Susan Wendling


Charles Williams (1886-1945) devoted his life to “the Matter of Britain,” seen in a private scrapbook, his novels and Arthurian poetry, and his prose analysis, The Figure of Arthur. Exploring two myths, King Arthur and the Grail Quest, Williams creatively combined them. Reasons are given why Williams was so intrigued with the Grail legends: the failure of earlier sources to develop the “never quite fulfilled hints of profound meaning”; the desire as a poet to discover images to convey his themes of romantic theology as well as the probing of the nature of co-inherence with its “doctrines” of Exchange and Substituted Love; the identification of Williams with Taliessin, King Arthur’s poet, the central figure in his own poetry; and finally, the High Prince Galahad, who achieves the Vision of the Grail, but whose mysterious begetting fascinates Williams with its paradoxes and spiritual “contradictions” presented in the old tales.