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Wikipedia says, without citation, that C. S. Lewis's novel That Hideous Strength was "heavily influenced by the writing of Lewis's friend and fellow Inkling Charles Williams". I did notice that this novel seems different in style from Lewis's other work that I've read (Narnia, Till We Have Faces, and even the other novels of his Space Trilogy): it's much more grounded and down-to-earth, set in our own modern world, its sci-fi/fantasy elements much less obtrusive into the very setting of the story. But, not having read any Charles Williams, I didn't realise that this style difference was due to influence from another author.

What is the evidence for Charles Williams having influenced That Hideous Strength? Did Lewis explicitly say so, as he did acknowledge influence from Olaf Stapledon in the preface? Is it purely based on analysis of the book by critics? Or is there some other evidence e.g. from contemporaneous Inklings meetings?

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In his letters, J.R.R. Tolkien says that Williams was an influence on it. (He lamented it; he thought the influence had ruined it.)

Williams' influence actually only appeared with his death: That Hideous Strength, the end of the trilogy, which (good though it is in itself) I think spoiled it.

-- Tolkien's Letters, Letter 257

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  • Thanks for this info! I've upvoted, since their fellow Inkling Tolkien is surely one of those most likely to know about Williams's influence on Lewis, but I'd also be interested to know how that effect comes out in That Hideous Strength, whether it can be inferred from the text or the nature of the story.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 10, 2020 at 7:14
  • Surely the most obvious Williams influence in That Hideous Strength is the frequent mention of Logres? Williams wrote the epic poem Taliessin through Logres. That Hideous Strength is also stylistically similar to Williams' novels, imho. Oct 13, 2023 at 20:27
  • Using the same term from folklore is hardly proof of influence.
    – Mary
    Oct 13, 2023 at 20:30
  • @Mary yes but they are the only two writers who describe Logres as the ideal form of England. Everywhere else, it is merely a French version of the Welsh name for England, Lloegr. Oct 13, 2023 at 21:14
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Logres

Surely the most obvious Williams influence in That Hideous Strength is the frequent mention of Logres? Williams wrote the epic poem Taliessin through Logres and it was published in 1938.

That Hideous Strength was published in 1945, and was Lewis's 4th book.

The first two books of the Space Trilogy made no mention of Logres as far as I am aware.

Arguably Logres is the Platonic form of England, and Lewis returned to the theme of Platonic forms in The Last Battle.

NICE

NICE, its head honcho, and the attempt to keep the head alive, bear a striking resemblance to the group of conspirators in Williams' Shadows of Ecstasy.

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  • Thanks for the answer! Logres is a common feature but not unique to those two authors. I'd be interested to learn more detail about your second point, as I'm not familiar with Shadows of Ecstasy - could you summarise some common points to demonstrate that striking resemblance?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 13, 2023 at 20:58
  • well, I read That Hideous Strength 20+ years ago, and Shadows of Ecstasy about a year ago... but I just read the plot synopsis of THS, and the head of NICE was a guillotined head that they were keeping alive by artificial means. In SOE, the main character seeks immortality and kills himself in order to test if he has achieved it. (The Oyeresu appearing as visions of Venus, Mars etc in THS is also very Williams-esque.) Oct 13, 2023 at 21:10
  • Re: Logres - yes, Williams got it from Arthurian romances, but only he and Lewis regard it as the Platonic form of England. Oct 13, 2023 at 21:11

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