The Charles Williams Society

Welcome!

The Charles Williams Society exists to promote the study and appreciation of the life and writings of Charles Walter Stansby Williams, a poet, novelist, and lay theologian.

Charles Williams is probably best known, to those who have heard of him, as a leading member (albeit for a short time) of the Oxford literary group, the "Inklings", whose chief figures were C. S.Lewis and J. R. R Tolkien. He was, however, a figure of enormous interest in his own right: a prolific author of plays, fantasy novels (strikingly different in kind from those of his friends), poetry, theology, biography and criticism.

The Society met twice a year, and published The Charles Williams Quarterly, which normally included the papers delivered at the meetings. It also occasionally had short residential conferences, the most recent having taken place on July 4th-6th, 2008. It maintains a lending and reference library.

An Introduction to John Milton

IN January 1940, Charles Williams gave a lecture in Oxford on John Milton. C.S. Lewis wrote about it enthusiastically, saying it was “nominally on Comus but really on Chastity. Simply as criticism it was superb because here was a man who really started from the same point of view as Milton and really cared with every fibre of his being about the sage and serious doctrine of virginity which would never occur to the ordinary modern critic to take seriously,” and added, “I have at last, if only for once, seen a university doing what it was founded to do: teaching wisdom.”

Here below is the text of that introduction.

The Charles Williams Society

Closure of the Charles Williams Society
A Statement by the Chairman of the Council

At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Charles Williams Society held in Oxford in June last year, members of the society passed a resolution giving formal assent to the winding up of the society. It was, inevitably, a sad occasion. The society had been in existence for fifty years and had achieved much in the way of publications, conferences, a Newsletter and Quarterly and a substantial collection of reference material. But, as its members had increasingly become aware, it could not continue in its present form. Consequently, on 25th of February 2017, I, as Chairman of the Council, and the President of the Oxford University C S Lewis Society signed the form which legally transferred the assets of the Charles Williams Society to the Oxford University C S Lewis Society: a sum of £18000.00 and the contents of the reference library.

It was deemed appropriate that the Oxford University C S Lewis Society should receive these assets – for a variety of reasons. First because the society was the origin of the Journal of Inklings Studies which will be receiving the bulk of the monetary transfer, a publication whose editor has assured me will actively promote the cause of Charles Williams.

Secondly because both C S Lewis and Oxford played such a major part in the life of Charles Williams. C S Lewis’s friendship with Williams and his admiration for his work were boundless. No- one made greater effort to bring that work to the notice of the public than Lewis and no-one wrote more profoundly and movingly about the loss of a friend when that friend died in 1945. ‘No event has so corroborated my faith in the next world as Williams did simply by dying. When the idea of death and the idea of Williams thus met, in my mind, it was the idea of death that was changed.’

The Society, we may say, continues its life in this website so ably administered by Matt Kirkland. Everyone owes a huge debt to him for his achievement. And the reference library continues to be housed in the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford. It is available, not only to scholars, but to anyone who is interested in the life and work of Williams. The new owners of the Centre, Middlebury College, under leadership of Professor Paul Monod, are extremely welcoming and helpful. We owe them, too, a large debt of gratitude.

I have been privileged to work alongside splendid friends on the council of the Charles Williams Society: scholarly, witty, perceptive and supportive. To them my heartfelt thanks. And to the many hundreds of people I have met in the course of fifty years of my association with the society I give my thanks for the enrichment of my life in so many ways.

Brian Horne

The Celian Moment and other essays.

The Greystones Press (directed by the Society’s own Stephen Barber) will be bringing out a new volume of Charles Williams essays on 6 April, called The Celian Moment and other essays.

These essays have been gathered from books, pamphlets and periodicals all long out of print and none of them has previously been collected. They cover nearly all his literary interests and the final one shows his sympathy for left-wing political ideas arising from his own poverty-ridden childhood. The title essay develops Williams’s theory of poetry but is also a covert homage to the woman who was his second and unacknowledged love.

‘As interest in Charles Williams as critic and poet continues to grow, the publication of these essays is a landmark. They will contribute very significantly to the current positive reassessment of so much of his writing on literary questions, and should be enthusiastically welcomed.’

– Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and President of the Charles Williams Society.

The essays have been edited and annotated by Stephen Barber, who has written numerous articles on Williams and was Treasurer of the Charles Williams Society for fifteen years.

Greystones is in discussion about publication in the USA, but in the meantime, US readers can order the book from the UK branch of Amazon.

 

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The newsletter sends out infrequent emails about Charles Williams: publishing, scholarship, discussion, and more. You can sign up here.

An Undocumented CW poem

Justin Tackett was published in Notes & Queries, where he discusses a (new?) undocumented poem of Williams’BALLADE OF THE PERIODICAL  [June, 1929]

You can download the PDF thru Academia.edu above, or download it directly here.

New! The Place of the Lion collector’s edition

The Place of the Lion

For too long, Williams’s work has been out of print or only available in budget-level paperbacks. We’re rectifying this with high-quality, hardbound editions of his work, something suitable for collections and gifts.

Finally: modern, hardback editions of Williams’ most compelling, accessible writing – in handsome editions that are worth collecting and sharing. They’re available now for order: http://cwlibrary.com

They have been designed and printed with care: The Williams Library editions are hardbound, with cloth covers and foil stamping and debossing on the covers. Inside, you’ll find modern typography in the best bookmaking tradition. Printed in pure black with bright spot colors, on pure white paper. They’re sized right in the sweet spot: easy in the hand but a respectable presence on the bookshelf. We’ve included generous margins for a comfortable reading experience, and room for exclamations, scribbles and arguments.

I’m really pleased with these: they are the printings of Williams that I always wanted to exist, that I wanted to give to others. And now they’re real!

The first one, The Place of the Lion is available now, and War in Heaven is available to pre-order.

The Place of the Lion

Extraordinary General Meeting Update

A quick update! Our Extraordinary General Meeting was held last week – June 16, 2016 – and the attendees unanimously passed the necessary resolutions for the winding up of the society.  More details are forthcoming, and we’ll post them here.

In the meantime, if you’d like to stay involved with future incarnations of a Charles Williams society, you can sign up for a new Infrequent Newsletter here: https://tinyletter.com/charleswilliams.

 

Taliessin through Logres

Sørina Higgins is mustering a series of blog posts on Taliessin through Logres.  There is already a great introduction to the series by Sørina, and Crystal Hurd has covered  Prelude.  This promises to be a great resource to new and experienced readers.

The index to the series is here. Go follow along!

 

 

EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING

EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING
Saturday 18 June 2016
At 12.00 noon
The Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
St Michael’s Hall, Shoe Lane, Oxford

Dear Members,

As you know we are in the process of winding up the Charles Williams Society in its present form and have been in conversation with the Oxford C S Lewis Society with a view to transferring our assets to them in the near future. This society is deemed to be the one most capable of maintaining the aims and purposes of the original foundation of our own society.

The C S Lewis Society already publishes The Journal of Inklings Studies – which you have been receiving – and will continue to promote the work of Charles Williams. It will take responsibility for the reference collection and the maintenance of Charles Williams’s grave in Holywell Cemetery.

The website of our society will continue to be managed by Matt Kirkland. The name of the new website has still to be decided but it will, as heretofore, be devoted to the memory and work of Charles Williams.

As we are a charity we are obliged to conform to the laws governing charitable bodies as well as abiding by the rules of our own constitution. This means that we are required to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting for the passing of two resolutions.

1. To alter Rule 12 of the Constitution and Rules of the Society by replacing the words ‘to any charity or charitable institution with similar objects as the Society’ with the words ‘to the University of Oxford Development Trust Fund to be used for the purpose of the Oxford University C S Lewis Society’.

2. To wind up the Society in accordance with Rule 12 (as amended) of its constitution and Rules.

 

10 April 2016
Brian Horne
Chairman

Inklings on Twitter

From Sørina Higgins’ Oddest Inkling blog, this announcement: a few Inklings bloggers will be staging a chat on twitter on March 15, at 8pm US Eastern time.  Here’s the writeup:

Many members of the Inklings–C. S. Lewis, Warnie Lewis, Hugo Dyson, J. R. R. Tolkien, Neville Coghill, and others–were wont to go on very long walks through the countryside, days and days at a time, staying at inns, eating and drinking at pubs, talking endlessly about theology, literature, and whatever else took their fancy.

On March 15th, at 8:00 pm EST, the ghosts of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Hugo Dyson are going to come out of their graves, grab smartphones, go for a long walk in an imagined landscape, and tweet all about what they see, say, and do.You should join us!

So head over to twitter at that time and check out the hashtag #InkWalk. Be sure to follow these revivified Inklings for intelligent twittering at any time:
C. S. Lewis: @PilgrimInNarnia
J. R. R. Tolkien: @TolkienElfland
Charles Williams: @OddestInkling
Owen Barfield: @BarfieldDiction
Hugo Dyson: @hugo_dyson

Five intrepid bloggers will be tweeting quotes and paraphrases from the Inklings’ works, along with a little creative license, as they go “walking” together and talking about their favorite topics. Do join us on the Ides of March!

Sørina did a solo version of this over Christmas, and it was hilarious.