Charles Williams was an Inkling, that Oxford literary group that used to meet in The Eagle and Child pub. Despite hobnobbing with the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis he is a rather forgotten figure nowadays. He has not wanted for champions though. T. S. Eliot was one of them and it was he who was responsible for Faber creating a standard edition of Charles Williams’s novels in the 1940s. There are seven, War in Heaven, Many Dimensions, The Palace of the Lion, The Greater Trumps, Shadows of Ecstasy, Descent into Hell and All Hallows’ Eve: all are being reissued in Faber Finds.
Eliot described them as ‘supernatural thrillers’ but an even more ardent enthusiast disputes that. I was aware of the high opinion Ruth Rendell has for Many Dimensions but even so was not prepared for the richness of her praise:
I very much admire Many Dimensions and I’m delighted it has been reissued. I have read it many times and am about due to read it again. To my mind it is the best of Charles Williams’s novels. It has a haunting quality that seems to embrace the secrets of the orient, real faith in the power of goodness, love of justice and the profound hideousness of evil. Readers to whom I have recommended it come to love it as I do. I would put it unreservedly on my list of ten favourite novels. It shows more than any book I have ever read, the essential strength of innocence.
For a title to be on Ruth Rendell’s ‘list of ten favourite novels’ (what are the others I wonder?) is a remarkable accolade. In her email to me she felt to categorize them as ‘supernatural thrillers’ was to belittle them so old Tom can consider himself rebuked!
With Ruth Rendell about to re-read Many Dimensions perhaps this is the moment for others to discover it for the first time?