Clive Staples (CS) Lewis married Joy Davidman, on March 21, 1957. He was 59 years of age, an Oxford professor and a ‘confirmed bachelor’, who had forsaken his ‘determined atheism’ for Christianity over 20 years previously.
His Screwtape Letters (1942) and Mere Christianity (1952) had made his name well known throughout Christendom.
Joy Davidman was Jewish by birth – and had been associate editor of the Communist New Masses paper in America. At the time the couple were wed she was divorced with two sons.
Joy abandoned Judaism and Communism and became a Christian in 1948, partly due to reading Lewis’ books. She wrote to Lewis, known by the nickname “Jack” since his childhood, concerning his books. In time her Communist theories had given way to the certainties of the Christian faith. At the time she was still married to Bill Gresham. An on-going correspondence between Jack and Joy ensued.
The pair first met in 1953 when Joy visited England. The correspondence connection blossomed into a friendship, despite their diverse backgrounds.
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Following her return to America Joy’s marriage disintegrated when her husband deserted her. Her husband instituted divorce proceedings. Two years later she was back in England – and having trouble with the British Home Office, which refused to renew her visa. She must leave. But C.S. had a solution … he would marry her!
Their marriage was first done in secret, as a civil ceremony to satisfy the British Home Office. That was on April 23, 1956. That initial marriage of convenience was rethought as their relationship blossomed and so they decided to have a Christian wedding to celebrate their bond of love.
Joy was found to have cancer of the bone – and when they decided to have a public Christian wedding it was in the hospital ward they were joined as man and wife on 21 March, 1957.
Following the wedding Joy experienced a remarkable recovery. In July of 1958 the couple enjoyed a 10 day holiday in Ireland. Lewis continued with his recordings and writing.
In 1960 news that Joy’s cancer had returned prompted the couple to travel to Greece together, with another couple. They enjoyed many sights in their travels but shortly after their return Joy’s end came quickly.
Joy had lived another three years since the wedding … during which time friendship blossomed into love “they had never dared to think possible…”
Joy died on July 13, 1960, ending the former affirmed bachelor’s short-lived excursion into married life. Jack was distraught at Joy’s death, pouring out his grief in a book entitled ‘A Grief Observed‘. Three years later, Jack died on the day of President John F Kennedy’s assassination.
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com