C. S. Lewis  (1898-1963)

     C. S. 'Jack' Lewis, sanest of intellectuals, was almost pathological about his father Albert. His chief grievance seemed to be his father's curiosity about Jack's life, although Albert supported Jack financially to the ripe age of 26. After Albert, then 60, visited Oxford his one and only time in 1921, 22-year-old Jack wrote his brother Warnie:
          ...the funniest piece of scenery I saw was...the Old Air Balloon himself...you have no
          idea how odd he looked, almost a bit shrunk; pacing alone with that expression
          peculiar to him on a holiday - the eyebrows half way up the forehead...He seemed
          dazed by his surroundings... 
     Yet Jack's letter to his father afterwards was civil, even poetic:
          ...I still feel that the real value of such a holiday is still to come, in the images and
          ideas which we have put down to mature in the cellarage of our brains, thence to
          come up with a continually improving bouquet...
     This duplicity occurred before Jack's conversion, first to theism in 1929 and then to Christianity in 1931. Nevertheless long after his conversion (and his father's death in 1929) Jack's portrait of Albert in
Surprised by Joy, though wildly humorous (A. N. Wilson called the 'Release' chapter 'one of the funniest things written in English in the twentieth century'), was not that of the thoughtful, generous lawyer he was but that of a buffoon. These are just a few of Albert's flaws from Surprised by Joy:
          "…had more capacity for being cheated than any man I have ever known."
          "His nerves had never been of the steadiest and his emotions had always
               been uncontrolled."
          "…a simple man who thinks he is a subtle one."
          "What he thought he had heard was never exactly what you had said."
          "…more power of confusing an issue or taking up a fact wrongly than any
               man I have ever known."
          "…he invariably got proper names wrong."
     Is it conceivable a genius like C. S. Lewis did not know this caricature was all the public would remember of his father?

Letters of C. S. Lewis edited by Warren Lewis, 1966, Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis, 1955, and C. S. Lewis by A. N. Wilson, 1990]

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"...my father...had more power of confusing an issue or taking up a fact wrongly than any man I have ever known. As a result it was impossible to drive into his head any of the realities of our school life, after which (nevertheless) he repeatedly inquired...Some facts must have been asked for and told him, on a moderate computation, once a week, and were received by him each time as perfect novelties...(or as) something very unlike what you said…" 

C. S. Lewis on his father in 1955.

David Livingstone  (1813-1873)

     Livingstone's 'neglect' of his wife and children is often cited by the worldly as an example of his flawed character. But his 'neglect' was Biblically justified. His every waking moment was devoted to evangelizing Africa. In his own mind his greatest stain came in the summer of 1861. The Ajawas, slave-traders of the most violent kind, were marching captives through what is now Malawi as well as capturing indigenous Manganjas whom Livingstone was evangelizing. Livingstone had often displayed guns to intimidate unfriendly tribes but never actually aimed at individuals. This time he shot at the slave traders. Livingstone was a crack shot, always in top form for procuring game, so it seems likely some Ajawa fell under his bullets.
     Yet Livingstone asserted 'the shepherd ought not to kill his own sheep'.
     In the minds of those who accompanied Livingstone on his expeditions his greatest flaw was his 'compulsion'. Once he decided to do something, almost nothing short of death could stop him. In 1862 his most loyal companion, Dr. John Kirk, wrote in exasperation, "Dr. L. is a most unsafe leader. He never thinks of getting back. All he cares for is accomplishing his object at any risk whatever. It is useless making any remark to him…I can only say that his head is…what is termed 'cracked'." Kirk had endured many near-fatal jaunts with Livingstone, the most treacherous in 1860 when Livingstone took him by canoe down the deadly Kebrabasa Rapids on the Zambesi River. When the canoe capsized Kirk lost eight volumes of irreplaceable botanical notes, dozens of drawings, his rifle, his surgical case, revolver, bedding, clothes and scientific books - in short, everything but his life and the clothes on his back!

David Livingstone: his life and his letters by George Seaver, 1957]

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Florence Nightingale  (1820-1910)

     Past her great nursing triumphs in the Crimean War and subsequent reforms in Britain, Florence began to fail in health. Still only in her forties she slipped unwillingly into semi-retirement at her South Park street residence. She became difficult in the extreme. Her dear cousin Hilary she now disdained because of her 'weakness'. She became estranged from her favorite aunt Mai. In the summer of 1865 when her great friend and inspiration 'Clarkey' came from a great distance and sat in her foyer Florence dismissed her with a note: '…it is quite, quite, quite impossible…' Earlier Florence had refused to see the Queen of Holland!
     However Florence continued to work on reports and read medical journals. No one helped Florence more than her distinguished colleague Dr. Sutherland, who helped her voluntarily. But to Florence he was merely a 'go-for', and finally her 'pet aversion'. He was going deaf and his constant 'Pardon me, Miss Nightingale?' drove Florence into a rage. She no longer spoke to him. She scribbled exasperated notes like 'My dear soul! It's rather late for this.' and 'You said you were going to lay it before your Committee, you had much better lay it before
me!' She railed about him to her family and friends. 'There are some people who always say the wrong thing,' she wrote of him to her mother. 'You know how queer he is,' she wrote a friend. 'I find it more and more difficult to rouse Dr. Sutherland to do the work we have to do,' she complained in another letter. She couldn't imagine why he took a house farther out of London. How would she be able to summon him on a moment's notice?

Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters edited by Martha Vicinus and Bea Nergaard, 1990, and Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith, 1951]

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Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)

Francis Schaeffer's anecdote is available HERE.

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"A shepherd ought not to kill his own sheep…"

David Livingstone

Francis Schaeffer




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