Did C.S. Lewis conduct an adulterous affair with Joy Gresham?

My brother over the Holidays told me that C.S. Lewis “had an adulterous affair with a married Jewish woman”.

I know that he married a divorced woman, Joy Gresham, who was born Jewish…but is it true that it was adulterous?

(I understand that Catholic teaching on divorce/remarriage teaches that any individual who marries a divorced person is committing adultery, but I am specifically addressing whether Lewis and Gresham had an adulterous affair (in the secular sense) prior to her divorce.)

your informant is wrong
the movie Shadowlands is an accurate presentation of their relationship, even given the adjustments to the story for the purpose of the dramatization. Neither Lewis nor Gresham were Catholic and hence were not subject to Catholic laws on marriage in any case. Lewis had never been married, Gresham (a non-observant Jew) was divorced from an alcoholic husband. They did not have a sexual relationship before their marriage, although their marriage of convenience, contracted without the knowledge of Lewis’ Oxford colleagues, may have given rise to such speculation. As the movie shows, they repeated their vows as Greshams illness advanced.

Actually, by Catholic standards they were free to marry, since Joy’s first husband had himself been married before.

Actually, they had more trouble with the C of E than they would have had with the Catholic Church. The C of E had, and still has for the most part, a pretty strict policy against church weddings for divorced people. This is a point on which Catholics have a completely wrong view of the C of E. (Henry VIII got an annulment, and he was an exception to all the rules anyway.)

A complication for Lewis and Gresham is that they had a civil marriage some time before they got a religious marriage. Lewis claimed that the former was purely to let her stay in the country, which would indicate that it was unconsummated. Some have suggested that maybe they did in fact have a sexual relationship at this point (after the civil marriage but before the religious one), and I wouldn’t be surprised if some scandal-mongers have claimed that they had one even earlier. On the other hand, some hard-core Lewis fans have claimed that they never had sex at all (which IMHO is ridiculous).

A much more reasonable speculation is that Lewis may have had a sexual relationship with Mrs. Moore, also a divorced woman (actually I’m not sure if she was legally divorced) with whom he lived for years in fulfillment of a promise made to her son who had been killed in WWI. Lewis generally referred to her as his “mother,” but I’ve heard claims (at the New York C. S. Lewis Society, a pretty respectable place to get info about Lewis) that Maureen (Mrs. Moore’s daughter) later reported having seen them behaving in ways that pointed toward a different kind of relationship.

I hate even to post any of this. Lewis was such a private person, and I’d like to be able to respect that. But given that there are a lot of wild claims out there, I wanted to state the facts as I know them.


P.S. I don’t think anyone reasonably disputes that if there was a sexual relationship with Mrs. Moore, it would have ended at or before the time of Lewis’s conversion to Christianity.

evidently being a public person, even a dead one, means anyone is free to make any unsubstantiated allegation about one’s character, and there is no means of defense. sad. biographers ae by no means agreed on details of his love life before or after his conversion, so if you enjoy such speculation, may a Christian site is not the best place to indulge in it.

I agree. I only posted what I did in order to refute the allegation mentioned in the OP. But I tend to go into more detail than is required (in my defense, this is not only true when it comes to sexual scandals!), and I accept your rebuke.


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