The Inklings

Four of our seven sages belonged to the Inklings, a group of literary men that grew out of C. S. Lewis’s circle of friends. They took the name, a pun on “people who dabble in ink,” from a club of undergraduates that had gone defunct. Our image of men in tweeds discussing ideas in front of a roaring fire, perhaps with a pint in hand, is not far from the mark. They met on Tuesdays in local pubs and (until 1949) on Thursday evenings to read their works to each other in Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College. Not exclusively Oxford academics, the group included professional people such as Lewis’s brother, Warren, a retired British Army officer. (With Lewis, second from the right above, are James Dundas-Grant, Colin Hardie, Robert “Humphrey” Havard, and Peter Havard.) 

Lewis described members as Christians with a “tendency to write.” Their diversity was epitomized in friendly opposition between Lewis and Barfield, called by Lewis a “perpetual dog-fight,” but they also criticized and encouraged each other’s work (see Timeline, pp. 26–27). Tolkien, who made no secret of the fact that he would never have completed The Lord of the Rings without Lewis’s encouragement, acknowledged his debt to the Inklings in a heart-felt dedication. 

The group met from the 1930s through the 1950s. Much of the mutual influence through conversation was informal even as it was influential. Sparse accounts of more “literary-minded” meetings have come down to us in letters, diaries, and memories, giving us tantalizing glimpses of what it must have been like to spend an evening by the Inklings’ fireside.

By Colin Duriez

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #113 in 2015]

Colin Duriez
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