In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, CS Lewis published an intriguing cache of letters to which he gave the name The Screwtape Letters (in his Preface to the volume he stated baldly “I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands”). The letters claimed to be the work of one of Hell’s more senior devils, the eponymous Screwtape, and were addressed to his nephew, the junior devil Wormwood. In each of them Screwtape offered advice to his nephew as to how he might best go about tempting a human ‘patient’ to abandon his worship of ‘The Enemy’ (God) and be lured instead into the company of ‘Our Father Below’.
Although his letters have never been out of print, Screwtape’s pen fell silent long ago. His readers never heard directly from his young correspondent, Wormwood. Instead, Wormwood’s efforts to tempt his patient were discussed and dissected by his uncle, often with the contempt and venom that might be expected of a senior devil. Indeed, at the end of the Letters it appears that Screwtape’s fury at the incompetence of his nephew is so great that Wormwood has come to an unfortunate end (if such a thing is possible for a devil).
Taking inspiration from C.S. Lewis’ much-loved and widely read epistolary novel, in his readings the Dean Nicholas imagines that Wormwood survived - and survived to write his own letters to his own nephew, Mardelech. It is a selection of these ‘new’ letters that were offered as a part of the Good Friday Devotion this year.
Presenting the readings, the Dean adds a note of caution:
“But please note: these letters carry exactly the same proviso that Lewis offered to Screwtape’s original readers: ‘…remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle’.”
Five letters in all were read out during the Devotion, following Bible readings, and they can be listened to in sequence clicking the links below: