If I had an official bucket list, what transpired on Thursday, May 11, would have been at the top of that list. That’s the day I arrived at C. S. Lewis’s home, the Kilns.
Lewis lived in this house for the final thirty-three years of his life. It was here where he wrote most of his books and essays, here where he took care of the cantankerous Mrs. Janie Moore for twenty of those years, and here where Joy Gresham eventually resided as Mrs. C. S. Lewis.
Prior to the tour, we had time to walk through the wooded area that Lewis used to be able to see through his study window. Now there’s a house in the way of that view, but that’s fine—the owner of that house has a plaque with Narnia inscribed on it. I’m sure Lewis wouldn’t mind that.
I have read often of the pond and woods around the house but never realized how extensive the area is. And beautiful. Very beautiful.
I think the students would have appreciated more time to explore. I know I would have. Next time, I’ll have to take that into account when we return.
The home and grounds are well maintained. I don’t remember who took this photo of me outside, but it gives the sense of the peaceful atmosphere.
As I took the tour, images of where Lewis would have been sitting and of other events I’ve read about at the home came to mind. Upstairs we were ushered into Lewis’s bedroom.
Lewis sometimes used the room right next to it for his work. Yes, I had to sit there for a few moments.
We did more than the typical tour, though. Walter Hooper, who knew Lewis personally and helped him with correspondence during his final summer when he suffered a coma, and whom Lewis wanted to make his permanent secretary (Lewis died before that could happen), arrived to speak with us.
Mr. Hooper had communicated with me via e-mail as I was writing my book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis, and was a great encouragement to me as I progressed through my research and writing. He graciously accepted my invitation to share with our group at the Kilns.
There were other people in our little tour group, so I invited them to stay and take part in the session with Mr. Hooper. They were delighted. I then had the honor of introducing him.
He spent an hour relating his personal experiences with Lewis and answered questions. Then he conversed with the attendees afterward one-on-one. I can say emphatically that this interaction was the highlight of the day—and for me, the highlight of the entire two weeks in England.
After this experience, there was one more that was obligatory—going to Lewis’s grave to pay my respects.
Someone had recently placed flowers on the grave. It’s hard to see in this photo, but there also was an envelope there with “Jack” written on it (the name Lewis’s friends used for him). Yes, it was tempting to open that envelope and read the contents, but I refrained from doing so.
In the survey I conducted with the Wade Center when I was amassing research information for my book, there was one response that I think fits nicely here. The respondent commented,
I long to go with others on a walking tour in heaven with Jack (as he used to do with Warnie and others) and have a good lengthy chat with this man who for years now has seemed like a good, dear friend.
I can relate to that. I also hope to do the same.