Thursday, January 12, 2006

On Mrs. Moore

On this day:

1951 Janie King Moore (Mrs. Moore) died at the age of 78 in Oxford. Mrs. Moore was the mother of C.S. Lewis's army buddy Paddy Moore. She and her daughter Maureen came under Lewis's care after Paddy's death in WWI.

A rather bitter excerpt from Warren H. Lewis (CSL's brother) on the occasion:

So ends the mysterious self imposed slavery in which J has lived for at least thirty years. How it began, I suppose I shall never know but the dramatic suddenness of the "when" I shall never forget. When I sailed for West Africa in 1921, we were on the terms on which we had always been: during my absence we exchanged letters in which he appeared as eager as I was for a long holiday together, when, for the first time, I was to have a long leave and plenty of money: and when I came home, I found the situation established which ended on Friday. [...] It is quite idle, but none the less fascinating to muse of what his life might have been if he had never had the crushing misfortune to meet her: when one thinks of what he has accomplished even under that immense handicap. It would be Macaulaysque to say that he took a First * in the intervals of washing her dishes, hunting for her spectacles, taking the dog for a run, and performing the unending futile drudgery of a house which was an excruciating mixture of those of Mrs. Price and Mrs. Jellaby**; but it is true to say that he did all these things in the intervals of working for a First. Did them too with unfailing good temper (towards her) at any rate...Most infuriating to the onlooker was the fact that Minto [Mrs. Moore] never gave the faintest hint of gratitude: indeed she regarded herself as J's benefactor: presumably on the grounds that she had rescued him from the twin evils of bachelordom and matrimony at one fell swoop! Another handicap of this unnatural life was to keep J miserably poor at a time of life when his creative faculties should have been at full blast, which they couldn't be under the strain of money worry; for his allowance of £210 was quite insufficient to keep Minto and Maureen as well as himself in any sort of comfort. [...] I wonder how much of his time she did waste? It was some years before her breakdown that I calculated that merely in taking her dogs for unneeded "little walks", she had had five months of my life. I don't think J ever felt as much as I did, the weariness of the house's unrestfulness so long as she managed it; even after ten or more years of it.
~Warren H. Lewis, Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis, (1982)

**characters from Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.

3 Comment(s):

At Thu Jan 12, 07:51:00 PM EST, Blogger Kimi said...

Mrs Jellaby is actually from "Bleak House". I'm not sure if there's a Mrs Price in Dickens, but there is in Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park". Both women "preside" over chaotic households.

What an interesting (and sad) insight into a long period of Jacks' life.

At Fri Jan 13, 05:46:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Thanks Kimi. I should have double-checked--I took the footnote from the book.

At Sat Feb 11, 09:35:00 AM EST, Blogger Katherine said...

'Taking a First' does not mean coming first in his class. It means he earned a first-class degree (i.e. he was one of the best students) rather than a second or third class degree.

Warren Lewis is definitely not to be trusted on the subject of Mrs. Moore. Consider his absurd remark "In twenty years I never saw a book in her hands."

Lewis' early letters make it quite clear that he was very fond of Mrs. Moore. They got on well and lived together because the arrangement suited both of them; there was no more reason for Mrs.Moore to feel grateful than for Lewis to feel grateful.

She was well liked by nearly everyone. George Sayer said, "Of all the people who knew Mrs.Moore, Warren seems to be the only one who disliked her." The fact that she was happy to welcome the alcoholic Warren into her house and to live with him for all those years shows, I think, what a kindhearted person she was.


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