Books of 1952: Narnia

the book:

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

Because the UK is celebrating Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee around now, this week's books all have a first publication date in 1952. Some of them have vaguely-applicable titles.
chapter 5

The next few days were delightful. Lucy thought she was the most fortunate girl in the world, as she woke each morning to see the reflections of the sunlit water dancing on the ceiling of her cabin and looked round on all the nice new things she had got in the Lone Islands - seaboots and buskins and cloaks and jerkins and scarves. And then she would go on deck and take a look from the forecastle at a sea which was a brighter blue each morning and drink in an air that was a little warmer day by day. After that came breakfast and such an appetite as one only has at sea.

She spent a good deal of time sitting on the little bench in the stern playing chess with Reepicheep. It was amusing to see him lifting the pieces, which were far too big for him, with both paws and standing on tiptoes if he made a move near the centre of the board. He was a good player and when he remembered what he was doing he usually won. But every now and then Lucy won because the Mouse did something quite ridiculous like sending a knight into the danger of a queen and castle combined. This happened because he had momentarily forgotten it was a game of chess and was thinking of a real battle and making the knight do what he would certainly have done in its place. For his mind was full of forlorn hopes, death-or-glory charges, and last stands.

observations: From the third of the Narnia books, and the one with the best title. Lucy is the youngest of the four Pevensie children – only she and Edmund feature in this book, although a cousin, Eustace Scrubb, goes on the boat with them. There is very little description of clothes in the book, although they are mentioned a lot, and layers and skins to be removed come up several times. The most intriguing mention is in relation to Eustace’s parents. The authorial voice seems very disapproving of their being vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers – this has meant they bring up Eustace badly – but then goes on to say that they “wore a special kind of underclothes”. What can this mean? George Orwell, too, was always worried about pacifists in sandals who were vegetarians, in his case because he thought they gave the left a bad name.

The Voyage is very much a classic Odyssey – they are on a quest, they visit extraordinary lands, they overcome danger. And then they go home again.

Links up with: Plenty of entries on board ship – for example
here and here and here. Dressing up in clothes from another age also features, and in boy’s clothes too. Girl, boy - Orlando is both.

Picture from the
German Federal Archive, of an actress named Lucie playing Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.


  1. Could the special kind of underclothes refer to Jaeger wool? I think there was a belief in the early 20th century (presumably put about by someone called Jaeger?) that underwear had to be made of wool, or there would be terrible effects on health. Even a cotton label inside a woollen vest could have ill-effects. I think George Bernard Shaw was a devotee.

    1. Oh how interesting. Jaeger started out making underclothes, and like you I have seen them mentioned in books of early 20th C. But Jaeger went on to become a classic fashion label in the UK - slightly upmarket and pricey, shops on the High St. But the story of the woollen underclothes must be fascinating.

    2. There were also Reform clothes, though this, like Jaeger, harks back to Lewis' youth round the turn of the century, not 1952. The principle of Reform clothes and underclothes was that they should not constrict the body. So corsets were out. All the weight of the clothes should hang from the shoulders, not the waist. This meant quite loose clothes, which were hard to wear for unmarried women, as everyone would suspect they were pregnant.


    3. Thank you, that's so interesting! I did not know that about the 'hanging from the shoulders'. I did do a post on Louisa M Alcott and Rational Dress
      in the early days of the blog.
      Corset adverts are always a great source of bizarre claims about what is healthy and what isn't - there was obviously money to be had for doctors saying what the manufacturers wanted.


Post a Comment