from
All Hallows’ Eve
by
Charles Williams

Charles Williams

T. S. Eliot

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introduction by T. S. Eliot

All Hallows’ Eve

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Christian fiction

the Inklings

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Introduction to All Hallows’ Eve by
T. S. Eliot

Copyright © 1948 by Pellegrini & Cudahy

He appeared completely at ease in surroundings with which he was not yet familiar, and which had intimidated many; and at the same time was modest and unassuming to the point of humility: that unconscious humility, one discovered later, was in him a natural quality, one he possessed to a degree which made one, in time, feel very humble oneself in his presence. He talked easily and volubly, yet never imposed his talk; for he appeared always to be at the same time preoccupied with the subject of conversation, and interested in and aware of, the personalities of those to whom he was talking.

Topic:

Humility

There are some writers who are best known through their books, and who, in their personal relations, have little to give beyond what more commonplace, uncreative minds can give; there are others whose writings are only the shadow of what the men have given in direct intercourse. Some men are less than their works, some are more. Charles Williams cannot be placed in either class. To have known the man would have been enough; to know his books is enough; but no one who has known both the man and his works would have willingly forgone either experience. I can think of no man who was more wholly the same man in his life and in his writings.

Topic:

Authors

There was also a deceptive gaiety in his treatment of the most serious subjects: I remember a bewildering and almost hilarious discussion in which we considered the notion, propounded by some early Christian heretics, that the world had been created at the Nativity. (It was characteristic of his adventurous imagination, that he should like to put himself at the point of view from which a doctrine was held, before rejecting it.)

Topic:

Heresy

text checked (see note) Jul 2007

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All Hallows’ Eve

Copyright © 1948 by Pellegrini & Cudahy

Chapter One
The New Life

Never in her life had she contemplated so final an end which was no end. All change had carried on some kind of memory which was encouragement. She had not always supposed it to be so; she had told herself, when she left school, when she was married, that she was facing a new life. But she had, on the whole, been fortunate in her passage and some pleasantness in her past had always offered her a promise in the future. This however was quite a new life. Her good fortune had preserved her from any experience of that state which is—almost adequately—called “death-in-life”; it had consequently little prepared her for this life-in-death. Her heart had not fallen—ever, ever—through an unfathomed emptiness, supported only on the fluttering wings of everyday life; and not even realizing that it was so supported. She was a quite ordinary, and rather lucky, girl and she was dead.

She remained standing there, for though she had been a reasonably intelligent and forceful creature, she had never in fact had to display any initiative—much less such initiative as was needed here. She had never much thought about death; she had never prepared for it; she had never related anything to it. She had nothing whatever to do with it, or (therefore) in it.

Topic:

Death

It was her willingness to commit herself with Richard that made her believe she (as she called it) loved Richard, though in her bad moments she definitely wished Richard, in that sense, to love her more than she loved him. But her bad moments were not many. She really did want, need and (so far) love Richard. Her lack and longing and despair and self-blame were sincere enough, and they did not surprise her. It had been plain honest passion, and plain honest passion it remained.
She had always been willing, as it is called, “to face facts”; indeed, her chief danger had been that, in a life with no particular crisis and no particular meaning, she would invent for herself facts to face. She had the common, vague idea of her age that if your sexual life was all right you were all right, and she had the common vague idea of all ages that if you (and your sexual life) were not all right, it was probably someone else’s fault—perhaps undeliberate, but still their fault. Her irritation with her husband had been much more the result of power seeking material than mere fretfulness.
She knew she had never really liked Evelyn, but Evelyn had been a habit, almost a drug, with which she filled spare hours. Evelyn usually did what Lester wanted. She would talk gossip which Lester did not quite like to talk, but did rather like to hear talked, because she could then listen to it while despising it.

She stared down at the other girl and she exclaimed aloud, “Oh my God!”

It was the kind of casual exclamation she and Richard had been in the habit of throwing about all over the place. It meant nothing; when they were seriously aggressive or aggrieved, they used language borrowed from bestiality or hell. She had never thought it meant anything. But in this air every word meant something, meant itself; and this curious new exactitude of speech hung there like a strange language, as if she had sworn in Spanish or Pushtu, and the oath had echoed into an invocation. Nothing now happened; no one came; not a quiver disturbed the night, but for a moment she felt as if someone might come, or perhaps not even that—no more than a sudden sense that she was listening as if to hear if it was raining. She was becoming strange to herself; her words, even her intonations, were foreign.

Topic:

Oaths

Chapter Two
The Beetles
It was what she was that was needed. What she was—not what she was to him. It occurred to him then that he had on the whole been in the habit of thinking of Lester only in relation to himself. He saw suddenly in her the power that waited for use, and he saw also that he had not taken any trouble about that power; that he had, in fact, been vaguely content to suppose it was adequately used in attending to him. He said, almost aloud, “Darling, did I neglect you?” It was no ordinary neglect that he meant; of that certainly he had not been guilty—and of this other perhaps she had been as guilty as he. No—not as guilty; she knew more of him in himself than he had ever troubled to know of her in herself. It was why her comments on him, in gaiety or rage, always had such a tang of truth; whereas his were generally more like either cultured jesting or mere abuse.
Chapter Three
Clerk Simon
He succeeded, however, in keeping this on the outskirts of his mind and even in mentioning to himself the word “dishonesty.” His virtue, with some difficulty, maintained itself in the uncertain center of his mind.
He wished again with all his heart that he had never begun to paint it. He knew exactly how he could have avoided it; he could have said he wasn’t worthy. It would have been a lie, for being worthy was not a thing that came in with painting; painting had nothing to do with your personal merit. You could do it or you couldn’t.

Topic:

Art

It had been a Jewish girl who, at the command of the Voice which sounded in her ears, in her heart, along her blood and through the central cells of her body, had uttered everywhere in herself the perfect Tetragrammaton. What the high priest vicariously spoke among the secluded mysteries of the Temple, she substantially pronounced in God. Redeemed from all division in herself, whole and identical in body and soul and spirit, she uttered the Word and the Word became flesh in her. Could It have been received by her own people, the grand Judean gate would have been opened for all peoples. It could not. They remained alien—to It and to all, and all to them and—too much!—to It. The Gentiles, summoned by that other Jew of Tarsus, could not bear their vicarious office. Bragging themselves to be the new Israel, they slandered and slew the old, and the old despised and hated the bragging new. Till at last there rose in Europe something which was neither, and set itself to destroy both.
He smiled—or rather a sudden convulsion passed across his face, a kind of muscular spasm rather than a smile. It was not meant to be unkind [...]. Nor was he even aware that what had once been a smile was now a mere constriction. One cannot smile at no one, and there was no one at whom he could smile. He was alone. He went on, ignorantly grimacing.
Chapter Four
The Dream
But even Lady Wallingford was sometimes compelled to allow one obstinacy to get in the way of another.
At the words Lester, for the first time in her life, saw a temptation precisely as it is when it has ceased to tempt—repugnant, implausible, mean.

Topic:

Temptation

Chapter Five
The Hall by Holborn
Wise readers of verse do their best to submit their voices to the verse, letting the words have their own proper value, and endeavor to leave them to their precise proportion and rhythm. The Clerk was going farther yet. He was removing meaning itself from the words. They fought against him; man’s vocabulary fought against him. Man’s art is perhaps worth little in the end, but it is at least worth its own present communication. All the poems and paintings may, like faith and hope, at last dissolve; but while faith and hope—and desperation—live, they live; while human communication remains, they remain. It was this that the Clerk was removing; he turned, or sought to turn, words into mere vibrations.
He felt himself to be a witness of an unearthly meeting, of which the seeming friendliness was the most appalling thing. If he had known the word except as an oath, he would have felt that this was damnation. Yet there was only a smile—no pain, no outcry, no obscenity, except that something truly obscene was there. He saw, visibly before him, the breach of spiritual law. He saw a man sitting still and a woman standing just within the wall, a slight thing, and so full of vileness that he almost fainted.

Topic:

Evil

Chapter Six
The Wise Water
That other had refused safeguard and miracle; he had refused the achievement of security. He had gone into death—and the Clerk supposed it his failure—as the rest of mankind go, ignorant and in pain. The Clerk had set himself to decline pain and ignorance. So that now he had not any capacities but those he could himself gain.

Topic:

Christ

Lester, like certain other women of high vitality and discontented heart, had occasionally felt that what she really needed was someone great enough to govern her—but to do that, she innocently felt, he (or she—there was no sex differentiation) would have to be very great. The vague dream had disappeared when she had fallen in love. Obedience to a fabulous ruler of shadows was one thing; obedience to Richard was quite another. He certainly rarely seemed to suggest it; when he did, she was rarely in agreement with him.

Topic:

Marriage

She felt—though indirectly—the terror and the despair of those of the dead who, passing from this world, leave only that just relief behind. That which should go with them—the good will of those they have known—does not. There are those who have been unjustly persecuted or slain; perhaps a greater joy waits them. But for the ordinary man or woman to go with no viaticum but this relief is a very terrible thing. Almost, for a moment, Lester felt the whole City—ghostly or earthly or both in its proper unity—draw that gentle sigh. Disburdened, it rejoiced: at Evelyn’s death? at hers? Was this to be all Betty and earth could give? a sigh of joy that she was gone?

Topic:

Dying

Let him come to her in turn and she would show him what forgiveness was. Till now she had not really understood it; occasionally in the past each of them had “forgiven” the other, but the victim had not much liked it. But now—by high permission, yes.

Topic:

Forgiveness

Chapter Seven
The Magical Sacrifice
There is no rule more wise in magic than that which bids the adept, if the operation go awry, break it off at once. In the circles of hell there is no room for any error; the only maxim is to break off and begin again.

Topic:

Magic

They had never exchanged that joyous smile of equality which marks all happy human or celestial government, the lack of which had frightened Richard in Simon’s own smile; that which has existed because first the Omnipotence withdrew its omnipotence and decreed that submission should be by living will, or perhaps because in the Omnipotence itself there is an equality which subordinates itself. The hierarchy of the abyss does not know anything of equality, nor of any lovely balance within itself, nor (if he indeed be) does the lord of that hierarchy ever look up, subordinate to his subordinates, and see above him and transcending him the glory of his household. So that never in all the myths, of Satan or Samael or Iblis or Ahriman, has there been any serious tale of that lord becoming flesh by human derivation; how could he be so supposed to submit, in bed or cradle? [...] “How shall Satan’s kingdom stand, if it be divided against itself?” Messias asked, and the gloomy pedants to whom he spoke could not give the answer his shining eyes awaited: “Sir, it does not.”

Topic:

Hell

Chapter Eight
The Magical Creation
Dimly there moved in her, since her reconciliation with Betty, a sense that love was a union of having and not-having, or else something different and beyond both. It was a kind of way of knowledge, and that knowledge perfect in its satisfaction.

Topic:

Love

She was not afraid, but she did not wish, unless she must, to be mixed up with obscenity. Her natural pride had lost itself, but a certain heavenly fastidiousness still characterized her. Even in paradise she preserved one note of goodness rather than another.
He knew he had no direct power on this alien spiritual thing until he could get into contact with it; and that, since he had been checked in the previous clash, he could only do now by a plausibility. He said, as if uttering some maxim of great wisdom: “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Lester heard him. At that moment, doubtfull of her duty, the maxim was greater than the speaker. [...] She said suddenly, with one of those bursts of inspiration which are apt to possess noble and passionate hearts: “You’d be wiser to say that the fulfilling of the law is love.”
There was no limit to the number of spiritual beings who could know in that way through one body, for there was not between any of them and it any organic relation. The singleness of true incarnation must always be a mystery to the masters of magic; of that it may be said that the more advanced the magic, the deeper the mystery, for the very nature of magic is opposed to it. Powerful as the lie may be, it is still a lie. Birth and death are alike unknown to it; there is only conjunction and division. But the lie has its own laws.
Chapter Nine
Telephone Conversation
“Let’s take a taxi. That’s one great advantage of being engaged—one always has a perfectly good reason for taking taxis. All these things are added to one.”
He had no sense of nostalgia; he did not in the least wish to be small again and a child, but he could almost have believed he was now as happy as he remembered he had sometimes been then. An arch of happiness joined the then and the now, an arch he ought to have known all the time, under which or even in which he ought to have lived. It was somehow his fault that he had not and yet it had never been there or but rarely. If this was life, he had somehow missed life, in spite of the fact that he had on the whole had a very pleasant and agreeable life. There was a great difference between what he had known and what he ought to have known. And yet he did not see how he could have known it.
He had in his time talked a good deal about anthropomorphism and now he realized that anthropomorphism was but one dialect of divine truth. The high thing which was now in his mind, the body that had walked and lain by his, was itself celestial and divine. Body? it was no more merely body than soul was merely soul; it was only visible Lester.

Topic:

Anthropomorphism

Kindness, patience, forbearance, were not enough; he had had them, but she had had love. He must find what she had—another kind of life. All these years, since he had been that eager child, he had grown the wrong way, in the wrong kind of life. Yet how to have done other? how to have learned, as she had learned, the language without which he could not, except for a conceded moment, speak to the imperial otherness of her glory? He must, it seemed, be born all over again.

A vague impression that he had heard some such phrase somewhere before passed through him.

John 3:1-8

“They must, all three of them, be remarkable men to have such followings and there don’t seem, where they go, to be any minorities . . . What did you say?”

“Nothing, nothing,” said Richard. “No minorities?”

“No—or practically none. And it’ll be in the best interests of the new World Plan that there should be no minorities.”

Topic:

Totalitarianism

The Thames was dirty and messy. Twigs, bits of paper and wood, cords, old boxes drifted on it. Yet to the new-eyed Lester it was not a depressing sight. The dirtiness of the water was, at that particular point, what it should be and therefore pleasant enough. The evacuations of the City had their place in the City; how else could the City be the City? Corruption (so to call it) was tolerable, even adequate and proper, even glorious. These things also were facts. They could not be forgotten or lost in fantasy; all that had been, was; all that was, was. A sodden mass of cardboard and paper drifted by, but the soddenness was itself a joy, for this was what happened, and all that happened, in this great material world, was good. The very heaviness of the heavy sky was a wonder, and the unutilitarian expectation of rain a delight.

Compare to:

Good Omens

Lester knew herself anxious to forewarn, to prepare, her husband; and she thought, not unnaturally, of the telephone. Matter to matter; might not this earthly shape use the things of earth? She did not dichotomize; mechanics were not separate from spirit, nor invention from imagination, nor that from passion. Only not even passion of spirit could create the necessary two pennies. She might be (she thought in a flash) immortally on her way to glory, but she had not got two pennies. [...] If she were to have them, someone would have to give them to her. She remembered, but not as a claim, that she too had given pennies in her time.

[...] The ordinary traffic of London was going on, but as if Lester’s pause had affected it, there came at the moment a lull and a silence. Through it there noddled slowly along an elderly gentleman, peering through his glasses at an evening paper. Lester, shyly and daringly, moved towards him. [...] He said—and it was mercifully permitted him by the Omnipotence to be on this occasion entirely truthful, “It’s all the change I’ve got.” He raised his hat, in some faint tradition of “brave and ancient things,” and toddled on. The magical body stood holding the pennies in its pseudo-hand, and Lester felt in her that something of a stir in glory which she had felt in seeing Richard’s movements or Betty’s smile. She was made free of adoration.

[...] “Why isn’t one taught how to be loved? Why isn’t one taught anything?”

Betty said, “Don’t worry, Richard; we can’t be taught till we can learn.”

Topic:

Love

“Sorry” is a word that means many things; there is in general a friendliness about it and now it meant all friendliness.

“But I’ve been tiresome so often, darling. I’ve been beastly to you. I——”

He said, “You’ve never been tiresome,” and she, “No; speak true now, my own. I——”

He said, “Very well; you have. And what in all the heavens and hells, and here too, does it matter? Do we keep accounts about each other? If it’s the last word I speak I shall still say you were too good for me.”

“And——?” she said, and her laughter was more than laughter; it was the speech of pure joy. “Go on, blessing—if it’s our last word.”

“And I’m too good for you,“ Richard said.

Topic:

Marriage

He had been used to think that nothing could shock him; he had been wrong. The universe is always capable of a worse trick than we suppose, but at least when we have known it we are no longer surprised by anything less. Jonathan’s horrid nightmares, oppressive as they were to him, were less distressing than the pain of a mother listening to her child choking with bronchitis in the night. Richard’s endurance now, like hers, was of present and direct facts. He had seen something which, in the full sense of the words, ought not to be, and never before had he felt the full sense of the words. This was what everything that ought not to be was—this quiet agreement that it should be.
She knew that, if her new sight strengthened, she would see even more clearly the whole construction, not only of the vehicle, but of false mortality and true mortality. She almost did see Richard so, in his whole miraculous pattern, all the particles of him, of the strange creature who was in every particle both flesh and spirit, was something that was both, was (the only word that meant the thing he was) a man. She loved him the more passionately for the seeing.
Chapter Ten
The Acts of the City
Illusion, to the magician as to the saint, is a great danger. But the master in Goetia has always at the center of his heart a single tiny everlasting illusion; it may be long before that point infects him wholly, but sooner or later it is bound to do so.

Topic:

Magic

text checked (see note) Jul 2007

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