C. S. Lewis
In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), the British literary scholar, novelist, popular theologian, and Oxford and Cambridge don (1925-1954, 1954-1963, respectively), admitted that his "Second Friend"1 Owen Barfield "changed me a good deal more than I him. Much of the thought which he afterward put into Poetic Diction had already become mine before that important little book appeared. It would be strange if it had not. He was of course not so learned then as he has since become; but the genius was already there."2 But it was, of course, Lewis who would go on to become the household word, the internationally known figure.3

Barfield has had much to say throughout his career on the life and mind of his more famous friend. (G. B. Tennyson's Owen Barfield on C. S. Lewis [1989] collected these in a single volume.) A sampling follows:

  •  On Lewis' "subjective idealism" in contrast to Barfield's objective idealism:
    What differentiated Lewis from other subjective idealists was that he was not content with studying all this as an academic exercise and accepting it as a theory which could have no possible influence on a man's actual behavior. He tried to live by it. He told us something of all this in Surprised by Joy (1955). And I suppose it was here in a sense that I came in. I had had no philosophical training, and I absorbed my subjective idealism from him. But I always had an obstinate feeling that there must be some way of bridging the gulf between the empirical self and the higher self or the Absolute. The argument between us went into all sorts of philosophical and psychological detail, and I remember getting into very hot water on one occasion after trying to maintain that a proposition might be true from one point of view and untrue from another. In these arguments, Lewis could always knock me down without much difficulty, and I learned more than I can say from those falls. (OBCSL 8-9)
  • On Lewis' argumentative style:
  • When one met him and had the intention of putting forward something, arguing with him, it was rather like going in to bat in a game of cricket against a very swift bowler. You were so terrified as you walked toward the wicket that every idea in your head completely vanished except that at all costs you must keep a very straight bat. Well, it sometimes happens that the ball from the swift bowler accidentally hits the bat you have simply held straight, but without trying to wield it, and then it is as likely to go to the boundary as anywhere else, simply because it was such a fast ball. In that sense, one could say that Lewis had the sort of mind that overreached itself. But if it did, he took the consequences quite willingly and humbly. (OBCSL 9-10)

  • On the nature of Lewis' intellect:
  • The rapidity with which his mind responded to whatever was presented to it, not only forming the necessary ideas but also converting them simultaneously into well-ordered sentences, exceeded that of anyone I have ever conversed with. In later years, especially, when I was living a different sort of life from his, I sometimes felt that he must be feeling I was dull, though there is, fortunately, some evidence that this was not the case. There are people in whose company I feel myself to be too quick-witted, so that I have to take some pains to avoid appearing aggressive; there are many others with whom I never think about it; Lewis was, I believe, the only person in whose company I frequently felt myself to be painfully slow-witted. (OBCSL 39)


  • On Lewis' understanding of the imagination:
  • If someone were to ask me at the point of a pistol, and with ten seconds to answer in: What was Lewis' relation to imagination? I should reply (supposing I had my wits enough about me to meet the challenge): He was in love with it. And being in love (which is not quite coterminous with "having sex") has been observed to entail a strong impulse to protect the beloved object from contamination, a kind of horror at the contrast between her perfections and the harsh world of reality. (OBCSL 98)

    Lewis had within him this loving impulse to protect and insulate imagination, so that it could continue to live its own pure and chaste life; to insulate it, therefore, from having anything whatever to do with fact. "May it not be that there is something in belief which is hostile to perfect imaginative enjoyment?" he asks in the essay "Is Theology Poetry?" and elsewhere he suggests that, if there had been no myths, the poets would have had to invent them. My memory tells me that, once you are alert to it, you find indications of that protective impulse in many places in his writings. (OBCSL 98-99)
    [Lewis] was imagination's own true knight, wearing her favor as he performed his prodigious deeds, and looking up always in the hope of her gracious approbation. But partly for that very reason, he could not contemplate with any enthusiasm the possibility of giving her the vote or of arranging for her active participation in the practical business of life. (OBCSL 101)
    Lewis had the very strong feeling that you couldn't relate [imagination] in any way to truth with destroying its essence as imagination; he was in love with it. . . . Yes, he was in Romantic love with it. . . . But I wanted to marry it." (OBCSL 137)
  • On their respective development as thinkers:
  • He developed to a considerable extent after his conversion; whereas I have never changed at all. . . . I have the feeling, when I write a book, that I always write the same book over and over again, though perhaps in a different context or from a different approach. But Lewis did change. . . . It is often the case that thinking people change substantially. There is an earlier Wittgenstein and a later Wittgenstein; there is an earlier Heidegger and a later Heidegger, an earlier D. H. Lawrence and a later D. H. Lawrence; but there's no earlier Barfield and later Barfield. He always says the same thing. And that meant that Lewis had a certain advantage of me. (OBCSL 107)

See in particular Owen Barfield on C. S. Lewis, passim.
1"But the Second Friend," Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy,
    is the man who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the antiself. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not be your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got all the wrong things out of every one. It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right? . . . . When you set out to correct his heresies, you find that he forsooth has decided to correct yours! And then you go at it, hammer and tongs, far into the night, night after night, or walking through fine country that neither give a glace to, each learning the weight of the other's punches, and often more like mutually respectful enemies than friends. Actually (though it never seems so at the time) you modify one another's thought; out of this perpetual dogfight a community of mind and a deep affection emerge. But I think he changed me a good deal more than I him.
2Barfield, of course, has offered a dissenting account of who influenced whom. "He says in Surprised by Joy that he believes I influenced him more than he influenced me. If that is true, which I very much doubt, it is because he made it possible. When he showed me that passage in typescript before the book had gone to the printer, I told him he ought to add that it was he that taught me how to think at all" (OBCSL 9).
3In his introduction to Owen Barfield on C. S. Lewis, G. B. Tennyson offers the following discerning comparison of Lewis' and Barfield's academic and popular acceptance.
    Lewis's towering visibility is already pressing heavily on the consciousness of an academic establishment that prefer to ignore him or treat him as the special province of overzealous sectaries. Barfield's subtler visibility will continue to increase, in his case probably from the academy outward, for he already enjoys a dedicated academic cult following. Lewis will gain in academic stature and Barfield in popular appeal. but the two reputations will at points again converge as the two lives did in the twenties, and Barfield and Lewis will come to be seen as one of the most enduring literary constellations of this century. ( xii)