Influential poet, novelist, thinker - Charles Williams;
ByJohn-Manuel Andriote, John-Manuel Andriote, a Monitor intern, has studied Williams extensively. Charles Williams.'' Drawing on her earlier work as well as on letters and unpublished manuscripts that have since surfaced, Alice Mary Hadfield now takes us on an ''exploration'' of Williams's work. Williams (1886-1945) was something of an enigma to his colleagues, including Mrs. Hadfield. Profoundly Christian, he also displayed an extraordinary understanding of such ''anti-Christian'' areas as the occult and witchcraft. Author of seven novels, several books of poetry, plays, numerous biographies, essays, and books of theology, Williams was a prolific writer. His ''Taliessin'' poetry (which explores Camelot from the point of view of King Arthur's court poet) is the only significant 20th-century addition to the Arthurian legends. From his post at the Oxford University Press in London, Williams's infectious charm and the fascinating theological premises of his works came to influence and earn the respect of such luminaries as T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Auden said, ''in the presence of this man . . . I felt myself transformed into a person who was incapable of doing anything base or unloving.'' This ''Exploration'' is an attempt to place Williams's work in the context of his life. While the biographical details are often sketchy and rather synoptical, the analyses of Williams's work, particularly his poetry, are the real strengths of this book. For those interested in pure biography, this is not the place to begin. For those seeking an introduction to the complexities of Williams's ideas and to the man behind them, this volume is, indeed, a good place to begin.
Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work, by Alice Mary Hadfield. New York: Oxford University Press. 268 pp. $24.95.