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Day One from Oxford: A View from The Kilns

September 20th, 2012 | 3 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

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.


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.



Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.