Narnia's Lost Poet: The Secret Lives and Loves of C S Lewis: TV review - behind closed doors with a man as magical as his classic Chronicles

BBC4

Poor Clive Lewis. The past month has seen newspapers, televisions and books stuffed like foie gras geese with retrospectives about the killing of Kennedy. The spectacular of JFK's death naturally overshadowed the deaths of two sexagenarian writers, but it's a shame that Lewis and Aldous Huxley's deaths became part of a trivia question (all three died within the same couple of hours), rather than events in themselves.

While Washington DC's streets filled for the day, Lewis's funeral was attended by almost nobody. His alcoholic brother forgot to tell people when it was and the notices in the newspaper were drowned by news from Dallas. Thankfully, amid the 50th anniversary noise, Lewis hasn't passed unnoticed again. Last week he was honoured with a memorial in Poets' Corner on the 50th anniversary of his death from prostate cancer.

That, we learned last night, was an irony of sorts given that Lewis's poetry – especially his first big attempt, the narrative poem "Dymer" – isn't quite worthy of the pantheon. A N Wilson, a Lewis biographer and the presenter of Narnia's Lost Poet: The Secret Lives and Loves of C S Lewis (BBC4), certainly thinks so. His prose, said Wilson, is "electrifyingly readable, but his poetry? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear..."

Wilson was a thoroughly good host, actually. A man who – as you'd hope I suppose – knows his subject inside out and used what was a comparatively short hour to tell Lewis's story. We saw him on an old Routemaster, driving through Oxford on the route Lewis took home from Magdalene College to his surrogate mother/possible lover Jane Moore (the mother of a dead friend from the First World War).

We saw him pootling around town on a basketed bicycle and aboard a South West Trains carriage talking about Lewis's dicky thumb (which is why he was bad at sports and thus hated boarding school). We even saw him being given a tour of Oxford in a VW people carrier. When the vehicle stopped outside Anstey Villa, where Lewis lived with Moore and her children, an exterior shot of the car as the rear window wound down made Wilson look like a mafia don. Albeit one who looked like Eddie Marsan playing his own stiff uncle.

Wilson, once an occupier of the Independent television reviewers' golden chaise longue, was in motion a lot. But so was Lewis's story. Lewis was a genius, by all accounts, and his story is worthy of his brains. Most know him for The Chronicles of Narnia, but we also learnt that he was reading classics at 17 thanks to his mentor W T Kirkpatrick (the inspiration for Narnia's Digory Kirke); that a chat with J R R Tolkien about Plato inspired the world of Narnia; and that he failed his driving test a whopping 17 times.

My favourite story was one told by the actress Jill Raymond. Raymond was sent as an evacuee to stay with Moore and a kindly man she was introduced to as "Jack" (as Lewis was known). Only after spotting shelves full of works by C S Lewis did she twig. As a fan, Raymond (later Freud, wife of Clement) spent the next few days in awe, unable to speak to him. Lewis later paid her fees at the Royal Academy, allowing her to become an actress.

As an Oxford and Cambridge don and the writer of the most famous of Christian allegories, I'd incorrectly assumed Lewis to be stern and didactical. This portrait showed him as a caring, religiously nuanced soul. A man who cared for his brother, a family he inherited from a wartime pact, and a wife who died of cancer. In fact, Wilson barely had to mention the joy brought into the childhoods of millions by the adventures in Narnia. One suspects we'll still be reading them on 22 November 2063.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on