Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Williams goes mainstream

I have been married for over forty years to a Charles Williams enthusiast. He's even the Treasurer of the Charles Williams Society. Till a few weeks ago, these statements might have been met by blank looks. Not any more.

But not only has Charles Williams made it, in however garbled a form, to our TV screens in an episode of Lewis, called "Magnum Opus;" a definitive biography has just come out.

Laurence Fox and Kevin Whateley look flummoxed, as well they might
Magnum Opus was pretty average hokum, featuring alchemy, tattoos and an alarmingly thin Honeysuckle Weeks. The murder victims were all members of a cult, apparently based on some ill-digested theories of Williams' theory of "co-inherence" - interpreted here as "taking someone else's guilt." The trouble was, the murderer didn't buy it and was picking them off one by one.

It was just odd to hear someone being talked about that has been part of my life, at one remove, for so long.

The real Charles Williams was known as "the third Inkling" and that is also the title of the new biography, a labour of love and over a decade, by Grevel Lindop.

So, as Sam Pepys, might have said, to Blackwell's last Thursday for the launch of the new book.


There could not be a more appropriate venue to launch a book about a man less known than his two fellow Inklings, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R.R. Tolkien, but who had a powerful presence at their meetings at the Eagle and Child. Lindop describes him as the "missing piece of the jigsaw" - a novelist, publisher, lecturer, poet, critic and, yes, magician.

Grevel Lindop

I've tried one novel, The Place of the Lion, which also turned up in Lewis, and it was not for me. But I'm going to give the poetry a go - "Taliesin through Logres" and "The Region of the Summer Stars" (I salute his ability with titles). And I shall definitely read The Third Inkling. The author made his subject sound fascinating.

I wasn't sure about the spanking with a magic sword kept in the cupboard at Williams' office at OUP, but maybe I mis-heard. It's the versatility that appeals to me. And Lindop is a bit of a Renaissance Man himself - retired Professor of Victorian Literature, expert on Thomas de Quincy, poet and accomplished Salsa dancer.

It clearly takes one to write about one.