Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland, as the son of A.J.
Lewis, a solicitor, and Flora Augusta (Hamilton). His
mother, a promising mathematician, died when he was nine years
old. Lewis had been very close to his mother, who taught him
to love books and encouraged him to study French and Latin.
Lewis and his brother were brought up by their father.
During his childhood, Lewis created the imaginary country of
Bloxen. He started writing early - in the attic of their house he
had a "study" where he composed his stories. After
attending schools in Hertfordshire, Northern Ireland and Malvern,
he was educated at home from 1914-17.
"I am the
product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor
silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling
cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles.
Also of endless books," Lewis wrote in his autobiographical
book Surprised by Joy (1955). "There were books
in the study, books in the drawing-room, books in the cloakroom,
books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a
bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic,
books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents'
interests, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a
child and books most empathically not. Nothing was forbidden
me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume
after volume from the shelves..." Lewis's early
favorites were Edith Nesbit's books, among them The Story of
the Amulet (1906), which mixed fantasy with reality, and the
uncut edition of Gulliver's Travels. Later he read
the Norse myths and sagas, and such historical books as Henryk
Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis and Lew Wallace's Ben Hur.
Later he also found The Odyssey, Voltaire, Milton and
Spenser. Lewis's private tutor taught him to read Greek for