Lions, Inklings and Wonder...
Who was Charles Williams?
This brief post is a report on my current reading adventure. I have always been a fan of C.S. Lewis. For a while I read his Narnia Chronicles annually. I would insert readings of his Space Trilogy into my reading diet from time to time, and have read all of his other work. Lewis for a period hung out (I am pretty sure he would not have used the expression) with a small group of Oxford dons and other literary types, gathering regularly in Lewis’s Magdalen College rooms or a nearby pub. This in the 1930s, 40s and early 50s. The two other most well known members of this group were J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams.
Tolkien you know about. Williams was a Senior Editor at Oxford University Press and a significant writer on his own merits.
Here’s what I am intrigued by, and what forms my current literary adventure. Both Lewis and Williams wrote a series of seven novels that deal in a sort of allegorical way with classical spiritual issues. For Lewis the Chronicles of Narnia put Christian ideas in a format appealing to adventurous children and more thoughtful adults. Williams anticipated this series (or so it seems to me) in a set of seven quite fantastic novels he wrote nearly twenty years before Lewis’s popular series.
I have read the Williams set once before…Narnia many times. My plan is to alternate between the two sets, until I have read all fourteen.
Here’s what is fun. The first Williams novel I read is entitled The Place of the Lion. It deals with Platonic Ideals come to life in a small English village, lions, fantasy and all. Then on to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe where one is introduced to the fantastic world of Narnia through the eyes of English school children during World War II. Then Prince Caspian by Lewis, and now War in Heaven by Williams. In Prince Caspian there is an epic battle between the forces that would enslave Narnia and the Old Narnians (and the school children, of course) who with Aslan the lion save the day and the hope of goodness and peace. War in Heaven, back to a small English village called Castra Parvulorum (Latin for Children’s Camp) narrates an epic battle over the Holy Grail, and all that is holy and good.
It does not seem a far stretch to suggest that Lewis drew much inspiration from his colleague Williams. Meanwhile Tolkien was crafting his own Opus Magnus in Middle Earth. I love all these convergences, suggestions and fancies. The imagery is rich and inspiring. To me, at least.
I will give a report as this project moves forward. The gentle yet striking colors from these sunset light images seem fitting to frame this short post. The featured bloom is not perfect, but it is lovely. I invite you to enjoy it all.