C.S Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia books that so many of us grew up reading, has been dead for 48 years. However, scholars are still piecing together fragments of the manuscripts he left behind, and next month fragments of his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid will be published for the first time.
The Independent reports that these manuscripts were rescued from a bonfire at Lewis’ house about a year after the author died. Lewis’ brother, Major Warren Lewis, was cleaning out the author’s old house and decided to dispose of the notebooks and papers left behind by burning them.
Fortunately, Lewis’ gardener, Fred Paxford, saved the day and managed to get the notebooks into the care of Walter Hooper, who had been Lewis’ secretary before his death.
In the book, Hopper describes how he saved the manuscripts:
“By what seems more than coincidence, I appeared at The Kilns that very day and learned that unless I carried the papers away with me that afternoon they would indeed be destroyed. There were so many that it took all my strength and energy to carry them back to Keble College.”
Indeed, he managed to spirit away such an enormous amount of material that it’s taken almost 50 years to sift through it all. Andy Reyes, the book’s editor, told the Independent that:
“Although it had been known that Lewis had worked on this translation, no one realised that portions still survived until Walter began sifting through his material. The bonfire, it was assumed, had consumed the most significant fragments of Lewisiana.”
The new book, C.S. Lewis’ Lost Aeneid, consists of the existing fragments of Lewis’ translation along with a glossary and an account of how the scholars managed to save the texts and piece them together. It should be interesting to compare Lewis’ work with existing translations.