Monday, October 26, 2009

It Is A Mystery--Where Did This CS Lewis Quote Come From?

I recently saw a quote that was credited to CS Lewis and being a HUGE admirer of his work I wanted to find the context of the quote and read more of his thoughts on the subject.  Here is the quote I saw:

The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career. " — C.S. Lewis

Great quote right????  Now don't you want to also know the context of the quote?  Well, I searched on line everyway I could think of for several days to find the source of the quote but I just kept being sent to several "Lewis" and "Narnia" fan type blogs and web-sites where they sited this great quote.  I eventually got frustrated and did what I always do when I give up and I told my husband the problem of finding the source to this quote. 

He is THE ultimate internet detective and I woke up the next morning with an email from him (yes, he informed through an email instead of telling me when he came to bed later that night), that he had found a talk from the early "80's" where the quote was very similar, but not exact, but there was a source listed.  Here is the quote he found:
As C. S. Lewis said, "A housewife's work . . . is the one for which all others exist."   The source listed for this quote was page 262 of "Letter of CS Lewis"  1966 edition. 

I thought, GREAT!, I have this book, and so the mystery may be solved!  However, I had the revised and enlarged edition printed in 1988, so of course, it would be on a differnet page.  So I read the book, which is an AMAZING read if you are a Lewis fan.  The letters written during and after his wifes' illness and death are gut-wrenching, tender and romantic!  Anyway, back to the quote search. I finally found the correct letter, written on 16 March 1955 to a "Mrs Ashton" from Magdalene College, Oxford.  Here is the quote in its entirety:

“I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, “To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour”. (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist…” (pg 447-Letter of CS Lewis 1988 ed.)

So, I think what has happened with the original quote, is that someone put Lewis' quote into their own words and cited Lewis as the original author and it was put forth from then on as what Lewis himself had said. 

If anyone has any different information on the original quote listed, please let me know, but until I find a source, I will not use the quote because I have been burned in the past using a quote with an incorrect source and it was embarrassing. 

I am so glad I kept searching because I don't know when I would have ever read the book "Letters of CS Lewis".  There is a very touching tribute and biography, from his brother, Warren, in the '88 edition that is really good also.  I reccommend this book to everyone!


Tami Allred said...

Leslie, You are good and I love how Bruce emails you too. Someday I'll get to these Lewis books.

meg said...

Thank you so much! I was looking for *just* this information!

Ryan said...

I just want you to know that I appreciate your effort, and your husbands :) I was searching for the source of this quote as well and I'm thankful that you found this letter. I wish people would provide the sources for the quotes they offer, not just the person credited.

Anyway, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Compleat Mom said...

Amazing. Kudos to your husband. I had given up. Kudos to my friend Denise who found your blogpost which is now linked on our facebook pages. And Yay for C.S. Lewis. And Yay for homemakers.

Katie said...

Thanks for the info. I'm not a fan of made-up quotes attributed to people who never said them, so I appreciate having the real story. Love the sentiment - another insightful observation from Lewis.

Bethany Wade said...

Thanks! You just saved me tons of time pouring over my C.S. Lewis collection :-) I love having the original quote with a source.

Ngelica said...

Thanks i was just looking for This myself. I like to verify them before re-sharing.

Natalie P said...

I loved this post for several reasons. First, thank you for dispelling a rumor and helping me to know where the quote actually came from. Sounds like some pretty thorough research to me. Second, our husbands are twins. The "internet detective" really rang true for me, as did the "email me while I was sleeping" tactic. Awesome. Thanks for sharing!

Heather Galvas said...

I know this blog post was from awhile ago, but I was just wanting to know the origin of the quote as well and am pleased to know the paraphrase captures the essence of the original. Thank you for sharing and for keeping this blog post up. :)

Melissa F said...

Thank you soo much! I wanted to hang this on my wall, but was worried about hanging it up if it wasn't really a true quote, etc. So happy I found your blog to explain it to me.

Xene said...

As soon as I saw the supposed quotation, I knew it was not right. The word "homemaker" was coined in the 1970's, by which time Lewis was no longer alive. It was coined as a euphemism to avoid the supposedly denigratory connotation of the word "housewife. Thus, like all euphemisms,it is an insult. It implies that being a housewife is something to be ashamed of, and thus needs to be "prettified" by using another word. As a (well-educated) housewife all my life, I always bristle when I hear the word "homemaker." I feel insulted. I hate to see this false version of Lewis's quotation spreading because it sends people the message that Lewis also thought that being a housewife was something to be ashamed of. And that he would use such a graceless word.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! I saw the quote on Pinterest and I always google search to make sure a quote is legit before repinning it. Your blog entry saved me a lot of work... I think I'll pin your post instead of the quote. Now I'm intrigued about the book of letters too. Cheers.

Stephanie said...

THANK YOU! I saw this quote a few months ago and could not find this info anywhere.

CdnMrs said...

Thanks for the clarification on this. Really appreciate it. :)

CdnMrs said...

Thanks for the clarification on this. Really appreciate it. :)

Jenn said...

Thanks much for posting your hubby's findings on this. You saved me frustrating days of searching! And yes, Lewis's letters are a must-read. Letters to an American Lady and the entire collection are so...wonderful. Had many glimpses of Joy along the way. Thanks again!

diane said...

In trying to authenticate this quote I was sent to your site. Many thanks to you and your husband for doing all the work & being kind enough to share!

diane said...

In trying to authenticate this quote I was sent to your site. Many thanks to you and your husband for doing all the work & being kind enough to share!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I have cited you in my blog post regarding this quote. What you've found is very interesting!! Thanks for sharing! My post will go live tomorrow at :)

From: William said...

I want to thank you for your blog post as well. My wife just showed me the quote and I knew Lewis couldn't have said it, or at least said it that way and your post was the research I needed.
BTW, I've collected some other quotes that aren't by Lewis here:

oakleyses said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elisa Locke said...

Thank you so much for this! I think the "real quote" is much better than what we've all read! Thank you for sharing!!!

Jennie C. said...

Thanks for this post! Somebody read it aloud at our Extension Homemakers meeting this morning and I was looking for the source. She did quote it in its entirety, except for replacing "housewife" with "homemaker".

Sarah said...

I read a paraphrased version of this quote elsewhere and thought it didn't sound like Lewis, so I went searching and found your post, giving context and the proper words. Thanks for doing and sharing the research! :)

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From: William said...

I've since been exploring more questionable quotations and my site is no longer at "mymiddleearth" for hosting. Here's a direct link to my series on examining various quotes:

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