Day One from Oxford: A View from The Kilns

When I first named “Mere Orthodoxy,” I started from a very simple question:  which writers had lived and written in such a way that I wanted to emulate?

The answer was as immediate as the question was simple:  Chesterton and Lewis, Lewis and Chesterton.  Their most famous book titles played nicely together, and Mere-O was born.

The two titans of twentieth century Christianity (insert your own joke about Chesterton’s girth here) have played very different roles in my Christian life.  I remember being on camping trips as a young boy and pleading for the next chapter of The Horse and His Boy and even then remember feeling too keen a fondness for Puddleglum.  In high school, I read all the Lewis our little church library had–and then some.  I understood little, but I suspect it was from him that I gained my vague distaste for the sort of loose relativism that my youth pastor preferred.

I met Chesterton much later, but my affection was instantly more arduous.  It was a particularly hard time for me when I first picked up Orthodoxy, and the effect was…powerful.  I know I didn’t see his argument there–I don’t much remember caring.  All I remember is that those sentences, those incredibly witty sentences, kept me swaying between pondering and laughing to the point of seasickness.  Also, it was fashionable to love Lewis as an undergraduate, which is why I preferred Gilbert.  He was less read, and more quotable, and so I took him as my point of reference.

But still, it’s impossible to downplay Lewis’ effect on me.

Sometimes when young folks read a lot of old books, they wake up one day and think that C.S. Lewis wasn’t really all that insightful.  ”It’s all in Plato,” the Professor in the Chronicles says.  And there’s a temptation for us to think that all of Lewis is there, or in Augustine or Dante.  But try writing at his level and with his clarity and the awe returns, with a vengeance, and makes a mockery of the hubris that ever dared doubt Lewis’ ultimately unquestionable brilliance.  To synthesize several strands of Western Christian thought and then package the whole into a children’s book series?  Unless your name is Tolkien, you ought to be astonished.

Which is why I feel like you need to know that I am living in C.S. Lewis’s house.  Like, The Kilns.  The place where he did the bulk of his writing.  The place where he spent time walking and thinking and smoking his pipe.  For the next nine months, at least, we’ll be here.  And maybe, if they’ll have us, for longer.

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The house is currently owned by the C.S. Lewis Foundation in California, and if you go through the proper channels you can come enjoy a tour.  I haven’t been on one yet, but I’m assured they are splendid.  And having met some of the folks around, I’m already persuaded.  The Foundation is one worth supporting and I’m grateful for their willingness to allow my wife and I in to the place (not everyone would be so bold!).

It’s a dream, really, to write at a blog named in part for Lewis’s most famous books to have the chance to live where he lived.  I know that sort of brilliance doesn’t quite rub off as easily as I might hope, but still, it’s humbling to be in the shadow of a man whose success with the written word has touched so many lives.  If I were a better writer, I might be able to find words for how grateful I am.  If I was Lewis, I mean, I would find those words.

I am going to be posting photos throughout our time at Oxford and at The Kilns on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, for those who are interested in following along.  And for everyone else, well, normal blogging returns…soon.

 

 

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  • http://www.chriskrycho.com/theology Chris Krycho

    You should probably check all of the wardrobes in the house first thing. Just saying.

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com Matthew Lee Anderson

      No comment on whether this has been done, or on what I did/did not discover.

      Matt

      • http://www.chriskrycho.com/theology Chris Krycho

        This being the height of the American political season, I think we all know how to interpret “no comment” statements. *ahem*

      • http://about.me/dillieo Sean Patterson

        +1 on that! 8^D

  • Bonnie

    So happy for the both of you (and so feeling the sehnsucht…) Eager to see the fruits of this experience in your writing. (Don’t sell yourself short…)

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com Matthew Lee Anderson

      Thanks, Bonnie!! I tempt myself with vanity to think about the possibility too much. : )

  • Ginna

    Quite thrilled for you and Charity. If it weren’t for the anticipated depletion of my frequent flyer miles on travel to Houston I would be on your doorstep with my buddy Sue.

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com Matthew Lee Anderson

      I hope we’ll see you anyway. You shouldn’t use that as an excuse! : )

  • http://meggoestowashington.wordpress.com/ Meg

    You said you were moving to England, but neglected to point out this little detail until now. WHAT a detail! Hope you are thoroughly inspired.

    • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com Matthew Lee Anderson

      Meg,

      It’s not the sort of thing that I can casually bring up in conversation. It just feels like bragging. #mercy

      matt

  • SteveK

    Hi Matt,
    As a mere reader, I think this is super-fantastic! What an honour!
    I look forward to hearing/reading more of your time there.
    Bless you in your journey,
    Steve