Saturday 5 August 2017

CS Lewis in Newcastle and Durham - The Riddell Lectures (Abolition of Man) 23-26 Febrary 1943

Edited from Chronologically Lewis by Joel Heck
My editorial remarks are in [square brackets] - excisions marked by (...)

February 22 1943, Monday.

Jack and Warren take the 8:40 a.m. train, going to Didcot and then to Paddington, where they take the District Underground to King’s Cross. At King’s Cross they check into a hotel. Warren has a whiskey and soda. They arrange for tea and a morning wake-up call, and then they go to bed. The Socratic Club meets in the evening without Jack on the topic “Science and Faith” with speaker Frank Sherwood-Taylor.

February 23, Tuesday.

Presumably, the Inklings meet at the Eagle and Child at 11:30 a.m. in the morning, but without Jack and Warren. Warren and Jack awaken to tea and biscuits, then they go down for a breakfast of sausage and scrambled eggs in the hotel restaurant. They catch the Great Northern Railway train, with Warren settling down to read Joseph Conrad’s Rover and with Jack reading Mandeville. They leave the King’s Cross station at 10:00 a.m. They eat their lunch of hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches on the train, traveling through Huntingdon and crossing the Ouse River. They pass Selby. Warren and Jack travel through York and Darlington towards Durham. At 4:00 p.m. they cross the Tyne River [actually, usually called the River Tyne] and come into Newcastle. They check into their hotel, the Royal Station Hotel, a couple hundred yards from the train station, and then Jack sets off to meet his university hosts for tea. Warren has tea in the hotel lounge. Warren then unpacks and takes a stroll. He sees Newcastle Cathedral and museum, then the Castle, during this stroll. He stops at the Douglas for a beer.

Jack’s first Riddell Memorial lecture, “The Abolition of Man: or Reflections on Education” takes place at 5:30 p.m. in the King’s Hall, King’s College  [, the college being a large constituent division of the University of Durham - which was situated in Newcastle upon Tyne, about 20 miles north of Durham City where the Durham Division was located]. (...) An audience of around 500 is anticipated at each [lecture]. A speaker relay is organized to the Electrical Engineering Theatre and the Physics Lecture Theatre. There was quite a number of requests for tickets from individuals and local organizations (like the Newcastle Education Society). The host/chair is not recorded but it would likely have been the Rector [i.e. the senior academic administrator] of King’s College, Lord Eustace Percy [at this time, Eustace Percy was the Vice-Chancellor of the whole University of Durham, both Newcastle and Durham divisions].

Warren later takes Jack to the Douglas for a beer before dinner. After dinner, Jack and Warren find the only comfortable sitting room in the hotel - a writing room downstairs - where Warren reads Somerset Maugham’s Strictly Confidential, and then they go to bed early. Jack writes to T. S. Eliot about criticizing poetry as poetry, A Preface to Paradise Lost, Charles Williams getting them to meet, and agreeing about Virgil .

February 24 Wednesday.

After breakfast at the hotel, Warren and Jack catch the 9:20 train for Durham from Newcastle [actually, this 'Durham' here means Durham City - as distinguished from County Durham]. Warren and Jack arrive at Durham at 9:51 a.m. They leave the train, walk, and cross a high stone bridge [perhaps Prebends Bridge] over the Wear River [generally called the 'River Wear'] past the castle [also University College, Durham], cathedral, university and Bishop's Palace [actually, the Bishop's palace was in Bishop Auckland, not Durham City]. They walk the entire length of the walled city [actually, Durham isn't a walled city - it was defensively-enclosed in a loop of the river; but there are bailey walls around the motte of the Castle], spending some time on the banks, the wooded public footpaths on either side of the river. They climb the hill and pass through an arch into the Cathedral Close [actually called The College of the Cathedral - this contains the Dean's residence, which may have been mistaken for the Bishop's Palace], with a mixture of don’s houses and undergraduate hostels. The university is all around the cathedral. They enter the cathedral and spend some time there. They go down into the steep narrow-streeted little town to get lunch, which they do at a pleasant pub, The Castle, in its upstairs bar overlooking the river. They wish they had stayed in Durham instead of Newcastle. They discover the university bookshop, mostly with books of theology, but with a fair selection of general reading. Here Warren purchases a new Olaf Stapleton book, and he gets Jack to look into the Century Bible, which Warren is thinking of collecting. They return to the pub for a pint of beer. Then they visit the cathedral a second time, seeing the tomb in which the Venerable Bede is buried (died 735 A.D.), a fine rose window, and beautiful cloisters. They walk along the other side of the river and come to the train station until the 3:08 train arrives, which they take to Newcastle.

They arrive in Newcastle at 3:31 p.m. , and Jack goes off to his second lecture at 5:30 in King’s Hall . Warren reads, walks, has a pint of beer at the Douglas, and visits the train st ation. Jack’s lecture takes place after a 4:00 p.m. tea. Warren later meets Jack and his dinner guest W. L. Renwick, a professor of English at Newcastle.

February 25 Thursday.

After breakfast, they walk down to the bus terminus in Newcastle to ask about buses to Heddon [i.e. Heddon on the Wall, presumably hoping to see some of the remains of Hadrian's Wall], but it doesn’t work so they give up on the idea. They look at the castle again, then try to find Rogers, a bookseller and correspondent of Jack’s. This involves seeing a good deal of Newcastle, and they meet Helen Munro in the street, who lives in Newcastle. They chat with her. They see the gate of the University, a bas relief called The Call, 1914, Eldon Place [actually this is likely the war memorial 'The Response'; not the 'Call', in Eldon Place], then stop at the Douglas for a beer and return to their hotel for lunch. Warren reads in the afternoon, Jack goes to give his lecture, Warren has tea, buys some cigarettes, and takes a long walk in the tower ['tower' may be a misprint for 'town']. Warren visits the station bookstall, where he purchases a novel by E.V.L. to read in the train tomorrow. After his third and final 5:30 lecture, Jack dines with the Rector, Lord E. Percy, tonight, so Warren dines alone. Warren also visits the bar at the Douglas. As soon as Warren gets to bed, Jack comes in, full of a plan to catch an early train to Oxford. They arrange for an early call to start the day tomorrow.

February 26 Friday.

Warren’s tea arrives at 6 a.m. and then again later at the usual time. Warren packs, dresses, and walks to the train station to see about book ing an earlier train that might get them to Oxford. He and Jack agree to take a noon train that should get them to Oxford at 9:40 p.m. They take a walk to find a pastry shop to supplement the sandwiches provided by the hotel. They then walk to the Newcastle Station to await their train. They go to the refreshment room at the train station for sandwiches and beer. The train leaves on time. At York they change trains for the first time and have sandwiches and tea in the refreshment room. They board an L.M.S. train. Warren finishes his book on the train, probably Somerset Maugham’s Strictly Confidential. They arrive at New Street in Birmingham and have to walk to Snow Hill because there are no taxis or buses. They get in line at the booking office, get their tickets, and find the 7:55 train to be on time. They arrive in Oxford at precisely 9:40 p.m. Although they wired for a taxi, there was none waiting for them. They walk with their suitcases from the station by way of George Street and the Broad. They come to Jack’s rooms at Magdalen College, where a supper has been laid out for them, including a bottle of beer. Warren spends the night in bed room number 11. F.


Anonymous said...

The newest book by Stapledon (if that's what's meant) would have been Darkness and the Light (1942), apparently now out of copyright in Australia and so available online in their Project Gutenberg.

There are various volumes of The Century Bible (in various editions) scanned in the Internet Archive, for example:

E.V.L. is presumably E.V. Lucas. (I know nothing about his novels, but thoroughly enjoyed Peter Yearsley's audiobook version of his Highways and Byways in Sussex for

Speaking of audiobooks, there is one of The Abolition of Man, for anyone who wants the experience of hearing it, which might be similar to attending it as a lecture series.

There are various interesting Abolition of Man links or references, here:

I'd be very interested to know what impressions the Lewis brothers had of the tombs of the Venerable Bede and St. Cuthbert. When I visited, I had loved Bede for years yet knew next to nothing about St. Cuthbert, and was grateful to visit the former but had an astonishing, powerful experience of the latter!

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks for that, David.