The Novels of Charles Williams

If you've ever had deja vu, or thought of someone and they call on the telephone
at that moment, then you have already experienced what writer Charles Williams'
novels are all about.

Charles Walter Stansby Williams, M.A. Oxford, was a Writer, Poet, Editor
and Lecturer. His published writings are some of the most unusual and now
obscure works of the 20th Century. Williams is as obscure now as an important
20th century writer could be, but his influence is important. His works
range from literary criticism and biographies to theology, drama, poetry
and fiction. His influence is most seen in the rise of Arthurian Romance
themes in the mid to later part of the 20th Century.

When reading a Williams novel, one may begin to discover that Williams was
ahead of his time. In fact, Williams seems to have written from the point
of view of another dimension, where the nuances of spiritual associations
are prominent, and fictional characters are described in terms of soulful
connectedness as though Williams had looked not upon their outward mannerisms,
but upon their very spirits.

To label Williams' style of writing as merely Romantic or Mystic would miss
much of what stands out in it -- the ease and familiarity that Williams has
with other dimensions. These are not dimensions which are alien to most
of us, something about them is very familiar. That is the attraction and
ironically the incomprehensibility one may find in a Williams novel.

Source Unknown

The Trilemma

' ...that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.'

C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity

Tolkien on Marriage

"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to."

J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, March 1941

The Good News...

According to J.R.R. Tolkien
“I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story... it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories... But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desires and inspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfilment of Creation.”

Tolkien Reader, page 71-72

According to Dorothy Sayers
“Jesus Christ is unique – unique among gods and men. There have been incarnate gods a-plenty, and slain-and-resurrected gods not a few; but He is the only God who had a date in history.”

The Man Born to be King, page 20

According to Jack Lewis
“The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact... It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences... By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth; that is the miracle.”

God in the Dock, page 66-67

Forward to “Essays presented to Charles Williams”, by C.S. Lewis

"In this book the reader is offered the work of one professional author, two dons, a solicitor, a friar, and a retired army officer; if he feels disposed to complain of hotchpotch (which incidentally is an excellent dish; consult the NOCTES AMBROSIANAE) I must reply that the variety displayed by this little group is far too small to represent the width of Charles William's friendships. Nor are we claiming to represent it. Voices from many parts of England -- voices of people often very different from ourselves -- would justly rebuke our presumption if we did. We know that he was as much theirs as ours: not only, nor even chiefly, because of his range and versatility, great though these were, but because, in every circle that he entered, he gave the whole man. I had almost said that he was at everyone's disposal, but those words would imply a passivity on his part, and all who knew him would find the implication ludicrous. You might as well say that an Atlantic breaker on a Cornish beach is 'at the disposal' of all whom it sweeps off their feet.

If the authors of this book were to put forward any claim, it would be, and that shyly, that they were for the last few years of his life a fairly permanent nucleus among his literary friends. He read us his manuscripts and we read him ours: we smoked, talked, argued, and drank together (I must confess that with Miss Dorothy Sayers I have seen him drink only tea: but that was neither his fault nor hers). "Of many such talks this collection is not unrepresentative."

Announcing "The Proverbs of Middle Earth" by David Rowe

With permission from both the author and the publisher, over the next 3 months, I shall be posting a regular weekly excerpt from the book.  It is expected that this important and original study will be published in the Summer of 2016.  The book has a forward by Dr. Peter J. Kreeft.
On his great Tree of Tales, it is the leaves – the tiny details – in which J.R.R. Tolkien took greatest delight.  Because of this, one of the ways in which his Middle-earth legendarium is unparalleled in English literature is that its diverse peoples and cultures each possess their own fully-formed wisdom traditions, comprised of songs, poems, and – the focus of this study – over 300 original proverbs.
From the great sea to the land of shadow, from wizards to rustic gaffers, David Rowe's book "The Proverbs of Middle Earth" will provide an in-depth exploration of the wisdom traditions of Middle-earth, investigating the degree to which Tolkien’s proverbs not only delight and instruct, but also bring revelatory “inner reality” to his created world.
In investigating Tolkien’s proverbs, I feel like Alice, falling down the rabbit-hole, or Mary Poppins, reaching into her carpet bag: the deeper I go, the more there has been to discover.  It has been said that Middle-earth is so deeply satisfying because “you can ask a question about it, and you’ll get an answer; and if you ask a question about the question, or a question about the answer, then you’ll get more answers.”  This is exactly what I have been doing over the past seven years, and along the way I have marvelled at the sheer magnitude of thoughtful detail Tolkien put into his peoples and their cultures; how much effort he put into facets of his work that few ever notice.  I invite you to come and discover them too!” ~ David Rowe
I was intrigued by the idea of looking at the cultures of Middle-earth through the lens of their proverbs. This book will enrich and enhance our understanding of phrases often heard and said, deepening our love of this world. David has done a beautiful job in giving us a unique way to experience the lore we all love so much and I’m sure that fans will love having this book on their shelf.” ~ Lara Sookoo, publisher
The Proverbs of Middle-earth ©2016
By David Rowe. All rights reserved.

Owen Barfield by Walter Hooper

After reading "Light on C.S.Lewis" (1965) Professor J.R.R.Tolkien told me he thought Owen Barfield’s Introduction threw more light on the subject than any other contribution. I’ve never heard any disagreement. That marvellous caster of light on Lewis died peacefully in Forest Row, East Sussex, on Sunday 14 December 1997 aged 99.

Arthur Owen Barfield was born in London (two weeks before Lewis) on 9 November 1898. He attended Highgate School, after which he took part in the First World War. He served as a Wireless Officer in the Signal Service of the Royal Engineers (now the Royal Corps of Signals), and was always grateful that he was able to learn Morse Code. He won a scholarship to Wadham College, and during his first term there in 1919 he met C.S. Lewis. Gradually Lewis’s admiration moved from Barfield’s poetry to the man in the round. ‘Barfield towers above us all,’ he wrote in his diary on 9 July 1922.

Both men loved ‘rational opposition’ and in 1923 they went at it hammer and tongs. The occasion was Barfield’s becoming an adherent of Anthroposophy, the religious system evolved by Rudolf Steiner. They argued about it for years, and it is to both men’s credit that they ended better friends than before. Lewis described Barfield in "Surprised by Joy" as the friend ‘who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the anti-self. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle.’ Lewis wrote to a friend in 1925,‘I go to Barfield for sheer wisdom and a sort of richness of spirit.'

Owen Barfield, a devout Christian, is not yet as famous as Lewis, but he was a respected author before Lewis’s name was known. One of his truly seminal books, admired by Lewis and Tolkien, is "Poetic Diction" (1928). Barfield hoped for an academic life, but honour drove him to London in 1929 to assist his father in the family law practice. He had married Maud Douie in 1923, and with three children to support, there was little time for writing. However, before his retirement as a solicitor in 1959 he produced "Saving the Appearances" (1957), which is about the disparity between normal human consciousness and the mind of the scientist in comprehending the familiar phenomena of the universe. None of his many books are easy to read. This is because of the profundity of what he writes about. But it is only by reading his brilliant writing that one can understand what Lewis meant by the ‘sheer wisdom’ he gained from him.

At the time of Lewis’s death, Barfield was 'discovered' by folk in the United States and for years he was a visiting lecturer to American universities. He had been appointed Literary Executor of Lewis’s Estate, and he spent thousands of hours in this capacity making his friend’s books better known. Anyone else would have resented this, but Barfield really did ‘tower’ above us - in brilliance, of course, but more than anything in humility and sweetness.

When the High Gates opened for him on that Sunday afternoon in December 1997 we may be sure it was because things of far greater importance than books had tipped the scales greatly in his favour.

Tolkien to his son Christopher (extract)

10 April 1944

I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days - quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapor, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered. But the historic version is, of course, not the only one. All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their "causes" and "effects." No man can estimate what is really happening sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labors with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.

- from "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien"

Tolkien on the Rings of Power

Just why were they created? The reason is tied to the regret the Elves had for the passage of time. The Elves were immortal and were fated to live as long as Middle-earth lasted. As such, the earth changed with the passage of time, and the Elves saw many things that were fair become destroyed and lost by the hurts of evil. Sauron, as tempter, awoke a desire in the hearts of Elves to heal the hurts of the earth and create a paradise on this side of the sea to compare to Valinor -- and to be its rulers; whereas in Valinor they were only subjects and below the Valar. The Rings of Power were primarily made to slow the passage of time and preserve their creations of beauty. Yet they had other powers as well.

Tolkien provides a revealing insight on to the nature of the Rings and their powers in one of his letters:

"The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. 'change' viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance --- this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor -- thus approaching 'magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron... such as rendering invisible the material body, and making things of the invisible world visible."

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #131

Barfield on Lewis

Barfield compared arguing with Lewis to “wielding a peashooter against a howitzer... It must be understood that rational opposition is not quarreling. We were always,” said Barfield, “arguing for truth not for victory, and arguing for truth, not for comfort.”

Before he moved to London in 1930 to work as a solicitor, Barfield published Poetic Diction (1928), a work that was to have a profound influence on the other Inklings, particularly J.R.R. Tolkien. Barfield died in 1998, outliving all his Inkling contemporaries.

Under the Mercy

The grave of Charles Williams in an Oxford churchyard is marked by a stone bearing his name and the terse description: Poet, followed by the words, Under the Mercy.

Under the Mercy is a phrase that appears frequently in his writings, as it did in his conversation. He liked to refer to the Divinity by Its Attributes: the Mercy, the Protection, the Omnipotence. In his personal life he seemed always to be clinging to the faith that, balanced as he was upon the knife-edge of his Christian allegiance in the world of myth and magic that his passion-inflamed imagination had conjured up, he would find at last, in death if by no other route, the stillness of the Love of God. It was his wife, Michal, in one of those sudden flashes of crystal-clear insight of which she was not infrequently capable, who chose the inscription on the stone. Nothing could have been more appropriate.

Lois Lang-Sims: “Letters to Lalange – The Letters of Charles Williams to Lois Lang-Sims”, page 16