Wednesday, 28 November 2001

C.S Lewis: Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1965)

Edition: Fontana, 1965 (Order from Amazon)
Review number: 999

This collection of generally hard to obtain but previously published pieces by Lewis was the last book he worked on before his death. There is no unifying theme; most of it consists of sermons and talks delivered over a period of around fifteen years.

The title piece is rather different, being - as its name indicates - a follow-up to The Screwtape Letters in which the demon Screwtape is addressing the graduation dinner of the Tempter's College. Screwtape being Lewis' most famous creation, with the possible exception of Aslan, people continually pressured him to write a sequel to the Letters, which he resisted doing for several reasons. The obvious one is that he felt that the idea of diabolical letters was exhausted, but more interestingly he had been alarmed to find how easily he was able to assume the demonic point of view. The idea that he did think of producing as a sequel was to write an equivalent from a guardian angel's point of view, but he felt he couldn't do justice to this (and I suspect that it would have been less interesting in the same way that Paradise Lost is more striking than Paradise Regained).

None of the pieces match up in terms of quality of writing to the rest of Lewis' theological output, but the collection manages to be thought provoking in places, particularly when it challenges the underlying assumptions which came to be commonplace during the twentieth century.

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