Susan Wendling


While readers of C.S. Lewis have commonly noted his early love for myths, fairy tales and epic poetry, the fullest impact of Edmund Spenser's 1590 classic The Faerie Queene on Lewis's "habit of mind," and his own writing has yet to be explored. Following the lead of Doris Myers, that "learning about Spenser leads us into Lewis's inner life," the essay first briefly reviews some of Lewis's responses. With his lifelong love of Spenser established, the essay then discusses two aspects of embodied in The Faerie Queene itself: 1) it's ancient neoplatonic worldview with its fusion of classical images of Nature with the poet's imagination to produce moral allegory that is "golden and sweet"; and 2) its fusion of contemporary history with "Faerie history" to provide not only structural unity but also spiritual truth with images functioning as sacramental symbols. After these two aspects have been explored, the essay concludes that Spenser's "habit of mind" -- its syncretism, its ancient neoplatonic spiritual cosmology and its entwining of both myth and history -- became Lewis's "habit of mind" employed in his own imaginative writings, in his works of literary criticism, and in his own understanding of the relationship of myth and history.