Brothers and Friends

Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis
© 1981 Warren Lewis, ed. Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Mead
301 pages

Reading of C.S. Lewis’ life and letters, I often encounter his brother Warnie Lewis, and regard him with complete sympathy. An historian and  lifelong bachelor, he was happiest with a book, a beverage, a comfy chair, and his pipe. Though overshadowed by his younger brother Jack, Warren held no grudge;  he and his brother’s life centered around the other, and he was only happy to help Jack cope with his affairs when the younger Lewis became a celebrity. Brothers and Friends makes their close relationship plain,    evidenced by their constant activity together and Warnie’s obvious loss of heart in the years after Jack’s death in November ‘63.  

Warren’s initial diary begins at the close of the Great War, upon receipt of a journal for Christmas; he then writes faithfully with interruptions for the remaining decades of his life.  He is a vociferous a reader as his brother, and the book brims over with recollections of their frequent pub arguments and long walks together in the English countryside, discussing and debating matters of literature, politics, and theology. (These walks included short strolls with the dogs, and longer annual hikes  that went on for days.)     Although Warren didn’t share his brother’s tastes for Shakespeare and philosophy,  he was an avid consumer of English poetry, biographies, histories, and novels, and he contributed several French histories to his chosen field.  A reader who is aware of Warren’s later struggle with alcoholism will note with sadness the frequent and steady mentions of whisky-and-sodas early on, but cheer Warnie on when he begins recording his tee-totaling days, having become aware of the cycle of insomnia, depression, and drunkenness that he was slipping in to. Warren is amusingly uncomfortable around the fairer sex, and asserts that men in general find women poor company indeed unless they’re attracted to them. (Warnie seems to have been fond of at least two, though: his brother’s semi-ward, Maureen Moore, and Joy Davidman.)  

Warren is wonderful company, especially for a chronic bachelor-reader like myself who sees in him a kindred spirit. Not for Warren was the rat race, or the pursuit of honors; he wanted nothing but stimulating reads and good conversation, and his life was filled with both. As life wore on, especially after his brother’s death, he was increasingly sad for the world they were leaving behind: he saw country scenes plowed under for dismal architecture, and witnessed a growing sterility in the world around him. In his later years, he turned to the classics with fuller devotion, even reading Shakespeare which he’d once found unpalatable.  Although it’s very difficult to separate an appreciation for Warren from an appreciation for Jack — so closely do they stand together — he does appear here a distinct figure, with his own tastes entirely apart from his brother. Those who are interested in the personalities of the Inklings will find this especially attractive, given that Warren documents who was at which meeting and so on, and the subject of conversation at each meeting: poetry and literature, typically. Interestingly, he harrumphs against the idea of the Inklings as a deliberate literary society, with a characteristic influence on its members: Warren writes that they were merely friends, who, by virtue of their common literary interests, spent part of their time comparing and improving the others’ work.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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