25 November 2017

Further Remarkable Daughters



For some time the Letters of C. S. Lewis have been the reading on my nightstand. If I don't read a page or two before I fall asleep, I often read a couple of dozen when I awaken in the deep heart of the night. The letters themselves I love, but my response to the footnotes of Walter Hooper, Lewis' indefatigable literary executor, is at best a shrug. And yet the other night, a couple of thousand pages in, he made me sit up in bed, thinking I had dreamt what I just read. In a footnote to a letter of 19 November 1939 he wrote: 

Unity Valkyrie Mitford (1914-1948) was the fourth of the remarkable daughters of Lord Redesdale.

Fans of Tolkien will immediately notice the similarity of phrasing to the first chapter of The Hobbit:

The mother of this hobbit -- of Bilbo Baggins, that is -- was the famous Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old Took.

There's no denying that the Mitford sisters were indeed noteworthy, some of them even notorious; and the world brims with remarkable daughters. So Hooper's phrasing may be a matter of chance. But it would also be no surprise if Hooper consciously echoed a work Lewis esteemed so highly.

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