Charles Williams (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
In his fine collective biography of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, The Inklings (1979), Humphrey Carpenter states that by 1927, Williams, then forty and married for ten years, had fallen in love with Phyllis Jones, the librarian at Oxford University Press, and that unknown to their coworkers, she returned his love. A footnote on the page catches the eye: “Nor was it known to Alice Mary Hadfield, Williams’ friend and biographer, when she wrote An Introduction to Charles Williams (1959).”
Much new material has become available on Williams since Hadfield wrote in 1959, and this wealth of information fills the pages of Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work. Hadfield notes in her preface that since her first work she has had access to two thousand letters by Williams, including several hundred to Phyllis Jones, and to much of his unpublished work. In addition—and perhaps most important—Hadfield is now twenty years further away from her subject, able to test her evaluation of the man through two decades of consideration.
Hadfield’s present work illustrates, among other things, the traps of writing biography, as one anecdote will show. One wonders how many university teachers have told their students that Williams wrote his novels to pay his son’s tuition. Alice Mary Hadfield was herself the source of the story, relaying it in good faith in her Introduction to Charles...
(The entire section is 1803 words.)
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