Clive Staples Lewis (called Jack by family) was born in Belfast, Ireland, on November 29, 1898, to Albert James Lewis and Florence Hamilton. His father was a solicitor and his mother was the daughter of an Anglican priest. An older brother, Major Warren (Warnie) Lewis, was a life-long companion .
Lewis had private tutors and then was sent to the Wynyard School in Hertfordshire, England, in 1908, after his mother’s death. Because of poor health he was sent to Malvern, Worcestershire, where he attended the preparatory school Cherbourg House. At Malvern College the 15-year-old Lewis abandoned Christianity for atheism. He studied mythology and the occult.
As a young boy, Lewis loved Beatrix Potter’s stories, writing and illustrating his own animal stories. He and Warnie created the world of Boxen, inhabited and run by animals. As a teenager, he loved Norse sagas and classical myth. In 1916, Lewis was awarded a scholarship at University College, Oxford, but his studies were interrupted by World War I. He was a commissioned officer in the Somerset Light Infantry and was involved in the Battle of the Somme. After being discharged following a wound, he returned to his studies in literature and languages.
Lewis’s army buddy, Paddy Moore, was killed in 1918, and Lewis cared for Paddy’s mother, Jane Moore, the rest of her life. In 1930, Lewis and his brother Warnie moved, with Mrs. Moore and her daughter, into “The Kilns,” at Oxford. Lewis taught as a fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford from 1925 to 1954 and then became a professor at Cambridge. His scholarly work focused on the later Middle Ages. The Allegory of Love (1936), for which he won the Gollancz Memorial Prize for Literature, revived scholarly interest in the medieval period. Lewis was a prolific scholarly and creative writer and belonged to the famous literary club, the Inklings, where he discussed his work with other fantasists.
With the influence of Oxford friends he turned away from atheism and rediscovered his Christianity, becoming a great apologist for it in Mere Christianity (1944). Lewis also used Christian themes in his fiction. The Chronicles of Narnia, his most famous work, comprises seven fantasy novels for children published between 1950 and 1956, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950 ). The Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet (1938) Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous Strength (1945), also contain religious motifs. Other fictional works on heaven and hell include The Screwtape Letters (1941), The Great Divorce (1945), and Till We Have Faces (1956). His autobiography, Surprised by Joy, was published in 1955.
In Lewis’s later life he met American writer, Joy Davidson Gresham, whom he married in 1956. She developed cancer and died in 1960. Lewis raised her two sons and wrote A Grief Observed (1961), and then became ill and died of renal failure on November 22, 1963. The Narnia books have sold more than 100 million copies and have become a classic of children’s literature.