Based on newly opened documents, this is the first full-length biography of an extraordinary member of the Inklings. The most admired lecturer in wartime Oxford, Williams developed a "romantic theology" for approaching God, was a highly influential fantasy writer, and became deeply involved in the occult and magic. Quite revealing! 464 pages, hardcover. Oxford University.
This is the first full biography of Charles Williams (1886-1945), an extraordinary and controversial figure who was a central member of the Inklings--the group of Oxford writers that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Charles Williams--novelist, poet, theologian, magician and guru--was the strangest, most multi-talented, and most controversial member of the group.
He was a pioneering fantasy writer, who still has a cult following. C.S. Lewis thought his poems on King Arthur and the Holy Grail were among the best poetry of the twentieth century for "the soaring and gorgeous novelty of their technique, and their profound wisdom." But Williams was full of contradictions. An influential theologian, Williams was also deeply involved in the occult, experimenting extensively with magic, practicing erotically-tinged rituals, and acquiring a following of devoted disciples.
Membership of the Inklings, whom he joined at the outbreak of the Second World War, was only the final phase in a remarkable career. From a poor background in working-class London, Charles Williams rose to become an influential publisher, a successful dramatist, and an innovative literary critic. His friends and admirers included T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and the young Philip Larkin.
A charismatic personality, he held left-wing political views, and believed that the Christian churches had dangerously undervalued sexuality. To redress the balance, he developed a "Romantic Theology," aiming at an approach to God through sexual love. He became the most admired lecturer in wartime Oxford, influencing a generation of young writers before dying suddenly at the height of his powers.
This biography draws on a wealth of documents, letters and private papers, many never before opened to researchers, and on more than twenty interviews with people who knew Williams. It vividly recreates the bizarre and dramatic life of this strange, uneasy genius, of whom Eliot wrote, "For him there was no frontier between the material and the spiritual world."
Grevel Lindop was formerly Professor of Romantic and Early Victorian Studies at the University of Manchester. His previous books include The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey; A Literary Guide to the Lake District; Travels on the Dance Floor, which was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week; and a twenty-one volume edition of The Works of Thomas De Quincey. He has published six collections of poems, and his Selected Poems appeared in 2000. He lives in Manchester, where he now works as a freelance writer.
"I am awash in happiness as I read this book: it's big, thick, thoughtful, and rewarding. It is top-notch scholarship written in a beautiful style. There are quite a few surprises about CW (pleasant and otherwise!), and layers and layers of rich detail. ... Grevel Lindop's research and writing...[is] perfect." --The Oddest Inkling
"[T]his is an excellent biography, taking its place as the premier resource on Williams and providing a great deal of new material.... It is well-written, clear, memorable and consistently gripping.... [T]his new biography has, at last, answered all my significant questions - I feel that now, for the first time, I have been given everything I need to form a judgement both on [Charles Williams] and his work." --Tolkein's The Notion Club Papers
"Lindop shows us the whole man, leaving out neither the sordidness nor the sanctity. In this, the author is a little like Williams himself, of whom W.H. Auden wrote, 'Never was there an historian more courteous to all alike... Williams never fails to be just to both sides.' Lindop, too, is courteous to all concerned, and just to both sides of Charles Williams's life." --The Weekly Standard
"Grevel Lindop is to be thanked for a biography that is not just superbly researched and written but is also prepared to explore all the enigmas and contradictions, frankly yet sensitively." --The Christian Century
"This exhaustively researched book examines the life of British author Charles Williams (1886-1945). . . . The bibliography and index are excellent." -Choice
"This outstanding and meticulously researched biography by Grevel Lindop sheds not only new but astonishing light on Charles Williams as poet, novelist, and literary critic; as occultist and Christian; and as editor and publisher. Most extraordinary, however, are the revelations brought to light-and these for the first time since Williams's untimely death in the spring of 1945-about his life as a husband, a father, and especially a lover." --Mythlore
"... fantastic...an accessible, well-researched, and entertaining read..." - Ryan Parker, Pop Theology