“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”–C.S. Lewis
This quote is from Surprised by Joy, an autobiographical account of how Lewis came to embrace theism in general and Christianity in particular. In this chapter, Lewis describes his life as a teenager boarding with and tutored by William Kirkpatrick in Surrey, where he enjoyed the predictable routine, occasional pleasant company, and frequent solitude. The master of the house did not make a habit of taking tea at 4 o’clock, so if Mrs. Kirkpatrick was out of the house in the afternoon, Lewis had the pleasure of taking tea alone–leaving him free to read at the table. Lewis writes:
Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere. The ones I learned so to use at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodotus, and Lang’s History of English Literature. Tristram Shandy, Elia and the Anatomy of Melancholy are all good for the same purpose. [Source.]
Lewis recollects these solitary teas with pleasure, imagining them as part of an ideal routine that he continually strives to emulate. But perhaps it’s worth remarking that this ideal day is dependent on the silent assistance of those providing the domestic work of the household: if Lewis as a teenager enjoyed two- or three-hour periods of intellectual labor fortified by a punctual tea and the occasional cup of coffee, thanks are due to the house servants who bring up the trays under direction of the mistress of the house, whose presence is not much missed at teatime.