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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 620

Charles Williams was born in 1886 to a genteel but impoverished, devout Anglican family. He was able to spend two years at University College, London, before circumstances forced him to withdraw to find employment. From 1908 until his death in 1945, Williams was an editor at Oxford University Press. When Oxford University Press moved from London to Oxford in 1939, Williams moved as well, becoming part of a literary circle that included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Among his editorial projects for Oxford University Press was the oversight of the first English-langauge editions of the work of Søren Kierkegaard. As a writer, Williams produced novels, poetry, drama, theology, biography, and literary studies. Williams’s novels were once described as “metaphysical thrillers,” playing out, to a certain degree, the principal themes of his theology: Incarnation, coinherence, and substitution. By Incarnation, he meant not only Christ’s incarnation but also the cloaking and revealing of divine realities in material forms. By coinherence, he meant the shared life of the Creation, human and nonhuman and supernatural, which is experienced and exchanged in a mystical dance. The exchange of one of those beings with another is substitution, supremely exemplified by Christ but expressed in daily life by sacrifices both great and small. Williams’s vision of the divine never lifts its gaze from the ordinary.

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All of these themes are present in The Place of the Lion. In a quiet English village named Smetham, two friends, Anthony Durrant and Quentin Sabot, are rambling in the countryside when they encounter a group of villagers searching for a lioness said to have escaped from a traveling circus. Later in their ramble they see, or think they see, a lion bent over the inert form of a man. The man turns out to be a Mr. Berringer, the leader of a local, mystically inclined group. Berringer is unconscious, and the friends carry him into his house.

Damaris Tighe, whom Anthony loves, is approached by a member of the mystical group to give a paper for their meeting. Damaris, who writes about Plato and Aristotle and their influences in the Middle Ages, attends the group but finds her paper disrupted by a hysterical outburst by one of the members, who thinks she sees a snake. Meanwhile, Anthony is visiting Damaris’s father, who is an avid butterfly collector. Mr. Tighe has had a vision of a vortex of butterflies...

(The entire section contains 620 words.)

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Themes