Bibliography: Studies of Charles Williams and his work

Last week I posted a chronological list of Williams’s works, and the previous week I posted a list grouped by genre.

Today I am listing significant scholarly studies of CW’s life and work. You may find this list helpful while you endeavor to read, understand, analyze, and share his writings. On some I have made comments; others I have just listed. If you want to write a one-sentence description of any of these, please do; send it to me and I will add it to the bibliography.

As usual, please contact me with comments, corrections, and additions.

  1. Lindop, Grevel. Charles Williams: The Third Inkling. The official biography, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Please follow @GrevelLindop on twitter for more info, and pre-order the book here.
  2. Although Lindop’s biography will be the first official bio, Alice Mary Hadfield (a friend and co-worker of CW’s) did write two books that serve to introduce the reader to the man and his work somewhat. They are: An Introduction to Charles Williams (Robert Hale, 1959) and Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work (Oxford UP, 1983). I posted a summary of this second book over on my other blog. It is essential reading, but it is awfully written. Its style is truly abominable. Yet until Lindop’s is published, it is nearly all we have.
  3. Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and their Friends. HarperCollins, 2006. The essential collective biography of the Inklings, with some discussion of their mutual interactions and friendship-dynamics.
  4. Glyer, Diana Pavlac. The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. Kent State University Press, 2007. A fascinating study of the many important ways the Inklings influenced one another.
  5. Dodds, David Llewellyn. Arthurian Poets: Charles Williams. An important edition of CW’s works, with an essential introduction. 
  6. Ashenden, Gavin. Charles Williams: Alchemy and Integration. Kent State University Press, 2007. An extended examination of the occult themes and materials in CW’s works.
  7. Howard, Thomas. The Novels of Charles Williams. Oxford UP, 1983; Ignatius Press, 1991. This is the essential guide to the novels. Howard talks the reader through the main plot elements, characters, and themes of each novel, simplifying and sanitizing CW’s weirdness as he does so. This approach is extremely helpful, even necessary for some readers, but does tend to lessen the impact of CW’s strangeness somewhat.
  8. Cavaliero, Glen. Charles Williams: Poet of Theology. UMI, 1995. This work of literary criticism is organized by genre, discussing CW’s poetry, criticism, biographies, plays, novels, Arthurian poetry, and theology. It examines many important themes in the work, especially coinherence.
  9. King, Roma Jr., The Pattern in the Web: The Mythical Poetry of Charles Williams. Kent State University Press, 1990. This is an examination of the structures of the Arthurian poetry: on their forms, techniques, and inter-relationships.
  10. Dunning, Stephen M. The Crisis and the Quest: a Kierkegaardian reading of Charles Williams. Paternoster Press, 2000. A detailed study of the “schism,” CW’s particular kind of spiritual desolation, which he also used as a literary theory.
  11. The Image of the City, ed. Anne Ridler. (OUP, 1958 and reprints) is worth listing again here for Anne Ridler’s book(let)-length “Critical Introduction”, pp. ix-lxxii and additional “Introductory Note to the Arthurian Essays”, pp. 169-75.
  12. Bray, Suzanne, and Richard Sturch, eds. Charles Williams and His Contemporaries. An important essay collection containing studies of Williams and his friends, including an essential piece by Michael J. Paulus on CW’s work publishing Kierkegaard.
  13. Horne, Brian, ed. Charles Williams: A Celebration. Gracewing, 1995. A collection of essays assembled and edited by the chairman of the Charles Williams society.
  14. Agnes Sibley, Charles Williams (Boston: Twayne, 1982)
  15. Schakel, Peter, and Charles Huttar, eds. Rhetoric of vision: Essays on Charles Williams. Bucknell UP, 1996.
  16. Schideler, Mary McDermott. The Theology of Romantic Love: A Study in the Writings of Charles Williams. Eerdmans, 1966.
  17. Hillegas, Mark R. Shadows of imagination: the fantasies of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Southern Illinois University Press, 1979.
  18. Moorman, Charles. Arthurian triptych; mythic materials in Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and T.S. Eliot. University of California Press, 1960.
  19. Mahan, David. An Unexpected Light: Theology and Witness in the Poetry and Thought of Charles Williams, Michael O’Siadhail, and Geoffrey Hill. Wipf & Stock, 2009.
  20. Gunnar Urang, Shadows of Heaven: Religion and Fantasy in the Writing of C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and J.R.R. Tolkien (Phila.: Pilgrim Press, 1971)
  21. Reilly, Robert James. Romantic religion: a study of Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and J.R.R. Tolkien. Floris, 2007.
  22. Heath-Stubbs, John. Charles Williams. London: Published for the British Council and the National Book League, 1955.
  23. Scarf, Christopher. The Ideal of Kingship in the Writings of Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien (James Clarke & Co, 2013
  24. Lois Glenn’s Checklist (Kent State UP, 1975),
  25. R.A. Gilbert, The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians (1983)
  26. R.A. Gilbert, A.E. Waite: Magician of Many Parts (1987)
  27. Kathleen Spenser, Charles Williams (Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1986)
  28. Dennis L. Weeks, Steps Toward Salvation: An Examination of Coinherence and Substitution in the Seven Novels of Charles Williams (New York: Peter Lang, 1991)
  29. Barbara Reynolds, The Passionate Intellect: Dorothy L. Sayers’s Encounter with Dante (Kent State UP, 1989).
  30. Kenneth W. Pickering, Drama in the Cathedral
  31. Helen M. Luke, Through Defeat to Joy: The Novels of Charles Williams in the light of Jungian Thought (Apple Farm, Three Rivers, Michigan [n.d.: c. 1980])
  32. Gareth Knight, The Magical World of the Inklings (1991; and a 2010 ‘New and Expanded’ edition with a Foreword by Owen Barfield).
  33. “Magic in the Myths of J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams” in the Inklings-Jahrbuch, vol. 10 (1992), pp. 37-60

Journals examining CW’s work:

  • Mythlore
  • Seven (VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review)
  • The Charles Williams Society Newsletter/Quarterly
  • The Journal of Inklings Studies
  • the Inklings-Jahrbuch
  • Arthurian Literature
  • Useful webpages:
    · The Charles Williams Society
    · The Co-Inherence Discussion List
    · Article by Thomas Howard in Touchstone Magazine
    · Daily blog of CW’s Year of Devotional Writing
    · Biography by G.W.S. Hopkins
    · Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
    · Glen Cavliero on the novels
    · some of his poems!
    · A Beginner’s Bibliography of the Inklings
    · article by Scott McLaren on the early novels
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About Sørina Higgins

Sørina Higgins is a writer, English teacher, and Inklings scholar. Sørina serves as Chair of the Department of Language and Literature at Signum University and teaches English at King's College and Lehigh Carbon Community College. She has published two books of poetry, "The Significance of Swans" and "Caduceus."
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14 Responses to Bibliography: Studies of Charles Williams and his work

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    To underline the obvious, bibliographies and (foot/end)notes in many of the works mentioned will lead to further works about Williams, especially lots of essays. So will the second main section of Lois Glenn’s Checklist (Kent State UP, 1975), “Works About Williams”, pp. 57-102, often with her annotations, and with useful indexes (or ‘indices’, according to your preference), pp. 103-11, 119-28.

    I agree with you in calling Mrs. Hadfield’s second book about Williams “essential reading”, but would extend that to her first book as well: so to put it, much that is there, got omitted to make room for new material in the second, and the two are best regarded as complementary, with the first, for instance, (to my mind) having a much better discussion of the late Arthurian poetry (and even a much better style, as I remember it).

    The Image of the City (OUP, 1958 and reprints) is worth listing again here for Anne Ridler’s book(let)-length “Critical Introduction”, pp. ix-lxxii and additional “Introductory Note to the Arthurian Essays”, pp. 169-75. In my edition of the poetry (1991), I called it the “single best introduction to Williams’s life, work, and thought”, and it is no discredit to a lot of good work since then, to say that description still holds true today, as far as I can see.

    Agnes Sibley, Charles Williams (Boston: Twayne, 1982) ought to be added, too.

    Further in terms of biography, R.A. Gilbert, The Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians (1983) and A.E. Waite: Magician of Many Parts (1987) still, as far as I know, provide the only detailed, reliable source on Williams’s involvement with the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. (I regret to say I have not read his Golden Dawn Companion (1986) or Revelations of the Golden Dawn/Golden Dawn Scrapbook (1997: apparently the same book published under these two different titles), and so do not know if they add anything about C.W.)

    Gunnar Urang, Shadows of Heaven: Religion and Fantasy in the Writing of C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and J.R.R. Tolkien (Phila.: Pilgrim Press, 1971) should be included – Dr. Glenn even calls pp. 51-92 on C.W. “One of the best articles on the fiction of Williams.”

    Another collection of essays worth mentioning is that of the centenary conference proceedings in Inklings-Jahrbuch, vol. 5 (1987) – nine of the thirteen essays are in English (and the German ones have English summaries).

    An relatively ‘timeless’ expedient I adopted in my 1991 edition was to note journals where essays on C.W. are often found, including Mythlore, Seven (VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review), The Charles Williams Society Newsletter – which has since become its ‘Quarterly’, the Inklings-Jahrbuch (the Inklings Gesellschaft website lists full contents of each volume), Arthurian Literature, and now, The Journal of Inklings Studies (see the “Table of Contents Archive” at their website).

    To the ‘standard reference works’ mentioned, the Gerry Hopkins entry in the old DNB (which link I cannot seem to follow successfully!) and the new Oxford DNB, may be added vols. 100 and 153 of the Dictionary of Literary Bibliography.

    I might add that, unlike the Wikipedia, I almost always try to include results of original research, so anything of mine might be combed for previously unpublished details. I will indulge in mentioning my “Magic in the Myths of J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams” in the Inklings-Jahrbuch, vol. 10 (1992), pp. 37-60, as an example.

    If I may presume to tag a couple additions, ‘well worth reading with extra caution’, I would mention Helen M. Luke, Through Defeat to Joy: The Novels of Charles Williams in the light of Jungian Thought (Apple Farm, Three Rivers, Michigan [n.d.: c. 1980]), and ‘Gareth Knight’, The Magical World of the Inklings (1991; and a 2010 ‘New and Expanded’ edition with a Foreword by Own Barfield which I have not yet read).

    Ought there to be a ‘things to avoid’ appendix, or might passing over in silence be preferable?

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  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Kenneth W. Pickering, Drama in the Cathedral is another book good to add. It is about the Canterbury Festival plays, including Williams’s Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury. I read the first edition, but see there is now a second, revised edition (2001).

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  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Another book which has a lot about C.W. is Barbara Reynolds, The Passionate Intellect: Dorothy L. Sayers’s Encounter with Dante (Kent State UP, 1989). Her edition of Sayers’s letters is probably also a good ‘hunting ground’. And Dr. Glenn lists two essays by Sayers about C.W.

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  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Two books which I know of, rather than knowing (yet):

    Kathleen Spenser, Charles Williams (Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1986)
    Dennis L. Weeks, Steps Toward Salvation: An Examination of Coinherence and Substitution in the Seven Novels of Charles Williams (New York: Peter Lnag, 1991)

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  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    The latest edition of Lembas (the journal of Unquendor, the Dutch Tolkien Society) just arrived, and among the entries in its new books feature is Dr. Christopher Scarf’s The Ideal of Kingship in thr Writings of Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien (James Clarke & Co, 2013). I had not heard of it before, but its Amazon entry includes a summary and three ‘ editorial review’ quotations worth reading.

    Like

    • Sørina Higgins says:

      Our reviewer in “Sehnsucht” didn’t think much of it, calling it “deeply, persistently, and seriously flawed.” She says it has “problems with accuracy, clarity, and use of sources” and that “Scarf’s overall argument is poorly executed, even when it is possible to discern what he is arguing.” So I don’t think I’ll spend my time or money on it.

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        That sounds pretty swingeing! Let the reader who encounters it in library or ‘old-fashioned’ bookshop (where you can handle books rather than merely order them) have a look, without your copying its title from comments here up to main list status!

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  8. Matthew Holden says:

    Lois Lang-Sims, who published “Letters to Lalage”, also wrote a really interesting autobiographical work called “A Time to be Born”.(Andre Deutsch, 1971, ISBN 0 233 96214 x). It has about 20 pages (pp.195-215) describing her friendship with CW, his quirky personality and the effect their relationship had on her. The critic Robert Nye called it “… a portrait which may shock his more sentimental admirers.” – It’s likely, of course, that the “Letters…” volume (which I haven’t read) contains the same information.

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  9. Dale Nelson says:

    Glen Cavaliero briefly mentions the novels of Phyllis Paul in his book on CW: Poet of Theology, and wrote a few pages about Paul in his later book, The Supernatural in English Fiction. Cavaliero thinks Williams might have influenced the reclusive Paul. Most of her books are hard to get hold of, but I have started a resource relating to them at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Chronicles Forums:

    https://www.sffchronicles.com/threads/566988/

    Phyllis Paul and Charles Williams are different in important ways. I don’t suppose Paul was a Christian, at least an orthodox Christian. But the treatment of the supernatural can be similar. Cavaliero regards Twice Lost as her masterpiece, and it is relatively easy to get hold of. More Williams-like is The Lion of Cooling Bay, if only you can get hold of it. Anyway, for the curious, there’s some material to further your knowledge of Phyllis Paul.

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