C.S. Lewis Married the Same Woman Twice (Sort of)
Fans of C.S. Lewis will know that he was married to Joy Davidman Gresham but many are surprised to hear Lewis actually married her twice . . . sort of.
Joy began a correspondence with C.S. Lewis (“Jack”) in January 1950 after reading The Great Divorce, Miracles, and The Screwtape Letters. They developed a strong connection and carried on writing to one another for the next two years before finally meeting in person while Joy was on a work trip in London. During those four months, Joy confided in him that she was in a marriage with an alcoholic and abusive husband.
After a messy divorce, Joy came to England with her two boys with the financial support of Jack. The two became very close friends. In 1954, Jack dedicated The Horse and His Boy to Joy’s sons, David and Douglas Gresham.
Although marriage was out-of-the-question (due to her being a divorcee and not condoned by the church), it was clear the two loved each other dearly despite their friendship being viewed as scandalous to some.
But in 1956, Joy’s visa request was denied, which meant she would have to return to America. Jack offered to legally marry Joy Davidman Gresham so she could legally remain in England with her boys. Their civil union became official on April 23, 1956.
Neither of them regarded a civil marriage as of any validity in the eyes of God, and they would both continue to live as before, she in her house and he in his, but legally they would be married.Douglas Gresham, Jack’s Life
The “marriage” was kept secret, except for a few close confidants.
Unfortunately, less than a year later, Joy was diagnosed with cancer and was given only a few weeks to live. It was Joy’s dying wish to be married in the church. Jack asked a priest that he knew to come and hear her plea. That priest would later recall that he couldn’t “in good conscience deny this poor soul her wish”. And so, in a hospital bed, they said their marriage vows on March 21, 1957.
Joy miraculously recovered, and the couple enjoyed the next three years together.
It’s funny having at 59 the sort of happiness most men have in the twenties… thou has kept the good wine will now.”C.S. Lewis (“Jack”)
In late 1960, Joy passed away at the age of 45. Lewis journaled his pain in A Grief Observed.
In 2018, Patti Callahan released Becoming Mrs. Lewis, a work of historical fiction that is told from Joy’s perspective.
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