(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

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.

All of these themes are present in The Place of the Lion. In a quiet English village named...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Howard, Thomas. The Novels of Charles Williams. Reprint. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991. Provides thorough readings of all seven of William’s novels with an afterword arguing for Williams’s place in literary studies.

Huttar, Charles A., and Peter J. Schakel, eds. The Rhetoric of Vision: Essays on Charles Williams. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1996. A collection of essays on every aspect of Williams’s work, including his unique theology, which informs The Place of the Lion.

Shullenberger, Bonnie. “Love, That Grows from One to All.” The Anglican 30, no. 1 (January, 2001). A brief but comprehensive introduction to the novels and theology of Charles Williams.

Williams, Charles. Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Reprint. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980. Williams’s eclectic history of the Church, which W. H. Auden was said to have regularly read every year.

Williams, Charles. He Came Down from Heaven. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984. Williams’s doctrine of the Incarnation, including a chapter on his “theology of romantic love.”