Charles Williams (British writer)

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Charles Williams
Charles Williams.jpg
BornCharles Walter Stansby Williams
(1886-09-20)20 September 1886
London, England
Died15 May 1945(1945-05-15) (aged 58)
OccupationNovelist
NationalityEnglish
GenresFantasy
Notable work(s)War in Heaven
The Place of the Lion
The Greater Trumps
Descent into Hell
Spouse(s)Florence Conway
 
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Charles Williams
Charles Williams.jpg
BornCharles Walter Stansby Williams
(1886-09-20)20 September 1886
London, England
Died15 May 1945(1945-05-15) (aged 58)
OccupationNovelist
NationalityEnglish
GenresFantasy
Notable work(s)War in Heaven
The Place of the Lion
The Greater Trumps
Descent into Hell
Spouse(s)Florence Conway

Charles Walter Stansby Williams (20 September 1886 – 15 May 1945) was a British poet, novelist, theologian, literary critic, and member of the Inklings.

Biography[edit]

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.[1]

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 . [2] 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)[citation needed].

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.[3] 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).[4]

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[citation needed].

William's theology[edit]

Williams developed the concept of Co-inherence, described as a theology of romantic love. Co-inherence was a term used to describe the relationship between the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ, and the relationship between the persons of the blessed Trinity. Williams extended the term to include the relationship between God, humanity, and the whole of creation. It is our mutual indwelling: Christ in us and we in Christ, interdependent. Co-inherence is a way of talking about the Body of Christ and the Communion of saints. For Williams, salvation was not a solitary affair. "The thread of the love of God was strong enough to save you and all the others, but not strong enough to save you alone." He proposed an order, Companions of the Co-inherence, who would practice substitution and exchange, living in love-in-God, truly bearing one another's burdens, being willing to sacrifice and to forgive, living from and for one another in Christ.

References[edit]

Williams’s novels[edit]

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[5]

Works[edit]

Novels[edit]

Plays[edit]

Poetry[edit]

Theology[edit]

Literary Criticism[edit]

Biography[edit]

Other works[edit]

Secondary Literature[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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 .
  2. ^ David N. Samuelson, "Charles Williams" in E. F. Bleiler, Supernatural Fiction Writers : Fantasy and Horror. New York : Scribner's, 1985, ISBN 0684178087, (pp.631-638 ).
  3. ^ IHUG, NZ .[dead link]
  4. ^ The Charles Williams Society, UK 
  5. ^ Lewis, CS, You tube (audio), Google .
  1. ^ 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 .
  2. ^ David N. Samuelson, "Charles Williams" in E. F. Bleiler, Supernatural Fiction Writers : Fantasy and Horror. New York : Scribner's, 1985, ISBN 0684178087, (pp.631-638 ).
  3. ^ IHUG, NZ .[dead link]
  4. ^ The Charles Williams Society, UK 
  5. ^ Lewis, CS, You tube (audio), Google .

1. INKLINGS Forever, Vol V, a collection of essays presented at the Fifth Francis White Colloquium on CS Lewis and Friends, presented at Taylor University in 2006: Charles Williams: Priest of the Co-inherence, by Susan Wendling. 2. The Ways of the City, a homily by Robert Gallagher, in Order of the Ascension, a Benedictine Community, website. 3. What About Charles Williams, by Thomas Howard, in the Criswell College Touchstone, Dec. 2004.

External links[edit]