The Place of the Lion
Charles Williams

Charles Williams

This page:

The Place of the Lion


the Inklings
Christian fiction

index pages:

The Place of the Lion

Copyright © 1933 Charles Williams
Copyright © 1950 Pellegrini & Cudahy

Chapter One
The Lioness

“After all, that’s our direction.”

“The chief use of the material world,” Anthony said, still sitting on the gate, “is that one can, just occasionally, say that with truth.”

[...] “Mightn’t it be a good thing if everyone had to draw a map of his own mind—say, once every five years? With the chief towns marked, and the arterial roads he was constructing from one idea to another, and all the lovely and abandoned by-lanes that he never went down, because the farms they led to were all empty?”

“And arrows showing the directions he wanted to go?” Quentin asked idly.

“They’d be all over the place,” Anthony sighed.



Chapter Two
The Eidola and the Angeli
There were moments when she almost wished she had not picked anyone quite so remote as Abelard; only all the later schoolmen had been done to death by other writers, whereas Abelard seemed—so far as theses on Pythagorean Influences went—to have been left to her to do to death.



She didn’t know that she hated him, and certainly she didn’t know that she only hated him because he was her father. Nor did she realize that it was only when she was talking to him that the divine Plato’s remarks on beauty were used by her as if they meant anything more than entries in a card-index. She had of course heard of “defence mechanisms”, but not as if they were anything she could have or need or use. Nor had love and Heloise ever appeared to her as more than a side-incident of Abelard’s real career. In which her judgment may have been perfectly right, but her sensations were wildly and entirely wrong.
Chapter Three
The Coming of the Butterflies
“You are the Sherbet of Allah, and the gold cup he drinks it out of,” he said slowly. “You are the Night of Repose and the Day of Illumination. You are, incidentally, a night with a good deal of rain and a day with a nasty cold wind. But that may be merely Allah’s little game.”
Chapter Four
The Two Camps

“As a great and wise publisher whom I used to know once said,” Anthony remarked, “ ‘I will believe anything of my past opinions.’ ”

Chapter Five
Servile Fear

“But I thought he was so keen!” Quentin exclaimed.

“So he was,” Anthony answered. “That’s what makes it funny. [...] He said, ‘O no, I shan’t do that again.’ I suppose I stared or said something or other, because he looked round at me and said, ‘But I’ve nothing to do with them now.’ Then he said, quite sweetly, ‘I can see now they were only an occupation.’ I said: didn’t he think it might be quite a good idea to have an occupation? and he said: yes, he supposed it might be if you needed it, but he didn’t.”

Theories which were interesting in Plato became silly when regarded as having anything to do with actual occurrences. Philosophy was a subject—her subject; and it would have been ridiculous to think of her subject as getting out of hand.
Chapter Six
Meditation of Mr. Anthony Durrant
Gnostic traditions, medieval rituals, Aeons and Archangels—they were cards she was playing in her own game. But she didn’t know, she didn’t understand. It wasn’t her fault; it was the fault of her time, her culture, her education—the pseudo-knowledge that affected all the learned, the pseudo-scepticism that infected all the unlearned, in an age of pretence, and she was only pretending as everybody else did in this lost and imbecile century.
They also probably liked their religion taken mild—a pious hope, a devout ejaculation, a general sympathetic sense of a kindly universe—but nothing upsetting or bewildering, no agony, no darkness, no uncreated light.



Chapter Nine
The Fugitive
In general Damaris associated peace with her study, her books, and her manuscripts rather than with the sky, the hills, and the country roads; and not unjustly, since only a few devout followers of Wordsworth can in fact find more than mere quiet in the country. The absence of noise is not in all cases the same thing as the presence of peace. Wordsworth also found morality there, and no-one is ever likely to find peace without morality of one sort or another. But Damaris had never yet received any kind of impulse from either vernal or autumnal woods to teach her more of moral evil and of good than all her sages. Certainly she had found no particular impulse that way in her sages either, but that was because she was rapidly becoming incapable of recognizing a moral impulse when she saw it, the sages from Pythagoras onwards meaning something quite different from her collocation. Peace to her was not a state to be achieved, but a supposed necessary condition of her daily work, and peace therefore, as often happens, evaded her continually. She ingeminated Peace so often and so loudly that she inevitably frightened it still farther away, peace itself being (so far as has yet been found) a loveliness only invocable by a kind of sympathetic magic and auto-hypnotism which it never occurred to her to exercise.
Those whom he loved were at war. But Love itself wasn’t and couldn’t be at war. He loved her, and she had persecuted his friend. But he loved them both, and therefore there was no taking of sides. Love itself never could take sides. His heart ached in him, but as he came back to her his eyes were smiling, even though his face had been struck by pain.



Chapter Ten
The Pit in the House
He was thinking faster than he had ever done, and questions rose out of nothing and followed each other—what was to will? Will was determination to choose—what was choice? How could there be choice, unless there was preference, and if there was preference there was no choice, for it was not possible to choose against that preferring nature which was his being; yet being consisted in choice, for only by taking and doing this and not that could being know itself, could it indeed be; to be then consisted precisely in making an inevitable choice, and all that was left was to know the choice, yet even then was the chosen thing the same as the nature that chose, and if not . . . So swiftly the questions followed each other that he seemed to be standing in flashing coils of subtlety, an infinite ring of vivid intellect and more than intellect, for these questions were not of the mind alone but absorbed into themselves physical passion and twisted through all his nature on an unceasing and serpentine journey.


Free will

Chapter Eleven
The Conversion of Damaris Tighe
There was to be a graph of human thought as an appendix—three graphs actually, from 500 B.C. to A.D. I200, showing respectively the relation of official thought, cultural thought, and popular thought to the ideas of personalized and depersonalized supernatural powers. By looking at the graph it would be quite easy to see what attitude an Athenian citizen of the age of Thucydides, an Alexandrian friend of Plotinus, or a Burgundian peasant of the Middle Ages had towards this personification. All the graphs had additional little curves running out of them, marked with certain great names. Eusebius of Caesarea, who had identified Platonic ideas with the thoughts of the Christian God, had one; so had Synesius of Cyrene—only she had mislaid her not on Synesius, and couldn’t at the moment remember why he was distinguished in that way; so had William of Occam, Albert, and of course Abelard. Personification was in itself evidence of a rather low cultural state; she had called it somewhere “The mind’s habit of consoling itself with ideographs.” As education developed so a sense of abstraction grew up, and it became more possible to believe that the North Wind was a passage of air, and not an individual, or that St. Michael was a low-class synonym for—probably for just warfare, and justice pure and simple. Which was why he weighed the souls of mankind at Chartres. It was a good graph, and she was proud of it.
Chapter Twelve
The Triumph of the Angelicals
After all, that old lady had wanted to be kind, even if she reduced indescribable complexities of experience to an epigram. His own solitary life had rather left him without any formed habit of being kind, he reflected: perhaps he was a little too much inclined to concentrate on an end which was (all the authorities assured him) largely dependent on the way.
Chapter Fourteen
The Hunting of Quentin
Until that moment it had never seemed to her that she did worry very much; other things worried her, but that was different. It was not she who fretted; it was she who was fretted. It occurred to her suddenly that of all the follies of which she had been guilty, and they seemed to have been many and stupendous, none had ever been greater than that. She had always regarded herself as an unchangeable fact, attacked and besieged by a troublesome world. But she could as easily be, indeed at the moment she was, a changeable fact, beautifully concerned with a troubled world. She had been worrying all her life about herself, and now she wasn’t worrying any more. It was not perhaps possible for her then to realize that this was because she herself didn’t—for the moment—exist for herself. There being for Damaris—in that moment—no Damaris, there was no Damaris for Damaris to worry about. However soon that lucid integrity might become clouded and that renewed innocence inevitably stained, it did then exist. All this she did not perhaps realize, but she did definitely feel the marvellous release.

She could hardly expect to have the most favourable interpretation put on her own words and actions, but what had got to be done had got to be. Anyhow, in this case the maid was wrong. Standing up, Damaris realized that interpretations nearly always are wrong; interpretations in the nature of things being peculiarly personal and limited. The act was personal but infinite, the reasoned meaning was personal and finite. Interpretation of infinity by the finite was pretty certain to be wrong. The thought threw a light on her occupation with philosophies. Philosophy to Plato, to Abelard, to St. Thomas, was an act—the love of wisdom; to her——

But all that was to come. Love or wisdom, her act awaited her.

There was something that knew—that was philosophy. Philosophy, then, she mused as she went along, was not so much an act as a being, and it was upon those eagle wings that all her masters had travelled. And Sophia itself—Holy Wisdom—but she was content not to inquire more; she would find that out when she had practised loving it a little longer.



Chapter Fifteen
The Place of Friendship

Light and amusing, poignant and awful, the different hours of friendship came to him, each full of that suggestion of significance which hours of the kind mysteriously hold—a suggestion which demands definitely either to be accepted as truth or rejected as illusion. Anthony had long since determined on which side his own choice lay; he had accepted those exchanges, so far as mortal frailty could, as being of the nature of final and eternal being. Though they did not last, their importance did; though any friendship might be shattered, no sttrife and no separation could deny the truth within it: all immortality could but more clearly reveal what in those moments had been.

More certainly than ever he now believed. He reaccepted what they offered; he reaccepted them, knowing from of old that this, which seems so simple, is one of the hardest tasks laid before mankind. Hard, for the reality is so evasive; self-consciousness, egotism, heaviness, solemnity, carelessness, even an over-personal fondness, continually miss it. He could do nothing but indicate to that fleeting truth his willingness to be at its service. It accepted him in turn; it renewed within him its work of illumination.



Much was possible to a man in solitude; perhaps the final transmutations and achievements in the zones on the yonder side of the central Knowledge were possible only to the spirit in solitude. But some things were possible only to a man in companionship, and of these the most important was balance. No mind was so good that it did not need another mind to counter and equal it, and to save it from conceit and blindness and bigotry and folly. Only in such a balance could humility be found, humility which was a lucid speed to welcome lucidity whenever and wherever it presented itself. [...] Balance—and movement in balance, as an eagle sails up on the wind—this was the truth of life, and beauty in life.

Unthinkingly he put out his hand to the cigarette box which Quentin had given him one Christmas; given both of them, as he had himself pointed out, in remarking on the superior nature of his own present, which had been a neat kind of pocket-book and therefore an entirely personal gift. But Quentin had maintained that the cigarette box, as being of greater good to a greater number, had been nearer to the ideal perfection of giving. “For”, he had argued, “to give to you a means by which you can give to others, is better than to give a merely private thing.”

“But”, Anthony had persisted, “in so far as you are one of those others—and likely to be the most persistent—you give to yourself and therefore altogether deprive the act of the principle of giving”; to which Quentin had retorted that he was included only as one of a number, and that the wise man would not deprive others of good because he himself might be a gainer. “Otherwise what about all martyrs, missionaries, and philanthropists?”

Chapter Sixteen
The Naming of the Beasts

“What is our necessity?” she asked, looking up at him as they passed.

“It’s just to be, I suppose,” Anthony answered slowly. “I mean, the simpler one is the nearer one is to loving. If the pattern’s arranged in me, what can I do but let myself be the pattern? I can see to it that I don’t hate, but after that Love must do his own business.”

[...] he said softly, “It was good of you to look for Quentin.”

“Good!” she exclaimed. “Good! O Anthony!”

“Well, so it was,” he answered. “Or good in you. How accurate one has to be with one’s prepositions! Perhaps it was a preposition wrong that set the whole world awry.”

“It was”, she said, “a preposition that helped to divide the Church.”

“Sweetest of theologians,” he answered, “I will make it my chief business always to be accurate in my prepositions about you. It shall be good in you always, and good of you never.”

“Not even for a treat?” she asked.

“O for a treat,” he answered, “you shall be the good in itself, the rose-garden of the saints. Will you meet me there tomorrow evening?”

“So soon?” she said. “Will the saints expect me?”

“Image of sanctity,” he answered, “they will look in you as a mirror to see the glory of God that is about them, by so much will your soul be clearer than theirs.”

“I suppose that’s what you mean by a treat,” she said. “It sounds to me like several at once.”

“But for a treat to me you must believe it,” he said, “for as long as it takes your finger to mark the line of life on your hand.”

“Supposing I believed it too long?” she said, half-seriously.

“Why, for fear of that,” he answered, “you will remember that what is seen in you is present in all, and that the beauty of every other living creature is as bright as yours.”

“And that”, she said, “sounds like the morning after the party.”

“It is the present given at the party,” he said, “and perhaps what the party itself was for.”

text checked (see note) Apr 2013

top of page