Academic journal article Mythlore

From Despoina to [DELTA]

Academic journal article Mythlore

From Despoina to [DELTA]

Article excerpt

I. The Use of "D" (or "[DELTA]") to Refer to Janie Moore

C.S. LEWIS'S DIARY, PUBLISHED AS ALL MY ROAD BEFORE ME, runs from 1 April 1922 until 2 March 1927. It is not complete: Walter Hooper, the editor, says that, because of publishing restraints, he had to cut the diary by about a third (Intro. 11). Lewis's complete if episodic diary (or series of diaries) actually began in Christmastime 1902, as a number of brief notes about his studies (Schmidt, email of 16 Sept. 2008). But for the present purposes the published diary sets up the problem. Lewis's entry for the second of April 1922 begins with these two sentences: "A beautiful spring day. D busy cutting oranges for marmalade" (15). The entry for the first of March 1927 has these three sentences: "Home for lunch. D seemed still v. tired. We all tried talking French at lunch" (456).

Who is this "D" who cuts oranges for marmalade and who speaks French at lunch with Lewis and others? No mystery attaches to the bare fact here: she is Jane ("Janie") King Moore, the mother of one of Lewis's fellow officers in World War I, with whom Lewis made a home after the war and whom he introduced to others as his mother. She was also, for a number of years, his lover.

The more difficult question is why Lewis refers to her as D. The published diary is mainly copied from Warren H. Lewis's typed version, appearing in Memoirs of the Lewis Family, 1850-1930 (bound in eleven volumes, 1933-1935). This has never been published, but the original version is at the Wade Center, Wheaton, Illinois. W.H. Lewis types a "D." But, in his introduction to the published diary, Walter Hooper says that a notebook which belonged to C.S. Lewis, now in Hooper's possession, has the entries for 27 April 1926 through 2 March 1927 in Lewis's hand--and in these entries he writes the Greek letter "[DELTA]" (delta) instead. W.H. Lewis's typewriter did not have foreign letters, so he substituted the English equivalent (Hooper, Intro. 10). One wishes this notebook were available for critical appraisal, but this essay will accept Hooper's report for the discussion that follows. What this means is that the question becomes: Why does Lewis refer to Janie Moore as [DELTA]?

The main thesis of this essay is that Lewis refers to Janie Moore as [DELTA] because, in Greek, his nickname for her was Despoina. This is the name (or title) of a woman in one poem in Lewis's first book, Spirits in Bondage (1919), and in a poem of the same time period not collected there. The name also appears in a second poem in Spirits in Bondage, probably addressed to a goddess. Lewis's affectionate address to her in two of the poems suggests the relationship. (The minor thesis of this essay is that the three poems have at least some interest in a more general way, as early steps in Lewis's development as a verbal artist.)

II. The Love Affair

Since the argument depends on Lewis and Janie Moore being lovers, some support for that relationship is needed. Probably all serious students of Lewis accept the fact of the affair today, but it certainly was not accepted when Kathryn Lindskoog first suggested it in her 1988 book The C.S. Lewis Hoax (64-65). George Sayer, in his biography the same year, quoted Owen Barfield as saying the chances were fifty/fifty (Jack, 1st ed., 89). In fact, the present writer did not agree at the time with Lindskoog (see "Is 'D' for Despoina?," published in 1994), but the evidence for the affair has mounted up.

The background is this. In 1917, Lewis was at Oxford University; he had joined the Officer's Training Corps, so he could enter World War I with the King's Commission. His serious training began as he was assigned to a room in Keble College on 7 June. By chance of alphabetical arrangement, Lewis shared his room with Edward Moore, called "Paddy"--an Irishman by birth like Lewis. Moore's mother, Janie--accompanied by her eleven-year-old daughter, Maureen--was renting an apartment in Oxford to see her son as much as she could before he inevitably went to the Western Front. …

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