Sunday, August 4, 2013

C.S.Lewis and his teachers / 4 / Ode to the dialectic teacher Kirkpatrick

C.S. Lewis finishes chapter nine of "Surprised by Joy" with saying how much Kirkpatrick meant to him.

Smewgy and Kirk were my two greatest teachers.  Roughly, one might say (in medieval language) that Smewgy taught me Grammar and Rhetoric and Kirk taught me Dialectic.  Each had, and gave me, what the other lacked.  Kirk had none of Smewgy's graciousness or delicacy, and Smewgy had less humor than Kirk.  It was a saturnine humor.  Indeed he was very like Saturn--not the dispossessed King of Italian legend, but grim old Cronos, Father time himself with scythe and hourglass.  The bitterest, and also funniest, things cam out when he had risen abruptly from table (always before the rest of us) and stood ferreting in a villainous old tobacco jar on the mantelpiece for the dottles of former pipes which it was his frugal habit to use again.  My debt to him is very great, my reverence to this day undiminished.

That nearly takes my breath away.  What a finish, right after giving that image of him fishing for bits of tobacco:  it is a great thing to be able to express so much gratitude for a man--a simple man, a flawed man, a gifted, passionate man to whom you owe a great debt.

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