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C.S. Lewis and "Shadowlands"

Updated on December 30, 2015
C.S. Lewis (11/29/1898 – 11/22/1963)
C.S. Lewis (11/29/1898 – 11/22/1963)

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me. -- C. S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, born Clive Staples Lewis and later known as "Jack" to his friends and family, was born November 29, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. Lewis.' parents were Albert J. Lewis and Florence Augusta Hamilton Lewis and sadly, he lost his mom to cancer when he was only nine. His older brother, Warren Hamilton Lewis, out lived him by 10 years.

In 1916, Lewis attended University College in Oxford, but when World War I began, he enlisted in the British Army a year later. After becoming wounded, he was discharged in 1919, but while enlisted, he established a friendship with a man named Paddy Moore who was killed in 1918. Lewis had promised Moore he would make sure his family was taken care of, so to honor his promise, he lived with Moore's mother and sister until the three of them and Lewis' brother, Warren, all purchased a home at what is known as "The Kilns" in Oxford, which was also where Lewis lived from 1930 through 1963. The Kilns is a stretch of land which now supports eight houses.

For 25 years, Lewis served at the Oxford University. After converting to Christianity, he became a very influential writer. He belonged to a literary group which included J.R.R. Tolkien. Throughout his writing life, he supported and also defended Christianity.

After Ms. Moore had passed away, he met Lewis and American writer, Joy Davidman Gresham (see below) were married in 1956 when Lewis was 58 and Joy was 43. In 1958, Lewis accepted a position at Cambridge as the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. He was in this role for the remainder of his working career.

Sadly, Joy was stricken with bone cancer and passed away in 1960 and from then on, Lewis took care of her sons, Douglas and David Gresham.

"Speaking of his marriage, Lewis told his longtime friend Nevill Coghill: 'I never expected to have, in my sixties, the happiness that passed me by in my twenties.'"

(Source of quote:

A front view of the Kilns.  The Kilns is currently used as a place of study, a quiet place.  Tours are provided upon advance notice.  Read more: (cut and paste in browser).
A front view of the Kilns. The Kilns is currently used as a place of study, a quiet place. Tours are provided upon advance notice. Read more: (cut and paste in browser).
Joy Davidman Gresham (4/18/1915 - 7/13/1960)
Joy Davidman Gresham (4/18/1915 - 7/13/1960) | Source

Joy Davidman Gresham

Helen Joy Davidman was born in New York City in 1915. She was more commonly known as Joy Davidman Gresham later. She was an American novelist and poet who divorced her husband, William Gresham, and eventually relocated to England with her two sons. Joy was raised by Jewish parents who lifted the significance of education and were financially secure even through the depression years. As an adult, after witnessing the effects of those years of depression and witnessing its impact, Joy took on an outlook of society to such an extreme that she supported feminism and communism. Her belief in communism was changed after she started reading the works of C.S. Lewis. After she moved to England in 1954, it was there she met Lewis and their relationship and strong friendship took hold. In 1956, they were married secretly, but they still lived separately. When people started talking as a result of Lewis continually going to Joy's house, they had a religious ceremony which was announced she moved in The Kilns the following year.

Joy's epitaph was written by Lewis:

"Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day."

Books relating to Joy's conversion to Christianity


I became even more intrigued with the life and writings of C.S. Lewis after seeing the film adaption of Shadowlands starring Anthony Hopkins (C.S. Lewis) and Debra Winger (Joy Gresham). I knew the film, like other films, was a dramatization of a relationship, but I was very moved by the story.

Written for the stage by William Nicholson and movie directed by Richard Attenborough, Shadowlands is about the life of C.S. Lewis, but the real emphasis of the movie is the relationship between Lewis and Joy. The performances of Hopkins and Winger were so good in this film, a film that did a pretty good job in depicting the life of Lewis as well as the relationship between the writers. Winger earned an Academy Award nomination. If you have not seen this 1994 movie, I highly recommend it.

Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis.  Lewis was also called Jack by his friends.
Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. Lewis was also called Jack by his friends. | Source
Joy's son, Douglas Gresham, born November 1945.  Douglas was adopted by C.S. in 1956.
Joy's son, Douglas Gresham, born November 1945. Douglas was adopted by C.S. in 1956. | Source

The Gresham Sons

David and Douglas do not share a close relationship and allegedly have not been around each other in years. Some speculate this may be due to the fact that David became an Orthodox Jew and lives in Meah Shearim in Israel. Keep in mind Joy was Jewish at one time before she converted to Christianity which is practiced by Douglas.

Allegedly, it took a while with the help of a go between person with the sons to sign off on the making of the film, "Narnia," which Douglas produced.

After C.S. Lewis died, the estate was left to both sons, including the series of "The Chronicles of Narnia."

Sadly, the boys' natural father, Willam Gresham, took his own life in 1962, a year before Lewis died.


Submit a Comment

  • Romeos Quill profile image

    Romeos Quill 

    4 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

    A great movie about such a fascinating writer and a genuinely warm human being. Thank you.


  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    Beth, thanks very much for your comment. I really liked the movie and the story too. Have a good day.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    One of my favorite movies b/c he is one of my favorite authors. Arguably one of the most quotable ppl ever. Read his books as a kid, but it's his adult writings that are out of this world. Thanks for sharing this. :)

  • ytsenoh profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    phdast7, thanks very much for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this hub as much as I enjoyed writing about their lives.

  • phdast7 profile image

    Theresa Ast 

    7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    I have read and re read many of Lewis's books over the years and find his life before and after Joy fascinating and moving. Thank you for writing about them.

  • raciniwa profile image


    7 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

    thank you for sharing this...i'm really intrigued by the person behind those great novels...


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