Charles Williams


Charles Williams (1886–1945): novelist, poet, playwright, writer on religion and theology; biographer; member of the Inklings; went to work for Oxford University Press in 1908 and remained there, in positions of increasing editorial seniority, for the rest of his career. Author of novels including War in Heaven (1930), The Greater Trumps (1932), Descent into Hell (F&F, 1937), All Hallows’ Eve (F&F, 1945); and non-fiction and theological works including He Came Down from Heaven (1938), The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church (1939) – which TSE thought ‘one of the most interesting and readable books on any theological subject that I have ever read’ – and The Figure of Beatrice (F&F, 1943) – ‘at once a good introduction to Dante and to the thought of Charles Williams’. See further Grevel Lindop, Charles Williams: The Third Inkling (2015); Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams (2015); Stephen Barber, ‘Charles Williams and T. S. Eliot: Friends and Rivals’, Journal of Inklings Studies 9: 1 (2019), 1–18.

Levy and Scherle, Affectionately, T. S. Eliot, 20–1:

I was not intimate with [Williams], although I knew him for a good number of years, informally […] He had strong religious convictions, a profound sense of good and evil, and an urgent desire to communicate their living reality. Unfortunately, he did not have the mastery of a writer. In all of his novels and plays the ideas were imposed upon the characters and caused the manipulation of the plot. Of course, if the reader is disposed to accept his view at the start, there is pleasure to be derived from his work. However, Williams would not be convincing to a reader who had not been conditioned to his premises. I find his poetry difficult and the symbols and meanings difficult, and have never enjoyed its surface enough to look deeper.