Charles Williams

Charles Williams : An Exploration of His Life and Works

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A biography of the British editor, critic, poet, novelist, dramatist, and theologian describes his influence on Auden, Lewis, Sayers, Eliot, and Tolkienshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 152.4 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 566.99g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Fr.8ill.1fig.
  • 0195033116
  • 9780195033113

Review Text

The Williams revival inches its eccentric way forward. Charles Williams (18861945) was a prolific English poet, novelist, biographer, and critic whose work stirred the enthusiasm of a certain literary-spiritual coterie (headed by C. S. Lewis) but neyer won broad academic or popular acclaim. This survey of his career (a thoroughly reworked expansion of Hadfield's Introduction to Charles Williams, first published in 1959) is more homage than critical study, and unlikely to win many recruits to the Williams camp. The main reason is the man's defiantly up-in-the-air quality. "I have never met any human being," wrote an admirer, "in whom the divisions between body and spirit, natural and supernatural, temporal and eternal were so non-existent, nor any writer who so consistently took their non-existence for granted." This may explain the ethereal and faintly repulsive Dante-Beatrice relationship between Williams and Phyllis Jones (while Williams' wife, Florence, languished at home), and may perhaps shed light on the little sadistic rituals he used to hold with one of his woman students - even angels feel the force of gravity. There is also an in-house, Oxford University Press aspect: Williams spent his whole working life at the Press, where Hadfield was the librarian and his subordinate (replacing Phyllis Jones). So we're treated to various sorts of chit-chat, such as long accounts of the "masques" Williams wrote and put on to celebrate the publishing business. Such anachronisms were typical of Williams, who also devoted a goodly part of his poetic oeuvre to the Arthurian legends, and help to make him so unclassifiable. For the rest, Hadfield conducts a careful, detailed tour of Taliessin through Logres, The Figure of Beatrice, and so forth. But though she provides enough evidence of Williams' competence as a poet, she never substantiates her vision of him as a major figure. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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