Many contemporaries regarded Williams (1886”“1945) as an unalloyed genius and polymath. He was at once theologian, mystic, poet, novelist, editor, playwright, and critic, not to mention being an esteemed spiritual mentor and (possibly) a living Anglican saint. Lewis was deeply influenced by him to the point that the figure of Aslan in the Narnia Chronicles was borrowed intact from the angelic archetypal figure of Williams’s novel The Place of the Lion. Meanwhile, Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength is often regarded as more Williams’s work than Lewis’s. Some of us would quibble about relegating Williams to the rank of merely third among Inklings.
T. S. Eliot also fell under his spell. The better you know Williams’s all too seldom read dramas, the more startled you might be at the numerous clear echoes of his work throughout Four Quartets. Auden himself said he owed his Christian conversion in part to contact with Williams.
Many other far lesser figures, including the present reviewer, attribute their own original religious commitment to the overwhelming power of Williams’s writings. It helps, in my case, to imagine the years around 1970, when interest in spirituality of all kinds was running very high and all manner of options were on the table””the occult and kabbalism, neopaganism and Arthurian mythology. For many of us, at least in Britain, Christianity was nowhere near being a serious option. Perhaps unfairly, it seemed at the time as if the mainstream churches were irretrievably lost in the Secular City.
Read it all.