Monday 25 July 2011

On JRR Tolkien's The Marring of Men


My only official Tolkien-related publication:


Rank and Pay of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis

Published as:

Charlton BG. Warren H Lewis was an Honorary Major, with Captain as his substantive rank. On W.H. Lewis’s military rank. The Chronicle of the Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society. 2007; 4: 36-37.


Warren Hamilton 'Warnie' Lewis was only an honorary Major, and held the substantive rank of Captain.

C.S. Lewis’s brother Warren Hamilton (‘Warnie’) Lewis (June 16, 1895 - April 9, 1973) is, frequently (and correctly) referred-to, as ‘Major Lewis’. However, it is worth noting that Warnie’s rank of major was honorary, and his ‘substantive’ rank was actually captain – one rank below that of major.

I received this information from Dr Alistair Massie; Curator of the National Army Museum in London. At my request, he looked-up the relevant Army Lists for W.H. Lewis and sent me photocopies. These photocopies are now lodged at the Marion E Wade Center at Wheaton College, Illinois, USA.

Warren Lewis was a volunteer (he was Irish by nationality, hence not subject to conscription) who served in the Royal Army Service Corps for 18 years from 1914-1932. He retired from regular Army Service in 1932 with the rank of captain, after which he was placed on the Reserve of Officers. On 24 August 1939 he was brought back onto active army service (this was just before the UK’s declaration of war on Germany in the 1939-1945 World War, when reservists were recalled). Warnie then became a temporary major on 27 Jan 1940 until he was accorded the honorary rank of major on 27 March 1947 upon becoming permanently retired.

This means that from the time that Warnie was a temporary major he was entitled to be called major, and he went straight to being an honorary major, so he did not revert to being called captain. Nonetheless, his retirement pay remained only that of a captain.

The significance of this information is that Warnie's Army career was apparently an un-distinguished one. British Army officer’s ranks are second lieutenant, lieutenant, captain then major – and it would usually be expected that a career officer with 18 years of service would retire with the substantive rank of major (or higher). Yet Warnie did not attain any promotion in the 15 years of service from becoming a captain in 1917 until his retirement in 1932. His promotion to Major in 1940, after being recalled in 1939 from the reserve of officers, was just a temporary or 'acting' major rank (presumably to perform a specific job in a specific situation), and this continued until he was retired in 1947 as honorary major – but still on the lesser pay of a retired captain.

WH Lewis’s apparently mediocre early-life professional army career makes all the more remarkable and praiseworthy Warnie's post-retirement development into a respected member of the famous and intellectually-distinguished group of Oxford Inklings, the author of seven published books of French history, and a diarist of high reputation.

This late-blooming of Warren’s abilities as a writer and conversationalist was perhaps due to the influence of daily contact with his brother Jack, supplemented by frequent association with the other Inklings [1].

1. Diana Pavlac Glyer. The company they keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as writers in community. Kent, Ohio, USA: Kent State University Press, 2007.


Sunday 24 July 2011

If history is myth; then modern socio-politics is also myth


Since the core Inklings project (as made explicit in the TCBS and Notion Club) was the recovery of history as myth; this project (which I too embrace) naturally extends to modern politics, to our current interpretation and understanding of what has happened, and what is happening.

We need, that is, to get away from - or rather subordinate to secondary status - the usual secular explanation, prediction and agenda for what happened to our culture (political, economic, scientific/ technological, socio-psycho-logical etc) - and over-arch these with a 'mythic' (but naturally mythic and True) understanding.

This will enable us, indeed encourage us, to take a step back from the noise and lies of 'current affairs', alliances and interventions, to focus on the task of recovery and reconnection, and to 'work' at an altogether different level and in an altogether different mode (because with altogether different objectives).

This step back becomes not just possible but absolutely necessary since the mythic analysis makes clear that unless the myth is restored then all our efforts (no matter what their explicit intentions) will turn to the Enemy's benefit.

But the myth in question is the fullness of Christianity; that is a pre-modern Christianity in which the world is 'animate' (that is what myth means) and this animate world is understood and prophesied in Christian terms.

So, by this account, the Inklings were trying to backfill-Christianity - that is to fill-in the mythology 'behind' Christianity so that it will again become animated and comprehensive.

This includes a pre-modern cosmology (as described by Lewis's medieval lectures and essays); a conception of the world in which animals, trees landscapes were alive and in relation to humans (as depicted in Narnia and Middle Earth); and in which the world there was a restoration of purposive influences for Good or Ill: God and Devil, Angels and Demons (including gods and goddesses and nature spirits; and for Tolkien there was national, racial, linguistic and familial spiritual heredity.


Thursday 14 July 2011

The Notion Club visualized by Afalstein





Although (I suppose I should point out) the illustrations of the characters are not consistent with Tolkien's descriptions of their appearances; I like all of these pictures, which seem to capture something of the spirit of the Club.