C.S. Lewis did not study at Queen’s. However, his mother, Florence Augusta (nee Hamilton) did. Flora was born in Ireland in 1862. In 1874 she came with her parents to Belfast from Rome, where her father, Thomas R. Hamilton, had served the Anglican community as a curate for four years at the Church of Holy Trinity. On the family’s arrival in Belfast, Flora continued her early education at Methodist College, which comprises a series of architecturally imposing buildings, occupying a large site just opposite both the Lanyon Building of QUB and the Botanical Gardens on Belfast’s University Road. On completion of her studies at Methodist College, Flora progressed to Queen’s College Belfast, where in the early 1880s she completed a BA degree in mathematics.
The fact that Lewis’s mother graduated from Queen’s and attended school at Methodist College is reason enough for Lewis enthusiasts to visit the University Quarter in Belfast. It was also reason enough for the university to include a C.S. Lewis reading room in the large McClay Library, part of a multimillion-pound development of the university completed in 2009, and which is now the main library building of the entire campus. The C.S. Lewis reading room was included in honor of Lewis, and it is certainly worth visiting.
The room is circular in shape and has commanding views from its glazed façade over the entrance to the McClay complex, the back of the Lanyon Building, Union College, and College Park. The reading room is interesting partly because of its circular shape, but also because of its dramatic entrance, in the form of a deep doorway. The dark wooden doors create the illusion of entering the room through a wardrobe. Those familiar with the vocabulary of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hesitate momentarily if they feel inclined to close the door fully, especially when they are on the inside! Once inside, visitors are immediately aware of the large circular, glass-topped table that displays, beneath the glass, a circular map of Narnia as depicted by Pauline Baynes. In addition to the map, the walls of the room are decorated with images of Irish landscapes and with appropriate quotations taken from across the breadth of Lewis’s writing, one of which will be used to conclude this article.
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