Request for Information on Early Plays

Dear Charles Williams Scholars:

As you know, I am editing The Chapel of the Thorn for publication by Apocryphile Press. As I am drafting the introductory essay, I have a few questions that I would like to crowd source. Any answers, suggestions, citations, links, etc. are very welcome.

*  Does the Bodleian have a copy of The Chapel of the Thorn? My tracing of the MS history suggests that there were two copies: the one from 1912 that CW sent to Fred Page, then to Margaret Douglas, that ended up in the Wade, and another from 1924 that he sent to publishers, then to John Pellow. The earlier one is in the Wade. Where is the other? I have searched the Bod’s catalog but am not convinced that I know how to exhaust that resource.

* I know about David Dodds’ article “The Chapel of the Thorn: An unknown dramatic poem by C. Williams” in the Inklings-Jahrbuch 5 (1987) — although I have not been able to obtain a copy — but I do not know if there are any other published articles about this play. Do you know of any?

* What do you know about Ministry at the End of 1902? Have you read it? If so, can you tell me about it? Is it any good? Where is it? Hadfield says it is in the Wade, but I do not find it in their catalog. Is it in the Bodleian?

* What do you know about Prince Rudolph of Silvania? I assume this is the Wade’s CW/MS113. Have you read it? What is it about? Is it a play? Is it in verse? Tell me everything!

* Now, the big question: Would anyone like to volunteer to read my introductory essay in draft and give me comments for revision? I plan to have the draft complete by April 1st and can send it to you then. I would need comments back in about a week. What do you think? Anybody up for a little exchange of critique? I would be delighted to edit something of yours in return.


About Sørina Higgins

Sørina Higgins is a PhD student in English and Presidential Scholar at Baylor University. She also serves as Chair of the Language and Literature Department at Signum University, online. Her latest publication is an academic essay collection on "The Inklings and King Arthur" (Apocryphile Press, December 2017). Her interests include British Modernism, the Inklings, Arthuriana, theatre, and magic. She holds an M.A. from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Sørina blogs about British poet Charles Williams at The Oddest Inkling, wrote the introduction to a new edition of Williams’s "Taliessin through Logres" (Apocryphile, 2016), and edited Williams’s "The Chapel of the Thorn" (Apocryphile, 2014). As a creative writer, Sørina has published two books of poetry, "The Significance of Swans" (2007) and "Caduceus" (2012).
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10 Responses to Request for Information on Early Plays

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    In imitation of the good old days of offprints (do you know the Barbara Pym character who collects them?) I’ll scan and send you a copy of my article. (I would hope lots of research and academic libraries around the world would have copies of the Inklings Jahrbuch, but I have no stats about this!)

    There is probably an interesting background story here on communication and lack of communication between friends of C.W. and guardians and promoters of his literary heritage, among each other and with pioneering scholars like Linden Huddlestone and Professor Sir Fernando de Mello Moser, and even many a later scholar.

    A big possible hunting ground is among the papers which the Hadfields passed on to the Williams Society archive, and lately catalogued to a certain degree of detail, but of course not exhaustively, with the catalogues available online. But getting beyond the current degree of detail will mean going through things one by one.

    Of course, I will be more than happy to have a look at your draft introduction – it delights me that the next steps I hoped for in the conclusion of my article are being taken these nearly 28 years later!


  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Meanwhile, all good wishes to all on this first in the yearly cycle of the four feasts with which Williams’s “Order” associated “itself primarily”, The Annunciation!


  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Let me know if the offprint did not get through alright in any particular!

    Meanwhile, moving a little further down the years (though not as far as 1924), don’t forget “Scenes from a Mystery” in the Charles Williams Society Newsletter, no. 71 (1993), 10-22, which George Ralph in his Rhetoric of Vision contribution describes as “first published in 1919” (p. 220) – my back issues are not all in one place, and I have not gone searching for it to reread, yet.

    If you do not have it already, I am not sure what the best way for you (as a member) to get a back issue is, these days…


  4. Laura Schmidt says:

    Let me see if I can help with any of these questions after checking some things at the Wade:

    -I see no indication in our Bodleian listings of a copy of “Chapel of the Thorn” being deposited there. As you know, we own one original copy of it here. I don’t know where the other ended up. Have you tried emailing the Bodleian to confirm this at all?

    -I’m not able to find any other secondary sources on CoT other than the article you mention.

    -I did have some luck with “Ministry at the End of 1902” – this is the same manuscript as “Prince Rudolph of Silvania” (Wade manuscript CW / MS-113). The “MatE 1902” title is at the top of one of the early pages.

    -After a brief (and I mean brief!) skim of “Prince Rudolph of Silvania” – I can confirm that there are lists, prose, and a few sections of verse. No pages I saw seemed to be dramatized.

    Best from all at the Wade!


  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Following up on Laura Schmidt’s report, in her second book on C.W. ( from 1983), Mrs. Hadfield speaks of having received from John Pellow “eight pages of extracts he had made from The Chapel of the Thorn” (Exploration, note 10 to ch. 3, p.238). These are what I suspect may now be in the Williams Society archive in Oxford. In the passage where this note occurs (p. 39), she says, “He tried to turn the manuscript from a two-act into a one-act piece and messed it up.” I am not sure of her source for this. Is she paraphrasing a letter (of 10 May 1924?) or something Pellow told her? And do we have any other evidence than this for a second copy “from 1924 that he sent to publishers, then to John Pellow”? Whatever else, I clearly need to dig out my Pellow file and see if I made any useful notes when visiting Dr. Roy Pellow and reading the handwritten C.W. letters his father, John, had saved.

    With respect to “Ministry at the End of 1902″/“Prince Rudolph of Silvania”, Mrs. Hadfield in her first C.W. book (from 1959) quotes C.W.’s boyhood friend, George Robinson, that Williams maintained “a sort of running drama, concerning one Prince Rudolph (Ruritania, of course, in the background) Prince Rosalind and a Baron de Bracey (!), a comic character in the Falstaff vein. […] Charles was Baron de Bracey in which character he showed a very ripe sense of humour and power of dramatic portrayal. This extended saga was for our domestic consumption only” (Introduction, pp. 19-20). In her second book, she quotes the first two sentences of this (with two variations), but now in the context of having seen “Ministry at the End of 1902″ at the Wade (Exploration, p. 8 and note 18, and p. 236, also p. 103 and note 22, and p. 242). The 1959 quotation follows a reference to an annual “achool play or pageant” and “Charles’s appetite for this sort of thing” (p. 19) which in 1983 become “an annual school pageant” and “Charles’s theatrical appetites”, and she describes “Ministry at the End of 1902″ as “a rambling drama” (p. 8) while page 103 refers to “the manuscript of the drama”.

    Interestingly, all this is preceded by Anne Ridler’s 1958 account, which begins, “Charles Williams sometimes spoke of a fantasy which he had made with a friend”, and includes another quotation: ” ‘Hardly a fantasy’, Mr. Robinson wrote when I asked him if he remembered it: ‘it was too objective for that. It concerned a Prince Rudolph (derived from Anthony Hope), a Lord de Bracey (origin unknown), and the Lady Rosalind. […] There was a sort of George Robey flavour about his Lord de Bracey which I can still taste but not describe.’ ” She continues, “Of this Gondal country nothing seems to have been recorded in writing”, and goes on to speak of “the habit of fantasy-making”, retaining “the word, with apologies to Mr. Robinson” in the context of later examples (Image, p. xiv). (The Wikipedia article on “Gondal (fictional country)” notes four sources from the 1940s and 1950s for Anne and Emily Bronte’s fantasy land.) From this, it seems (as I presume) that Margaret Douglas and Raymond Hunt had never shared their knowledge of “Ministry at the End of 1902″ with Anne Ridler (even as Williams had not), and even seems to suggest that George Robinson did not know of – or recall 56 years later – its written dimension. Fortunately, dvd and cd reissues, and YouTube samples, can easily give us some possible ideas of what a “George Robey flavour” might be. (Tangentially, Andy Minter’s superb readings of Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau at give a delightful opportunity to brush up your acquaintance with this source for the sixteen-year-old C.W.)


  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Two errors spotted (my apologies!):

    Not “Prince” but “Princess Rosalind” and not “achool” but “school”.


  7. Sørina Higgins says:

    Thank you, Laura and David! I have copied all of these helpful comments over into a word doc in my “Chapel” file and will work through them step by step as I write my essay. Laura, blessings on you for taking all that time to look things up for me. I am very grateful.


    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Yes, and it’s especially good to have more details about “Ministry at the End of 1902″/“Prince Rudolph of Silvania” available publicly to prevent or correct any wrong impressions readers might get from Mrs. Hadfield’s uses of “drama” (on the heels of George Robinson’s)!


  8. Jared Lobdell says:

    I’ll critique your piece if you think I could be helpful


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