C S Lewis’s medieval reading habits


Though the following is far from a complete list of medieval material that C S Lewis read–he was, after all, a scholar of medieval and renaissance literature–it gives a taste:

The following medieval or medieval-related books are from the books listed in From the Library of C. S. Lewis: Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey, compiled by James Stuart Bell with Anthony Palmer Dawson (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2004). At least some of these may be found, say the compilers, in the library of Lewis’s books held at the Marion Wade Center at Wheaton College.

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God

Theologia Germanica

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

Beowulf

Anicius Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy [the compiler repeats the common claim that this book of Boethius’s “was second only to the Bible as an influence on medieval thought and literature.”] On Lewis on Boethius, see this post from the Scriptorium blog.

Christopher Dawson, Religion and Culture [and other Dawson books?]

Piers the Ploughman [“considered to be the greatest poem of Middle English prior to Chaucer and was much loved by CSL”]

The Cloud of Unknowing

Richard Rolle, Selected Works

Walter Hilton, The Scale of Perfection

William Morris, The Hollow Land [and others?] [CSL’s piece on Morris in his Selected Literary Essays reveals his deep appreciation for Morris’s writing, especially his fantasy”]

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight [Tolkien also translated & edited a version]

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ [“thought by many to be second only to the Bible in its spiritual influence on readers. It was highly valued by CSL.”]

Meister Johannes Eckhart, Miscellaneous Writings

Saint Francis of Assisi, The Writings

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales [one of Lewis’s favorite authors; he celebrated Chaucer’s work in The Allegory of Love and in his essay “What Chaucer Really Did to Il Filostrato, published in Selected Literary Essays]

Nevill Coghill, The Poet Chaucer [Coghill was a Chaucer scholar and taught drama at the university; also a member of the Inklings]

Bruno S. James, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux [James is a RC priest, educator, author, and translator, who specializes in mysticism and Greek and Roman classical literature]

Geoffrey Ashe, King Arthur’s Avalon [Ashe is a lecturer and historian specializing in British mythology, who founded the Camelot Research Committee, which excavated Cadbury Castle, considered by some to be a possible site of King Arthur’s Camelot.]

Dante, Paradise [C. S. L. Thought Dante the greatest of the poets and wrote in The Pilgrim’s Regress and elsewhere that his idea of “longing” or “joy” finds some inspiration in Dante’s Vita Nuova and The Divine Comedy. For more on Lewis on Dante, see this blog post.]

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4 responses to “C S Lewis’s medieval reading habits

  1. No. Actually the essay is The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (1936). Sorry for confusion. I think I’ve read The Four Loves but it’s been so long ago. As far as I know, these are two separate works. I came across the Allegory a while back in a reader of medieval selections. Lewis’ Allegory was included as he so ably describes medieval courtly love for the hogwash it was.

  2. Chris,
    Thanks for list! I’ve read some of the works mentioned & hope to read more. I’ve read some of Lewis’ books & essays & the his works that have stuck with me ares his essays on time and romantic love. I think the one on romantic love should be required reading in high schools. :) As Lewis was both a medievalist & Christian, I would be interested in what others books were in his library.

    • You’re welcome. Do you mean his book The Four Loves? I read that one in a college course on marriage by a wonderful Roman Catholic mentor. I remember him being most excited by the kind of love called friendship.

  3. Strangely, I have read more than half of these. And I wouldn’t consider myself a scholar, medieval, or renaissance in any way! :-)

    And after reading Julian of Norwich I swore off of reading bizzaro mystics for a while. A long while.

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