Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Our next meeting will be on Monday, April 26th - 7pm at the C. Burr Artz Library in the Trust Community Room and we will be discussing Lewis's essay - "On the Reading of Old Books" - now found in God in the Dock, originally published as an introduction to a 1944 translation of On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius.

Here is a passage from this essay:

We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.  None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already.  Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill.  The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.  Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past.  People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.  They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us.  Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.  To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Join the final discussion of Lewis's book Miracles Monday night - 3/22/10 - 7pm at the C. Burr Artz Library in Frederick, MD.  We will meet in the C. Burr Artz Trust Conference Room and be discussing chapters 14-16.

Friday, March 12, 2010


A letter from C.S. Lewis to Dr. Warfield Firor:

March 4, 1949

Dear Dr. Firor

  This is very good news (Belfast is my native town and my Mother was a B.A. Of Queen's). You must manage at least a dinner, night, and breakfast here. I've probably told you how I live – tied to an invalid with one night out (i.e. one night in College) a week. That night is normally a Thursday and can never be a Sat. or Sunday. So ear-mark a week day as early as possible (preferably a Thursday) and let me know. All who have feasted on your ham will be anxious to meet you.
  To allow that my main (or exclusive!) interest in an American slump turns on philoprogenitiveness of hogs wd. imply that my interest in them was itself hoggish. Still, I'm glad that they at least will not cease to do their duty.
With heartiest welcome.

C.S. Lewis

In July 1949 Dr Firor visited Belfast and Oxford, where he spent the night in Magdalen College as Lewis's guest. After dining in Hall he attended a meeting of the Inklings in Lewis's rooms.

Warfield M. Firor was born in Baltimore. He received his A.B. in 1917 from the Johns Hopkins University and his M.D. in 1921 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He remained at Johns Hopkins for residencies in both neurosurgery and surgery and became a faculty member and surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Firor played a major role in the national effort to raise the level of training in surgery and lectured on medicine throughout the United States. He conducted research on the effects of tetanus toxin on the spinal cord and investigated the treatment of diseased adrenal glands with hormone implants. Among Firor's surgical contributions was the introduction of intestinal antisepsis in preparation for colon surgery.

Dr. Firor became a benefactor to Lewis, providing gifts which Lewis was very thankful for due to post war rationing in England.  Some of the gifts included:

Stationary, fruit, plum pudding, chocolates, jelly, chicken, sardines, lard, syrup, butter, cakes, a turkey...

However, ham became the prized gift.
In October 1947 Dr. Firor sent a parcel with ham and cheese – Lewis states that “A ham such as you sent lifts me up into our millionaire class. Such a thing could'nt be got on this side unless one was very deep in the Black Market...And as for the cheese, I found I'd almost forgotten what real cheese taste like.”

March 1948 Lewis shared a ham at an Inkling meeting in his college rooms. Those in attendance wrote a letter back to Dr. Firor (now in the Bodleian Library) signing their names, included were: CS Lewis, HV Dyson, Lord David Cecil, WH Lewis, C Hardie, CR Tolkien, RE Havard, and JRR Tolkien.

Another letter from March 1948 Lewis states:
“I give up! I'm beat! My command of the English tongue is insufficient to go on thanking you for your apparently interminable kindness to me....P.S. Some time ago you were kind enough to ask for suggestions for gift parcels. I'll give you one. Put yourself and a ham in the state room of an East bound liner, and come and eat it with us in Magdalen. If you do, you will get the warmest welcome that an impoverished community can give you.”

A ham a month, sometimes two, was not uncommon and they became known as Firor-hams.


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