Friday, 15 May 2015

Charles Williams died seventy years ago today - i.e. his work is out of copyright at the end of this calendar year, and he is the first Inkling to be thus liberated

A significant anniversary therefore; and a further chance for this neglected author to find readers.

For reasonable reasons (mainly wilful obscurity) CW's readers will never be many, but those who are attuned to him are often bowled-over.

In the meantime, several works - including the novels - are already available on the Project Gutenberg Australia web pages



Anonymous said...

The exact situation in some countries seems to be more complicated than this, but I do not know the full details. For example, in the course of some inquiries of the Estate, I learned that U.S. copyright law is different from that of the U.K. and that some of the works will remain in copyright in the U.S. market after 31 December 2015. But I have not had occasion to ask more detailed follow-up questions.

Before starting to republish Williams or whatever as of 1 January 2016, people would do well to contact David Higham Associates first to double-check.

(As far as I know, things first published posthumously, like various poems in my Boydell & Brewer Arthurian Poets edition, will go on enjoying copyright protection from the date of publication, while anything unpublished will also still be under copyright, but, again, editors and publishers ought to check!)

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@DLD - I wanted to flag-up the availability of the novels on the Australian Gutenberg site.

My hope is that Williams might find his own level when a large selection of his work across genres is made available in an inexpensive single volume e-book collection - such as are currently available for classic authors such as Blake or Emerson.

Perhaps, though, biography may prove to be the key to Williams's work - the forthcoming Lindop work is perhaps the make-or-break moment for CW for a general literary audience (Lindop is not a Christian, more of a neo-pagan I think - in the mould of Robert Graves, so I don't expect it to be of much use in placing CW as a Christian writer).

Anonymous said...

Copyright law is (to me) as bewildering as it is fascinating! Thus, Dorothy Sayers' first Wimsey novel is available online in and so from the U.S. (I suppose legally: the case is made for that, anyway) - and only the first.

And I've just been consulting Lewis's Spirits in Bondage online, as my copy of the paperback is in storage - again, in and from the U.S., and as the only work of his (again, as I take it) legally online anywhere.

So, you are right to draw peoples' attention to the availability of the novels - happily, the novels, I think, as probably the best place to start making Williams's acquaintance.

And right, too, to accent the momentousness of his being "the first Inkling to be thus liberated."

The internet is fascinating, and perhaps frustrating in proportion to how gratifying it is. On the one hand, it is as if any- and everybody suddenly has access to one of the world's great libraries, or, indeed, any number of them, but... only via a rather dodgy time machine which usually only lets you travel to those libraries as they were more than 70 years ago.

And the most readily publicly available encyclopedia in this cyber-imaginary country sometimes has articles almost wholly derived from other, hundred-year-old encyclopedias, and sometimes articles reposing on a world of more recently published works almost totally inaccessible to anyone not living near a real great library.

Happily for some of us, this time machine gives ready access to a great lot of what the Inklings in their formative years had access to (if they had time enough to spend in the Bodleian Library or British Museum Reading Room). Their formative years, and, very soon now, basically, the whole of Williams's life.

Soon, as you say, an inexpensive single-volume Williams will be possible. But also things like scanned first-edition texts, and 'the Annotated War in Heaven' - or even competing versions of such a thing.

I think you are also right that biography may be the key - or a big key on the ring, working handily together with the key of public domain. Grevel Lindop's biography is going to have such a wealth of new material that his hope that we "find that it lays a solid foundation for future Williams studies" must surely be fulfilled, as well as the hope that a wider audience will become aware of Williams and many will go on to take advantage of public-domain ease to get better acquainted sirectly for themselves.

Lots of being bowled over by this time next year, is my prediction!

David Llewellyn Dodds