My review title, as readers of Charles Walter Stansby Williams will recognize, comes from his phrase, "Flesh knows what spirit knows, but spirit knows it knows." After reading those sorts of Williamsisms, one longs for the company of others similarly enlightened (some would say infected) by reading him. The best way I can put it is that reading CW heightens the physical world. What do CW readers know? The same things as everybody else, but they know they know, and as the drug takes effect, as it were, begin to see everywhere the pattern of the glory. That is certainly what you get reading CW, or I do every time I reread War in Heaven or bits of Taliesin or Descent of the Dove. And then myself so longing, by great good luck I came upon this volume of essays.
There are lots of good books of this sort on Lewis, Tolkien, and other writers. Two that come to mind are The Riddle of Joy (on Chesterton and Lewis) and Permanent Things (on Dorothy L. Sayers, Evelyn Waugh and others). But it's rare to find such a collection on Williams. These essays were written for or assembled by the British Charles Williams Society over two decades. The book is as discursive and full of misspellings as these sorts of volumes tend to be, but yet absolutely fascinating. The best bits in such essays are not usually those tending to the main thesis, but the highways and byways getting there. In Eric Routley's essay, when the idea of the Puritans and the idea of Williams meet, it is the idea of the Puritans that changes. He views prose as "passing a pencil" and poetry as "throwing a ball." CW is decidedly in the latter camp, and if you miss a few tosses, it's all the more satisfying when they hit the glove. Huw Mordacai's essay, "Charles Williams and the Occult," fills in far more than I previously knew about his Golden Dawn associations, and Gwen Watkins may have some of us (this reader included) reading R.H. Benson's novels, convinced that R.H.B. and C.W. are twin souls. Many of the authors in this volume are well-known for books published after the 1995 publication date. How can I mention only three of the eighteen essays? What about the other fifteen? They wait for you to join the celebration.