Oxford Centenary Stone

'Magdalen College Chapel was packed to overflowing for a special Evensong on May 13th 1998, prior to the unveiling of the Lewis stone in Addison's Walk. The Magdalen Choir sang as an introit 'Veni Sancte Spiritus', the opening music of Richard Attenborough's 'Shadowlands'. (The composer, George Fenton, happened, by a fortunate coincidence, to be present to hear it. He was at Magdalen to supervise the Choir's recording of some new music for his most recent soundtrack.) During the service, lessons were read by Lewis's godson, Laurence Harwood, and by Lady Freud, who was an evacuee at The Kilns during the war. The Dean of Divinity, the Revd. Dr. Michael Piret, in his prayers quoted from Lewis's works and gave thanks for Lewis's life. He also prayed for peace in Lewis's native Northern Ireland. (Dr Piret is a former President of the Oxford Lewis Society.) After the service was over, the congregation adjourned to Addison's Walk, which was looking especially beautiful in the evening sunlight, - though only a few weeks previously it had been completely under water in the April floods.

The commemorative tablet is a circle of Westmorland green slate about three feet in diameter, designed by stonemason Alec Peever, and erected a stone's throw from Lewis's rooms in the New Building. Michael Ward, the Centenary Secretary of the Oxford Lewis Society, welcomed everyone and spoke for a few minutes about the place Addison's Walk held in Lewis's life and about the poem, 'What the Bird Said Early in the Year', which has been inscribed on the tablet.

The President of Magdalen, Mr Anthony Smith, then unveiled the stone, and Walter Hooper, Lewis's biographer, recited the poem to the gathering. Among the eighty or so invited guests were former pupils of Lewis such as Francis Warner (now a don at St Peter's College, Oxford) and Martin Moynihan (editor of Lewis's Latin letters). A drinks reception in the President's Lodgings brought the evening's events to their conclusion.'

Michael Ward (Oxford University C. S. Lewis Society)

The inaccuracy of Shadowlands

On Saturday 3 October 1997 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a new adaption of Shadowlands for radio with Michael Williams as Jack and Zoe Wanamaker as Joy. Radio 4 broadcast separately a discussion on the adaption, with Humphrey Carpenter(producer), William Nicolson(writer), Douglas Gresham(CSL’s step-son) and A. N. Wilson(biographer).

After the broadcast, Douglas Gresham wrote: "Wilson once again spouted a whole lot of inaccuracies and twisted and exaggerated assumptions. I never heard my mother being ‘foul-mouthed’ at all, and she never smoked in her life. Jack never 'toiled' up and down to Oxford to find Kosher food for David, as we always had an account at "Palms of the Covered Market", a Jewish delicatessen. Jack much enjoyed the walk into Oxford when he did make it, but he never did the shopping in any case."

Unfortunately, the movie and TV play are just as inaccurate in their portrayal of both Jack and Joy.

“He restored substitution and co-inherence everywhere”

At the beginning of life in the natural order is an act of substitution and co-inherence. A man can have no child unless his seed is received and carried by a woman; a woman can have no child unless she receives and carries the seed of a man–literally bearing the burden. It is not only a mutual act; it is a mutual act of substitution. The child itself for nine months literally co-inheres in its mother; there is no human creature that has not sprung from such a period of such an interior growth.

In that natural co-inherence the Christian church has understood another; the about-to-be-born already co-inheres in an ancestral and contemporary guilt. It is shapen in wickedness, and in sin has its mother conceived it (Ps. 51:5). The fundamental fact of itself is already opposed to the principle of the universe; it knows that good as evil, and therefore it derives and desires its own good disorderly. It has been sown in corruption, and in corruption it emerges into separate life.

It has been the habit of the church to baptize it, as soon as it has emerged, by the formula of the Trinity-in-Unity. As it passes from the most material co-inherence it is received into the supernatural; and it is received by a deliberate act. The godparents present themselves as its substitutes; by their intentions and their belief (and they are there to present even for “those of riper years") the newborn is granted “that which by nature he cannot have,” he is “incorporated” into the church, he is made “partaker” of death and resurrection. It is this co-inherence which, at the confirmation, he himself confesses and ratifies.

The faith into which he is received has declared that principle to be the root and the pattern of the supernatural as of the natural world. And the faith is the only body to have done so. It has proclaimed that this is due to the deliberate choice and operation of the divine Word. Had he willed, he could presumably have raised for his Incarnation a body in some other way than he chose. But he preferred to shape himself within the womb, to become hereditary, to owe to humanity the flesh he divinitized by the same principle–"not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.” By an act of substitution he reconciled the natural world with the world of the kingdom of heaven, sensuality with substance. He restored substitution and co-inherence everywhere; up and down the ladder of that great substitution all our lesser co-inherences cohere. And when the Christian Church desired to define the nature of the Alone, she found no other term; It mutually co-inheres by Its own nature. The triune formula by which the child is baptized is precisely the incomprehensible formula of this.

Charles Williams

A Review

The Novels of Charles Williams
(Thomas Howard, Ignatius Press, 1983)
Originally published by Oxford University Press

What Beatrice was to Dante Thomas Howard is to readers of Charles Williams, whose novels are not exactly hell to read, but some may yet find them somewhat tough going. It's a pity, because as with the Latin Mass, if we only knew what we were missing we would clamor for more. Thankfully Ignatius Press has reprinted this book by Thomas Howard so that we do have a guide through this marvelous world. In this book, originally published by Oxford University Press, Thomas Howard starts with the party line that Williams is a bad writer, and then shows us why he's a very good one (Thomas Howard can be very sneaky). He explains why CW can't be considered a “major” writer, and maybe not even a good candidate for a minor one, but by the end of the book one is convinced that the label “major” is too small to fit Charles Williams.

Howard is similarly dismissive of his own writing in this book, even though it stands as one of his best (his best to date, in my opinion, is On Being Catholic). He suggests the reader not even read the whole book, but just jump around to the relevant parts for the Williams novel he/she is interested in. Here again I must express a minority opinion: The Novels of Charles Williams reads seamlessly and grippingly start to finish.

Anyone venturing into a Williams novel for the first time might find the water, as it were, initially cold and uninviting, regardless how heartily the swimmers urge him or her to dive in. Howard is like a personal trainer, both preparing the reader and helping them stay in shape when, gripped with the strange madness that afflicts readers of Williams novels, they recklessly swim further and further from shore. Howard is obviously among the initiates, and the more dismissive he is of Williams' standing as a writer, the more you want to read him. ’Nuff said. Dive in. The water's fine.

Gord Wilson (Bellingham, WA USA)