Charles Williams Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Charles Williams was the son of Walter Williams, a foreign correspondence clerk who also wrote poetry under the name Stansby. Charles was educated at St. Albans School and had two years at the University of London before he was forced to end his formal studies to earn his living. During years in a publishing job he continued his studies, however, and without acquiring any formal degrees he became a profound literary scholar, historian, theologian, poet, and novelist. Throughout his career as an editor with Oxford University Press he taught, lectured, and wrote prolifically. In 1917 he married Florence Conway, and they had one son. He lived all his life in London, except for a few years during World War II when his publishing firm was evacuated to Oxford. There he joined the Inklings, a literary group that included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. After his death in 1945 the tributes of these and other literary friends such as W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, and Dorothy Sayers brought him wider recognition than he had had during his lifetime.

Williams’s literary career developed gradually, with four volumes of poems published between 1912 and 1924. His first play, A Myth of Shakespeare, was published in 1928. During the next decade he published eighteen books covering the entire range of his varied but closely related interests. In his three critical works he explored the religious basis of the creative imagination: Poetry at Present, The English Poetic Mind, and Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind. His historical studies were concerned with the relationship between the individual and the pattern of history: Bacon, James I, and Rochester. The depth of his thought as an original but profoundly orthodox Anglican was revealed in two religious books, The Rite of...

(The entire section is 750 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Discusses Williams along with other writers.

Cavaliero, Glen. Charles Williams: Poet of Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983. Useful general study of Williams.

Fredrick, Candice, and Sam McBride. Women Among the Inklings: Gender, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001. A study of the attitudes toward women among the Inklings, both in their relationships with the women in their lives and in their depictions of women in fiction.

Hadfield, Alice Mary. Charles Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. Useful general study of Williams.

Hillegas, Mark R., ed. Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Carbondale: University of Illinois Press, 1969. Discusses Williams along with other writers.

Howard, Thomas. The Novels of Charles Williams. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Elementary but helpful.

Huttar, Charles, and Peter Schakal, eds. The Rhetoric of Vision: Essays on Charles Williams. Lewisberg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1996. A collection of essays on Williams’s works.

King, Roma A., Jr. The Pattern in the Web: The Mythical Poetry of Charles Williams. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1990. Williams’s poetry receives attention.

Sibley, Agnes Marie. Charles Williams. Boston: Twayne, 1982. An introductory literary biography, including criticism and bibliography.

Spencer, Kathleen. Charles Williams. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1986. An excellent introduction to Williams.

Weeks, Dennis L. Steps Toward Salvation: An Examination of Coinherence and Substitution in the Seven Novels of Charles Williams. New York: P. Lang, 1991. A study of the religious philosophy espoused in Williams’s fiction.