A Severe Mercy

A Severe Mercy is an autobiographical book by Sheldon Vanauken, relating the author's relationship with his wife, their friendship with C. S. Lewis, conversion to Christianity, and subsequent tragedy.[1] It was first published in 1977. The book is strongly influenced, at least stylistically, by the Evelyn Waugh novel Brideshead Revisited. It was followed by a sequel, Under the Mercy, first published in 1985.

The book is, in a sense, made up of two distinct parts: the first chronicles the love story of Vanauken and his wife, a love which he refers to as pagan. The couple pledged always to put their love before all else, and the intensity of their devotion to one another and their exclusivity makes up the early chapters. However, Vanauken (or "Van") and his wife Jean Davis (or "Davy") explore Christianity and are gradually converted, and the primacy of their love for one another comes into question for both of them—though Vanauken's conversion is somewhat slower and more reluctant.

His analysis is aided by a correspondence with C.S. Lewis, then an Oxford Don, and some of Lewis's letters are reprinted in the book. Vanauken's circle of Oxford acquaintances includes other recognizable names as well, including Catholic priest Julian Stead, who went on to author books of religious poetry and a noted text on St. Benedict's rule of life.

A Severe Mercy is undoubtedly Vanauken's best known and most successful book. However, his first published work was a small booklet called "Encounter with Light", written about 1960 and available only from Wheaton College in Illinois today. Vanauken's only novel, Gateway to Heaven, was published by Harper & Row in 1980.[2]

A Severe Mercy won a 1980 U.S. National Book Award in the one-year category Religion/Inspiration.[3][a]

The 1985 sequel Under the Mercy spans many years after the death of Vanauken's wife, years during which he first fell away from "the obedience" and then returned and eventually converted to Catholicism.

In May 2013, Origin Entertainment purchased the rights to begin development on the screenplay and has plans of taking the film into production in 2015.[4]

A Severe Mercy
Front cover of unknown edition
AuthorSheldon Vanauken
CountryUnited States
PublisherHarper & Row
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Followed byUnder the Mercy (1985) 


  1. ^ This was the award for paperback Religion/Inspiration.
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Award history there were dual awards for hardcover and paperback books in many categories, including several nonfiction subcategories. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints, including this one.


  1. ^ "Severe Mercy, A". HarperCollins. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
  2. ^ "About the Author". HarperCollins. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
  3. ^ "National Book Awards – 1980". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
  4. ^ "Origin >> A Severe Mercy". Origin Entertainment. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
Barbara Nicolosi

Barbara Nicolosi (born February 20, 1964) is an American screenwriter, script consultant and founder of a Christian screenwriter’s program.

C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963) was a British writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Lewis and fellow novelist J. R. R. Tolkien were close friends. They both served on the English faculty at Oxford University and were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings. According to Lewis's memoir Surprised by Joy, he was baptised in the Church of Ireland, but fell away from his faith during adolescence. Lewis returned to Anglicanism at the age of 32, owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, and he became an "ordinary layman of the Church of England". Lewis's faith profoundly affected his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

Lewis wrote more than 30 books which have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularised on stage, TV, radio, and cinema. His philosophical writings are widely cited by Christian apologists from many denominations.

In 1956, Lewis married American writer Joy Davidman; she died of cancer four years later at the age of 45. Lewis died on 22 November 1963 from renal failure, one week before his 65th birthday. In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was honoured with a memorial in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

G. K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG (29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936), was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox". Time magazine has observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out."Chesterton is well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and for his reasoned apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognised the wide appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an "orthodox" Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, his "friendly enemy", said of him, "He was a man of colossal genius." Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, Cardinal John Henry Newman, and John Ruskin.

Here with Me (MercyMe song)

"Here with Me" is a song by Christian rock band, MercyMe. Written and composed by the band, as well as Peter Kipely, Dan Muckala and Brad Russell, "Here with Me" is a ballad with a musical vibe influenced by worship, pop and rock music; the overall sound has been compared to that of alternative rock band, Coldplay. "Here with Me" lyrically discusses the omnipotence of God.

Released as the lead single from MercyMe's 2004 album, Undone, "Here with Me" attained positive critical reception and peaked at No. 1 on multiple Christian radio chart formats; it also peaked inside the top 40 on several mainstream radio formats. It ranked at No. 16 on the 2000s decade-end Hot Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts.

Homesick (MercyMe song)

"Homesick" is a song by Christian rock band MercyMe. Written by Bart Millard, the song is an expression of grief and longing that was written after the band experienced the deaths of nine people they were connected to in a short period of time. "Homesick" was included on MercyMe's third studio album Undone and was released as the second single from that album.

"Homesick" received positive critical reception, with some critics considering the song one of the best from Undone. "Homesick" was successful on both Christian and mainstream radio, peaking at the top on the Radio & Records Christian AC Indicator and Soft AC/INSPO charts, number 3 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts and the Radio & Records Christian AC chart, as well as peaking at number 9 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It was ranked at number 13 on the Billboard 2005 year-end Hot Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts, and at number 20 on the year-end Adult Contemporary chart.

I Can Only Imagine (MercyMe song)

"I Can Only Imagine" (sometimes shortened to "Imagine") is a single recorded by Christian rock band MercyMe. Written and composed by lead vocalist Bart Millard, the song, based around a main piano track, was inspired by the death of Millard's father and considers what it would be like in Heaven and to be standing before God. The song was first issued as a track on MercyMe's 1999 album The Worship Project, which was released on an independent record label. The song was re-recorded and included on their 2001 major-label debut album Almost There as the fifth song on the album.

"I Can Only Imagine" was released in 2001 as the album's lead single. It gained significant airplay on Christian radio formats before crossing over to mainstream radio formats such as adult contemporary and Top 40 in late 2003 and into 2004; to aid in promotion to these markets, a double A-side physical single (combined with "Word of God Speak") was released in 2003. It charted on several formats, including the Billboard Adult Contemporary (where it peaked at No. 5) and the Hot 100 (where it peaked at No. 71). In 2002, "I Can Only Imagine" earned the Dove Awards for 'Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year' and 'Song of the Year'; Millard earned the Dove Award 'Songwriter of the Year' at the same ceremony. With 200 million copies sold, it is the best-selling Christian single of all time, having been certified 3x platinum by the RIAA. As of 2018, it is the only Christian song to reach that milestone.

List of converts to Catholicism

The following is an incomplete list of notable individuals who converted to Catholicism from a different religion or no religion.

List of winners of the National Book Award

These authors and books have won the annual National Book Awards, awarded to American authors by the National Book Foundation based in the United States.

National Book Award for Nonfiction

The National Book Award for Nonfiction is one of four annual National Book Awards, which are given by the National Book Foundation to recognize outstanding literary work by U.S. citizens. They are awards "by writers to writers". The panelists are five "writers who are known to be doing great work in their genre or field".The original National Book Awards recognized the "Most Distinguished" biography and nonfiction books (two) of 1935 and 1936, and the "Favorite" nonfiction books of 1937 to 1940. The "Bookseller Discovery" and the "Most Original Book" sometimes recognized nonfiction. (See below.)

The general "Nonfiction" award was one of three when the National Book Awards were re-established in 1950 for 1949 publications, which the National Book Foundation considers the origin of its current Awards series.

From 1964 to 1983, under different administrators, there were multiple nonfiction categories.The current Nonfiction award recognizes one book written by a US citizen and published in the US from December 1 to November 30. The National Book Foundation accepts nominations from publishers until June 15, requires mailing nominated books to the panelists by August 1, and announces five finalists in October. The winner is announced on the day of the final ceremony in November. The award is $10,000 and a bronze sculpture; other finalists get $1000, a medal, and a citation written by the panel.

The sculpture by Louise Nevelson dates from the 1980 awards. The $10,000 and $1000 cash prizes and autumn recognition for current-year publications date from 1984.About 200 books were nominated for the 1984 award, when the single award for general nonfiction was restored.

R. Geraint Gruffydd

Robert Geraint Gruffydd, FLSW, FBA (9 June 1928 – 24 March 2015) was a scholar of Welsh language and literature. From 1970 to 1979, he was Professor of Welsh Language and Literature at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and was made Emeritus Professor in 1993.

Sheldon Vanauken

Sheldon Vanauken (August 4, 1914 – October 28, 1996) was an American author, best known for his autobiographical book A Severe Mercy (1977), which recounts his and his wife's friendship with C. S. Lewis, their conversion to Christianity, and dealing with tragedy. He published a sequel in 1985 titled Under the Mercy.

The Everlasting Man

The Everlasting Man is a Christian apologetics book written by G. K. Chesterton, published in 1925. It is, to some extent, a deliberate rebuttal of H. G. Wells' The Outline of History, disputing Wells' portrayals of human life and civilisation as a seamless development from animal life and of Jesus Christ as merely another charismatic figure. Chesterton detailed his own spiritual journey in Orthodoxy, but in this book he tries to illustrate the spiritual journey of humanity, or at least of Western civilisation.

The Worship Project

The Worship Project is the fifth independent album by American Christian rock band MercyMe. Produced by the band and recorded by Jim Bryson (the band's keyboardist), the album was released on October 14, 1999. In contrast to the band's previous efforts, which were influenced by grunge music, The Worship Project is a worship album. MercyMe wrote songs for the album using a basic verse–chorus style so as to be easy to learn and sing along to and to easily fit on a PowerPoint screen. The album incorporates alternative, rock, and pop musical styles, as well as "rootsy" elements like organs and violins.

Like most independent albums, The Worship Project did not appear on any record charts after its release and received little attention from music critics, with the exception of a review in the UK Christian music magazine Cross Rhythms. However, the album was much more successful than the band's previous efforts, selling over 60,000 copies within a year. The band would release one more independent album before signing with INO Records and releasing their first major studio album, Almost There (2001). Several songs from The Worship Project were included on the album, including "I Can Only Imagine", which became the band's breakthrough single and the first Christian song to receive a double platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Undone (MercyMe album)

Undone is the third studio album by Christian rock band, MercyMe. It was produced by Pete Kipley and released on April 20, 2004 on INO Records. Following the success of MercyMe's previous studio efforts, they were given significantly more resources with which to develop the album and brought in a sixth member, guitarist Barry Graul. Unlike the band's previous songwriting style, which was to write the lyrics first, they wrote the music for the songs on the album before writing the lyrics. The album has a pop rock and adult contemporary sound, while the lyrics are personal and convey Christian themes.

Undone received generally favorable reviews from critics with many praising the album's personal style, although some critics argued the album's songwriting and sound were too similar to MercyMe's previous efforts. It won the GMA Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year at the 36th GMA Dove Awards. In the United States, Undone debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart, selling over 55,000 copies in its first week. It spent a total of two weeks atop the Christian Albums chart and was the fifth-best selling Christian album of 2004 and the fourteenth best-selling Christian album of 2005. Undone has sold over 627,000 albums in the United States and was the thirty-eighth best-selling Christian album of the 2000s.

Three official singles were released from Undone. "Here with Me", the album's lead single, was released to Christian and mainstream radio, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts as well as at No. 12 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The second single from the album, "Homesick", peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts and at No. 9 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The third single, "In the Blink of an Eye", peaked at No. 1 on the Christian Songs and Hot Christian AC charts.

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