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Yeats’s Legacies

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Warwick Gould

Essays

Charles Williams and W. B. Yeats1

Grevel Lindop

Texte intégral

  • 1 Note—Further information may have been gathered since this article was prepared for publication. If (...)

1As two prominent system-building poets, and the most significant poets to emerge from the esoteric tradition inaugurated by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Charles Williams and William Butler Yeats naturally invite comparison. Both wrote supernatural fiction and avant-garde drama alongside their poetry; both, in their later work, celebrated a symbolic Byzantium. They were alike too in being preoccupied by myth, to the extent of seeing themselves and their acquaintances as immersed in mythical patterns which they proceeded to weave into their poems. Twenty-one years younger than Yeats and dying six years after him, Williams (1886–1945) was avowedly an intense admirer of the older man’s work; but the progress of their relationship was not simply a matter of the lesser poet’s being drawn into the orbit of the greater. For though Williams would enjoy his period of greatest influence as poet, critic, theologian and guru during the Second World War, he carried with him from a much earlier date the considerable weight of the Oxford University Press, in whose London branch he was a respected commissioning editor. His effect on Yeats’s career was small but genuine; though many details of their personal relationship remain tantalisingly elusive. The present discussion falls naturally into two parts. The first will examine the known and documented contact, personal and textual, between the poets; the second, more speculatively, will look at some parallels and similarities.

I

2We do not know when Charles Williams first became aware of Yeats’s work. The son of an impoverished commercial clerk and parttime author turned shopkeeper, Williams was educated at St Albans Grammar School and then briefly, on a scholarship, at University College London. Family poverty forced him to leave UCL in 1904 soon after matriculating; but from 1908 a job as assistant proof reader at the London branch of the Oxford University Press opened to him a career which led to senior editorial responsibilities, including (at least by 1919) an important hand in piloting the famous ‘World’ s Classics’series.

3Williams began writing poetry whilst still at school, and a passing interest in ‘Celtic’ matters is indicated by an early though undatable verse fragment surviving in manuscript; though whether, if at all, inspired by reading Yeats is anyone’s guess. The fragment reads in its entirety:

  • 2 Marion E. Wade Research Center, Wheaton College, Charles Williams MS 172.

Who passes? Ho, the fight-worn, song-praised lords,
The heroes of our ancient legendry,
The royal riders of our land and sea;
Ho, way for Fingal and the Fenian kings!
2

4An early notebook survives, also currently undatable, into which Williams has copied ‘The Fiddler of Dooney’ together with poems by Chesterton, Patmore, Meynell, ‘AE’ (George Russell), Rossetti, and others.

  • 3 Charles Williams, Poetry at Present (hereafter PatP) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930), 57.

5However difficult to date, Williams’s enthusiasm for Yeats was certainly intense. In 1928, writing his critical survey Poetry at Present, he would recall having ‘seen Mr. Yeats at the old Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill, and joined in the tumultuous shouts that greeted him’.3 At first sight this would seem to have been on 14 November 1906, when Yeats was in the theatre to see Ernest Rhys’s Gwenevere (ChronY 71). However, while the verse ‘End Piece’ to the chapter (for oddly, in Poetry at Present Williams ends his account of each poet with a poem of his own) recalls the hero-worship and confirms the year—Williams was twenty in 1906—it implies that the play was The Countess Cathleen:

O the crowded theatre, and the cries
shaking the dark air, if so loud a cue
might bid you speak! the tumult still runs through
my memory and my dreams, and still my eyes
behold you solitary, when the show
was done, sweet music making an end thereof,
shutting the sorrow and pageant of Cathleen:
was it a marvel I adored you so,
being twenty, a poetaster, never in love,
and you the only poet I had seen? (
PatP 69)

6This suggests that in memory Williams is conflating a first glimpse of Yeats at the 1906 performance of Rhys’s play with memories of the poet’s receiving an ovation during the London run of The Countess Cathleen at the Royal Court Theatre on 11–13 July 1912.

  • 4 Charles Williams to Alice Meynell, 15 May 1912. Meynell papers, Humphrey’s Homestead, Greatham, Pul (...)
  • 5 Charles Williams to Wilfrid Meynell, 12 February1923, Meynell papers.
  • 6 Oxford University Press Archive, OP 3457/PB022911.

7When The Silver Stair, Williams’s first book of verse, appeared in 1912, subsidised by his mentors Alice and Wilfrid Meynell, its title page carried lines from The Shadowy Waters: ‘It is love that I am seeking for, | But of a beautiful, unheard-of kind | That is not in the world’ (VP 228). Williams’s use of the lines was by no means casual: on 15 May 1912 he told Alice Meynell that he had ‘written to Mr. Yeats’s publisher’ asking permission to quote the lines.4 (And when in 1921 Alice Meynell considered travelling to Rome, Williams would compose two Dantesque sonnets ‘To Urania, going to Rome’, the first of which envisages her, not in the Holy City, but in Heaven, where, on being asked ‘Who now among the English wears the bay?’ he imagines her answering, ‘Hardy and Yeats and Bridges; of the young, | Graves, Blunden, Abercrombie most renowned’.)5 Direct contact, albeit minimal, occurred in 1915, when Williams was given responsibility for clearing permissions for The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. Unknown to the grandees of Oxford University Press, the editors, A. H. E. Lee and D. H. S. Nicholson, were both active members of Stella Matutina, the more magically-oriented of the two organisations which had emerged from the breaking up of the Golden Dawn in 1900; and the living poets assembled in their anthology, which extended from the fourteenth century to current times, included, besides Yeats himself, a significant number of initiates of the Golden Dawn and its offshoots, among them Aleister Crowley, Evelyn Underhill and A. E. Waite. Yeats’s friends Edwin Ellis and George Russell also featured. The Oxford University Press archives hold a sheet containing a list of names, addresses and other details, annotated in Williams’s hand (including ‘W. B. Y., 18 Woburn Bldgs. W. C.’; ‘Eva Gore-Booth 33 Fitzroy Sq. W.’ and ‘Aleister Crowley Works 1905 Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth’).6 The Yeats poems requested were ‘The Rose of Battle’ and ‘To the Secret Rose’. Permission was obtained; Yeats’s reply has not survived.

  • 7 Grevel Lindop, Charles Williams: The Third Inkling (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 55–63, (...)

8However, clearing copyrights for The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse had momentous consequences for Williams (who was then 29 years old). It brought him into contact with A. E. Waite, whose Mysteries of Magic and Hidden Church of the Holy Grail he had already read as part of his research for an Arthurian poem. Williams sent Waite a copy of The Silver Stair, and was soon invited to join The Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, Waite’s mystical Christian order (another strand descended indirectly from the original Golden Dawn). At the Autumnal Equinox of 1917 he was initiated into the Fellowship as a Neophyte, and he remained a diligent member of the Fellowship, taking one grade after another, until 1927, when he ceased, for unknown reasons, to participate. He never resigned from the order, and remained in occasional contact with Waite until 1931.7 He never told anyone outside the order that he had been a member.

  • 8 Anne Ridler, ‘Introduction’ to Charles Williams, The Image of the City and Other Essays (London: Ox (...)

9This was not the only consequence of his involvement with the Book of English Mystical Verse. As we have seen, the editors, Arthur Hugh Evelyn Lee and Daniel Howard Sinclair Nicholson, both belonged to Stella Matutina. Lee was vicar of St Stephen’s church, St John’s Wood from 1916 to 1926, and thereafter of St Martin’s, Kensal Rise. Details about Nicholson are scanty, but he seems to have had a private income derived from some family firm. Soon after the anthology’s appearance, and for some twenty years thereafter, Williams began to attend fortnightly meetings (after evensong on Sunday evenings) of a small group of men at Lee’s vicarage. We have no details of what went on, but one participant recalled ‘memorable hours spent in his study’ and how Lee’s ‘love of contemplation and meditation carried him into a realm … little understood by his casual acquaintances’ (CWTI 64). Since Williams later displayed a range of occult knowledge certainly not taught in Waite’s order; possessed a magical sword (which Waite’s order explicitly forbade); and, according to Anne Ridler, ‘always spoke of himself as having belonged to the Golden Dawn’ (as did D. H. S. Nicholson, whom Anne Ridler also knew well);8 the probability is that Lee’s Sunday evening group was a branch of Stella Matutina, and that—whether minimally or with full panoply—they initiated Charles Williams. He later recalled attending Lee’s gatherings for ‘more than twenty years’ leading up to 1939, which suggests that his first invitation came not long after the appearance of Mystical Verse in 1917.

  • 9 Alice Mary Hadfield, Charles Williams: An Exploration of his Life and Work (Oxford: Oxford Universi (...)
  • 10 The picture follows p. 52 in Hadfield’s biography. Warwick Gould and John Kelly have independently (...)
  • 11 Warburg Institute Library, Yorke Collection NS32.
  • 12 An odd coincidence, as it happens: Charles Williams suffered in childhood from undiagnosed tubercul (...)

10The fact that Williams belonged, certainly to Waite’s Fellowship and probably to Stella Matutina, naturally raises the persistent question of whether Williams and Yeats ever met in a ritual context. This has been a fruitful field for fantasy. Williams’s first biographer, Alice Mary Hadfield, informs us that ‘How often the two poets met after a gathering of the Order [of the Golden Dawn], we cannot know, but they certainly met’ and that ‘[Williams’ s] meeting with Yeats must have been enormously exciting, though not necessarily influential’.9 These assertions—which continue to spread confusion—are made without any evidence at all, except for a photograph, taken in the open air, and with no identifiable background and no known provenance, purporting to show the two men together. However, whilst the photograph clearly shows Charles Williams, the man with him is certainly not Yeats and remains at present unidentified.10 Yeats had, of course, no contact at all with Waite’s Fellowship of the Rosy Cross; and A. H. E. Lee’s Stella Matutina group, if such it was, seems to have met only at his vicarage. The sole link with Yeats is an indirect one, though easy enough to document. Lee’s papers seem to have been destroyed at, or soon after, his death in 1941, with the sole exception of one notebook, now in the Yorke Collection of the Warburg Institute Library.11 Besides notes on kabbala, astrology and other matters, it contains notes on Golden Dawn ‘Flying Roll’ VII (on alchemy). On the notebook’s cover is a label bearing a request from Lee to his executors, dated May 1912, ‘in case of my death or incapacity, to return it, unread, to Dr Carnegie Dixon, 7 Upper Harley St, London NW1’. Carnegie Dickson [sic] (a chest specialist as well as a member of, successively, the Golden Dawn and Stella Matutina) was the physician consulted by Yeats in October 1929 (Life 2 393), and who suggested that Yeats’s illness (eventually diagnosed as brucellosis) was a recurrence of childhood tuberculosis.12 So Williams knew Lee, who knew Dickson, who knew Yeats. This is as close as we can come to linking Williams and Yeats in an esoteric context.

  • 13 Bodleian MS Facs. c. 134.
  • 14 Ibid.

11Meanwhile, occasional jottings in the diaries of Williams’s friend John Pellow, civil servant and minor poet, indicate a continuing interest in Yeats’s work. On 28 April 1923, Pellow was ‘Glad to know that [Williams] finds Ellis & Yeats “elucidations” [of Blake, in their edition of The Works of William Blake, Poetic, Symbolic, and Critical] more obscure than the prophet himself. I certainly did so’.13 On 21 November 1923, when Williams was in the midst of his first course of evening lectures, Pellow noted that Williams ‘stayed till about 10.30, talking on many things—about the subjects of his Poplar lectures—Geo Moore, Gissing Yeats & c.’14

12For Williams’s actual view of Yeats we have to wait until 1930, when his critical survey Poetry At Present was published by Oxford at the Clarendon Press. The poetic ‘Present’ of Williams’s title was perhaps a slightly faded one, though the book did contain a somewhat tentative essay on Eliot. Other figures discussed, in a chapter each, included Hardy, Housman, Kipling, W. H. Davies, de la Mare, Chesterton, Masefield, the Sitwells, Graves and Blunden. Hardy had died whilst the book was in preparation; others had been familiar names since the Great War, if not earlier. The chapter on Yeats is among the best. Largely an advocacy of what Williams calls ‘the second Mr. Yeats, of him who began to write somewhere between 1904 and 1912’, it gently reproves ‘those who are satisfied with the anthological repetition of Innisfree, of which Mr. Yeats must be as tired as Alice Meynell was of the Letter from a Girl to her own Old Age’, praising rather the ‘insolence and passion and wit’ of the later style as against ‘the slight languor’ of the earlier. The voice of the later Yeats, Williams affirms ‘might very well (mutatis mutandis) be the voice of Landor or of Donne’—neatly referencing ‘To a Young Beauty’, where Yeats hopes ‘to dine at journey’s end | With Landor and with Donne’(VP 336). The three poets have in common, says Williams, ‘a restless mind, an insolent heart, a high and inquiring soul’, but, a little surprisingly, Williams finds these qualities ‘perhaps most obvious in his prose—especially in that learned and profound work which is called A Vision: An Explanation of Life, founded upon the writings of Giraldus and upon certain doctrines attributed to Kusta ben Laka [sic]’; though he concedes that they are also ‘obvious enough in his verse’ (PatP 57–8).

  • 15 Oxford University Press archive, Milford Letters, Vol. 129, p. 410: Humphrey Milford to Secretary a (...)

13Strangely, however, given its publication in 1930, the chapter makes no mention of any poem collected later than 1921, the date of Michael Robartes and the Dancer, from which one poem, ‘Easter 1916’, is quoted in part. Most striking is its failure to discuss The Tower. The likely reason for this is that Poetry at Present had largely been written before January 1928, when Thomas Hardy died. Williams’s Preface states that the book ‘was made first by taking only those poets who were alive when it was begun—Thomas Hardy has since died’ (PatP vii). However, there seems no reason why Hardy should not have been removed if the book had merely been ‘begun’ at the time of his death; and the Oxford University Press archives show Williams being pressed to submit his text in March 1928, and about to go to press in November 1929. Meanwhile, on 27 July 1928 the Delegates of the Clarendon Press had already discussed a new proposal logged as ‘Mr C. Williams—English Poetic Drama’.15 The Tower was published in February 1928, the month following Hardy’s death. In view of Williams’s usual method of working, which was to finish one book rapidly and move at once to another, it is likely that he had regarded Poetry at Present as finished since the spring of 1928, had now embarked on a new project, and was reluctant to rewrite (though the proposed book on drama came to nothing). His only gesture towards updating the chapter on Yeats was to add ‘The Tower, 1928’ to the list of titles in the headnote.

14Strikingly, rather than praise Yeats for modernising his style, Williams sees him as reviving the best qualities of Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry. Citing the line ‘Was there another Troy for her to burn?’(VP 257), he comments, ‘We have lost that particular great style since the Elizabethans and their immediate successors, except in Mr. Yeats’s verse’. (PatP 59). Williams also displays clearly a fellow-adept’s appreciation of Yeats’s esoteric references, arguing that whereas the Elizabethans could rely on ‘a still half-fabulous world’ to supply them with ‘inventions, myths, and dreams, for us all strangeness, all adventure, and in a growing sense all space, must be found within’. And if the poet’s inner world is presented effectively, that is enough: ‘Elements or elementals, both are credible then’.

Mr. Yeats, exploring the nature of the world, has come down heavily on the side of the elementals, and of all else that may be implied by a theory of the universe which has a place for such things. He speaks of them as simply as of ‘Davies, Mangann [sic], Ferguson’, and in the same poem. (PatP 60–1)

15Quoting lines 1–4 and 17–24 of ‘To Ireland in the Coming Times’, ending with ‘For the elemental beings go | About my table to and fro’ (VP 137–8), he comments,

No couplet in literature has more emotional sense of what it says, or causes us more easily to accept it. The incantation seems to work without and not merely within; it is a poem, but it is also a charm—it seems magical not only as invocation of the Muse but as evocation of other powers. It is not without regret that one realizes that magic is not so easily communicated to the casual reader. But magic and the possibilities of magic are continually present to the thought of Mr. Yeats’s verse, whether as subject or as allusion. (PatP 61–2)

16Trying to define the ‘poetic value’ of ‘magic and faery [sic], and those other old alchemical wisdoms in which Mr. Yeats has found interest’, Williams suggests that it lies in

the continual suggestion of other possibilities than the normal mind is conscious of. Since this verse does not give us… instruction how to work spells and practise the true alchemy and discover faerie kingdoms, we are not concerned with it as practical doctrine; it is but the effect of these continual apostrophes, invocations, and visions, to which we look. And so looking we must not omit one other vision which haunts this longing and desirous verse—the vision of a final attainment more perfect than faerie, the dream of the Rose, the Red Rose of beatitude and peace. (PatP 63)

17In subsuming ‘magic and faery’ under the heading of ‘the true alchemy’, Williams reveals his inheritance of the Golden Dawn tradition, for which all spiritual practices were supposed ultimately to contribute to a spiritual self-perfection identified with the goal of the alchemists. And identifying this in turn with the ‘Red Rose of beatitude and peace’, he reveals himself as specifically an acolyte of Waite’s Rosicrucianism, in which the Rose represented the mystical goal of union with the divine. On publication, Williams sent copies of Poetry at Present to several of the poets discussed therein. Whether one was sent to Yeats is not recorded, but it seems likely. Possibly Williams hoped that his obviously knowledgeable discussion of esoteric elements in the poetry, and his praise of A Vision, would attract Yeats’s attention and even elicit a response. There is no sign that this happened.

18A little over three years later, however, the two poets finally met. This came about because in October 1933 the literary journalist Montgomery Belgion offered to arrange an invitation to tea with Lady Ottoline Morrell at her house in Gower Street, so that Williams could meet Eliot. The visit was a success, and Williams became a welcome guest at Lady Ottoline’s London salons. Inviting him on December 12 (probably of the same year) she made it clear that she was relying on Williams—himself a memorable conversationalist—to put Yeats on his mettle:

I am so very glad you can come on Thursday, as Yeats can come. WBY was here yesterday, & I have never heard him more eloquent. It was like soaring through mansions on High! I had a few young men… and they sat like starlings—open mouthed—but dumb! Please do when you come—draw him out. He is interesting on the topic of genius. Whether it is the glorifying and impersonality of the inner man only, or whether it has to do with observation of the outer world as well.

  • 16 Ottoline Morrell to Charles Williams, ‘12 December’; Marion E. Wade Research Center, Wheaton Colleg (...)

He thinks Shakespeare was not an Observer. (I think he was—everything!) Then another theory is antitheses (opposites)—in Life not Unity. I give you these tips so you [illegible] for him to talk!16

  • 17 Charles Williams to Humphrey Milford, 2 October 1934. Apart from the Delegates’ Minutes and Humphre (...)
  • 18 BL Ms Add 1040E: Visitors’ Book at 10 Gower Street.

19Though no record of their conversation has survived, they certainly did meet: when Yeats was mooted as a possible editor for the Oxford Book of Modern Verse, Williams endorsed the idea, telling Milford on 2 October 1934, ‘[Yeats] is 69, but when I met him last year he was vivid and entertaining’.17 Three weeks later, on 25 October, both poets signed Lady Ottoline’s visitors’ book at 10 Gower Street,18 and they may well have met there on other occasions, since there is no reason to assume that the visitors’ book is comprehensive.

20To understand how Yeats came to edit the Oxford Book of Modern Verse, we must turn briefly to the internal workings of Oxford University Press. On 2 October 1934, Williams, who had responsibility for the anthology, submitted to his superiors a memorandum, headed l. a.: o. b. Modern Verse (‘L. A.’ was Lascelles Abercrombie):

  • 19 OUP ibid.

I saw L. A. yesterday. He was in considerable distress over the book, both personal and moral. It has begun to dawn on him (i) that none of his personal acquaintances are going to love him afterwards, (ii) and more bitterly, that he hasn’t really the time to exercise a proper judicious choice, and that his reputation may suffer (he said, as regards both i and ii that it was ‘going to take him a long time to live down’), and (iii) that he’s hardly going to find time to do it at all. I pointed out the financial advantages, and alluded to our difficulty. But I was so convinced that we should gain little advantage from having him put his name, and so dubious whether his name will—now—help very much, that I consented—subject to higher approval—to relieve him of the lists and see if we can manage another way.19

  • 20 Kenneth Sisam to Humphrey Milford, undated, OUP ibid.

21Abercrombie had been working desultorily on the anthology for several years, latterly with the assistance of Anne Bradby (afterwards Ridler): hence the ‘lists’ of possible contents, of which he was now to be relieved. (The fundamental problem, whether or not Williams knew this, was that Abercrombie was in the advanced stages of diabetes.) Williams suggested two possible solutions. His preferred one was to pay Anne Bradby (as it happened, his own current protégée) a small fee to finish the book; alternatively, to entrust the editorship, and the provisional lists, to Dylan Thomas (‘his own verse is physiologically modern’). Kenneth Sisam, the Secretary (and thus equivalent to managing director) of the Press at Oxford, liked neither of these plans, responding: ‘[A] name well known to the reviewers and suggesting readability seems to me to be essential’.20 Replying on 11 October, Williams (having consulted Geoffrey Cumberlege, vicepresident of the Press’s New York branch) responded:

Names then.

  • 21 Charles Williams to Kenneth Sisam and Humphrey Milford, 11 October 1934, OUP ibid.

Names are of two classes—(i) the greater (ii) the lesser. Of the greater, Cumberlege plumped for Yeats, and there is no doubt he would awe all sides. He is 69, but when I met him last year he was vivid and entertaining. He would have to be offered much more money down. I suppose (£250 or £ 300?), but he has a ‘modern’ manner, is admired by the moderns, and his name will last when he is dead. I doubt if he’d take him [sic] on, but I could write.21

  • 22 Humphrey Milford to R. W. Chapman, 15 October 1834, OUP ibid.

22He also mentioned Eliot (‘too occupied’), De la Mare, and Aldous Huxley, as well as some ‘Lesser names’ including Herbert Read and Lord David Cecil. But Yeats was clearly the front runner. Milford gave the verdict four days later, assigning his preference to ‘Yeats of course—with a good bribe (if you can avoid a royalty)’.22

  • 23 Humphrey Milford to Kenneth Sisam, 8 November 1934, OUP ibid.
  • 24 Kenneth Sisam to Humphrey Milford, 9 November 1934, OUP ibid.

23By 8 November, the Press was negotiating with Yeats’s agent, A. P. Watt, who (Milford reported) ‘said Yeats was keen to include Americans. [Cumberledge] approves, so long as Yeats will really represent them properly (And they have, we think, more and better of the Modernist lot than England)’.23 Sisam agreed: ‘If Yeats is willing to put in the Americans, that will help out a thin volume, and help also the American sales. … But I expect there will be plenty of trouble when the actual selection of Americans is made: they are so very sensitive, and so is Yeats’. On the financial front, ‘I gather your suggested terms are to be £ 500 allowed for copyrights (anything saved out of it Yeats can pocket) and £ 250 advance on the standard Oxford book royalty. He cannot expect us to pay for the copyrights and to draw a royalty on it’. Sisam added: ‘I think you ought to stipulate for an introductory essay. These are not a feature of Q’s books, but an introductory essay by Yeats would be a selling point’.24 (‘Q’ was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor of The Oxford Book of English Verse and Prose.)

24As an afterthought, Sisam advised Milford on 10 November, ‘I think you should, in your first letter, tell Yeats that Oxford Books of Verse are relatively cheap books intended for a wide and not a fit and few audience’. He warned:

  • 25 Kenneth Sisam to Humphrey Milford, 10 November 1934, OUP ibid.

You are dealing with an editor who has himself passed from the popular to the very select audience. At Amen House I think you are all inclined to the highbrow attitude in poetry, so he will get no leaven of commonplace from the contact. Therefore, better tell him at the outset that a popular book which ordinary people can enjoy is intended: that, even if ‘The Fiddler of Dooney’ is inferior to his latest bits of hard and high thinking, you (at least in your capacity of publisher) expect him to fiddle. After all, Yeats has immediately reminded you through a literary agent that even the most spiritual poets need money. He could hardly be offended if you, in your capacity as publisher, don’t take a loftier line.25

25The contract was signed in early March 1935. Williams retained in-house responsibility for the book. Yeats communicated with him both directly and through Hansard Watt at the A. P. Watt literary agency. On 11 September Watt wrote quoting a letter from Yeats:

I have been working on the Anthology for the last three or four months. I went to London three weeks ago and read or smelt 45 books of poetry in the British Museum as I could not get them anywhere else. I have now completed about 400 of the 500 pages I am aiming at. I shall have finished the collection by the end of the month. I shall want a couple of weeks after that to look it over, put things in and take things out. One of my difficulties at the moment is that three books I want badly are out of print; if I can’t borrow them, or get them from a second-hand bookseller I shall have to pay another visit to the British Museum. I wonder if Mr. Charles Williams could help me, as they are on the list of books suggested to me by his firm:—

  • 26 H. Watt to Charles Williams, 11 September 1935, OUP ibid.

Isaac Rosenberg Poems 1922
Coppard Collected Poems
Roberts These Our Matins
Does the Oxford University Press want to publish for Christmas or for
next Spring?
26

26But soon doubts about the selection were being aired at the Press, and raised with Yeats. On 24 October, He wrote to Williams:

You speak of my omissions of certain Americans; H. D. Robert Frost, and Benet. … I am acting on the advice of T. S. Eliot who said ‘don’ t attempt to make your selection of American poets representative, you can’t have the necessary knowledge and will be unjust; put in the three or four that you know and like’—or some such words. I am taking his advice and am explaining so in my introduction. … I am putting in all the people well-known on this side of the water through residence or accident, with perhaps one exception, that exception is H. D. I have known her for many years, known her and admired her, and it was a real distress to me in looking at her work after ten or fifteen years to find it empty, mere style. Aldington also is a friend of mine, but I have always known that if I did an Anthology I would have to reject his work, just as I have had to reject everything except one poem by Squire, a friend to whom I owe certain obligations. When you get my introduction you will find why I reject Wilfred Owen ands certain other war poets. I had John Davidson in but withdrew him on finding I had too much matter; I may have to restore him. I was his contemporary and we never put him on a level with Dowson and Johnson. Hulme I have left out precisely because he was the mere leader of a movement.

Now about Doughty; it will amuse you to hear that A. E. Housman refused me leave to quote even from his LAST POEMS (which he generally allows) because of my supposed enthusiasm (or that of your publishing house) for Hopkins (with Doughty as runner-up). I have had to turn infidel and deride both as if they were relics of the True Cross, and I am not quite infidel where Hopkins is concerned; Doughty I cannot abide except in prose.

  • 27 WBY to Charles Williams, 24 October 1935, OUP ibid.

There is nothing in Flint, an old acquaintance of mine, except gilded stucco.27

27Yeats added the ominous words ‘I hear that Faber and Faber are bringing out an anthology’. Indeed they were; though thus far that was a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand.

28Besides obtaining various books which Yeats requested, Williams in at least one instance tried to influence the selection. On 12 November 1935 he sent Yeats, through Watt,

  • 28 Charles Williams to H. Watt, 12 November 1935, OUP ibid.

two or three poems by Mr Robert Nichols, which I knew he would very much like considered. Since Mr Yeats is putting in something of his, and since I had a respect for some of his work, I have allowed myself unofficially to send them on to you. You will understand that neither Mr Nichols nor any of us here are doing more than allow them to slide under Mr Yeats’eye. But I gather that he thinks them better than those actually chosen, and a poet has perhaps some claim to have his own opinion consulted.28

29And in a note (headed ‘PRIVATE’) he told Nichols what he had done:

  • 29 Charles Williams to Robert Nichols, 12 November 1935, OUP ibid.

Extremely unofficially and by a roundabout method your poems called A SPANISH TRIPTYCH came into my hands, and more unofficially then ever, I feel I ought to murmur to you that I have caused them to be dispatched where they should come under Mr Yeats’eye. You will understand that for obvious reasons other poets ought not to know of this, and of course no one can say anything to Mr Yeats. But I could not resist telling you.29

30Yeats failed to take the hint: he included nine poems by Nichols, but not ‘Spanish Triptych’.

31On 19 November, Yeats wrote to Williams announcing his departure for Majorca, and promising ‘the contents of the anthology’, which would be sent by George Yeats. The Introduction, he explained, ‘is written but may not be typed in time—I have to dictate my illegible script—I may have to finish my dictating to a friend in Majorca’.

32He also raised a difficulty:

  • 30 WBY to Charles Williams, 19 November 1935, OUP ibid.

I enclose a poem which please return. I did not put it in the anthology as I thought it would exclude the book from school libraries & for all I know you are counting on that public. I brought the poem to England and read it out to Dulac, Turner, Mrs Sackville West, Dorothy Wellesley and others (cut as in the copy I send). All said it was a masterpiece and out [sic] to go in. I have decided to throw the responsibility on you—on one side the school libraries, on the other universal curiosity about the Primrose Path. Please say if the poem should be left out or not. I [illegible] another translation of the poem but not so good.30

33The poem, by Oliver St John Gogarty, was (to judge from Williams’s reply) a translation of Villon’s ‘Les Regrets de la belle heaulmière’. He shared Yeats’s doubts:

  • 31 Charles Williams to WBY, 26 November 1935, OUP ibid. Though Gogarty’s translation failed to get pas (...)

After a very great deal of careful consideration Mr Milford himself and those of us who have read the poem, are inclined on the whole to think you were right in your first decision. It is no doubt a nuisance that a publisher has to consider so many groups among the public, but that is beyond praying for, and if this Anthology was barred from the places where young people gathered together it might seriously limit both its use and its sales (after all they have Swinburne’s translation of the Fair Armouress, though I do not say that is so good). Regretfully therefore we return you the poem, accepting, with a conviction that you will blame us, the responsibility which you throw on us.31

  • 32 WBY to Charles Williams, 27 November 1935, OUP ibid.

34Yeats accepted the verdict gracefully (‘I think you are quite right, and the author thinks so too. I thought after reading it to London friends that perhaps I no longer understood the public & that therefore I had better consult you’).32 Gogarty himself had no reason to complain. With seventeen poems, he had more than any other poet in the anthology—a matter which in due course drew unfavourable notice.

35On 27 April 1936 George Yeats wrote to Watt from Majorca, promising that Michael Yeats would deliver the manuscript of the book to Watt’s office three days later (‘It is impossible to registered [sic] parcels from this island and so it is safer to send it with him’.) Two matters remained unresolved.

First, Macmillan asked Mr Yeats to cut down to one fourth the two poems he had originally chosen from Ralph Hodgson. He does not feel able to do this yet, and as waiting to feel well enough might delay the anthology still longer I wonder if you could communicate with [Oxford University Press] and ask them to allow him to include the whole of THE BULL and leave out THE SONG OF HONOUR.

  • 33 George Yeats to H. Watt, 27 April 1936, OUP ibid.

secondly, ‘Mr Yeats has decided not to include any poems of Elizabeth Daryush as she won’ t give permission for his first choice, and he does not want to put any of those she sent him from her latest work in their place’.33

36On 1 May 1936 Williams was able to tell Sisam,

The MS arrived from Watt yesterday. It goes to you today by registered post; including the Introduction, but not including any acknowledgements. I have written to Watt asking about this list.

  • 34 Charles Williams to Kenneth Sisam, 1 May 1936, OUP ibid.

You will remark that Mr Gogarty is better than I feared. The whole book varies most amazingly from the most imbecilic simple poems of Masefield and Drinkwater to Mr Empson. You cannot however, say that it has not a great deal of very popular stuff in it.34

  • 35 General” Book sent to Press’, Clarendon Press in-house pro forma, OUP ibid.

37The book went to press on 8 May, with publication scheduled for November 1936.35 Not altogether suppressing his doubts about the quality of the selection—indeed, apparently anticipating problems with its reception—Williams set to work on drafting a puff; at any rate, it has the hallmarks of his style:

This anthology is probably the most important anthology of the year—certainly the most important if the name of its compiler is considered. Mr. Yeats is the one poet who is admired by old and young, by the traditionalists and by the revolutionaries. He has a greater acquaintance with the principles and techniques of verse than any other living poet and his own achievement puts him among the all but greatest poets of our literature. Readers of the book may disagree with him over certain poems but his judgement is bound to be treated with respect and concern.

The book begins at the death of Tennyson and ends last year. It therefore includes the poetic outbreak of the Nineties, which was rarely (except for Mr. Yeats himself) more than an exclamation of ‘I will be naughty’ against the Victorian ‘You shall be good’; the solemnities of the Edwardians and the odd provincialism of the Georgians. And finally the new movements which have gone on with increasing violence and success since then. It would be impossible to give a list of the poets included. The book contains nearly 400 poems selected from the work of over a hundred British and Irish authors. Hardy and Hopkins lie towards the beginning and Mr. Auden, Mr. Spender, Mr. Madge and Mr. Barker conclude it.

  • 36 OUP ibid.

In addition there is a 38 page Introduction by Mr. Yeats himself surveying the history of poetry during his life, with personal comments upon himself, upon poets and upon poetry. It is a critical essay of high importance, full of allusions to the whole of the past of English literature and sudden interesting comparisons with the present.36

38Williams also signed a letter (possibly drafted by Cumberlege) disputing the Press’s decision to send printed sheets from Britain for the American edition, rather than printing again in the United States, as this might be read by the book trade as indicating lack of confidence in the product. It also risked legal complexities, since books not actually printed in the US were subject to different copyright conditions.

  • 37 Typist’s code indicates Cumberledge, but signed ‘CW’, to Sisam, 4 June 1936. OUP ibid.

I am sorry you are still against setting up the book in America. Apart from the question of copyright which is very complicated and quite unsettled,… it is important for the prestige of our New York House that it should print and copyright the best of the parent’s works. It will be much easier to sell the book if we back it to the extent of printing it than if we sell imported sheets. The natural reaction to printed sheets is that the publisher does not think well enough of it to set it up.37

  • 38 Kenneth Sisam to WBY, 7 December 1936, OUP ibid.

39The protest was successful: on 7 December 1936 Sisam wrote to Yeats confirming that ‘It has been separately set up in the United States, so that the copyright is secured there’.38

40Difficulties, however, did not end with the publication of the anthology. Strangely in view of modern practice, Oxford University Press had entrusted Yeats himself with the task of clearing permissions to reprint copyright work, and had allowed him £500 to pay the necessary fees. Yeats, unpractised in the purely administrative side of publishing, had in some cases approached publishers, and in others contacted the poets directly. The result was a certain amount of confusion, with some publishers claiming that their copyrights had not been cleared. Sidgwick and Jackson made themselves a particular nuisance, apparently enjoying the chance to goad the larger, more respected publisher, even to the extent of sending a typed permission form, heavily marked in red crayon ‘Example’, to show Oxford University Press how to do things properly. An errata slip had to be added to the first edition, making the necessary acknowledgments.

41The anthology was moderately successful in the short term, reprinting after its first month and then annually from 1937 to 1939; more rarely thereafter. But it never became the standard work that had been hoped for. That rôle was seized by the other anthology Yeats had heard rumoured— The Faber Book of Modern Verse, edited by Michael Roberts, a young schoolmaster-poet who was fresh from introducing the Auden group to the public in his 1933 anthology, New Country. His Book of Modern Verse, appearing in 1936, stood in direct competition with the Oxford Book, and offered a selection which was not merely chronologically ‘modern’ but distinctly Modernist. For much of the remaining twentieth century, it served English readers as their standard introduction to modern poetry. Eliot had chosen his editor well; one wonders whether his advice to Yeats about choosing American poets had been just a trifle disingenuous.

42The Oxford Book of Modern Verse showed neither Yeats nor Oxford University Press at their best. And despite co-operating effectively at their different facets of the editorial process, there is no indication that Williams and Yeats ever met face to face during the book’s creation.

  • 39 ‘Staring at Miracle’, Time and Tide, 4 December 1937, 1674–76. Reprinted in Charles Williams, The C (...)

43Their paths would cross just once more, though again only on paper, when Williams inaugurated a long relationship with the weekly Time and Tide by reviewing the second (1937) edition of A Vision.39 His article, of almost a thousand words, is enthusiastic, opening with a sentence which is both a just assessment of its subject and a quintessential example of Williams’s critical prose: ‘Mr. Yeats’ s style imposes attention on his readers; no other living writer arouses so easily a sense of reverie moving into accurate power’. Listing some changes from the 1926 edition, Williams admits that he ‘[has] not yet been able to compare the two volumes’; the discussion in Poetry at Present must therefore have been based on a borrowed copy. He summarises without comment Yeats’s attribution of the book’s materials to ‘invisible instructors’ and ‘speech in sleep’, hindered at times by ‘Frustrators’. More striking is Williams’s statement that ‘The symbolism of the Vision is geometrical, as all such imagery must be’. Williams is notable amongst poets for his love of geometry. Well-versed in the Kabbalistic ‘Tree of Life’, and in the use of such magical glyphs as the ‘banishing pentagram’, he also cherished a desire to explore geometrical imagery in both poetry and theology. He wrote, but did not publish, two ‘Euclidian’ love poems for Anne Ridler. The first begins:

  • 40 ‘Euclid I. I’, Bodleian, uncatalogued papers bequeathed by Anne Ridler.

The logic of Euclidian love
what diagrams of action prove,
sketching their demonstrations right
on the unmathematic night
of ignorance and indolence;
40

and he told her,

  • 41 Charles Williams to Anne Ridler, 17 August 1933; Bodleian, uncatalogued papers bequeathed by Anne R (...)

I’ve been rather attracted… by the idea of a series of poems using mathematical diction; & by chance I tried this one out. If I had leisure I would do some more—one on planes; & one on the Angle (a very subtle & important one); and one on asymptotes; & so on… But O hell (as Shakespeare said), how can I find all the leisure the divine Muse needs?41

44Williams’s integration of love and geometry has obvious affinities with (and may indeed have been encouraged by) such passages as lines 181–6 of The Gift of Harun Al-Rashid, which Williams would of course have seen in the first edition of A Vision:

the signs and shapes;
All those abstractions that you fancied were
From the great treatise of Parmenides;
All, all those gyres and cubes and midnight things
Are but a new expression of her body
Drunk with the bitter sweetness of her youth. (
VP 469)

  • 42 Charles Williams to Margaret Douglas, undated (1942?), Marion E. Wade Research Center, Charles Will (...)

45In theology too, geometry was likely to present itself to Williams as an inviting metaphor. To cite only two examples, in an undated letter (probably of 1942) he tells his friend and typist Margaret Douglas, ‘The Kingdom is always set at an angle to the world; you in one, I in one; we are indeed the angles’.42 And his best-known theological work, The Descent of the Dove, opens with an almost aggressively geometrical exposition:

  • 43 Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church (London (...)

The beginning of Christendom is, strictly, at a point out of time. A metaphysical trigonometry finds it among the spiritual Secrets, at the meeting of two heavenward lines, one drawn from Bethany along the ascent of Messias, the other from Jerusalem against the Descent of the Paraclete. That measurement, the measurement of eternity in operation, of the bright cloud and the rushing wind, is, in effect, theology.43

46He was inclined to think of the entire human and divine order as a ‘diagram’ —always, for Williams, a positive word. In 1941 he would urge Margaret Douglas,

  • 44 Charles Williams to Margaret Douglas, 18 July 1941; Marion E. Wade Center, Charles Williams Papers. (...)

Be always at ease—or, at least, at peace, which is not entirely the same thing perhaps. But we retain always some dream of the Diagram; and I shall dream of it in my bath-chair. And though dreaming of it is little in itself, it may assist in our waking & active thoughts. And activity of thought is always valuable.44

47It was natural, therefore, that he should describe A Vision as ‘a philosophical diagram of the nature of man and of the universe as known to man’, and towards the end of his review, draw attention (as ‘[n]ot the least fascinating part of the book,’) to ‘the 34 pages in which Mr. Yeats makes a pattern of Europe from 2000 B. C. to the present day, in a style which is dream, and in the dream diagram, and at that a diagram of greatness and terror’. For Williams, with his magical background, there was no necessary contradiction between a dream and a diagram.

48Williams’s praise was not entirely disinterested; for by December 1937, when the review appeared, he had a collection of Arthurian poems ready for publication (they would appear as Taliessin Through Logres from Oxford University Press in December 1938) and in discussing Yeats’s book, he took the opportunity to drop some deliberately cryptic hints regarding the poetic mythology he would himself develop in that collection:

  • 45 ‘Staring at Miracle’, Time and Tide, 4 December 1937, 1674–76.

Mr. Yeats alludes to the diagrams in Law’s Boehme ‘where one lifts a flap of paper to discover both the human entrails and the starry heavens’. In another myth something of the same idea related the spiritual heavens and the womb of the mother of Galahad, and that last porphyry is like the porphyry room in Byzantium where the Emperors were born.45

  • 46 See, for example, ‘Taliessin in the School of the Poets’, line 42; ‘The Coming of Galahad’, line 25 (...)

49In the kabbalistic Arthurian myth of Williams’s poems, the ‘porphyry stair’ and the ‘porphyry chamber’ at its head (the ‘purple room’ in which legitimate offspring of the Byzantine emperor were required to be born) are associated with Galahad, achiever of the Grail, as well as with the somatic energies of the human body and the spiritual powers pervading the sephirotic tree of the Kabbala.46 No reader of Time and Tide could have been expected to make anything of this, but Williams cannot resist the opportunity of proleptically linking his own forthcoming work to Yeats’s.

50Marginally more accessible is a neat self-quotation planted at the end of the review’s penultimate paragraph:

In a period when our cleverest men may write wisdom but do not habitually write English, [Yeats’s] style is itself a refreshment. The sentence which refers to the Byzantium saints ‘staring at miracle’ is an example; another is that at which by chance I opened the book: ‘Love is created and preserved by intellectual analysis’. The intellect is so often nowadays regarded as merely destructive, or if constructive, then only in convenient and sterile things, that the phrase is near to being immediately rejected. But in fact it encourages the mind and more than the mind. Given the will, then the greater the analysis the greater the love, as has elsewhere been said: ‘Love is the chief art of knowledge and knowledge is the chief art of love’.

  • 47 Charles Williams, He Came Down from Heaven (London: Heinemann, 1938), 138.

51The writer who had ‘elsewhere… said’ this was, of course, Williams himself, in He Came Down from Heaven: ‘The new earth and the new heaven come like the two modes of knowledge, knowledge being the chief art of love, as love is the chief art of knowledge’.47 In these passages we can see Williams engaged in a characteristic threefold manoeuvre: charming and flattering those who know his work; teasing those outside this (not very large) inner circle; and placing himself, as myth-maker and thinker, where he no doubt believed he belonged, alongside Yeats. Indeed, he may, by sheer serendipity, have done this in a still more profound manner, for as his sole example of how Yeats presents ‘The Twenty-Eight Incarnations’, Williams chooses to set out in full the heading of ‘Phase Seventeen’:

  • 48 Charles Williams, ‘Staring at Miracle’; cf. CW14 105; A Vision (London: Macmillan, 1962 [repr. 1974 (...)

Will— The Daimonic Man.
Mask (from Phase 3). True—Simplification through intensity. False— Dispersal.
Creative Mind (from Phase 13). True—Creative imagination through antithetical emotion. False—Enforced self-realization.
Body of Fate
(from Phase 27)—Loss.
Examples: Dante, Shelley, Landor.
48

52Yeats, though Williams presumably could not know this, privately placed himself in Phase Seventeen, and one wonders whether Williams chose to quote this single example because he placed himself there too. The presence of Dante, a lifelong preoccupation and exemplar for Williams, might alone have been enough to precipitate this, but Williams could besides have recognised much of himself and his life in Yeats’s account of the Phase, above all in the pronouncement that at Phase Seventeen

The being, through the intellect, selects some object of desire for a representation of the Mask as Image, some woman perhaps, and the Body of Fate snatches away the object. (Vision 142)

53There could hardly have been a better summary of his decadeslong but unconsummated love for his second ‘muse’, Phyllis Jones, librarian at Oxford University Press’s London headquarters.

  • 49 Romans 12:5.

54Be that as it may, what Williams identifies as ‘the most thrilling sentence in the book’ proves to be Yeats’s quotation from Heraclitus: ‘dying each other’s life, living each other’s death’. The words (they actually occur twice in Vision B: on pages 68 and 271) appeared a perfect epitome of Williams’s doctrine of ‘co-inherence’, which emphasised that all human beings are (as St Paul put it) ‘one body in Christ, and every one members one of another’:49 interdependent, that is, and living by and through each other—to the extent that it was, he believed, possible for one individual to take on directly, by mutual agreement, the mental or physical suffering of another. ‘If indeed the world is founded on an interchange so profound that we have not begun to glimpse it’, Williams comments, ‘such sentences for a moment illuminate the abyss’. And he concludes his review,

If so, it is the principle of some such exchange that must be sought before all national and international evils can be righted. ‘A civilization’, Mr. Yeats says, ‘is a struggle to keep self-control’. Only by discovery of the principle of exchanged life can we keep our self-control by losing it, and without losing it we cannot keep it.

55Happily, these few points where Williams seems to make A Vision a pretext for spreading his own ideas did not displease Yeats. In a letter to Edith Shackleton Heald, he responded warmly and thoughtfully to the review:

I was particularly glad to get Charles Williams review of ‘A Vision’. It was generous of him for he is a poet I left out of the Anthology & was my first correspondent at The Oxford University & greatly shocked at my leaving out certain poets. I imagine it was this that made the firm choose somebody else to continue the correspondence. He is the only reviewer who has seen what he calls ‘the greatness & terror of the diagram’. (CL InteLex 7134)

  • 50 Though Stephen Barber, to whom this discussion of the Heraclitean aphorism is heavily indebted, sug (...)

56Yeats seems to have been mistaken in thinking that Williams was deliberately superseded as his correspondent at the Press. But, however that may be, the two poets (so far as we know) had no further contact, either personal or textual, during Yeats’s lifetime. The quotation from Heraclitus, however, continued to echo through Williams’s subsequent work. There was time for him to insert it into two poems in the 1938 volume Taliessin through Logres;50 first of all in ‘Bors to Elayne: On the King’s Coins’, a poem on economics:

What saith Heracleitus?—and what is the City’s breath?—
dying each other’s life, living each other’ s death.
Money is a medium of exchange. (TTL 45)

  • 51 ‘The Last Voyage’, 73–74.

—with Williams adding in an endnote, ‘The quotation from Heracleitus was taken from Mr. Yeats’ s book, A Vision’ (TTL 95). Later in the same volume it appears, slightly reworked, in ‘The Last Voyage’, where Blanchefleur (who in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur ‘died from a letting of blood to heal a sick lady’) is described as lying on her bier, ‘drained there of blood by the thighed wound, | she died another’s death, another lived her life’.51

57It turns up again, still epitomising the practice of co-inherence, in ‘The Founding of the Company’, in Williams’s last collection (and second book of Arthurian poems), The Region of the Summer Stars (1944):

  • 52 Charles Williams, ‘The Founding of the Company’, lines 60–4, The Region of the Summer Stars (London (...)

The Company’s second mode bore farther
the labour and fruition; it exchanged the proper self
and wherever need was drew breath daily
in another’s place, according to the grace of the Spirit
dying each other’s life, living each other’s death’.
52

II

58We may now turn to the necessarily less clear-cut topic of parallels and similarities between the poets. Dominating these, though by no means wholly defining them, is the membership of both men in organisations of Golden Dawn heritage (including Williams’s close association with, if not actual membership of, Stella Matutina). How different the two poets could be even in areas related to the esoteric is well demonstrated by their attitudes to astrology and spiritualism, two of Yeats’s principal preoccupations. A. H. E. Lee arranged for Williams’s natal horoscope to be drawn up in around 1925; Williams showed little interest in it, and his few brief recorded comments indicate a good-humoured scepticism (CWTI 95, 356–7). As for spiritualism, which as an Anglo-Catholic Christian Williams might have been expected to deprecate, there does not seem to be a single mention of it anywhere in his writings.

59Nor does his supernatural fiction have much in common with that of Yeats. Williams’s seven novels are thrillers set in contemporary England, presenting spiritual themes in a low-mimetic, semi-realistic mode poised somewhere between the fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers and of Sax Rohmer.

60On the other hand, Williams shared with Yeats a detailed knowledge of the Tarot, which was a subject of study in Waite’s Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. Williams’s own Tarot deck has survived in a private collection, though lacking some of its suit cards; and he wrote perhaps the best and certainly the most complex novel ever written about the Tarot, The Greater Trumps, for publication by Gollancz in 1932. Exactly how he approached the Tarot, and how far he used it for divination or other purposes, is unfortunately unknown, because oddly, though a prolific writer in most other areas of his life, Williams seems to have kept no magical diary or record of esoteric activity; though it is possible that some such record was destroyed at his death, when his magical robes and other regalia were disposed of. Our only knowledge of his esoteric activities comes from occasional brief mentions in his letters, or from records kept by others, notably A. E. Waite.

  • 53 See, e.g., ‘The Founding of the Company’ (RSS 36–41).

61Given their extensive magical training and experience, it is not very surprising that both poets felt called upon to establish esoteric orders. In Yeats’s case, this took the form of the much-planned but ultimately abortive Celtic Order, a kind of Golden Dawn transposed into a language of Celtic symbolism (Life 1 186–87). In that of Williams, it was the Companions of the Co-inherence, a loose organisation established just before the outbreak of the Second World War to practice ‘substitution’ between its members and for the world at large. Bound together by a practice of mutual remembrance, and by observation of ‘four feasts: the Feast of the Annunciation, the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the Feasts of the Transfiguration and the Commemoration of All Souls’ (CWTI 292), its members also undertook specific tasks, psychically healing fellow-Companions or others, and taking on (sometimes at Williams’s rather autocratic direction) the physical or mental suffering of others. The Order also made its appearance in Williams’s poems as ‘the Company’ (or ‘Household’) ‘of Taliessin’.53 To some extent it outlived Williams, and vestiges of it may still exist.

  • 54 Charles Williams to John Pellow, 18 January1922, Wade Center, Charles Williams Papers. 054.
  • 55 John Pellow’s Diary, 21 November 1923, Bodleian MS Facs. c. 134.
  • 56 Alice Mary Hadfield, Charles Williams: An Exploration of his Life and Work (Oxford: Oxford Universi (...)

62Like Yeats, Williams had more than a passing interest in Blake. As we have seen, he was prepared to spend time on (and be puzzled by) the Ellis and Yeats edition; but his interest went further. In 1922, reluctantly helping to edit a school anthology, Poems of Home and Overseas, he insisted on including Blake, telling John Pellow, with some embarrassment, ‘[the anthology] would have been much worse without me. Mrs Hemans and Shakespeare without the Blake’.54 In 1923 Williams included Blake in a lecture tackling the question of what ‘a man… bankrupt in faith’ would ‘find of comfort & strengthening in the main tradition of English poetry’;55 in 1930 he lectured on Blake at Downe House, the well-known girls’ boarding school;56 and in 1938 gave a year-long course of lectures at London’s City Literary Institute on ‘The Christian Idea in Literature’, which included Luther and Calvin, Loyola and Montaigne, Fox, Pascal, Law, Blake, Kierkegaard, Patmore, Karl Barth, and Eliot’s Family Reunion, as well as the Grail, Malory, Tennyson, Swinburne and Morris, and ‘the Arthurian Myth’. This remarkable syllabus demonstrates not only Williams’s eclecticism and the importance he attached to Blake (and indeed Patmore) but also the fact that—rather as Yeats had resolved that ‘whatever the great poets had affirmed in their finest moments was the nearest we could come to an authoritative religion’ (CW3 97)—Williams was quite happy to ignore generic distinctions between poetry and theology, besides drawing myth—including myth of pre-Christian origin—into his discourse on equal terms.

63An undated set of his lecture notes on Blake survives, beginning

  • 57 ‘Lecture Notes on Blake’, Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College, Charles Williams MS 190.

Blake—he comes on us like a revelation. Only as we get older, & then reluctantly, that we admit he is not a final revelation; that other things have to be brought in. And even then we are haunted by a fear— was he right after all? Have we lost something more than Blake & our youth? some freshness, some capacity of ardour and love we shall never find again? At least I myself can never read any article commenting adversely on him but, though my intellect may agree, my emotions are stirred to anger. … The P[rophetic] B[ooks] continually repeat a few ideas—the fall and restoration of some superhuman figure. Maybe Urizen locked in ice of his own reason, or Milton coming down to put off his selfhood, or Albion falling from congregation of eternity, or Palamabron quarrelling with Rintrah (I think it was). There is always this schism; an attempt to express on the cosmic side what was so obvious on the microcosmic.57

  • 58 Charles Williams, He Came Down from Heaven and The Forgiveness of Sins (London: Faber & Faber, 1950 (...)

64Clearly Williams knew Blake’s longer poems well; and a footnote in The Forgiveness of Sins shows him using the massive, scholarly Sloss and Wallis edition of the Prophetic Books.58 Blake’s use of geographical symbolism, especially in the person of ‘Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion’, was an important influence behind the geographical-cosmological symbolism of the poems in Taliessin through Logres (whose frontispiece shows a nude woman superimposed upon a map of Europe and the Middle East) and The Region of the Summer Stars. He expected future readers to detect Blake’s influence on his own work, grumpily telling his Oxford student Anne Renwick, in a verse letter,

  • 59 Charles Williams to Anne Renwick, undated, Bodleian MS. Eng. Lett. d. 452.

If anyone says… on a day
in the future that I was inspired by the
Prophetic Books,
turn on them one of your darker looks
… everyone has a damnable skill
in Influences—& Eliot & Hopkins & Blake
are going to be mine, in those pages where a corncrake
discusses the corn. I forgive them.
59

  • 60 Charles Williams to Anne Renwick, 30 September 1941, Bodleian MS. Eng. Lett. d. 452,

65It was Blake’s visionary sense of correspondences, of microcosm and macrocosm, that was most important to him. He hoped that Anne Renwick, who graduated from Oxford in 1941, would write a book on Blake, incorporating ideas they had discussed together, and even planned to plant a boost for it in Time and Tide, telling her that ‘Sometime during October a review in Time and Tide will mention casually, in referring to Blake, that for “a knowledge of his mystical geography, as for his mystical anatomy, we must wait for the study by Miss Anne Renwick”’.60 Her book was never written; but Williams’s letters make it quite clear where his main interest in Blake lay, and show that it was closely congruent with that of Yeats.

66To speak of ‘system’ in a poet’s work is to imply that individual poems are more than a vehicle for specific insights; that the poems interconnect to build up a larger structure of thought. In Yeats’s case, the process of building a unity of thought involved the interconnection of ideas and images from a range of fields, many of them esoteric. Charles Williams was not required to the same extent to ‘hammer [his] thoughts into unity’ because he saw himself as an orthodox Christian, drawing from a fund of traditional Christian ideas and images. However, in his mature poetry, the use of the Arthurian ‘myth’ (as he preferred to call it), together with his decision to locate the episodes of that myth in the Byzantine period and his central concern with his doctrine of co-inherence, led to the production of a body of poetry which certainly qualifies as having elements of a system. As we have seen, Williams emphasised episodes (such as Blachefleur’s giving of blood) which seemed to him to demonstrate co-inherence. He also developed kabbalistic elements in the poems. ‘The Death of Palomides’ in The Region of the Summer Stars, his second and last volume of Arthurian poems, is a meditation on the meaning of Netzach or ‘Victory’, the fourth sephira (in ascending order) of the Sephirotic Tree; and he takes advantage of the literal meaning of Taliessin (‘Bright Forehead’), the name of his central character and persona, to create identification with Kether, the highest sephira, which is visualised as white and shining, and corresponding in the microcosm to the crown of the head. The Byzantine Empire is viewed as congruent with the human body; Williams’s poem ‘The Vision of the Empire’ emphasises this, beginning ‘The organic body sang together’ and systematically exploring the correspondence between human body and geography which is graphically displayed in the specially-commissioned frontispece to Taliessin Through Logres, where a nude female body is shown extended over the map of Europe and the Middle East. Williams explains in the Preface to the Region of the Summer Stars that

Logres is Britain regarded as a Province of the Empire with its centre at Byzantium. The time historically is after the conversion of the Empire to Christianity but during the expectation of the Return of Our Lord (The Parousia). The Emperor of the poem, however, is to be regarded rather as operative Providence. (RSS vii)

67A full exposition of Williams’s structure of poetic thought would be out of place here; but this brief sampling should be enough to indicate that, like Yeats, he was concerned to build a poetic unity from history, esoteric thought and spiritual aspiration.

  • 61 Bodleian MS. Eng. e. 2012

68The question naturally arises as to how far the central part assigned by Williams to Byzantium was a result of influence from the writings of Yeats. In his Arthurian commonplace Book (compiled, probably, between 1912 and 1916) Williams gives, as his main reason for moving Arthur ‘forward and parallel to Charlemagne & his surroundings in France, A. D. 800’, his wish to ‘obtain the full effect of Islam, in Africa, in Spain’.61 This obviously predates both A Vision and the ‘Byzantium’ poems. And indeed, at this stage Williams does not mention Byzantium by name. That would happen first (albeit following, initially, the Greek spelling of the city’s name) in an unpublished poem, ‘The Assumption of Caelia’, which Williams may have written as early as December 1926. Here the bard Taliessin commemorates a princess who lived and died in ‘Byzantion’ (CWTI 157). Williams himself was careful to imply (though not actually to assert) that he did not owe the setting of his poems to Yeats:

  • 62 Ridler ed., Image of the City, 161.

That I did choose Byzantium was due, perhaps, to a romantic love of the (then) strange, but it was a little due to the sense that the Byzantine Emperor was a much more complex poetic image than the Roman. Mr. Yeats had not then written his Byzantium poems; or if so, I had not read them.62

  • 63 I owe this insight to Stephen Barber, and to his article ‘Alternative history and symbolic geograph (...)

69This is to overlook the possibility that Williams may already have seen Yeats’s references to Byzantium in the 1925 Vision A, which he would praise in the 1930 Poetry at Present.63 The question must remain open.

  • 64 E. Martin Browne with Henzie Browne, Two in One (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 104.
  • 65 Ibid.
  • 66 Charles Williams, Collected Plays (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), 168.

70Like Yeats, Williams devoted a considerable portion of his time and energy to drama. His dramatic writing comprises a wide variety of modes, from quasi-liturgical recitation (A Rite of the Passion), by way of masque (The Masque of the Manuscript and its two sequels), pastiche Jacobean tragedy (The Chaste Wanton), and community pageant (Judgement at Chelmsford), to drawing-room realism (The Devil and the Lady) and half-hour radio drama (The Three Temptations). But his most successful and critically-acclaimed plays— Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury (the 1936 Canterbury Festival play) and Seed of Adam (also from 1936)—used a stylised, ritualistic approach incorporating dance and masks, achieving ‘a kaleidoscopic compression of history’.64 Williams and his producer, E. Martin Browne, were furious when the costume designer, against their instructions, produced realistic historical costumes; but they were delighted with the chorus figure, the Skeleton, who wore a black body-suit with white appliqué bones, and a black cloak ‘lined throughout with the green of spring, which appeared again as ivy-leaves round the brow’.65 Seed of Adam, a verse nativity play, resembles a mummers’play, incorporating mime and dance: at its climax, Mary and a scimitar-bearing ‘Negress’ (who represents Hell but also becomes midwife to the birth of Christ) dance together at an increasing pace, ‘the scimitar flashing round them in a white fire. The CHORUS sway to the movement’.66 How much these plays, with their ritualistic action, their use of dance and masks, may owe to Yeats’s theatrical experiments, and in particular to Four Plays for Dancers, is uncertain. The chapter on Yeats in Poetry at Present lists in its headnote [The] Hour Glass and Other Plays; The King’s Threshold; Deirdre; The Green Helmet; and Plays for an Irish Theatre; but Williams’s approach to the theatre probably owed at least as much to his temperamental love of ritual, and to the austere requirements of plays written for performance in churches and village halls by a small touring theatre groups with little access to elaborate scenery or costumes.

  • 67 The somewhat conflicting evidence is summarised in W. David Soud, Divine Cartographers: God, Histor (...)
  • 68 Soud, op. cit., 67–8. Susan Johnston Graf’s more specific suggestion is perhaps also worthy of cons (...)

71Turning in conclusion to the inner life of the poets, it seems worthy of note that both had an active interest in the notion that sexual energy could be harnessed to poetic creativity. Yeats felt that he had discovered this, painfully, in his relationship with Maud Gonne, and expressed it powerfully and tactfully in his poem ‘Words’, and in the related reflection in Memoirs: ‘How much of the best I have done and still do is but the attempt to explain myself to her?’ (Mem 142). Later this became focused into an interest in ‘Tantric philosophy’, as in his essay on ‘The Mandukya Upanishad’, where he writes of ‘the Tantric philosophy, where a man and woman, when in sexual union, transfigure each other’ s images into the masculine and feminine characters of God, but the man must not finish, vitality must not pass beyond his body, beyond his being’. (CW5 163). Yeats possessed several of Sir John Woodroffe’s books on tantra (it is not clear quite how many, or of these how much he actually read);67 and as W. David Soud suggests, ‘Tantric practice may have seemed to Yeats the metaphysical analogue of the Steinach operation he underwent physically in 1934 [and] it is not out of the question that he partly intended the Steinach procedure to enable him to pursue Tantric practices’.68

  • 69 Yorke Collection, NS 32.
  • 70 D. H. S. Nicholson, The Marriage-Craft (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1924), 207; CWTI 112–13.
  • 71 Charles Williams to Joan Wallis, 11 December 1940; Marion E. Wade Research Center, Wheaton College, (...)

72In the case of Williams, the matter is somewhat clearer. One of his chief mentors, the Stella Matutina initiate Arthur Hugh Evelyn Lee, had a definite interest in the ‘transmutation’ of sexual energy, and made detailed notes on the subject in his occult notebook now preserved in the Warburg Institute Library.69 Williams’s close friend D. H. S. Nicholson, in his novel The Marriage Craft, depicts a thinly-disguised Williams discussing the ‘great serpent’ Kundalini, and ‘the hope of transmutation’ with a group including a fictional version of Lee, who asserts that if sexual energy could be transformed and redirected, ‘it would be something greater than electricity … greater, probably, even than the release of atomic energy’.70 Like Yeats, Williams was no stranger to sexual frustration. A nine-year engagement to his wife Florence, and later an anguished and unconsummated love affair with Phyllis Jones, Librarian at Oxford University Press’s London headquarters, Amen House, had each resulted in an outpouring of poems (albeit of questionable quality). Williams came to believe that the kind of gently sadomasochistic games in which he had engaged with Phyllis (chiefly a matter of mild flagellation) were essential to his creativity, and during the composition of his Arthurian cycle he occasionally called upon female disciples to help, even on occasion summoning a devotee from London to his wartime office in Oxford to provide the necessary stimulus. A letter to one such disciple, Joan Wallis, makes the matter clear. ‘Like it or not, approve it or not’, he tells her, ‘it is likely that, if you were to give yourself to me for an afternoon with your princely care to be satisfying, I should work much better’.71 There was no question of sexual consummation. As Joan Wallis herself recalled in an interview years later, ‘it had a sexual element, but the restrained sexual element seemed to be a means of releasing the energy he needed to find the means to write’ (CWTI 334).

73It may not be entirely frivolous to end this survey with an observation prompted by four lines from ‘All Things Can Tempt Me’:

When I was young
I had not given a penny for a song
Did not the poet sing it with such airs
That one believed he had a sword upstairs[.] (
VP 267)

74Oddly enough, in his later years each poet did indeed have a sword upstairs. In Yeats’s case it was Sato’s Samurai sword, wrapped in its embroidered silk and cherished at Thoor Ballylee. In Williams’s, it was a basket-hilted sword, probably inherited from Stella Matutina friends, kept in his office cupboard in Oxford and used (perhaps) for magical ritual and (certainly) for occasional gentle flagellation of female disciples (CWTI 334). The coincidence is perhaps not meaningless. For both poets, the sword symbolised aristocratic leanings, an appreciation of the heroic past, and a love of ritual. It may serve as an emblem for a certain kinship between the poets, and for the truth that viewed in this context each seems, perhaps, a little less anomalous, a little more of his time.

Annexes

APPENDIX 1. Charles Williams’s review of A Vision ‘Staring at Miracle’72

A Vision. W. B. Yeats (Macmillan. 15s.)

Mr. Yeats’s style imposes attention on his readers; no other living writer arouses so easily a sense of reverie moving into accurate power. But to express that attention properly would need more time than any review can take; and more than usually one must feel here the absurdity of trying to define patterns in other words than their own.

The book consists largely of ‘a revised and amplified version’ of an edition published in 1926. A bibliographical note on all the contents would have been convenient. Those who know or possess the previous volume may still be glad, for Mr. Yeats has altered the exterior arrangements of his Vision, and what he calls the ‘unnatural story of an Arabian traveller’ is still peculiar to that edition. Certain poems are also reprinted to combine into a new volume. I have not yet been able to compare the two volumes, and must not, therefore, discuss the differences further.

The Vision itself is presented as a philosophical diagram of the nature of man and of the universe as known to man. It is said to have been communicated by invisible instructors, beginning with sentences delivered to Mrs. Yeats in automatic writing from 1917 to 1919. The method of communication was changed to speech in sleep during 1919. ‘Exposition in sleep came to an end in 1920, and I began an exhaustive study of some fifty copy-books of automatic script, and of a much smaller number of books recording what had come in sleep’. There had been interference at times which the communicating intelligences called Frustration or the Frustrators. Of the nature of this communication Mr. Yeats says that one intelligence said in the first month that ‘spirits do not tell a man what is true, but create such conditions, such a crisis of fate, that the man is compelled to listen to his Daimon’. Mere spirits are ‘a reflection and a distortion’; reality is found by the Daimon in the Ghostly Self and ‘the blessed spirits must be sought within the self which is common to all’.

The symbolism of the Vision is geometrical, as all such imagery must be. In a sudden reminiscence Mr. Yeats alludes to the diagrams in Law’s Boehme ‘where one lifts a flap of paper to discover both the human entrails and the starry heavens’. In another myth something of the same idea related the spiritual heavens and the womb of the mother of Galahad, and that last porphyry is like the porphyry room in Byzantium where the Emperors were born. Here, however, it is a matter of cones or vortices, states of being struggling against each other, the ‘antithetical tincture’ and the ‘primary tincture’. ‘Within these cones move what are called the Four Faculties: Will and Mask, Creative Mind and Body of Fate’.

The movement of the Faculties covers ‘every possible movement of thought and of life’, and these movements are marked by numbers corresponding to the phases of the moon. Mr. Yeats examines ‘the twenty-eight incarnations’ one by one, describing the kind of humanity observable in each and occasionally naming a few examples. Thus Phase Seventeen is distinguished as follows:

Will—The Daimonic Man
Mask (from Phase 3). True—Simplification through intensity. False— Dispersal.
Creative Mind (from Phase 13). True—Creative imagination through antithetical emotion. False—Enforced self-realization.
Body of Fate (from Phase 27)—Loss.
Examples: Dante, Shelley, Landor.

Beside and beyond the Faculties are the Principles, Husk, Passionate Body, Spirit, and Celestial Body. ‘The wheel or cone of the Faculties may be considered to complete its movement between birth and death, that of the Principles to include the period between lives as well’. But even the full individual existence is only a part of the grand diagram; history also is measured by the mathematics. Not the least fascinating part of the book is made of the 34 pages in which Mr. Yeats makes a pattern of Europe from 2000 B. C. to the present day, in a style which is dream, and in the dream diagram, and at that a diagram of greatness and terror.

In a period when our cleverest men may write wisdom but do not habitually write English, the style is itself a refreshment. The sentence which refers to the Byzantium saints ‘staring at miracle’ is an example; another is that at which by chance I opened the book: ‘Love is created and preserved by intellectual analysis’. The intellect is so often nowadays regarded as merely destructive, or if constructive, then only in convenient and sterile things, that the phrase is near to being immediately rejected. But in fact it encourages the mind and more than the mind. Given the will, then the greater the analysis the greater the love, as has elsewhere been said: ‘Love is the chief art of knowledge and knowledge is the chief art of love’.

Yet perhaps, to some minds in a different stage of thought, the most thrilling sentence in the book is the one which Mr. Yeats quotes from Heraclitus. It is quoted in relation to the opposing cones: ‘dying each other’s life, living each other’s death’. If indeed the world is founded on an interchange so profound that we have not begun to glimpse it, such sentences for a moment illuminate the abyss. If so, it is the principle of some such exchange that must be sought before all national and international evils can be righted. ‘A civilization’, Mr. Yeats says, ‘is a struggle to keep self-control’. Only by discovery of the principle of exchanged life can we keep our self-control by losing it, and without losing it we cannot keep it.

CHARLES WILLIAMS

Notes

1 Note—Further information may have been gathered since this article was prepared for publication. If you would like to find out if any further information has been discovered that may help your own research, why not write to the author at GCGLindop@aol.com? Quite apart from anything else, feedback is always welcomed.

2 Marion E. Wade Research Center, Wheaton College, Charles Williams MS 172.

3 Charles Williams, Poetry at Present (hereafter PatP) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930), 57.

4 Charles Williams to Alice Meynell, 15 May 1912. Meynell papers, Humphrey’s Homestead, Greatham, Pulborough, West Sussex, UK.

5 Charles Williams to Wilfrid Meynell, 12 February1923, Meynell papers.

6 Oxford University Press Archive, OP 3457/PB022911.

7 Grevel Lindop, Charles Williams: The Third Inkling (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 55–63, 144–45. Hereafter CWTI.

8 Anne Ridler, ‘Introduction’ to Charles Williams, The Image of the City and Other Essays (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), xxiv; CWTI 65–6.

9 Alice Mary Hadfield, Charles Williams: An Exploration of his Life and Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 31.

10 The picture follows p. 52 in Hadfield’s biography. Warwick Gould and John Kelly have independently confirmed that the man shown with Williams bears no resemblance to Yeats.

11 Warburg Institute Library, Yorke Collection NS32.

12 An odd coincidence, as it happens: Charles Williams suffered in childhood from undiagnosed tuberculosis, whose after-effects many years later precipitated his death.

13 Bodleian MS Facs. c. 134.

14 Ibid.

15 Oxford University Press archive, Milford Letters, Vol. 129, p. 410: Humphrey Milford to Secretary at Oxford, 14 March 1928; also, Register of the Orders of the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, July 1924-July 1928, p. 232.

16 Ottoline Morrell to Charles Williams, ‘12 December’; Marion E. Wade Research Center, Wheaton College, Charles Williams Papers, 383.

17 Charles Williams to Humphrey Milford, 2 October 1934. Apart from the Delegates’ Minutes and Humphrey Milford’s outgoing letter books, all papers relating to the Oxford Book of Modern Verse are in a single file in the Oxford University Press archive, OP702/BB/ED 004932, henceforth referenced as ‘OUP ibid.

18 BL Ms Add 1040E: Visitors’ Book at 10 Gower Street.

19 OUP ibid.

20 Kenneth Sisam to Humphrey Milford, undated, OUP ibid.

21 Charles Williams to Kenneth Sisam and Humphrey Milford, 11 October 1934, OUP ibid.

22 Humphrey Milford to R. W. Chapman, 15 October 1834, OUP ibid.

23 Humphrey Milford to Kenneth Sisam, 8 November 1934, OUP ibid.

24 Kenneth Sisam to Humphrey Milford, 9 November 1934, OUP ibid.

25 Kenneth Sisam to Humphrey Milford, 10 November 1934, OUP ibid.

26 H. Watt to Charles Williams, 11 September 1935, OUP ibid.

27 WBY to Charles Williams, 24 October 1935, OUP ibid.

28 Charles Williams to H. Watt, 12 November 1935, OUP ibid.

29 Charles Williams to Robert Nichols, 12 November 1935, OUP ibid.

30 WBY to Charles Williams, 19 November 1935, OUP ibid.

31 Charles Williams to WBY, 26 November 1935, OUP ibid. Though Gogarty’s translation failed to get past the Press and into the Oxford Book of Modern Verse, it clearly made an impression on Yeats himself, and may be worth considering as a possible influence on ‘Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop’ (VP 513).

32 WBY to Charles Williams, 27 November 1935, OUP ibid.

33 George Yeats to H. Watt, 27 April 1936, OUP ibid.

34 Charles Williams to Kenneth Sisam, 1 May 1936, OUP ibid.

35 General” Book sent to Press’, Clarendon Press in-house pro forma, OUP ibid.

36 OUP ibid.

37 Typist’s code indicates Cumberledge, but signed ‘CW’, to Sisam, 4 June 1936. OUP ibid.

38 Kenneth Sisam to WBY, 7 December 1936, OUP ibid.

39 ‘Staring at Miracle’, Time and Tide, 4 December 1937, 1674–76. Reprinted in Charles Williams, The Celian Moment and Other Essays, ed. by Stephen Barber (Carterton: Greystones Press, 2017), 99–103.

40 ‘Euclid I. I’, Bodleian, uncatalogued papers bequeathed by Anne Ridler.

41 Charles Williams to Anne Ridler, 17 August 1933; Bodleian, uncatalogued papers bequeathed by Anne Ridler. The first ellipsis in this quotation is mine; the second is Williams’s.

42 Charles Williams to Margaret Douglas, undated (1942?), Marion E. Wade Research Center, Charles Williams Papers.

43 Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church (London: The Religious Book Club, 1939), 1.

44 Charles Williams to Margaret Douglas, 18 July 1941; Marion E. Wade Center, Charles Williams Papers. 012.

45 ‘Staring at Miracle’, Time and Tide, 4 December 1937, 1674–76.

46 See, for example, ‘Taliessin in the School of the Poets’, line 42; ‘The Coming of Galahad’, line 25; ‘Taliessin at Lancelot’ s Mass’, line 48, in Charles Williams, Taliessin Through Logres (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938), 28, 70, 91. Hereafter referenced as TTL.

47 Charles Williams, He Came Down from Heaven (London: Heinemann, 1938), 138.

48 Charles Williams, ‘Staring at Miracle’; cf. CW14 105; A Vision (London: Macmillan, 1962 [repr. 1974]), 140–41. Williams does not accurately reproduce Yeats’s italics; and he omits ‘Enforced’ before ‘Loss’.

49 Romans 12:5.

50 Though Stephen Barber, to whom this discussion of the Heraclitean aphorism is heavily indebted, suggests that Williams included the quotation in drafts of these poems before the appearance of Vision B, perhaps as early as 1934/5, and that he knew its source—which Vision A does not give—from its appearance in the closing words of The Resurrection: ‘Your words are clear at last, O Heraclitus. God and man die each other’s life, live each other’s death’. This is certainly possible. See Stephen Barber, ‘Heraclitus on the Way of Exchange’, Charles Williams Society Newsletter 112 (Autumn 2004), 1–6.

51 ‘The Last Voyage’, 73–74.

52 Charles Williams, ‘The Founding of the Company’, lines 60–4, The Region of the Summer Stars (London: Editions Poetry London, 1944), hereafter RSS, p. 38.

53 See, e.g., ‘The Founding of the Company’ (RSS 36–41).

54 Charles Williams to John Pellow, 18 January1922, Wade Center, Charles Williams Papers. 054.

55 John Pellow’s Diary, 21 November 1923, Bodleian MS Facs. c. 134.

56 Alice Mary Hadfield, Charles Williams: An Exploration of his Life and Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 89.

57 ‘Lecture Notes on Blake’, Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College, Charles Williams MS 190.

58 Charles Williams, He Came Down from Heaven and The Forgiveness of Sins (London: Faber & Faber, 1950), 180, referring to d. j. Sloss and j. p. r. Wallis, Prophetic Writings of William Blake, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1926).

59 Charles Williams to Anne Renwick, undated, Bodleian MS. Eng. Lett. d. 452.

60 Charles Williams to Anne Renwick, 30 September 1941, Bodleian MS. Eng. Lett. d. 452,

61 Bodleian MS. Eng. e. 2012

62 Ridler ed., Image of the City, 161.

63 I owe this insight to Stephen Barber, and to his article ‘Alternative history and symbolic geography in the Taliessin poems’, forthcoming in Ronnie Littlejohn and Jonathan Thorndike (eds.), Impossible Geography: Portals, Thresholds, and Boundaries in the Works of c. s. Lewis, j. r. r. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Williams, g. k. Chesterton, and George MacDonald, forthcoming (2018), publisher to be announced.

64 E. Martin Browne with Henzie Browne, Two in One (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 104.

65 Ibid.

66 Charles Williams, Collected Plays (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), 168.

67 The somewhat conflicting evidence is summarised in W. David Soud, Divine Cartographers: God, History and Poiesis in w. b. Yeats, David Jones, and t. s. Eliot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 60 n.

68 Soud, op. cit., 67–8. Susan Johnston Graf’s more specific suggestion is perhaps also worthy of consideration: ‘He may have thought that the [Steinach] vasectomy procedure performed the same function as the withholding of ejaculation in tantra, that the vital energy of procreation would be channeled into imaginative, literary, and visionary work’. Susan Johnston Graf, w. b. Yeats: Twentieth-Century Magus (York Beach: Samuel Weiser, 2000), pp. 203–4.

69 Yorke Collection, NS 32.

70 D. H. S. Nicholson, The Marriage-Craft (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1924), 207; CWTI 112–13.

71 Charles Williams to Joan Wallis, 11 December 1940; Marion E. Wade Research Center, Wheaton College, Charles Williams Papers, 85; CWTI 334.

72 Time and Tide, 4 December 1937, 1674, 1676, also available at http://www.yeatsvision.com/G801.html

Auteur

Grevel Lindop was formerly Professor of Romantic and Early Victorian Studies at the University of Manchester, and is now an independent writer and researcher. He was General Editor of The Works of Thomas De Quincey (21 vols., 2000–2003), and author of The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey; A Literary Guide to the Lake District; Charles Williams: The Third Inkling; and seven collections of poems, most recently Luna Park. He is a Fellow of the Wordsworth Trust, and Academic Director of the Temenos Academy, founded by Kathleen Raine.

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