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Siquis amat quod amare iuvat, feliciter ardens
Gaudeat, et vento naviget ille suo.
At siquis male fert indignae regna puellae,
Ne pereat, nostrae sentiat artis opem.
                            (Ovid lines 13-16)

If any lover has delight in his love, let him rejoice in his happy
passion and sail on with favouring wind. But if any endures the tyranny
of an unworthy mistress, lest he perish, let him learn the help my art
can give.

So state some of the opening lines of the Remedia Amoris (The Remedies of Love) of the Roman poet Ovid, the sequel to his famous Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love). In the Ars Amatoria Ovid claims to make his audience experts in love; in the Remedia Amoris he teaches them how to fall out of love. These two poems are masterpieces of satirical comedy. At first glance Ovidian satire seems worlds apart from The Screwtape Letters of C. S. Lewis. Consisting of thirty-one letters from a senior devil, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter, The Screwtape Letters contain advice on how Wormwood might better be able to lead his human charge into Hell. Lewis's satire thus puts the reader in the humorous but uncomfortable position of seeing the drama of humanity through the eyes of the enemy. What then could these two works, the Remedia Amoris and The Screwtape Letters, possibly have in common? While written for entirely different aims and differing in many obvious aspects, both works describe the surest means by which to suffocate love. For Ovid, it is romantic love that must be extinguished; for Screwtape, it is the love of God. While it might seem that the irony of The Screwtape Letters is distinctively modern, Lewis's special form of irony finds its ancient precedent and model in the master of mock-didacticism, Ovid. Not only can the influence of Ovid's Remedia Amoris be seen in the broad themes contained in The Screwtape Letters, but many of Screwtape's specific avenues of attack were recommended by Ovid centuries ago.

C. S. Lewis remarks in a letter to his brother that the initial idea for The Screwtape Letters came to him during a sermon (Lewis, Collected Letters 2:426-27). In the preface to the 1961 edition, Lewis makes some passing remarks about the literary influences on The Screwtape Letters. He acknowledges a debt to two twentieth-century works, Stephen McKenna's The Confessions of a Well-Meaning Woman for the idea of "moral inversion," and David Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus for the idea of spiritual cannibalism in the underworld (Screwtape Letters xli). Yet these piecemeal acknowledgements by Lewis, given almost as an aside in the preface, do not shed a great deal of light upon the work as a whole. (1) In comparison with his other works, The Screwtape Letters has received little scholarly attention. Almost immediately it was looked down upon as popular fiction. It has even been suggested that it was responsible for Lewis being passed over for academic positions subsequent to its publication (McGrath, Intellectual xi-xii). Favorable treatments of The Screwtape Letters have tended to view the work as "offering a new way of seeing traditional, sound spiritual advice" (McGrath, C.S. Lewis 217). Several scholars, however, have focused on the literary influences on The Screwtape Letters. As the work is a collection of letters from a senior to a low-ranking devil, Milton's Paradise Lost immediately suggests itself as a possible influence. In his essay "Devil to Devil: John Milton, C. S. Lewis, and Screwtape," Don King argues that the influence of Milton is "transparent" in The Screwtape Letters. Most of King's argument, however, centers upon the similarity of Milton's and Lewis's beliefs about the nature of angels and devils (144-47). King primarily focuses on what Lewis has to say about the nature of devils in the preface to The Screwtape Letters. Against this view is the work of Chad Stutz, who argues that Lewis is "anti-Miltonic" with his depiction of a medieval grotesque devil (Stutz 226). Peter Schakel has written on the influence of English satire, particularly Jonathan Swift, on The Screwtape Letters (138-40). Finally, Charles Huttar argues that the genre of the epistolary novel best explains The Screwtape Letters' "seeming lack of organization" (89). While these studies add much to an understanding of The Screwtape Letters, an examination of the text will show that Ovid's presence looms far greater in the work than any of the aforementioned English influences.

That Lewis was an avid reader of the Latin and Greek classics is well documented (Edwards 58-71). From an early age Lewis was tutored in both Latin and Greek, and Lewis frequently acknowledged their influence upon him. During a lecture in which he argued that the classics were not the primary influences on English Literature, Lewis nevertheless stressed the importance of the classics in his own life:
Let me protest that I am no enemy of the classics. I have read the
Aeneid through more often than I have read any long poem; I have just
finished re-reading the Iliad; to lose what I owe to Plato and
Aristotle would be like the amputation of a limb. Hardly any lawful
price would seem to me too high for what I gained by being made to
learn Latin and Greek. If any question of the value of classical
studies were before us, you would find me on the extreme right. (Lewis,
Image and Imagination 8)

Classical themes abound in many works of Lewis. In addition to poems such as "After Aristotle" and "Pindar Sang," his novels The Pilgrim's Regress and Till We Have Faces bear the heavy influence of Greek and Latin literature (Edwards 64-68). Michael Ward has even revealed the importance of classical and medieval cosmology to the organizational structure of the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia (Ward). Ovid was of particular interest to Lewis. In the lecture from which the preceding remarks about the classics were taken, he claims that the three most important Latin influences on English literature were Boethius, Ovid, and Virgil "in that order of importance" (Image and Imagination 9). He also declared that the three most important works for a student of medieval literature were the Bible, Virgil, and Ovid (Lewis, Discarded Image 22). As Edwards notes, Lewis quotes Ovid in his book Studies in Words more than any other author save for Cicero and Horace (61).

The Ars Amatoria, the companion piece to the Remedia Amoris, is significantly important to Lewis in his early work on medieval love allegorists, The Allegory of Love. Lewis claims that the influence of Ovid on medieval love allegory can most accurately be described as "Ovid misunderstood" (Lewis, Allegory 1). Lewis contends that these medieval writers mistakenly saw Ovid as advocating a religion of Love. Ovid's worship of Love, however, was "mockingly serious" (6). "From this attitude the whole tone of the Ars Amatoria flows. In the first place Ovid naturally introduces the god Amor with an affectation of religious awe--just as he would have introduced Bacchus if he had written an ironic Art of Getting Drunk" (6). Although he argues that Ovid treats the worship of Amor as a "mock-religion" (20) in the Ars Amatoria, Lewis states that "the very same conduct which Ovid ironically recommends could be recommended seriously by the courtly tradition" (7). While there is only one specific mention of the Remedia Amoris in The Allegory of Love, its citation by Lewis as a model for medieval writers of courtly love such as Andreas Capellanus suggests Lewis was quite familiar with this companion piece to the Ars Amatoria (43). He even says that "It is perhaps worth noting that the rubric of Andreas's Third Book runs Incipit liber remedii seu derelinquendi amorem" ("Here begins the book of the remedy or abandonment of love" 43, note 1).

Having shown that Lewis was thoroughly familiar with Ovid and his mock-didactic love poems, I will now discuss the genre of the Remedia Amoris. The two literary traditions most influential on the Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris are the erotodidactic tradition and the didactic tradition of Ovid's immediate predecessors Lucretius and Virgil (R. Gibson 99). Erotodidaxis has its roots in classical Greece, where a more experienced lover would give advice to one younger or less experienced (R. Gibson 99). In addition to the erotodidactic tradition, Ovid draws upon the didactic poetry of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura and Virgil's Georgics. These didactic poems were not intended primarily to teach, but were literary devices. The Ars Amatoria was "no more a practical handbook of seduction than Virgil's Georgics was a practical manual of agriculture" (E.J. Kenney, qtd. in Ovid, The Love Poems xxiii). With its roots in the Greek Hellenistic works of poets such as Aratus and Nicander, these didactic works were "in the class of 'display' or ornamental didactic, whose purpose is not to impart instruction but to show off the poet's ability to transform technical subject-matter into poetry" (xxiii). Ovid differs from this didactic tradition in that he chose the elegiac couplet of love poetry, not dactylic hexameter, as the meter for both the Ars Amatoria and the Remedia Amoris, thereby creating unique poems that come out of varying traditions of poetry, but which at the same time bear the unmistakable characteristic wit of their author.

As mentioned above, The Screwtape Letters consist of letters from a more experienced senior tempter, Screwtape, to his lesser experienced nephew Wormwood, thus mirroring the erotodidactic tradition of a more experienced lover giving advice to one less experienced. Yet the similarities between these two works extend far beyond this formal resemblance. The first task will be to examine the broad thematic influences of the Remedia Amoris on The Screwtape Letters: the medical motif, the importance of timing or kairos, and the practical and long-term nature of the advice. The next task will be to examine the specific strategies for falling out of love in the Remedia Amoris that are mirrored in The Screwtape Letters.

As THE title of the poem suggests, the Remedia Amoris (The Remedies of Love) employs the medical metaphor of love as a disease. Referring to his previous poem the Ars Amatoria, in which he taught the art of finding love, Ovid states that he is also uniquely qualified to heal love. "Discite sanari, per quem didicistis amare: / Una manus vobis vulnus opemque ferret" (Learn healing from him through whom ye learnt to love: one hand alike will wound and succor) (43-44). Ovid accordingly invokes Apollo, the patron of medicine, in the beginning of the Remedia Amoris.
Te precor incipiens, adsit tua laurea nobis,
  Carminis et medicae, Phoebe, repertor opis.
Tu pariter vati, pariter succurre medenti:
  Utraque tutelae subdita cura tua est. (75-78)

Thee I beseech at the outset, let thy laurel be nigh to aid me, O
Phoebus, inventor of song and of the healing art! Succour alike the
poet and alike the healer; the labours of both are under thy patronage.

In line 81 he calls the beginnings of love "subiti mala semina morbi" (the baneful seeds of sudden disease). The remainder of the Remedia Amoris is filled with similar descriptions of love as a disease or a wound which Ovid, as the physician, is uniquely qualified to heal. (2) Indeed, the final lines of the poem (811-14) address the men and women Ovid has "healed" (sanati) with his poem.

Lewis frequently employs this medical metaphor in The Screwtape Letters. The very first letter in the collection begins, "I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading...." (7). Screwtape will continue to use the word "patient" to refer to the human Wormwood has been assigned to corrupt. Of the 31 letters which comprise The Screwtape Letters, only two letters (18 and 22) do not refer to the "patient." In 15 of the letters (1, 2, 6-10, 14-16, 20, 23-25, 29) the "patient" is referred to in the opening line. While Ovid tries to cure his patient of the sickness of love, Screwtape likewise is in the business of "curing" humans of their love for God. Since the "patient" converts to Christianity between the first and second letter, Screwtape accordingly focuses primarily on "curative" treatments rather than preventative care. Screwtape employs other medical language in addition to referring to demonic tempters' charges as "patients." Screwtape advises Wormwood that he "quietly and gradually nurse" his patient into believing that political ends are superior to spiritual matters (43). Twice Screwtape advises that Wormwood make use of "anodynes." Both drink and hatred are recommended as excellent anodynes in the demonic task of "curing" their patients (52, 73). Concerning hatred specifically, Screwtape notes, "And Hatred is also a great anodyne for shame. To make a deep wound in his charity, you should therefore first defeat his courage" (172-73). In the same letter Screwtape speaks of "chloroforming" shame (174). In the twelfth letter, Screwtape counsels Wormwood to foster in his patient the habit of contempt of prayer and other religious duties. There will be great benefits if "this condition becomes more fully established" (71). When Wormwood's patient falls in love, Screwtape encourages him to stoke the flames of underlying resentment and "render them chronic" so that they can blossom after the euphoria of the initial romance wanes (153). In another letter Screwtape notes with disapproval that Wormwood's patient "has contracted the terrible habit of obedience" (160). At one point Screwtape becomes so irritated with Wormwood that he wonders whether he and other junior tempters "are not in some danger of becoming infected" by human sentiments (166).

An important concept in the medical metaphor employed by both Ovid and Lewis is kairos, the Greek word for time, but more specifically, the proper or opportune time. Kairos was seen by medical authors such as Hippocrates as an essential component of any successful treatment (Boyd 110). Ovid employs the concept of proper timing throughout the Remedia Amoris. At the outset Ovid recommends that the best time to extinguish love is when it first appears: "Opprime, dum nova sunt, subiti mala semina morbi" (Crush, while yet they are new, the baneful seeds of sudden disease) (81). If love cannot be stamped out at the beginning, Ovid suggests that love should be allowed to run its course: "Principiis obsta; sero medicina paratur, / Cum mala per longas convaluere moras" (Resist beginnings; too late is the medicine prepared, when the disease has gained strength by long delay) (91-92). Again using kairos, Ovid recommends not trying to cure love when it is at full strength. "Dum furor in cursu est, currenti cede furori; / Difficiles aditus impetus omnis habet" (While its fury is at full speed, give way to its furious speeding; impetuous force is ever hard to face) (119-20). Rather, allow love to burn itself out, then apply the appropriate remedy "Adgrediar melius turn, cum sua vulnera tangi / lam sinet, et veris vocibus aptus erit" (More wisely shall I then approach when he suffers at last his wounds to be touched, and is fit for true admonishment) (125-26). Ovid concludes his section on the importance of timing with the following lines:
Temporis ars medicina fere est: data
tempore prosunt,
  Et data non apto tempore vina nocent.
Quin etiam accendas vitia inritesque
  Temporibus si non adgrediare suis.

The art of being timely is almost a medicine: wine timely given helps,
untimely, harms. Nay, you would inflame the malady, and by forbidding
irritate it, should you attack it at an unfitting time.

Screwtape likewise lays great importance upon timing in his advice to Wormwood. In his eighth letter Screwtape explains to Wormwood the "law of Undulation" (45). Human beings go through a series of successive spiritual "troughs and peaks" (46). Screwtape warns Wormwood against interpreting the current spiritual trough of his patient as a sign of imminent victory. Troughs can in fact be used by God for the humans' spiritual advantage. There are, however, effective strategies for attack that are particularly suited for troughs, and the timing of these attacks is crucial. He devotes most of the ninth letter to advising Wormwood on which attacks are best suited for each spiritual stage. Alarmed at the news that the patient has begun to practice humility, Screwtape urges Wormwood to attack at precisely the time when he is most humble. "Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, 'By Jove! I'm being humble,' and almost immediately pride--pride at his own humility--will appear" (81-82). When Wormwood asks whether being in love is good or bad for the temptation of his patient, Screwtape replies, "Can't you see there's no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at a particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us" (114).

A constant refrain of Screwtape is to focus the patient's mind on fleeting things, while at the same time directing his gaze from that which is permanent. "Fashions and Vogues" are thus of considerable use (150). "We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under" (150). At one point Wormwood exults that his patient might suffer death during an air-raid. Screwtape rebukes him and stresses the importance of the timing of his death. "If he dies now, you lose him. If he survives the war, there is always hope" (167). While intellectual arguments are generally frowned upon by Screwtape because they induce the patient to think about truth and falsehood, they can be advantageous in certain situations if used in a timely manner (4). When the patient is focused on the importance of petitionary prayers, "Now is the time for raising intellectual difficulties about prayer of that sort" (160). Finally, in the thirtieth letter, the one that immediately precedes the death of the patient, Screwtape informs Wormwood that the time has passed for such an "intellectual attack" (180). Rather, he urges at this point an attack on the emotions: "It turns on making him feel, when first he sees human remains plastered on a wall, that this is 'what the world is really like' and that all his religion has been a fantasy" (180).

As Roy Gibson has pointed out, one of Ovid's innovations to the genre of love elegy is the practical nature and the strategic long-term character of his advice: "The commitment to practical stratagems and to the achievement of particular objectives is conditioned by the mode of advice-giving, and results in an emphasis on a systematic self-restraint and long-term strategic thinking" (94). One instance of the practicality of Ovid's advice in the Remedia Amoris concerns his view of magic. The use of love potions, both to gain love and to recover from it, was a common feature of the elegiac tradition. Ovid is remarkable for his aversion to this recourse to magic. "Viderit, Haemoniae siquis mala pabula terrae / Et magicas artes posse iuvare putat" (If anyone thinks that the baneful herbs of Haemonia and arts of magic can avail, let him take his own risk) (249-50). Ovid then proceeds to give numerous examples from mythology where the use of magic was ineffective at best, and disastrous at worst (253-88). Ovid closes with the admonition "Ergo quisquis opem nostra tibi poscis ab arte, / Deme veneficiis carminibusque fidem" (Therefore, whoever you are that seek aid in my skill, have no faith in spells and witchcraft) (289-90). For Ovid, release from love can only be achieved by the ars which Ovid teaches.

Ironically, a similar aversion to the overtly supernatural is found in The Screwtape Letters. In the seventh letter Screwtape addresses the question of whether humans ought to know that devils exist. Screwtape tells Wormwood that the "High Command" has explicitly stated that devils are to hide their existence from men (39). This was not always so. Screwtape sees some merit in the ability to reveal themselves to men, but acknowledges that the benefits of hiding themselves outweigh the disadvantages. "When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics" (39). One of the distinguishing characteristics of The Screwtape Letters is the "realism" of Hell (64). In the preface to the 1961 edition, Lewis remarks that the various depictions of devils depend "on temperament and on the age" (xxxvii). After discussing the traditional images of devils, such as bat-like creatures, he describes his own depiction: "I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of Admin.'...Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern" (xxxvii). In the letters one can find several instances when Screwtape admonishes Wormwood for his enthusiasm for the spectacular. In the fifth letter Wormwood is apparently "delirious with joy" that the humans have started another world-war. Screwtape sternly rebukes him. "You are not delirious; you are only drunk" (27). After warning him against premature boasting, he adds, "If, on the other hand, by steady and coolheaded application here and now you can finally secure his soul, he will then be yours forever...So do not allow any temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues" (28). Wormwood's subsequent expressions of glee are called "infantile rhapsodies" (165). In the fourteenth letter, Screwtape states that "The most alarming thing in your last account of the patient is that he is making none of those confident resolutions which marked his original conversion...This is very bad" (81). For Screwtape, temporary excitement is dangerous in that it distracts the tempter from the long view. He closes his twelfth letter by counseling Wormwood not to get too excited about the grandeur of a particular sin: "It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing...Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts" (73).

Ovid too admonishes his patient against premature boasting and temporary victories.
    Et malim taceas quam te desiss loquaris:
       Qui nimium multis "non amo" dicit, amat.
    Sed meliore fide paulatim extinguitur ignis
       Quam subito; lente desine, tutus eris. (647-650)

And I would rather you were silent than say you had ceased to love; he
who says o'er much "I love not" is in love. But with better surety is
the fire gradually extinguished than on a sudden; leave off slowly, and
you will be safe.

One favorite metaphor that Ovid employs in the Remedia Amoris is that of a naval voyage. While at first glance this might seem out of place, it is an apt metaphor for the medical task of guiding the patient safely into port, thus avoiding becoming shipwrecked by temporary victories (Boyd 115-18). In fact, Ovid ends the Remedia Amoris with the following nautical metaphor.
    Hoc opus exegi: fessae date serta carinae;
        Contigimus portus, quo mihi cursus erat.
    Postmodo reddetis sacro pia vota poetae,
        Carmine sanati femina virque meo. (811-14)

I have finished my task; hang garlands on the weary vessel; the haven
whither my course was set is reached. Soon will you pay your dutiful
vows to the inspired poet, made whole, both man and woman, by my song.

The Latin word in line 814 translated above as "made whole" is sanati, which can also be translated as "healed." Both Ovid and Screwtape, as their tasks demand, take the long view. Temporary victories matter little if they do not lead to the ultimate goal.

In addition to employing the general themes--medicine, kairos, practicality, and the preference for long-term success over temporary victory--from Ovid's Remedia Amoris, Lewis has Screwtape suggest many of the specific practical strategies that Ovid extolls to help his patient fall out of love. Ovid's practical advice for falling out of love is employed by Screwtape as equally applicable for falling out of love with God.

Only the first letter of The Screwtape Letters is set before Wormwood's patient converts to Christianity. The majority of the work therefore centers around the task of making the patient fall out of love with God. Ovid states that ideally one should stamp out the sickness at the outset (81-82), yet he does not abandon hope if the "disease" takes hold.
Si tamen auxilii perierunt tempora primi,
    Et vetus in capto pectore sedit amor,
Maius opus superest: sed non, quia serior
    Advocor, ille mihi destituendus erit.

Yet if the time for early succour is lost, and an old love is seated in
the captured heart, a heavier task remains: but, because I am called
late to the patient's side, I must not leave him to his fate.

Screwtape, likewise, does not abandon his task. He begins the second letter by noting that Wormwood's patient has become a Christian. While it would have been better if this had not happened, he is confident the patient can be "saved": "There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy's camp and are now with us" (9).

If love cannot be immediately prevented, the first course of treatment Ovid prescribes is to "shun leisure." "Ergo ubi visus eris nostra medicabilis arte, / Fac monitis fugias otia prima meis" (When therefore I shall find you amenable to my skill, obey my counsels and first of all shun leisure) (135-36). Ovid recommends many diversions to keep the mind away from the beloved, such as the law-courts (151), war (153-68), farm work (169-98), hunting (199-204), bird-catching, and fishing (207-09). The important point is to keep the mind from focusing on the beloved; "qui finem quaeris amoris, / Cedit amor rebus: res age, tutus eris" (You who seek an end of love, love yields to business: be busy, and you will be safe) (143-44).

Screwtape also advises distraction as a means of keeping Wormwood's patient from thinking about God. In his fourth letter he famously remarks, "It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out" (22-23). Screwtape's preferred method of keeping a patient busy is to have him focus on the daily tasks of the "real world." When Wormwood tries to make his patient a disbeliever by means of argument, Screwtape rebukes him:
Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in
our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your
patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and
withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense
experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach
him to call it 'real life' and don't let him ask what he means by
'real'. (4-5)

Screwtape then recalls a former patient of his who had started to think about God while reading a book in a library. Screwtape used distraction and convinced the man to grab a bite to eat. "Once he was in the street the battle was won" (6).

In accordance with the admonition to keep busy, Ovid warns against the dangers of quiet and solitude: "Quisquis amas, loca sola nocent, loca sola caveto! / Quo fugis? in populo tutior esse potes" (Whoever you are that love, solitary places are dangerous, beware of solitudes. Whither do you flee? you will be safer in a crowd) (579-80). Ovid then proceeds to cite examples from mythology to illustrate his point that silence leads to love (589-608). Screwtape likewise warns against the danger of silence when he rages against the two sounds of Heaven: music and silence.
Music and silence--how I detest them both! How thankful we should be
that ever since Our Father entered square inch of infernal
space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of
those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise--Noise, the
grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant,
ruthless, and virile....We will make the whole universe a noise in the
end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards
the Earth. (132)

Another method of distraction Ovid advises is to keep the mind occupied with fears and anxieties. Counter-intuitive as it might sound, Ovid states that this advice was given to him by Cupid in a dream: "Ad mala quisque animum referat sua, ponet amorem; / Omnibus ilia deus plusve minusve dedit. (Let each give his mind to his own woes: he will be rid of his love; heaven has assigned them, more or less, to all) (559-60). Fear of debt, parental cruelty, and poverty are all recommended.
Est tibi rure bono generosae fertilis uvae
    Vinea? ne nascens usta sit uva, time.
Ille habet in reditu navim: mare semper
     Cogitet et damno litora foeda suo.

You have a fruitful estate and a vineyard abundant in fine grapes? fear
lest the ripening grapes be scorched. Another has a ship returning
home: let him fancy the sea is ever stormy, and the coasts befouled
with his fortune's wreck.

While not pleasant, worry about what could happen keeps the patient's mind from his lover. Ovid suggests there are endless possibilities "Et quis non causas mille doloris habet?" (And who has not a thousand causes of worry?) (572).

Screwtape suggests a similar strategy in his sixth letter. "There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them" (33). In his fifteenth letter Screwtape expands upon this tactic. "Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present" (88). While the past can sometimes be a fruitful means of keeping the patient from thinking about the present, it is grounded in reality. Far more efficient is to get the patient to think about the future, which is by its very nature unreal (88). "Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead" (89). Screwtape continues, "We want a man hag-ridden by the Future" (90).

In addition to distraction, Ovid recommends multiple lovers as a means of curing the patient of love.
Hortor et, ut pariter binas habeatis arnicas
  (Fortior est, plures siquis habere potest):
Secta bipertito cum mens discurril
  Alterius vires subtrahit alter amor.
Grandia per multos tenuantur flumina
  Saevaque diducto stipite flamma perit.

I advise you to have two mistresses at once (a tough man is he who can
take on more); when the attention, parted in twain, shifts from this
one to that, one passion saps the other's force. Great rivers are
diminished by much channelling, and a fierce flame dies when the fuel
is divided.

He then proceeds cleverly to use examples from mythology to support this strategy. (3) Although the aim of Ovid's advice is to split and weaken the force of love, it does resemble the scriptural injunction that "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6.24). While lines 441-46, in contrast to Matthew 6.24, state that such diverted love is possible to maintain, the underlying conviction is the same.

In the tenth letter, Screwtape responds to news about a new set of friends that Wormwood's patient has acquired. Screwtape is quite pleased at this new circle of worldly friends because he sees an opportunity for Wormwood to exploit. He advises Wormwood to try as hard as possible to make his patient live in two different worlds. "If this succeeds, he can be induced to live, as I have known many humans live, for quite long periods, two parallel lives; he will not only appear to be, but actually be, a different man in each of the circles he frequents" (60). Instead of trying to get the patient to abandon love of God directly, Screwtape knows that this "splitting" of his circle of friends, the Christian and worldly, will lead to a splitting of his love for God. Screwtape delights in the fact that even if Wormwood's patient discovers his dual life, this is all for the best. "You see the idea--the worldly friends touch him on one wise and the grocer on the other, and he is the complete, balanced, complex man who sees round them all. Thus, while being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel, instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction" (60-61). Screwtape of course believes, in accordance with Matthew 6.24, that the initial love cannot be maintained when another love is taken. Ovid, too, eventually admits the same when he states, "Successore novo vincitur omnis amor" (All love is vanquished by a succeeding love) (462). How then is one to find a new love? Simple, says Ovid. Merely pretend to be in love with another: "Quod non es, simula, positosque imitare furores: / Sic facies vere, quod meditatus eris" (Feign what you are not, and counterfeit an assuaged frenzy; so will you do in fact what you have practised doing) (497-98). Screwtape concurs and states, "All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be" (58).

In addition to active cures for love, such as distraction and taking on another lover, Ovid also warns his patient about what types of things to avoid; for there are many things that can undo all of the treatments Ovid has prescribed. One is to avoid other people who are in love. Ovid recounts how a patient of his was almost cured of his love, but the wound was immediately reopened when he chanced upon a pair of lovers.
Siquis amas, nee vis, facito contagia
Haec etiam pecori saepe nocere
Dum spectant laesos oculi, laeduntur
et ipsi,
   Multaque corporibus transitione
   nocent. (613-15)

If you love, nor wish to love, see that you shun contagion; even beasts
are hurt thereby. The eyes, in beholding the afflicted, themselves
suffer affliction, and many things harm our bodies through chance

Ovid cautions his audience not to do anything that would reopen the wound of love. "Admonitu refricatur amor, vulnusque novatum / Scinditur: infirmis culpa pusilla nocet" (Love brought to mind is stung to life, and the wound is rent anew: to the weak the smallest error is hurtful) (729-30). For that reason Ovid not only warns against rereading love letters (717-18), looking at pictures of the beloved (723), or visiting places once frequented together (725-26), but he also warns against visits to the theater (751-52). The mere witnessing of the representation of love can enflame the old wound. Ovid even quips that he reluctantly advises the patient to avoid love poetry, even his own! "Eloquar invitus: teneros ne tange poetas! Summoveo dotes impius ipse meas" (Unwillingly I speak: touch not the poets of love; treacherously I remove my own gifts from you) (757-58).

In the twenty-third letter Screwtape expresses real dismay when Wormwood reveals that his patient has fallen in love with a Christian. What really angers Screwtape is not only the piety of the girl, but her family as well. Just as he advised Wormwood to have his patient spend time with his circle of worldly friends, Screwtape is aghast that the piety of the girl's family will infect him.
Then, of course, he gets to know this woman's family and whole circle.
Could you not see that the very house she lives in is one that he ought
never to have entered? The whole place reeks of that deadly odour. The
very gardener, thought he has only been there five years, is beginning
to acquire it. Even guests, after a weekend visit, carry some of the
smell away with them. (131)

Both Ovid and Screwtape fear any exposure to love, whether it be to lovers or lovers of God, because they fear to where that exposure will ultimately lead the patient.

Ovid devotes some of the last sections of the Remedia Amoris to the topic of pleasure. While it would seem that both Ovid and Screwtape would not view pleasure as a threat, they are emphatic in avoiding such pitfalls. Concerning the pleasure of wine, Ovid advises the following:
Vina parant animum Veneri, nisi plurima
  Et stupeant multo corda sepulta mero.
Nutritur vento, vento restinguitur ignis:
  Lenis alit flammas, grandior aura necat.
Aut nulla ebrietas, aut tanta sit, ut tibi
  Eripiat; siqua est inter utrumque, nocet.

Wine prepares the heart for love, unless you take o'ermuch and your
spirits are dulled and drowned by too much liquor. By wind is a fire
fostered, and by wind extinguished; a gentle breeze fans the flame, a
strong breeze kills it. Either no drunkenness, or so much as to banish
care: aught between these two is harmful.

While speaking about pleasures, Screwtape warns Wormwood, "Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. ...All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden" (53).

Screwtape severely rebukes Wormwood for his ignorance about true pleasure in the thirteenth letter. Wormwood's patient experienced a longing for God after reading a book and taking a walk in the country. Screwtape states that Wormwood's first mistake was in letting the patient read a book, "because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends" (76). His second mistake was to let the patient take a walk in the countryside which he enjoyed. "In other words you allowed him two positive Pleasures....How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn't you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value?" (77).

If C. S. Lewis was influenced by Ovid's Remedia Amoris, does it follow that Lewis viewed The Screwtape Letters in a similar ironic light? The evidence points to the contrary. While the idea of The Screwtape Letters no doubt initially seemed fun to Lewis, we know from his own writings what a toll the process took on him. Writing some years later in the preface to the 1961 edition, Lewis remarked, "Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. ...the strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp" (xlii). Lewis even admits that "It almost smothered me before I was done" (xlii). These words are in stark contrast to the light and clever mood one senses in the Remedia Amoris. It is almost impossible to imagine Ovid composing his lines with such discomfort. Why then did Lewis complete his task despite the unpleasantness? While the strategies of Lewis and Ovid are similar, their motives were starkly different. Lewis believed that the purpose of his book was deadly serious. Lewis used humor to shine a light not so much on devils, but on the darker corners of the reader's soul. As Evan Gibson notes, "Its chief value resides in its insights and warnings concerning the booby traps and mine fields which are set by the enemies of man's soul" (109). Lewis himself admits in a letter that "the success of the book depends on luring the ordinary reader into a serious self-knowledge under the pretense of being a kind of joke" (Collected Letters 2:758). That Lewis should use the example of Ovid in this way is not surprising. In a footnote in the Allegory of Love, Lewis makes the following remark about how the authors of courtly love used Ovid: "In all questions of literary origin and influence the principle quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis (Whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver) must be constantly remembered" (Lewis, Allegory 43). Lewis thus uses an inverted Ovidian literary tactic. While Ovid took a serious subject, ancient Amor, and transformed it into an object of humor, Lewis took the humorous and transformed it into something of the utmost importance.


(1) For a rebuttal of the belief that Lewis knew of John Macgowan's 1772 work Infernal Conference, see Glyer 35-36.

(2) Lines 91-92, 101-02, 109-10, 115-16, 126-27, 131-32, 135-36,225-26,249-51, 313-14, 525-26, 546-47, 623-24, 793-96.

(3) Examples include Minos, Phineus, Paris, Tereus, and Agamemnon.


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Gibson, Evan. CS. Lewis Spinnner of Tales. Washington D.C.: Christian University Press, 1980.

Gibson, Roy K. "The Ars Amatoria." A Companion to Ovid. Ed. Peter Knox. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Glyer, Diana. The Company They Keep: CS. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. Kent: Kent State UP, 2007.

Huttar, Charles. "The Screwtape Letters as Epistolary Fiction." Journal of Inkling Studies 6.1 (2016): 87-125.

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--. The Discarded Image. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1964.

--. The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast, Annotated Edition. Ed. Paul McCusker. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

McGrath, Alister. C.S. Lewis- A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2013.

--. The Intellectual World of C.S. Lewis. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

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--. Ovid: The Love Poems. Ed. E.J. Kenney. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.

Schakel, Peter. "The Satiric Imagination of C.S. Lewis." Studies in the Literary Imagination 22:2 (1989): 129-148.

Stutz, Chad. "No 'Sombre Satan': C.S. Lewis, Milton, and Re-presentations of the Diabolical." Religion and the Arts 9:3-4 (2005): 208-34.

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Michael Boler (Ph.D. in Classics, Fordham University) is currently an Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, where he is also the director of the Honors Program. He publishes primarily in the field of classical reception, but also has a forthcoming Ancient Greek textbook from Catholic University of America Press.
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Title Annotation:"Remedia Amoris" and "The Screwtape Letters"
Author:Boler, Michael
Publication:Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2019

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