On this date in 1945, Charles Williams died unexpectedly. He was 58. C.S. Lewis was deeply affected by his friend’s death. He wrote in a letter to Mary Neylan on May 20th that CW was: “my friend of friends, the comforter of all our little set, the most angelic.”
To Owen Barfield (on May 18th), Lewis wrote that CW’s death:
has been a very odd experience. This, the first really severe loss I have suffered, has (a) Given corroboration to my belief in immortality such as I never dreamed of. It is almost tangible now. (b) Swept away all my old feelings of mere horror and disgust at funerals, coffins, graves etc. If need had been I think I cd. have handled that corpse with hardly any unpleasant sensations. (c) Greatly reduced my feeling about ghosts. I think (but who knows?) that I shd. be, tho afraid, more please than afraid, if he turned up. …
To put it in a nutshell — what the idea of death has done to him is nothing to what he has done to the idea of death.
Lewis also wrote this moving poem entitled simply “To Charles Williams.” It can be found on p. 105 of Poems, edited by Walter Hooper.
Your death blows a strange bugle call, friend, and all is hard
To see plainly or record truly. The new light imposes change,
Re-adjusts all a life-landscape as it thrusts down its probe from the sky,
To create shadows, to reveal waters, to erect hills and deepen glens.
The slant alters. I can’t see the old contours. It’s a larger world
Than I once thought it. I wince, caught in the bleak air that blows on the ridge.
Is it the first sting of a great winter, the world-waning? Or the cold air of spring?
A hard question and worth talking a whole night on. But with whom?
Of whom now can I ask guidance? With what friend concerning your death
Is it worth while to exchange thoughts unless–oh, unless it were you?