Charles Williams (British writer)
|Born||Charles Walter Stansby Williams
20 September 1886
|Died||15 May 1945(aged 58)|
|Notable work(s)||War in Heaven
The Place of the Lion
The Greater Trumps
Descent into Hell
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (March 2011)|
Charles Walter Stansby Williams (20 September 1886 – 15 May 1945) was a British poet, novelist, theologian, literary critic, and member of the Inklings.
Williams was born in London in 1886, the only son of Richard and Mary Williams of Islington. He had one sister, Edith, born in 1889. Educated at St Albans School, Hertfordshire, Williams was awarded a scholarship to University College London, but was forced to leave in 1904 without taking a degree because his family lacked the financial resources to support him. In the same year he began work in a Methodist bookroom. Williams was hired by the Oxford University Press (OUP) as a proofreading assistant in 1908 and quickly climbed to the position of editor. He continued to work at the OUP in various positions of increasing responsibility until his death in 1945. One of his greatest editorial achievements was the publication of the first major English-language edition of the works of Søren Kierkegaard.
Although chiefly remembered as a novelist, Williams also published poetry, works of literary criticism, theology, drama, history, biography, and a voluminous number of book reviews. Some of his best known novels are War in Heaven, 1930, Descent into Hell, 1937, and All Hallows’ Eve, 1945. T. S. Eliot, who wrote an introduction for the last of these, described Williams’s novels as "supernatural thrillers" because they explore the sacramental intersection of the physical with the spiritual while also examining the ways in which power, even spiritual power, can corrupt as well as sanctify. All of Williams’ fantasies, unlike those of J. R. R. Tolkien and most of those of C. S. Lewis, are set in the contemporary world. More recent writers of fantasy novels with contemporary settings, notably Tim Powers, cite Williams as a model and inspiration. W. H. Auden, one of Williams’ greatest admirers, reportedly re-read Williams’s extraordinary and highly unconventional history of the church, Descent of the Dove (1939), every year. Williams’s study of Dante entitled The Figure of Beatrice (1944) was very highly regarded at its time of publication and continues to be consulted by Dante scholars today. Williams, however, regarded his most important work to be his extremely dense and complex Arthurian poetry, of which two books were published, Taliessin through Logres (1938) and The Region of the Summer Stars (1944), and more remained unfinished at his death. Some of Williams’ best essays were collected and published in Anne Ridler's Image of the City and Other Essays (1958).
Williams gathered many followers and disciples during his lifetime. He was, for a period, a member of the Salvator Mundi Temple of the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. He met fellow Anglican Evelyn Underhill (who was affiliated with a similar group, the Order of the Golden Dawn) in 1937 and was later to write the introduction to her published Letters in 1943. Williams also formed master-disciple relationships with young women throughout his lifetime. The best known (though probably not the most significant) of these occurred in the early 1940s with Lois Lang Sims. Lang Sims, whom Williams referred to as Lalage, published a series of letters that Williams wrote to her during this period in a volume entitled Letters to Lalage (1989). Though Williams married his first sweetheart, Florence Conway, in 1917, he continually struggled to reconcile a lifelong (though probably unconsummated) love affair with Phyllis Jones (who joined the Oxford University Press in 1924 as librarian) with his Christian faith (he was an unswerving and devoted member of the Church of England, reputedly with a tolerance of the scepticism of others and a firm belief in the necessity of a "doubting Thomas" in any apostolic body).
Although Williams attracted the attention and admiration of some of the most notable writers of his day, including T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden, his greatest admirer was probably C. S. Lewis, whose novel That Hideous Strength was at the time regarded as entirely inspired by Williams's novels. Williams came to know Lewis after reading Lewis’s recently published study The Allegory of Love; he was so impressed he jotted down a letter of congratulations and dropped it in the mail. Coincidentally, Lewis had just finished reading Williams’s novel The Place of the Lion and had written a similar note of congratulations. The letters crossed in the mail and led to an enduring and fruitful friendship. When World War II broke out in 1939, Oxford University Press moved its offices from London to Oxford. Although Williams was reluctant to leave his beloved city, this move did allow him to participate regularly in Lewis’s literary society known as the Inklings. In this setting Williams was able to read (and improve) his final published novel, All Hallows’ Eve, as well as to hear J. R. R. Tolkien read some of his early drafts of The Lord of the Rings aloud to the group. In addition to meeting in Lewis’ rooms at Oxford, they also regularly met at The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford (better known by its nickname "The Bird and Baby"). During this time Williams also gave lectures at Oxford on John Milton, William Wordsworth, and other authors, and received an honorary M.A. degree. Williams is buried in St Cross Churchyard Oxford: his headstone bears the word "poet", followed by the words 'Under the Mercy', a blessing often used by Williams himself.
Williams’s novels 
He is writing that sort of book in which we begin by saying, let us suppose that this everyday world were at some one point invaded by the marvelous.— CS Lewis on Charles William's novels
- War in Heaven, 1930 — The Holy Grail surfaces in an obscure country parish and becomes variously a sacramental object to protect or a vessel of power to exploit.
- Many Dimensions, 1931 — An evil antiquarian illegally purchases the fabled Stone of Suleiman (Williams uses this Muslim form rather than the more familiar King Solomon) from its Islamic guardian in Baghdad and returns to England to discover not only that the Stone can multiply itself infinitely without diminishing the original, but that it also allows its possessor to transcend the barriers of space and time.
- The Place of the Lion, 1931 — Platonic archetypes begin to appear around an English country town, wreaking havoc and drawing to the surface the spiritual strengths and flaws of individual characters.
- Shadows of Ecstasy, 1931 — A humanistic adept has discovered that by focusing his energies inward he can extend his life almost indefinitely. He undertakes an experiment using African lore to die and resurrect his own body thereby assuring his immortality. His followers begin a revolutionary movement to destroy European civilization.
- The Greater Trumps, 1932 — The original Tarot is used to unlock enormous metaphysical powers by allowing the possessors to see across space and time, create matter, and raise powerful natural storms.
- Descent into Hell, 1937 — Generally thought to be Williams’s best novel, Descent deals with various forms of selfishness, and how the cycle of sin brings about the necessity for redemptive acts. In it, an academic becomes so far removed from the world that he fetishizes a woman to the extent that his perversion takes the form of a succubus. Characters include a doppelgänger and the ghost of a suicidal Victorian labourer. It is illustrative of Williams’s belief in the replacement of sin and substitutional love.
- All Hallows' Eve, 1945 — Opens with a discussion between the ghosts of two dead women wandering about London. Ultimately explores the meaning of human suffering and empathy by dissolving the barrier between the living and the dead through both black magic and divine love.
- Williams, Charles Walter Stansby (2011) , The Silver Stair (poemsISBN 978‐1‐937002‐05‐3), London, ENG, UK: Herbet & Daniel,
- ——— (2007) , Poems of Conformity (poemsISBN 978‐1‐933993‐33‐1), UK: Oxford University Press,
- ——— (1920), Divorce (poemsISBN 978‐1‐933993‐34‐8), London, ENG, Edinburgh, Glasgow, SCO, UK: Humphrey Milford/Oxford University Press,
- ——— (1924), Windows of Night (poemsISBN 978‐1‐933993‐35‐5), London, ENG, UK: Oxford University Press (Humphrey Milford),
- ——— (2003) , Shadows of Ecstasy (novel), UK: Regent College, ISBN 1-57383-109-3
- ——— (1927), The Masque of the Manuscript (play), London, ENG, UK: privately printed for Amen House by Henderson & Spalding
- ———, ed. (1927), A Book of Victorian Narrative Verse (collection), London, ENG, UK: Oxford University Press
- ——— (2010) , A Myth of Shakespeare (playISBN 978‐1‐933993‐82‐9), Oxford, ENG, UK: University Press/Humphrey Milford,
- ——— (1929), The Masque of Perusal (play), London, ENG, UK: privately printed by the Camberwell Press, University of the Arts, for Amen House, Oxford University Press
- ——— (1974) , War in Heaven (novel), William B. Eerdmans, ISBN 978-0-8028-1219-3
- ——— (2008) , Poetry At Present (criticismISBN 978-1-933993-63-8), UK: Oxford University Press,
- ——— (1931), The Place of the Lion (novel), ISBN 978-1-57383-108-6
- ——— (2009) , Three Plays (playsISBN 978-1-60608-522-6), UK: Oxford University Press,
- ——— (1931), Many Dimensions (novel), William B Eerdmans, ISBN 0-8028-1221-X
- ——— (1932), The English Poetic Mind (criticism), Oxford, ENG, UK: Clarendon Press
- ——— (1932), The Greater Trumps (novel), William B Eerdmans, ISBN 1-57383-111-5
- ——— (1933), Bacon (biography)
- Chamber (1933), in ———, A Short Life of Shakespeare: with the Sources (abridgment of 'William Shakespeare: A study of Facts & Problems'), UK
- Williams, Charles Walter Stansby (1934), James I (biography)
- ——— (1935), Rochester (biography)
- ——— (1935), "Et in Sempiternum Pereant", The London Mercury
- ——— (1939) , The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church (theology), Longmans Green & Co
- Williams, Charles Walter Stansby; Cecil, Lord David; de Selincourt, Ernest et al., eds. (1935), The New Book of English Verse (collection )
- Williams, Charles Walter Stansby (1936), Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury (play), Canterbury Festival
- ——— (1936), Queen Elizabeth (biography)
- ——— (1937), Descent Into Hell (novel), ISBN 978-0-8028-1220-9
- ——— (1938), He Came Down From Heaven (theology)
- ——— (1938), Taliessin through Logres (poems)
- ——— (1939), Judgement at Chelmsford (play)
- ——— (1939), The Passion of Christ (devotional)
- ——— (1941), The New Christian Year (devotional)
- ——— (1941), Witchcraft (history/theology)
- ——— (1942), The Forgiveness of Sins (theology)
- ——— (1990) , in Hadfield, Alice Mary, Outlines of Romantic Theology; with which is reprinted Religion & Love in Dante: the theology of romantic love
- ——— (1943), The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante (criticism)
- ——— (1944), The Region of the Summer Stars (poems)
- ——— (1945), All Hallows' Eve (novel), ISBN 1-57383-110-7
- ——— (1945), The House of the Octopus (play)
- ——— (1946), Flecker of Dean Close (biography of William Herman Flecker, 1859–1941)
- ———; Lewis, CS (1948), Arthurian Torso, containing the posthumous fragment of The Figure of Arthur (poetry )
- Williams, Charles Walter Stansby (1948), Seed of Adam and other plays (plays)
- ——— (1958), in Ridler, Anne, The Image of the City and Other Essays
- ——— (1963), Collected Plays, ISBN 978-1-57383-366-0
- ——— (1991), in Dodds, David Llewellyn, Charles Williams, Arthurian Poets
- ——— (1993), in Hefling, Charles, Charles Williams: Essential Writings in Spirituality and Theology
- ——— (2000), in Bratman, David, The Masques of Amen House, ISBN 978‐1‐887726‐06‐1, containing The Masque of the Manuscript, The Masque of Perusal, and the previously unpublished The Masque of the Termination of Copyright, 1930, with related poems and some of Hubert J. Foss' musical settings for the masques.
Secondary Literature 
- Ashenden, Gavin (2007), Charles Williams: Alchemy and Integration, Kent State University Press.
- Carpenter, Humphrey (1978), The Inklings, London: Allen & Unwin.
- Cavaliero, Glen (1983), Charles Williams: Poet of Theology, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- Dunning, Stephen M (2000), The Crisis and the Quest — A Kierkegaardian Reading of Charles Williams, Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs.
- Glyer, Diana Pavlac (2007), The Company They Keep: CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien as Writers in Community, Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0.
- Hadfield, Alice Mary (1983), Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work, Oxford: Oxford UP.
- Heath-Stubbs, John (1955), Charles Williams (pamphlets) (British council), Writers & their work, London: Longmans.
- Hefling, Charles (2011), "Charles Williams: Words, Images, and (the) Incarnation", in Hein, David; Henderson, Edward, CS Lewis and Friends: Faith and the Power of Imagination, London: SPCK, pp. 73–90.
- Horne, Brian (1995), Charles Williams: A Celebration, Gracewing, ISBN 0-852-44331-5.
- Howard, Thomas (1991), The Novels of Charles Williams, San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
- Huttar, Charles A; Schakel, Peter J, eds. (1996), The Rhetoric of Vision: Essays on Charles Williams, Lewisburg, London: Bucknell University Press, Associated University Presses.
- Karlson, Henry (2010), Thinking with the Inklings, ISBN 1‐4505‐4130‐5.
- Lindop, Grevel (forthcoming), Charles Williams: The Last Magician, Oxford University Press
- Shideler, Mary McDermott (1966), Charles Williams: A Critical Essay, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- Sibley, Agnes (1982), Charles Williams, Boston: Twayne.
- Walsh, Chad (1974), "Charles Williams’ Novels and the Contemporary Mutation of Consciousness", in Montgomery, John Warwick, Myth, Allegory and Gospel: An Interpretation of JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Charles Williams, Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, pp. 53–77.
- Owen, James A, The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica (series) features Charles Williams, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien as the main characters.
- Paulus, Jr, Michael J (2009), "From a Publisher’s Point of View: Charles Williams’s Role in Publishing Kierkegaard in English" (PDF), in Bray, Suzanne; Sturch, Richard, Charles Williams and His Contemporaries, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4438-0565-0.
- IHUG, NZ.
- The Charles Williams Society, UK
- Lewis, CS, You tube (audio), Google.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- The Charles Williams Society, UK
- The Novels of Charles Williams, UK: Pavilion
- Journal of Inklings Studies (peer-reviewed academic journal) on Williams and his literary circle
- A Charles Williams Biography, George MacDonald Info (includes a photograph of CW with WB Yeats)
- Hackett, "Charles Williams" (photograms), Deep, PHP web hosting
- Charles Williams (biography), Multimaxx, archived from the original on 2004‐8‐13
- Scott, M, Charles Williams (bibliography), CA: Yorku
- "Williams, Charles", W, Australia: Project Gutenberg (several works out of copy right in Australia)
- "Many Dimensions", Aesir (about), Prodigy
- Ashenden, Gavin, Charles Williams: Alchemy and Integration, Kent University Press
- Charles Williams at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database