Thursday, August 25, 2011

C.S.Lewis literary ancestry

In talking with one of my friends I came across the idea of a literary ancestry the idea that all writers were influenced by others and you could make a gigantic family tree of all of them. This project could very easily get out of hand if one attempted to show all the connections (surely in the hundreds for each author) but what if one merely chose the single biggest influence on each author. Now this is shakey ground because who that one influence is is quite debatable, but it is an interesting debate so let us charge forward with it. An easy starting place is C.S.Lewis who names his direct ancestor (his "master") as George MacDonald. MacDonald's work was a turning point in Lewis coming to Christ, Lewis used him as a character in The Great Divorce (as his Virgil, recalling Dante being guided by Virgil), and he made a collection of MacDonald's work. So then who was George Macdonald's bigest influence. The best I could come up with was a man named Novalis who wrote in very-dificult-to-translate German that George MacDonald translated. Now Novalis's childhood hero was Gottfried August B├╝rger who kept with him at all times Reliques of Ancient Poetry that a fellow named Bishop Percy compiled out of a manuscript of folk tales that he saved from being destroyed. That is my best stab at C.S.Lewis' main line of ancestry. Can you do better?