Why C.S. Lewis Dedicated “The Magician’s Nephew” to Kilmer Family

Look for “Did you know” articles on NarniaWeb on the first of every month.

Dear Hugh, Anne, Noelie (There is a name I haven’t heard before; what language is it, and does it rhyme with oily or mealy or Kelly or early or truly?), Nicholas, Martin, Rosamund, Matthew and Miriam–

Thank you very much for all the lovely letters and pictures . . .

C.S. Lewis, letter to Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead

C.S. Lewis had been corresponding with the Kilmer children for a few years before he dedicated The Magician’s Nephew to them. A significant part of Letters to Children covers some of their correspondence, including letters to all of the children, as well as some to individual children. Hugh Kilmer in particular had an ongoing conversation with Lewis about theology. Lewis responded to the children’s letters with encouraging comments about their drawings, some serious answers to their questions, and also with witty wordplay:

Congratulations on [your new baby sister] Deborah to you all. I like red hair. I never saw a picture of a [baby] shower before. I had to put up my umbrella to look at it.

C.S. Lewis, letter

A collection of the letters went up for auction last year.

The Kilmers began writing to Lewis after he had already corresponded with their honorary “Aunt Mary Willis”. Lewis’ letters to her are collected in Letters to an American Lady by Clyde S. Kilby.

Outside of Narnia and Lewis enthusiasts, the Kilmers are mostly known for being the grandchildren of Joyce Kilmer, a famous poet who died in WWI, and for becoming artists themselves. Many of them went on to become musicians, painters, and authors.

6 Responses

  1. Lord Argoz says:

    “Did You Know” articles are a lovely idea!
    Now I am very curious to know how ‘Noelie’ is actually pronounced.

  2. Exactly what I was thinking on both counts, Lord Argoz!

  3. Col Klink says:

    I always wonder about the people to whom books are dedicated. Thank you so much for writing about some of them.

  4. Cleander says:

    Fun trivia! I love how Lewis was still such a nice, down-to-earth guy while being an intellectual at the same time. These letters are a good example of that.

  5. He sounds like such a nice guy in quotations from his letters, but I heard a recording of his voice reading part of The Four Loves – and his voice sounds very proper and old-style British. I find I don’t think of his voice being like that at all, when I read Narnia. I suppose I would get used to it. Although his biographer Alister McGrath says that some of his Irish accent can still be detected.
    Did you know Lewis was actually from Ireland?

  6. NO-ell-ee. In practice it often becomes more NO-uh-lee, but she and her siblings say it quite properly.