Tag Archives: T.S. Eliot

All Hallow’s Eve

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews All Hallow’s Eve [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Charles Williams, introduction by T S Eliot.

Williams All Halllows' Eve

All Hallow’s Eve was the last of Charles Williams’ completed novels, first published in the year of his death, 1945. It begins just after the deaths of two young women, and follows their persisting consciousnesses through “the City” (which is London only as a phantom skin of a mystical heavenly Jerusalem) throughout the book. At the same time as the novel elaborates this perspective of the deceased, it supplies a parallel narrative among their survivors: one’s husband who is a diplomatic functionary, his friend an art painter, and the painter’s fiancee–a former schoolmate of the two dead characters.

The central plot tension of the book is constructed around Simon the Clerk, an aspiring antichrist of impressive talents and no sympathy whatsoever. The villain’s “Jewishness” is emphasized in ways that gave me a wince or two, but were doubtless theologically important to Williams. Like the other “Aspects of Power” novels, this one is an urban fantasy that predates the genre, and it features the kind of fell sorcery that crops up in the earlier books. It clothes supernatural events in the sort of finely-crafted impressionistic prose the author had deployed in Descent Into Hell.

The Eerdmans edition I read had a testimonial introduction by T.S. Eliot, in which he extolled Williams’ personal virtues, and briefly discussed the mystical doctrine and psychological insight in Williams’ works. There is enough reference to the contents of the novel as if the reader were familiar with it that the Eliot intro might be better enjoyed after reading the book–not for any worry of spoilers, but just for its own appreciation.

By curious chance (?) I read All Hallow’s Eve just a few weeks after The Third Policeman. Now I may need to go re-read UBIK. It seems like somebody is trying to tell me something. Did I actually not survive my recent bicycle crash? Maybe it’s just that time of year. After all, everybody’s going to die, and we’re all of us just stories anyway.

From Ritual to Romance

From Ritual to Romance by Jessie L Weston, part of the Mythos / Bollingen series, a 1993 paperback from Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jessie L Weston From Ritual to Romance from Princeton University Press

“Acknowledged by T.S. Eliot as crucial to understanding ‘The Waste Land,’ Jessie Weston’s book has continued to attract readers interested in ancient religion, myth, and especially Arthurian legend. Here she reinterprets the saga of the Grail by exploring the legend’s Gnostic roots.

Drawing from J.G. Frazer, who studied ancient nature cults that associated the physical condition of the king with the productivity of the land, Weston considers how the legend of the Grail related to fertility rites—with the lance and the cup serving as a sexual symbols. She traces its origins to a Gnostic text that served as a link between ancient vegetation cults and the Celts and Christians who elaborated on the story. Conceiving of the grail saga as a literary outgrowth of ancient ritual, she seeks a Gnostic Christian interpretation that unites the quest for fertility with the striving for mystical oneness with God.” — back cover