C.S. Lewis, Poetry, and the Great War 1914-1918 by John Bremer

The life and work of C.S. Lewis after his conversion in 1931 is well known and his reputation shows no signs of diminishing. His earlier years have not been so well studied, particularly between the ages of 16 and 22 when he studied privately and at Oxford, served in the British army, was wounded in France, entered into his affair with Janie Moore, and wrote and published his first book of poems. To correct and augment the limited accounts of this period, Lewis's life is presented with the general and specific background which makes it more meaningful, particularly as it throws light on his character. The romantic myth of him as a soldier-poet is dispelled, largely through an extensive review of the poems in Spirits in Bondage and the self-centered life that produced them. A valuable comparison-not to the advantage of Lewis-is drawn with two undoubted soldier-poets, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. The purpose is not to disparage or belittle Lewis but to show what had to be overcome in his limited and unpleasant early moral character in order to produce the devoted Christian of later years.


This important book is a much-needed analysis of C.S. Lewis's youth, experiences in the Great War, and early poetry. It is clear-sighted and vigorously written, and a welcome corrective to assumptions that have crept into some writing about this period in Lewis's life. Bremer's premise that Lewis was a poet influenced by war but not a war-poet is a sound one, well supported by comparisons to Graves and Sassoon. While not affording Spirits in Bondage more importance than its proper due as a young man's ambitious first attempt at a poetry cycle, Bremer's thorough discussion of each poem grants us great insight into the pre-conversion Lewis's character, so different from the mature fantasist and Christian apologist with whom so many readers are familiar. -- Janet Brennan Croft, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma This is a fresh reading of C. S. Lewis's service in WWI as well as a helpful discussion of the poetry Lewis wrote during this time. -- Don W. King, professor of English, Montreat College This book's title is an accurate guide to its contents, but Brenner also includes brief biographies of Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, and an account of Lewis's adulterous affair. Bremer's account of the poetry Lewis wrote during this dark period in English history is excellent. Besides his commentary on the poetry, the author provides interesting insights into the English Public School system and why its necessarily homosexual atmosphere seems to have been such an important factor in the lives of its students. The discussion of Lewis's pre-conversion years, his atheism, and his first volume of poetry, Spirits in Bondage (1919), is excellent. (Spirits in Bondage is not war poetry and now mostly forgotten.) The author's intent is to show that Lewis was a good man despite contrary evidence. Lewis's atheism may have been connected to the problem of evil in the world. His literary ambition never left him, but he did become a popular apologist for Christianity. Good bibliography. Well written and well researched. Summing Up: Recommended. CHOICE Bremer's book overall is a valuable study of Lewis in the Great War, as a beginning poet, and as a troubled soul who had much growing to do. Mythlore

About the Author

John Bremer has published several articles on and a brief biography of C.S. Lewis. He has led a double career, first, researching and writing on scholarly texts, especially on the Platonic dialogues, and, second, applying what he has learned to problems of society and public education, In the former aspect, he discovered the arithmetical/harmonical structure of the Platonic dialogues (1960-1984), and, in the latter, founded the Parkway Program (the original school-without-walls) in Philadelphia (1968) and Cambridge College in 1971.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th May 2014


John Bremer

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Lexington Books


276 pages


Literary studies: poetry & poets
Literary studies: general



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