TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On the attractiveness of real holiness (Lewis mentions his spiritual director, Father Adams); and on the follies, miseries, and temptations of being a young, single adult.
1 August 1953
I am so glad you gave me an account of the lovely priest. How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing (and perhaps, like you, I have met it only once), it is irresistible. If even 10% of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?
Yes, I too think there is lots to be said for being no longer young: and I do most heartily agree that it is just as well to be past the age when one expects or desires to attract the other sex. It’s natural enough in our species, as in others, that the young birds should show off their plumage—in the mating season. But the trouble in the modern world is that there’s a tendency to rush all the birds on to that age as soon as possible and then keep them there as late as possible, thus losing all the real value of the other parts of life in a senseless, pitiful attempt to prolong what, after all, is neither its wisest, its happiest, or most innocent period. I suspect merely commercial motives are behind it all: for it is at the showing-off age that birds of both sexes have least sales resistance!
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack