C. S. Lewis and running towards a cliff

When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.

Attr. C. S. Lewis

Attributed to CSL, but not by him. The invaluable William O’Flaherty of “Confirming C. S. Lewis” says on his FB group that it can’t be found in Lewis and that its earliest appearance as a CSL “quotation” is 1997. O’Flaherty has digital editions of Lewis’s oeuvre, so he is quite likely correct. For what it’s worth, I looked around a little on Google Books and couldn’t find it in Lewis either.

Lewis: Books at ten and at fifty

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

Attr. (correctly) to C. S. Lewis.

A friend asked me about this one on Facebook. It has the ring of authenticity to it, and like most authentic quotes (though not all) it only took a few minutes to verify. It’s from his essay “On Stories.” Full context:

It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one’s adult enjoyment of what are called ‘children’s books’. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty–except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for crême de menthe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.

Love is never wasted: C. S. Lewis?

Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.

Attr. to C. S. Lewis.

The word “reciprocity” gives it a certain credibility, raising it above the level of a common meme. But that doesn’t make it authentic.

  1. A Google search turns up the usual citation-less suspects.
  2. Wikiquote doesn’t have it, even on the discussion page of disputed quotes.
  3. Searching Google Books for the entire quotation with the author restricted to C. S. Lewis returns no hits. This is pretty telling because Google Books can search everything C. S. Lewis wrote. Just to be sure, I tried searching for the word reciprocity in a few books (e.g., The Four LovesThe Weight of Glory), but it’s not there. Just for good measure, I tried searching Google Books for the whole quotation with Lewis’s name at the end. No dice. It’s still possible this is something he wrote or said that’s not in any of his books, but ….
  4. I found a much more likely source. It’s attributed in various places to Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Latter Days Saints (Mormons). Tracing that down led me to this page, where the actual quotation appears to be: “However, never underestimate the power of privately extending a simple, loving, but direct challenge. Though it may not be reciprocated, such love is never wasted.” I can see how that got lifted out of context and meme-ified, giving the quote as we have it today. How it got attributed to CSL, I couldn’t say.

Bottom line: Not findable in Lewis’s works, but a variant form found somewhere else. I’m going to call this one fake.

Taking a shine to C.S. Lewis

Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.

Attributed to C. S. Lewis, but not by him. Someone already did the work on this for me. http://www.essentialcslewis.com/2016/03/05/ccslq-22-dont-shine/

Earliest known attribution to CSL is 2014. It’s not even on the discussion page for Lewis at Wikiquote, so I knew it was mostly likely a recent misattribution.

Additional thought: This sounds an awful lot like something from Cardinal Newman’s meditation on radiating Christ, which is the foundation for the Missionaries of Charity’s prayer discussed here.

Screwtape on politics?

There’s a screenshot going around on FB alleged to be from the Screwtape Letters, beginning: “Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics,” with the tagline, “Uncle Screwtape~1942.”

That first sentence alone set off alarm flags. It’s not Lewis-ian in vocabulary or phrasing at all. Neither is the rest of the post, which reads a lot like it was written by a frustrated American Christian in 2016.

But to prove the point, I went to Google Books. Even when you can’t see an entire book, Google Books will tell you if a search returned anything. It didn’t:


It’s a fauxtation, I’m sure composed in innocent tribute and then picked up upon by someone who didn’t realize what it was.

C. S. Lewis: My prayer when I die

My prayer is that when I die, all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.

Attr. to C. S. Lewis.

  1. It doesn’t sound like Lewis to me (several friends agree on that point).
  2. Lots of Google hits attribute it to CSL, but all from notorious quote aggregation sites that never give citations.
  3. The saying does not appear in the CSL compilation on Wikiquote at all.
  4. The saying does not return one hit on Google Books–that is to say, it turns up lots of books, but with the words scattered around in them. There aren’t any where the words turn up as a single quotation. That’s very, very unusual. Fauxtations tend to find their way into print pretty quickly, so nothing in books suggests to me that this fauxtation is of very recent invention. Bear in mind that I’ve determined before that essentially the whole C. S. Lewis oeuvre is on Google Books, so if GB can’t find it, I can be pretty confident it doesn’t exist.
  5. I checked with my CSL-savvy friends and they can’t find it either. One of them did find a website attributing it to Charles T. Studd, also known as C. T. Studd. I verified with Google Books that the quotation, slightly modified as “I pray that when I die, all of hell will rejoice that I am out of the fight,” appears in Ministry Is…: How to Serve Jesus with Passion and Confidence, as noted on the above Web site. The book gives a footnote, which I can see in Google Books. It says that the source is Grubb, C.T. Studd, 13. That book exists, but I can’t find a Google Books previewable edition. At this point, however, I am confident it’s a good attribution.

    I note that Studd is better known as “C.T. Studd,” which would follow right after “C.S. Lewis” if someone alphabetized a list by first names or initials. Is it possible that someone saw a partial result on Google and accidentally attached the quotation to the wrong name?

Verdict: fauxtation.

C.S. Lewis: Never too old

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

–attr. C. S. Lewis

  1. No postive results from a general Google search.
  2. Several Google results did the rest of my searching for me: here (featuring another one of my favorite not-Lewis quotations on body and soul) and here (see the comments [no, seriously]).

    Both sets of results refer to Les Brown as another possible source.

  3. It’s also listed as “misattributed” on Lewis’s Wikiquote page, with a nod in the direction of Mr. Brown.
  4. And it really doesn’t sound like CSL.

Verdict: fauxtation.

C. S. Lewis, Body and Soul

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

Attr. (falsely, not to give the end away or anything) to C. S. Lewis.

  1. It might sound like Lewis because he approached Christianity from a Platonist viewpoint. He was in good company, because Platonism was the dominant view (not the only view) for much of the first millenium. St. Augustine was a huge fan of Platonism. But I even before I went looking for the first time (I first saw this fauxtation a few years ago), I was almost certain that it wasn’t Lewis because it’s wrong, very fundamentally wrong. I’m not sure how Platonic-style Christianity handles the body-soul issue, but there is no doubt in Catholic teaching (in most ways Lewis was Catholic-minded) that you are neither soul alone nor body alone but a single being composed of body and soul together.
  2. But, okay, let’s say that Lewis could be wrong (as he was about some things). Wikiquote has it in the Misattributed section of CSL’s page. Here’s what they have to say about it:

    Commonly attributed to Mere Christianity, where it is not found. Earliest reference seems to be an unsourced attribution to George MacDonald in an 1892 issue of the Quaker periodical The British Friend.

  3. A generic Google search turns up countless hits, unsourced of course. Sigh.
  4. Google books turns up countless hits, too, but none from CSL’s actual works, which are (as I found out a few days ago) all there on Google Books to be searched.
  5. Here are a couple of blog posts from people who’ve done the same search. Link one. Link two.  Both of them explain in some detail what’s wrong with the saying, too.
  6. And Lewis wasn’t wrong on this point. In his essay “Priestesses in the Church” (found in God in the Dock), he wrote:

    And as image and apprehension are in organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.

C. S. Lewis and hardship

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.

—attr. C. S. Lewis

  1. It sounds suspicious to me, but by now my ear is so cynical that nearly everything sounds suspicious, so I kept looking, especially because it’s not horribly suspicious.
  2. A Google Web search turned up all the popular quotations web sites. Bah, humbug.
  3. Wikiquote has it in the “Unsourced” category on the discussion page.
  4. Google Books found it in secondary sources, one of which even gives a footnote. Alas, the footnote isn’t included in the preview. Since I can’t find a primary source, I’m suspecting the footnote refers to a secondary source.
  5. Google Books does have most (probably all) of Lewis’s works available. I tested by feeding it several CSL quotations known to be authentic, and it found them in primary sources. It doesn’t find the quotation in question.

Verdict: Fauxtation.

C. S. Lewis, children and work

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” Attributed to C.S. Lewis

It doesn’t sound like him. None of the hits on the Internet return a primary source. It’s not on Wikiquote. It doesn’t come up with anything on Google books.

I’m calling it fake. I think it gets attributed to him because of the Narnia books.

Update for 8/23/2015

Since I first published this post, I’ve gotten several comments on it. One set of comments is associated with Dr. John Trainer, who claims to be the originator of the quotation.

Another set of comments claims that it is CSL, “from a speech he made in 1952 at the Library Association, titled ‘On Three Ways of Writing for Children.’ The speech was later adapted into an essay in Lewis’ ‘Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories.’”

I don’t own that book, but I have a bibliophile friend who does, and he says that the quotation is not in the essay in the book. I couldn’t find it searching the text of the book on Google Books either. The essay also appears in Lewis’s On Stories, but I can’t find the quotation there either. I don’t have access to the speech so I can’t check there.

Absent a specific page number of a specific edition of a specific book, I remain skeptical that Lewis actually wrote this and will give the nod to Dr. Trainer unless someone can come up with a solid earlier citation.