Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sheldon Vanauken Letters

I used to love the book "A Severe Mercy," by Sheldon Vanauken. I first came across it at age 13 or so; I was browsing through a bookstore and found a book with the words "18 letters by C.S. Lewis" blazoned across the front. I was trying to read everything that Lewis ever wrote (a goal that I still have not fully met), and hence bought the book. I loved the romance and the descriptions of the intellectual and artistic atmosphere at Oxford in the 1950s. (I'm a bit more dubious about the notion that it was an act of God's mercy for Vanauken's wife to die tragically at a young age, although I imagine that Vanauken found it comforting to believe that.)

When I was a 17-year-old college freshman in 1991, I started writing letters to Vanauken, mostly about his books and theology, but occasionally about other topics such as Bach, art, and Neil Postman (whose "Amusing Ourselves to Death" I had recently read). He kindly wrote back, typing or writing on postcards in all instances except one.

It's one of my greatest regrets that I never made a trip up to Lynchburg, VA to visit him before he died in 1996 (he welcomed visitors, so I heard, and I could have chatted with someone who knew C.S. Lewis . . . ).

Here are his letters to me. Click to enlarge the images.

1. November 1991 (two images):

2. December 1991:

3. March 1992 (two images):

4. April 1992:

5. May 1992 (3 images):

6. October 1992 (two images):

7. February 1993:

8. October 1993:

9. November 1993:


Blogger Karen said...


2:05 AM  
Blogger Karen said...


2:06 AM  
Blogger Freeman Hunt said...

Those are wonderful.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Cathy Koetsier said...

Thank you so much for sharing these. Wow! Vanauken's words in Vanauken's writing. It was a privilege to read....

8:43 AM  
Blogger Lee Desmond said...

Thanks for posting. I thought you might be interested in knowing that we named our first daughter Davy, after Davy Vanauken. We also wrote to Van and received great responses over many years. Once, when our sweet Davy was very ill as a 4 year old, a friend found Vanauken's phone number and actually called him and asked him to pray for her. She said he was very gracious. I also wish we had made it to Lynchburg before he died (although we have been there since, and have seen where he lived). Blessings!

11:10 AM  

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