Review of a review of “The Third Inkling”

 

Lucasta-Miller

Lucasta Miller

Lucasta Miller has written a review over on the Independent entitled “Grevel Lindop, Charles Williams: The Third Inkling: ‘Oxford’s other fantasy figure.'” The subtitle of her post is “A beautifully written biography sheds light on CS Lewis and Tolkien’s fellow Inkling.”

 

I am delighted that this review exists. Any review is a good thing; any way of getting the word out about The Third Inkling is grand.

However, there are several errors of fact in this review, and many misleading phrases. I want to correct them here, even while I thank Ms. Miller for calling her readers’ attention to Lindop’s book and to Charles Williams.

  • First, Ms. Miller writes that “the social texture of the Oxford circle …less well known” than their fantasy writings. Well, that’s probably true; but it needn’t be, with the proliferation of biographies about Lewis and Tolkien, Diana Glyer’s two books about the Inklings in community, and many others studies both scholarly and popular. I think that constantly saying “We don’t know enough about the Inklings” can be counter-productive.
  • Second, Miller calls Lewis and Tolkien “two dusty dons.” I’m not sure what makes them “dusty.” Lewis did tend to be covered in ashes from his pipe. But the phrase “two dusty dons” is insulting and misleading. Lewis and Tolkien were young once, let’s not forget, and always brilliant, lively, social people with large circles of students, friends, and acquaintances. They were well aware of and in touch with the trends of the times. They were progressive. They weren’t the kind to sit around gathering dust.
  • Next, “talking animals”? I can’t remember talking animals anywhere in CW’s works. Am I forgetting?
  • Williams wrote “incessant spiritual allegory.” No. He frequently ceased from spiritual allegory. In fact, I can’t recall one single allegory in all his works. No, sorry. No allegory at all. Of course his works had spiritual applicability, but that’s another matter entirely. And he also wrote loads of thrilling novels, personal poems, biographies, and works of literary criticism, none of which could be mistaken for spiritual allegory even by someone who uses “allegory” sloppily to signify “a work that has a deep meaning.”
  • “As a child, he created a fantasy kingdom, Silvania, to provide much-needed escapism” from his troubles. He did create this fantasy world, but providing this psycho-analytic reason is a perfect example of the intentional fallacy. We don’t know exactly why he created it. And such a use of the word “escapism” ignores Tolkien’s excellent work in “On Fairy-stories,” which is surely relevant for any discussion of the Inklings’ fantasy worlds.
  • “Williams was an autodidact.” This is mostly wrong and misleading. Williams went to primary school and secondary school. His father and mother also taught him a great deal. Then he did a program that we would probably call “dual enrollment” that allowed him to start at University College London in his last year of secondary school. Then he matriculated at University College London as an undergraduate.
  • “As a child, he created a fantasy kingdom, Silvania, to provide much-needed escapism” from his troubles. He did create this fantasy world, but providing this psycho-analytic reason is a perfect example of the intentional fallacy. We don’t know exactly why he created it. And such a use of the word “escapism” ignores Tolkien’s excellent work in “On Fairy-stories,” which is surely relevant for any discussion of the Inklings’ fantasy worlds.
  • “Unable to afford the fees for University College London….” He did go to University College London, for about two years. Then money ran out and he had to leave. This wording suggests he did not attend at all.
  • “…he rose through force of personality to become an editor at Oxford University Press…” While his personality was certainly a factor, his skill as an editor was more important in his promotions.
  • “In 1940, he arrived to give his first lecture flanked by Lewis and Tolkien. Its subject was the “sage and serious doctrine of virginity” as outlined in Milton’s masque Comus.” No, that was his second lecture.
  • “…he was just emerging from a tortured 14-year extra-marital affair, which was erotically played out through the canings he dealt his mistress….” He was not really emerging from the affair. It went on in one form or another all his life. What he did with Phyllis, while certainly of an S&M nature, probably doesn’t amount to “canings.” And while there was an intensely sexual nature to their relationship, Phyllis was not his mistress. It was far stranger than that.
  • “In 1915, he was initiated into the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross…” No. That was in 1917.
  • 51KzHDR-TwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_“…becoming a self-styled guru…” He never used the word “guru” for himself.
  • “One of his techniques for seeking control was to give them new names. Lois Lang-Sims, aged 26 to his 50-odd, was rechristened ‘Lalage the slave girl.'” Yes, but she chose the name herself.
  • “When she later saw him by chance in the street he blushed to the roots of his hair.” No. It was on the subway.

So, there are my corrections. I believe accuracy is important. However, I am also glad that this review exists at all, and I hope that many more appear all over the internet and print media. Spread the word!

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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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37 Responses to Review of a review of “The Third Inkling”

  1. Sarah Thomson says:

    As Williams has said, “Accuracy, accuracy, and again, accuracy.” Thank you, Sørina.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony Fuller says:

    I agree with you Sørina – we can indeed we grateful if the review brings attention both to Grevel Lindop’s well received and valuable biography, and to the work of Charles Williams himself. But perhaps that should be the extent of our gratitude. Although the review is largely uncritical it nevertheless does not appear to be a piece of well-informed journalism, as your corrections demonstrate clearly. The most telling sentence, for me, was the last. Whether the “story of Charles Williams” is or is not “tragic” is a matter of opinion, but the cavalier dismissal of his beliefs as “mystical mumbo jumbo” suggests to me a mind that is not merely unsympathetic to William’s particular type of spirituality, but to the having of spiritual beliefs in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dmitry Medvedev says:

    How about the more critical but also the more informed and generally better written review in The Spectator by Philip Hensher? I certainly don’t share the reviewer’s skepticism about Williams, but I cannot deny that he sort of has a point…

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Any copies outside the ‘paywall’?

      Like

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Thanks! A tone variously amusing and regrettably dismissive – though the biography seems to have gotten him to try the novels, and if his praise for the biography (one of his selections of year’s best books, elsewhere!) gets people trying it, and thence the works themselves, it will be no bad thing! But, ahem, “writing poisonous novels about your male colleagues who were at the same time writing poisonous novels about you” (I can only think of one example in one direction, Hopkins’s novel, and then I’m not sure I’d agree with Grevel about the poisonousness – the Williams character is the most impressive in it!), and, ahem, “He signed up to a number of mystical secret organisations involving Rosicrucianism and even alchemy” (‘one’ is a number, and ‘possibly two’ – see below – another, but…).

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          • Dmitry Medvedev says:

            Yes, this is all correct… However, I think I agree with Hensher when he says that Lindop “doesn’t quite make the case for his hero as a writer”, and Lindop himself acknowledges it in the preface: “…of all the many things I have to say about him, it is the most likely to be overlooked” [that CW was a great poet].
            I am afraid that for many readers the new biography will indeed seem no more than “a fascinating account of a literary life of a very particular sort” (and Ms. Miller’s review confirms it).

            Like

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              Interesting that he says, of the novels, “I […] wonder whether an age that loves Haruki Murakami might rediscover them” (which sounds encouraging, even to those of us who have not yet caught up with Murakami). Incidentally, in two tweets to Grevel on 23 November he says, “I did enjoy it – the review the week before had inevitably to talk more about CW than your excellent book” and “You did a great job – and I was fascinated by the novels when I read them.”

              I think it is already very interesting that Grevel seems to feel the case for Williams as a poet so strongly. It’s good for those of us who are only the lazy and dabbling free-versifiers to hear the opinions of other real poets about Williams, especially ones who did not also know him as a friend. That is one of the many virtues of this blog, come to that! Not that it isn’t interesting to hear the opinions of poet-friends, as well. John Wain told me, late in life, that he had recently reread some of Williams’s late poetry and found it “dead on the page”, for instance. While the more I read of Lewis’s poetry, the more impressed I am with his praise for Williams’s as being clearly much more than a friend’s opinion possibly too strongly coloured by friendship.

              Your saying, “I am afraid that for many readers the new biography will indeed seem no more than ‘a fascinating account of a literary life of a very particular sort’ ” reminds me of something Brian Horne (ho had read the biography in – presumably longer – draft) said at the Oxford launch, to the effect that he wished Grevel had been able to say a lot more about the works, whereupon – he? or someone else? added that OUP wanted the accent definitely more on life than works.

              My impression is that it will make someone unfamiliar with C.W. likely to want to try the works. Like reading Lewis and Williams and Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories” it strikes me as distinctly ‘centrfugal’ or whatever – sending you out to find out for yourself what the author found so interesting about works he discusses or even mentions fairly briefly. (Wilson’s Lewis biography struck me as largely the opposite, with the exception of its account of OHEL – but I remember being pleasantly surprised that Anthony Burgess, in his review, experienced it as making him want to read Lewis, to whom he was, or had been, largely unsympathetic!)

              By the way, it bears repeating that Grevel tweeted on St. Andrew’s Day, “Just xeroxing Charles Williams’s Arthurian poems – hopefully for an e-book edition in 2016!” So, he is certainly following up the encouragement to read them!

              Like

              • Dmitry Medvedev says:

                Another interesting thing about this review is that Hensher accurately notices that the atmosphere in OUP when Williams worked there was not quite normal and healthy. If we are to consider OUP as a model of The City, it was a distorted and somewhat disfunctional model.

                The focus on life rather than works is, of course, understandable – and in case of Williams perhaps even inevitable. Still, I was a bit surprised that Lindop had so little to say about Williams’s mature poetry and his best lit. criticism and theology, especially since he payed quite a lot of attention to the flaws in his earlier work.

                I am also a bit sceptical about the revival of interest in CW through this biography. First of all, his reputation as a theologian may suffer because of the new unattractive details about his personal life. I doubt we will ever hear Williams’ s name mentioned favourably again by the church hierarchs the caliber of the Archbishop of Canterbury (or indeed of any other caliber). Secondly, why would anybody want to read the biography of a completely unfamiliar person? I think the likely readers would have some knowledge of Williams already, perhaps through their interest in other inklings. But the biography actually makes the gap between Williams and his fellow Inklings, particularly Lewis and Tolkien, only more apparent. The final title – “The Third Inkling” – is perhaps more marketable but less appropriate than the original “The Last Magician” (I wonder if OUP indicated on the change). Again, considering that many of these potential readers are devout Christians, they will probably be discouraged by the new details.

                With all that said, I liked the biography a lot. It has a wealth of new information, and a pleasure to read. But it cannot make Williams any more popular with the wider audience.

                Like

                • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                  It looks like we’re headed for the Carrollean ‘Mouse’s Tale’-effect again! Thank you for such further, thoughtful observations. Grevel had a tweet about the title change, but I don’t remember the exact details. As far as I know, he was grateful to have as generous length-allowance as he did, but still had to make lots of hard choices about what to leave out.

                  As to the various dimensions of Christian attention, I don’t know – on the one hand, there is a lot more on the “unattractive details about his personal life” front, here, on the other, there were already the Carpenter (1978), Hadfield (1983), and Letters to Lalage (1989) revelations (and a bit in my Arthurian Poets ed. and Tolkien centenary paper in the Inklings Jahrbuch and Dictionary of Literary Biography article).

                  Is there an Inklings audience who will be more likely to read more of C.W. after reading the biography, as well as one less likely to do so?

                  And who from a general audience will be more or less likely to step from life to work? Those who (come to) read Yeats despite his occultism and politics, might be inclined to try Williams in an analogous way.

                  I wonder if we’ll be able to tell what, if any, populariziing effects the biography is having?

                  You are quite right about Hensher and more generally about the interests of the OUP aspects – there was apparently not only a lot of sordid stuff going on, but a lot of it seems to be known to have been going on, and winked at, as well (unlike where the Inklings were concerned, as far as I can tell). And this does have interesting (possible) implications for the “City” and Byzantine Empire imagery – one thinks of Tolkien’s poem published by Carpenter, but also of the imagery in “Divites Dimisit” before that (1939), reappearing after it in “The Prayers of the Pope” (1944). How much is the “Glory” in spite of the stereotypical image of ‘the Byzantine’? (And are there creepier things going on?)

                  Like

    • I’ll take a look at that one, Dmitry, and probably write a review of that review, too. Thanks!

      Like

  4. rri0189 says:

    There’s the bear in “A Pastoral”.

    Like

  5. Hanna says:

    Maybe I’m just too picky, but it didn’t seem like much of a review at all. I felt more like a gawking look into Williams’s bizarre private life, with a little note tacked on the end about the source of this information. I understand that Williams isn’t very well-known so a review of a book about him needs to include a lot of biographical information, but it seemed like that was all she cared about, not whether or not the book was well-researched, unbiased, etc.

    Like

  6. Hanna says:

    Also, Miller mentions that Williams *might* have joined the Order of the Golden Dawn, but wasn’t that disproved some time ago?

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      It is certainly not established that he did join the S.M. of the G.D., but Grevel Lindop provides information as to possible access via the Rev. A.H.E. Lee to something meant for members’ eyes only (if I am summarizing fairly and accurately without pausing to look up the references), and a plausible context for his further acquaintance and possible membership. And, his ‘magic sword’, for instance, when- and however he acquired that, would feature in the G.D. but was no part of the F.R.C. (in which his membership and activities are well-documented – more extensively that ever before by Aren Roukema in the Journal of Inkling Studies recently and by Grevel Lindop yet more recently). It is also conceivable that he was a sort of ‘free-lance mage’, eclectically drawing on available G.D. (and other?) things.

      Like

    • Grevel gives evidence that CW met at least twice a month for 20 years with people who were members of the Golden Dawn and had access to high-level rituals which they may have performed. He suggests that perhaps these friends initiated Williams into the G. D. themselves.

      Like

  7. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “Diana Glyer’s two books”: wow! – hadn’t heard about Bandersnatch until following your link!

    An interesting source for reactions to books on Inklings singly and as a group is the website ‘Wayne and Christina’:

    http://www.hammondandscull.com/index.html

    Like

  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “The fact that he was just emerging from a tortured 14-year extra-marital affair, which was erotically played out through the canings he dealt his mistress, was not something he shared with his fellow Inklings.” That ambiguous “shared” is a startling verb (if your mind flies to ‘shared characteristic’, as mine did).

    Like

  9. Does anyone know the copyright status of the illustrations by Donald Seton Cammel for Alice Mary Hadfield’s ‘King Arthur and the Round Table’ – an important book which borrows heavily from CW’s work .

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      I suppose his widow, China Kong, could be located – though my first online steps in that direction, just now, have not led far.

      Perhaps it would be easier to ask Bruce Hunter, who was Alice Mary’s agent as well as C.W.’s.

      Like

  10. Tony Fuller says:

    Regarding the possibility of Charles Williams’ additional membership of a Golden Dawn/Stella Matutina Temple I agree with David Llewellyn Dodd’s summary.There is a slight circumstantial case: the Rev. A.H. Lee was not merely a member of the Amoun Temple but in 1938 actually one of the three “Ruling Chiefs”, as other extant documents show. For the vast majority of members, let alone the Chiefs, it would have been inconceivable for them to break their “obligations to secrecy” and show an Order document to a non-member. Thus, either Lee broke his obligations or Williams was a member or, less plausibly,he acquired certain documents in another way.

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Thank you! Very interesting! Can you recommend any accessible reliable sources for more of such information, online or off? (My blushes, if it’s R.A. Gilbert’s Golden Dawn: Twilight of the Magicians (1983), which I haven’t reread for awhile!)

      It’s not always easy to find – or to know you’ve found – accurate sources. (I think it was Ithell Colquhoun’s Sword of Wisdom: MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn (1975) that plausibly, but quite incorrectly, placed Williams’s Companions of the Coinherence in a G.D. family tree as a secret society in the organized sense.)

      Like

  11. Tony Fuller says:

    Dr. R.A. (Bob) Gilbert has written quite a few useful books since his excellent “Twilight”, including his biography of Waite, “A.E. Waite: Magician of Many Parts” (1987) and”The Golden Dawn Scrapbook” (1997). All of Bob’s works are scholarly, sound and witty, although his stance has naturally changed on certain aspects as new information has come to light. Ithell Colquhoun’s book, while very entertaining, is highly inaccurate in very many places. Very little has been written on the FRC which is in the public domain, largely because the Order apparently still functions in the UK and New Zealand. Although a minor contribution I have carried out considerable research into the connection between Anglo-Catholic clergy and the Golden Dawn et.alia., which includes the revival of ritualism within the Church. In the process I uncovered many surprising clerical members of the Order, including Bishop Timothy Rees, Father Charles Fitzgerald plus an assortment of other priests, Bishops and the delightful Dean Bennett of Chester Cathedral. All were keen members of the Stella Matutina which naturally provokes some most interesting questions surrounding the tensions between their occult activities and their religious office. When the Rev. A.H. Lee left his ministry at Christ Church, Albany Street, London in 1915, he was succeeded by the Rev. Fielding Fielding-Ould, another fervent occultist and member of the S.M. All this is covered in my doctoral thesis, later to be published by Brill, should I ever finish the index. Charles Williams gets a mention as does Evelyn Underhill, and other prominent Anglo-Catholics of the period who were similarly involved. A largely unknown “side- Order” to which many clergy also belonged, including Lee, was the more mystical Holy Order of the Sun which actually included so many clergy that the Church conducted an investigation in the late 1930s – Anglo-Catholic, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox interpretations of Christianity were espoused, albeit with esoteric connotations. The members were known as “Companions” and I have sometimes wondered (but with no direct evidence) whether Less discussed this with Williams, vis a vis his “Companions of Coinherence. I am happy to provide any further information off-line should you wish.

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Thank you! Wow, this is exciting – and, in many ways, astonishing! (I did get a copy of The Alchemist of the Golden Dawn: The Letters of the Revd W. A. Ayton to F. L. Gardner and Others 1886-1905 (Roots of the Golden Dawn Series), ed. Ellic Howe (Aquarian, 1985), and had a general sense of lots of English (C of E) clergy being Masons, but – wow!)

      I did not, alas, immediately get my own copy of Dr. Gilbert’s Waite biography when it came out, lazily relying on the Bodleian when it was nearby…

      While he was working on the C.W. biography, Grevel Lindop and I entertained the possibility of meeting up in Amsterdam (about an hour’s train journey for me) to look at the F.R.C. materials in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica together, but it didn’t work out.

      I hope you finish that index, soon! I’m not sure I know what further information to ask for – as I try (finally, however idiotically belatedly!) to finish my edition of the Arthurian Commonplace Book, I’ve got to wondering (thanks to Grevel’s biography) whether Williams had any pre-Nicholson-Lee-Waite-F.R.C. secret society connections and what his esoteric reading might have been, other than perhaps Waite’s Hidden Church of the Holy Graal (and things like Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni!), which might be reflected in the Commonplace Book (or The Chapel of the Thorn, come to that). But, how might I best contact you, if I think of something specific? Does Sørina have an e-mail address for you? Or do you have a website?

      Like

  12. Tony Fuller says:

    Oops, a typo – In the last sentence “Less” should obviously read “Lee”.

    Like

  13. Bruce Charlton says:

    wrt CW being an ‘autodidact’ – this is an oft-repeated error – as I try to explain here:

    http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/chalres-williams-was-not-self-educated.html

    Its basis may come from people’s unfamiliarity with the importance of the ancient Grammar Schools – such as St Alban’s which CW attended – in the old English educational system where only a very small proportion of the population attended university (there were only two English universities – Oxford and Cambridge – up to 1832; when Scotland had *five* universities for just one-tenth of the English population – including two in the city of Aberdeen).

    English grammar schools took their pupils to an academic level which in most countries would not be equalled until after some years of college.

    Charles WIlliam’s Grammar school had an extremely eminent set of alumni going back hundreds of years

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Albans_School,_Hertfordshire

    And including the English Pope Nicholas Breakspear (1110-1149), the still-remembered scholar Matthew Paris (1200-1259), John Ball (leader of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381)… and to jump ahead to modern times. the most famous living scientist – Stephen Hawking. Not many schools have a more impressive roster!

    The error probably has its basis in comments from CS Lewis – who was making the point that Williams’s level of formal education was significantly below that of the other Inklings (wth the exception of his brother Warnie) – yet Williams would hold his own, or even dominate, the scholarly conversation in several fields.

    Also, there was the matter of Williams’s ‘cockney’ accent – which gave people the first impression that he was uneducated – since at the time in England, most educated men spoke with Received Pronunciation (or the ‘Oxford’ accent). I have speculated, albeit with only indirect and circumstantial evidence, that Williams’s ‘cockney’ was probably put-on for effect – but if so, it did indeed have the desired effect!

    http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=cockney

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  14. Tony Fuller says:

    I am very happy to be contacted at yesod26@hotmail.com. Without wishing to inflict on you a copy of my ponderous thesis (completed at Exeter University) I am happy to send you an electronic copy of the two volumes should you wish bravely to wade your way through it – it obviously has a large number of footnotes and references to the subject. Whilst much of the primary material lies in private collections I am fortunate enough to have copies of it nearly all of it, including my own collection of original primary material and copies of most or all the FRC material. As an aside, apropos of the C of E connection, what staggered me at the time of my research was discovering the close connection at one time between Dr. Felkin and his Stella Matutina, with the Mirfield Fathers, or Community of the Resurrection. At a time when the CR numbered less than 20 members, at least 5 were also S.M. members and I believe this unusual situation was with the tolerance, if not approval, of the CR Master, Father (later Bishop of Truro) Timothy Frere, who played a prominent role in revising the Book of Common Prayer. Amusingly, because of the lack of privacy in the communal quarters, Father Fitzgerald was obliged to make his magical wands, sword, tarot pack, and other impedimenta, whilst locked in the lavatory! He served very bravely as a chaplain in the First World War. An equally surprising connection lies between the rather strict and pious Anglo-Catholic Societas Sanctae Crucis (which was very controversial in the late 19th century and which still exists) and the Golden Dawn.One of its founders, and twice Master, the Rev. A.H. Baverstock, was initiated into Felkin’s Stella Matutina on 27 June 1908. So it would seem that Charles Williams dalliance with occult Orders was not quite as unusual as might first appear.

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Wow and again wow! Yes, please! I shall write you at the address you provide, with mine! Exeter: you must know the Goodrick-Clarkes, then. (I got to know them in Oxford after The Occult Roots of Nazism came out, but have not kept up properly, though I was in touch again when the BPH was worryingly closed for a while the other year.)

      Mirfield! – that is staggering, and fascinating! How much might Williams have known about one thing and another, I wonder? It gives part of Witchcraft a new context, whether he knew about how much was going so, or not, I suppose. (The sort of general sense of Thomas and Henry Vaughan and the Cambridge Platonists – and Dr. Dee, come to that – and so on that one tends to pick up as an undergraduate ought, perhaps, to prepare for such things, but seems so ‘compartmentalized’ in the earlier modern past…)

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  15. Tony Fuller says:

    I look forward to hearing from you. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke was both my professor and friend – sadly he died far too young in 2012. His wife Clare has also written excellent books. Re Mirfield I believe there is at least a tenuous relationship in the sense that Frere (a personal friend of Dr. Felkin) was also ‘spiritual director’ for Evelyn Underhill plus other details too convoluted and irrelevant to present in this context. I am sure you, and hopefully others, will be aware of the wonderful, slightly supernatural stories and novels of Father R.H. Benson, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Young Benson was also at Mirfield during the period in question and, it would seem, encountered Felkin at some point….The occult deeply interested Benson for a period and I am sure Charles Williams would have read Benson. Certainly Benson’s style influenced a number of other authors – G.K. Chesterton’s “Father Brown” seems to be a development of Benson’s “psychic detective priest”.

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Sad indeed: we had not corresponded since four years ago, Saturday (though it does not feel so long ago) – and I had not seen any news of his death! What a loss!

      As to R.H. Benson, Williams refers to The Necromancers in his Arthurian Commonplace Book, and I think that is the only title I have seen him refer to, but, knowing that, it would seem likely that he would know more. (I wonder if Deodatus in the late Arthurian poetry is indebted to Pope Sylvester in Lord of the World.) And his autobiographical book, Confessions of a Convert, gives vivid glimpses of the world Williams grew up in, in one way and another. (Lewis told someone he only remembered reading The Dawn of All, but Gwen Watkins told me she felt sure of other clear but apparently unconscious debts to Benson in his work – but I can’t recall which in which!) I would indeed recommend Benson in his own right, and as the author of novels in any case historically in the background of, and in some ways analogous to, those of Williams.

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