The Four Loves is a deeply flawed book with many problems, particularly in the first chapters. Whenever I read him, I generally come to the conclusion that Lewis isn’t all that good at writing about people and their relations. And at the time of writing the Four Loves, he’s a grumpy old misogynist who seems never to have a met a woman he liked unless she was silent and scurrying around bringing him sandwiches, but only when he wants sandwiches, and only the kind of sandwiches he likes. If a man is less lovable than he might be, it’s probably a woman’s fault.
His many unkind portrayals of women in this book made it an irritating read. But I try to read with those allowances; if you were to avoid reading misogynists, you wouldn’t have much to read. Since it’s a short book and I was reading it for a book chapter I am writing, I made myself just slog through the first chapters to the last, which I later read in the Publisher’s Weekly review is considered some of his Lewis’ best nonfiction writing. It’s breathtaking:
There’s no escape along the lines of St. Augustine suggests. Nor along any other lines. There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with little hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, of at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.