A new blog - "The Oddest Inkling"...

About Charles Williams: Charles Walter Stansby Williams was a poet, novelist, literary critic, editor, English professor, biographer, Anglican Christian, and occult master. He was a member of the Inklings with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien for the last six years of his life. He was charismatic, saintly, radiant, riveting, loquacious, and inspiring. 

Charles Williams Society blog here : http://www.charleswilliamssociety.org.uk/

Angelic talk...

For he (Lewis) talked like an angel. My idea of how angels might talk derives from Lewis. His prose is brilliant, amusing, intimate, cogent; but his talk was of a superior order. It combined fluent, informal progression with the most articulate syntax, as if, somehow, it was a text remembered – and remembered perfectly. The steps of his argument succeeded without faltering, with each quotation in the original tongue, well pronounced. (To keep up his half dozen languages he belonged to reading groups – J. R. R. Tolkien’s Kolbitar for Norse, the Dante Society for Italian, another group for Homeric Greek.) Add an extraordinary memory, and you can see how any situation was for him accompanied by a full-voiced choir of verbal associations. "Probably no reader," he writes, "comes upon Lydgate’s ‘I herd other crie’ without recalling ‘the voces vagitus et ingens in Virgil’s hell.’" For this assumption, Lewis has been called "bookish" – a dumbed down response. Of course he was bookish; hang it, he tutored in literature. Even standing on the high end of a punt in a one piece swimming costume with a single shoulderstrap, about to dive, he had time for a quotation, half heard over the water, something about silvestrem. Was he teasing me for reclining at ease in my punt...

Alastair Fowler 
Yale Review, Vol. 91 No. 4 (October 2003), pp. 64–80


Her heart sprang; there, a good way off-thanks to a merciful God -- it was, materialized from nowhere in a moment. She knew it at once, however far, her own young figure, her own walk, her own dress and hat-had not her first sight of it been attracted so? changing, growing...  It was coming up at her pace -- doppelgaenger, doppelgaenger -- her control began to give... two... she didn't run, lest it should, nor did it.   She reached her gate, slipped through, went up the path.  If it should be running very fast up the road behind her now?  She was biting back the scream and fumbling for her key.   Quiet, quiet!  "A terrible good."  She got the key into the keyhole; she would not look back; would it click the gate or not?  The door opened; and she was in, and the door banged behind her.  She all but leant against it, only the doppelgaenger might be leaning similarly on the other side.   She went forward, her hand at her throat, up the stairs to her room, desiring (and every atom of energy left denying that her desire could be vain) that there should be left to her still this one refuge in which she might find shelter.

Charles Williams
Descent into Hell (Ch.1 - The Magus Zoroaster)

The Doppelganger

A strange dichotomy I find
Of mental disputation,
Each time the Betty in my mind
Meets Betty on the station.
At first, while we say how d’you do
And talk about the weather,
I see them side by side, those two
And match them both together.
“Look there and here!” says eye to heart,
“And there – your fancy hid that!
“Admit your memory took her part!
“You rather overdid that!”
Like snow the first one fades away
And melts into the second:
I lose my head and hear it say:
“She’s sweeter than you reckoned!”

Owen Barfield

“The Doppelganger” was published on 3 July 1947 in the New English WeeklyIt is used on the Inklings Weblog by kind permission of the Owen Barfield Literary Estate.

Death, on Westminster Bridge

She was standing on Westminster Bridge. It was twilight, but the City was no longer dark. The street lamps along the Embankment were still dimmed, but in the buildings shutters and blinds and curtains had been removed or left undrawn, and the lights were coming out there like the first faint stars above. Those lights were the peace. It was true that formal peace was not yet in being; all that had happened was that fighting had ceased. The enemy, as enemy, no longer existed, and one more crisis of agony was done. Labour, intelligence, patience-much need for these; and much certainty of boredom and suffering and misery, but no longer the sick vigils and daily despair.

Lester Furnival stood and. looked at the City while the twilight deepened. The devastated areas were hidden; much was to be done but could be. In the distance she could hear an occasional plane. Its sound gave her a greater sense of relief than the silence. It was precisely not dangerous; it promised a truer safety than all the squadrons of fighters and bombers had held. Something was ended, and those remote engines told her so. The moon was not yet risen; the river was dark below. She put her hand on the parapet and looked at it; it should make no more bandages if she could help it. It was not a bad hand, though it was neither so clean nor so smooth as it had been years ago, before the war. It was twenty-five now, and to her that seemed a great age. She went on looking at it for a long while; in the silence and the peace, until it occurred to her that the silence was very prolonged, except for that recurrent solitary plane. No one, all the time she had been standing there, had crossed the bridge; no voice, no step, no car had sounded in the deepening night.

She took her hand off the wall, and turned. The bridge was as empty as the river; no vehicles or pedestrians here, no craft there. In all that City she might have been the only living thing. She had been so impressed by the sense of security and peace while she had been looking down at the river that only now did she begin to try and remember why she was there on the bridge. There was a confused sense in her mind that she was on her way somewhere; she was either going to or coming from her own flat. It might have been to meet Richard, though she had an idea that Richard, or someone with Richard, had told her not to come. But she could not think of anyone, except Richard, who was at all likely to do so, and anyhow she knew she had been determined to come. It was all mixed up with that crash which had put everything out of her head; and as she lifted her eyes, she saw beyond the Houses and the Abbey the cause of the crash, the plane lying half in the river and half on the Embankment. She looked at it with a sense of its importance to her, but she could not tell why it should seem so important. Her only immediate concern with it seemed to be that it might have blocked the direct road home to her flat, which lay beyond Millbank and was where Richard was or would be and her own chief affairs. She thought of it with pleasure; it was reasonably new and fresh, and they had been lucky to get it when Richard and she had been married yesterday. At least-yesterday? well, not yesterday but not very much longer than yesterday, only the other day. It had been the other day. The word for a moment worried her; it had been indeed another, a separate, day. She felt as if she had almost lost her memory of it, yet she knew she had not. She had been married, and to Richard.

The plane, in the thickening darkness, was now but a thicker darkness, and distinguishable only because her eyes were still fixed on it. If she moved she would lose it. If she lost it, she would be left in the midst of this-this lull. She knew the sudden London lulls well enough, but this lull was lasting absurdly long. All the lulls she had ever known were not as deep as this, in which there seemed no movement at all, if the gentle agitation of the now visible stars were less than movement, or the steady flow of the river beneath her; she had at least seen that flowing-or had she? was that also still? She was alone with this night in the City-a night of peace and lights and stars, and of bridges and streets she knew, but all in a silence she did not know, so that if she yielded to the silence she would not know those other things, and the whole place would be different and dreadful.

She stood up from the parapet against which she had been leaning, and shook herself impatiently. "I'm moithering," she said in a word she had picked up from a Red Cross companion, and took a step forward. If she could not get directly along Millbank, she must go round. Fortunately the City was at least partially lit now. The lights in the houses shone out, and by them she could see more clearly than in the bad old days. Also she could see into them; and somewhere in her there was a small desire to see someone-a woman reading, children playing, a man listening to the wireless; something of that humanity which must be near, but of which on that lonely bridge she could feel nothing. She turned her face towards Westminster and began to walk.
Charles Williams
All Hallows Eve (1948)
Chapter 1

Guest Author...

[Constable - Barge below Flatford Mill]

A sneeky little extra post.  Not an Inkling, but Ronnie Blythe certainly would have been welcome in their company... today's column from the 'Church Times' London :


"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."

C.S. Lewis
The Four Loves

Part of a review of a detective novel...

Messrs. Cassell, on the jacket, ask "Why was Nahum afraid of life?"

I don’t understand. Aren’t Messrs. Cassell?

(Charles Williams)

The Long Defeat...

In choosing to express my inner geekdom, I presently have SIX books by my bed that are by or related to Mr Tolkien (I have about 12 bed-side books in all just now), and last night I read something that kind of pinged me inside somewhere. Here's the quote:

Actually, I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic;
so that I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat'
- though it contains some samples of final victory.

Now, I don't think I've ever before come across anyone telling me that this is a (or The) standard Christian worldview - I suppose in the circles in which I've moved, the emphasis has tended to be that because God is living and active now, everything of His in the world is in the process of redemption (ie. everything's getting better). But now I'm not sure.

Everything in creation is decomposing (everything physical, I mean); I know that. We are in a world where humans are constantly trying to make things that last, whilst concurrently destroying (or at least messing up) the only things that actually do last - creation, friendship, God, etc.

Elves in Middle-Earth had a weird role. They had LIVED in paradise (the High Elves had anyway) and seen perfection. They remembered it. But they weren't a forward-thinking people - all their songs and ideals came from millenia previously, and it was all they could hope for to 'preserve all things unstained,' as Elrond said. I think all of us instinctively recognise something about the good old days which made them good in contrast to now, but we're told that we are silly to think like that. I'm not so sure.

Through the ages of the world we have fought the long defeat. [Galadriel]

The idea of the long defeat is definitely not very triumphant, in the Pentecostal style of Christianity. The Rohirrim ride 'for ruin and the world's ending', not for a present victory, which is only a fool's hope (says Gandalf). Recently, I've been noticing the sensation of 'hanging on' quite a lot: kind of a helplessness; the world's wheels are turning and I just need to keep going, keep hanging in there.

When he needed to, Sam saw a star through the smogs of Mordor and 'the beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.' I need that. Just plodding through smogs is CRAP, however heroic a story we paint ourselves into. We need to know that we win, in the end, or even after The End. Otherwise, what's the point?

How can you prove a victory before
It's won? How can you prove a man who leads,
To be a leader worth the following,
Unless you follow to the death - and out
Beyond mere death.

Barfield and Longing

For much of the period of Barfield’s post-legal career he lived in Kent, first in South Darenth, later and chiefly at the house named Orchard View, not far from Dartford, looking out upon a wold that had long since lost its orchard bur retained a certain enchantment lent by the sense of unfolding distance. It was a peculiarly English setting, comforting, mannerly, harmonious, as though to confirm Barfield’s own assessment of himself as being “very English.” At the same time, the scene evoked a sense of Sehnsucht or longing (the concept that Barfield taught C.S. Lewis) with its undulating hills meeting the sky at an almost but not quite unreachable remove. This too corresponds to an essential dimension of Barfield that is not so much English as Romantic, and German Romantic at that. It is that aspect of his work that ponders and leads the reader to ponder the mystery and wonder of being, and it lies at the heart of his philosophy…

… Barfield as Sage – of Orchard View or of Forest Row – instead demonstrated those qualities of gentle but intellectually rigorous guidance that made C.S. Lewis call him “the wisest and best of my unofficial teachers”

Owen Barfield: A Life of Thought
A Barfield Reader (Wesleyan) 1999