Friday, June 16, 2017

Warnie Trashes Mrs. Moore

So, the most recent volume of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES has arrived, and as always there's at least one piece to which my eye is immediately drawn -- in this case, Don King's piece on a previously unknown (to me, at least) little work by Warnie Lewis, longtime Inkling and C. S. Lewis's older brother: MENS HUMANA (or 'Kilns Table Talk').

It's long been known that Warnie, who lived with his brother and CSL's common law wife, Janie Moore, despised the latter. It's also well-known that Warnie and CSL kept a collection of things their father said* that made him look stupid** -- a prime example being their claim that he believed the ancient Babylonians were Japanese, due to his inability to understand the difference between the words "Sumerian" and "Samurai".

Now, in addition to the 100 sayings that make Albert Lewis look bad, we have seventy-two that make Mrs. Moore look bad. Except we don't: in this case we don't get the whole of MENS HUMANA but excerpts, most of them summarized rather than quoted directly.

As for the individual items, they're a mixed lot. Just as many of the sayings in PUDAITA PIE sound like jokes that flopped, some of the MENS HUMANA sound like misunderstandings, whereas a few are truly bizarre, such as this exchange:

JKM (shouting from hall): 'Warnie!'
WHL (leaves study and appears): 'Well?'
JKM: 'What's the time?'
WHL: '6.45'
JKM: 'Oh rubbish! It's 6.40'
WHL (nettled): 'Well why ask me?'
JKM: Because I thought you'd tell me right'
   (entry # LIX, p. 113-114)

Oddly enough, editor King pretty much accepts Warnie's point of view as his own-- that Moore was a horrible woman: conceited, mean-spirited, snobbish, self-righteous, and petty, as well as "dogmatic, contentious, and irascible". He also conflates the Janie Moore who was suffering from dementia (probably Alzheimer's) in the final four years of her life with the person CSL fell in love with; much of CSL's comments when she was in her final decline sound v. familiar to anyone who's been a caregiver.

All in all, a curious and disturbing piece.

--John R.

*PUDAITA PIE, published the year before last in the journal VII (volume 32, p. 59-67)

**which he wasn't: not only did he have two brilliant sons but seems to have been a voracious reader and was well-known as a sharp-witted Belfast lawyer.


k8neville said...

I'd never heard that Mrs. Moore had something like Alzheimers or dementia. It puts things into a much different light. And how would Warnie know what she'd been like in 1918? A sad tale

David Bratman said...

King argues that there's evidence, not least from CSL himself, that Mrs Moore had always been like this, or at least for a very long time. I think that evidence can be countered, but the case would have to made. King's conflating of the Mrs Moore of different periods may, in the end, be incorrect, but it is not a conflation casually or thoughtlessly made.

Wurmbrand said...

Thanks for the glimpse -- I look forward to seeing this article.

Since Lewis referred to Mrs. Moore as his "mother" and since, so far as I have seen, there's no real evidence that he and she were lovers, I wouldn't myself refer to her as his "common-law wife." Incidentally wouldn't that be a bigamous relationship since, at least when Lewis and Mrs. Moore first lived together, her husband was still living? (Don't have my books at hand, but that's my impression.)

If I've missed something that pins the relationship down as quasi-marital, I'd be interested in learning about it.

Dale Nelson

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David.
Of the examples King gives in the form of quotes from CSL himself, all but one date to, and are comments upon, the period when Mrs. Moore had to be put into a nursing home after her Alzheimer's got too bad for her to stay at home (one I think is two weeks before her committal, the rest after it. The sole exception extends very similar descriptions to just how bad it was back over a quarter-century -- but it's the outlier, and it's not certain Lewis is talking about Moore here, or only Moore.
--John R.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Dale

There's no good essay on their relationship that I know of. I'm simply saying that King's portrait is too one-sided (Warnie and JRRT may have disliked Janie Moore, but Arthur Greaves and the Barfields liked her quite a lot).

CSL may have called Janie Moore 'mother', but then John Lennon did the same to Yoko, not to mention Paw Kettle. So that's not as significant as it might at first glance appear.

You wrote: "If I've missed something that pins the relationship down as quasi-marital, I'd be interested in learning about it."

The best evidence can be found in CSL's letters to his closest friend, Arthur Greaves, which include our only account of Lewis's falling in love with Janie M. I found it pretty persuasive and highly recommend reading it if you're interested.

BIgamous: no more so than marrying Joy Gresham, who had a husband living as well.

--John R.

John D. Rateliff said...

Sorry David. I meant to say two months, not too weeks.