Owen Barfield 1898 – 1997

Owen Barfield 1898 – 1997 was a British philosopher, author, poet, and critic. Barfield was greatly influenced by Rudolf Steiner and was an advocate of Anthroposophical and homeopathic medicine,

Barfield wrote about homeopathy in The rediscovery of meaning, and other essays, and he wrote the foreward to Llewelyn Ralph Twentyman‘s book The Science and Art of Healing,

Barfield, the ‘first and last Inkling‘ (it was Barfield who first advanced the ideas about language, myth, and belief that became identified with the thinking and art of the Inklings), was a close friend of J R R Tolkien, and also of C S Lewis, who is thought to have written his daughter Lucy Barfield into The lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as Lucy Pevensie.

Lucy Barfield was a patient in the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. Lucy Barfield was one of the four children who stayed with C S Lewis during the bombing raids of World War II. C S Lewis dedicated The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to Barfield’s son Jeffrey,

Barfield was also a friend of Elliot Lovegood Grant Watson,

Barfield was born in London. He was educated at Highgate School and Wadham College, Oxford and during 1920 received a 1st class degree in English language and literature.

After finishing his B. Litt., which became the book Poetic Diction, he worked as a solicitor. Because of his career as a solicitor, Barfield contributed to philosophy as a non-academic, publishing numerous essays, books, and articles.

His primary focus was on what he called the “evolution of consciousness,” which is an idea which occurs frequently in his writings. He is most famous today as a friend of C S Lewis and as the author of Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry.

He died in Forest Row in Sussex.

Barfield has been known as “the first and last Inkling”. He was one of the initial members of the Inklings literary discussion group based in Oxford. He had a strong influence on C S Lewis, and an appreciable effect through his book Poetic Diction on J R R Tolkien.

C S Lewis was a good friend of Barfield from the mid-1920s, and termed Barfield “the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers”. That Barfield did not consider philosophy merely intellectually is illustrated by a well known interchange that took place between C S Lewis and Barfield.

C S Lewis one day made the mistake of referring to philosophy as “a subject.” “It wasn’t a subject to Plato,” said Barfield, “It was a way.”

C S Lewis refers to Barfield as the “Second Friend” in Surprised by Joy:

‘But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the antiself. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one.

‘It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right?’

Barfield was a devotee of anthroposophy. He began a lifelong study of the work and philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, also during the 1920s, and many of his earlier essays were published in anthroposophical publications. In return, a study of Rudolf Steiner‘s basic texts provides information about Barfield’s work.

Of interest:

Lucy Barfield 1935 – 2003

Owen Barfield, the father of Lucy Barfield, according to Walter Hooper, C S Lewis: A Companion and Guide, 1996, p.758 said:

The question whether Lucy Pevensie was ‘named after’ Lucy Barfield is one I never put to Lewis. I should have thought the opening words of the Dedication were a sufficiently appropriate answer.

Whether he had her personally in mind in potraying Lucy Pevensie is another matter, and I think the answer must be No; because, although he had very willingly consented to be her Godfather, they saw very little of each other in the latter years of his life. This was due to residential and occupational circumstances and was a matter of great regret to me.

Lucy was a very lively and happy child – apt for instance to be seen turning somersault wheels in the garden immediately after a meal. From an early age she showed marked musical taste and ability. After a short lived ambition to become a ballet dancer, she eventually qualified as a professional teacher of music and was employed for a year or two as such by a well known Kentish school for girls.

But the cruel onset of multiple sclerosis soon obliged her to abandon all idea of living a normal life and she has remained for decades a (now almost) totally disabled patient in a wheel chair”.

Volume 20 of SEVEN, an Anglo American literary magazine, page 5, in a brief obituary of Lucy Barfield, Walter Hooper is writing about this dedication.

“Lucy Barfield was delighted at being so honoured, and while the letters between them have not survived, what is one of the most moving dedications ever to grace a work of literature was probably taken from C S Lewis‘s letter to Lucy of May 1949″.

“When The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published on 16 October 1950, Lucy was a happy scholgirl of 15 who could not have foreseen how much the dedication would one day mean”.

In 1966 Lucy was diagnosed as having Multiple Sclerosis, and by the mid-70s she was a patient in the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. It was there she met Bevan Rake (1921-90). They were married in 1978 and Lucy enjoyed a few years of home life.

By the time Bevan died in 1990, Lucy’s condition had deteriorated and she returned to hospital. During that time she told me how much the dedication in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe meant to her.

“What I could not do for myself,” she said, “the dedication did for me. My godfather gave me a greater gift than he could have imagined.”

“In 1966 she [Lucy] was diagnosed as having Multiple Sclerosis, and by the mid-70s she was a patient in the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. It was there she met Bevan Rake (1921-90). They were married in 1978 and Lucy enjoyed a few years of home-life.

By the time Bevan died in 1990, Lucy’s condition had deteriorated and she returned to hospital. During that time she told me how much the dedication in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe meant to her. “What I could not do for myself,” she said, “the dedication did for me. My godfather gave me a greater gift than he could have imagined.”

“As every creature comfort was taken from her, and she had lost her sight, Lucy’s faith in God grew and blessed not only her, but also those who knew her. Owen Barfield, touched by her humility, said many times, “I could go down on my knees before my daughter.” During the last seven years of her life in the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in London, her brother Jeffrey – to whom C S Lewis dedicated The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – read her the Chronicles of Narnia. She died at the Royal Hospital on 3 May 2003.”

Walter Hooper, brief obituary of Lucy Barfield (1935-2003). In SEVEN: An Anglo-American Literary Review, Volume 20, 2003, p.5.

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