It is a universal truth that those in the creative professions will always be patronized by those who don’t and can’t create. ‘Resting?’ they will enquire of the out-of-work actor, with a tilt of the head and an upward inflexion, certain of an affirmative reply. An artist of my acquaintance was once asked what colour his interrogator should decorate her hall, as if he were merely a walking Dulux paint chart. Pity, then, the jobbing writer. ‘Still scribbling?’ is what he or she hears from those who insist that they would ‘put pen to paper’ some day or get that half-finished novel in the sock drawer published for certain, if only they had the time.
Time, for Blake’s sunflower and for the writer with deadlines, is, of course, a wearying issue. If only it were possible to visit some parallel universe, write copy there, and return to one’s own world at exactly the same moment as when one left it. There is such a country – imaginary, alas – where time passes but stays the same in our normal existence. On the edge of it we stand, like Miranda, in awe of the wonders of this brave new world; as adults we are too old to be allowed to enter it, but our children may. It is called Narnia. A. N. Wilson’s splendid biography of C. S. Lewis – recently reissued, for which much thanks – is subtitled ‘The classic life of the author who created Narnia’; like A. A. Milne, Lewis is chiefly remembered for a tiny part of his oeuvre. Wilson writes that Lewis ‘was addicted to . . . answering all the letters . . . sent to him . . . often rising a good while before daybreak’ to undertake this monumental task.
Surely even Lewis, despite his phenomenal output, must have wished occasionally that time would stand still. He does seem an unlikely candidate for iconic status. Certainly he never pursued fame, preferring to live quietly in Oxford and then Cambridge, always with his elder brother Warnie (so beautifully played by Edward
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