Monday, February 17, 2014

Who were the Inklings?

From around 1934 to 1949 an informal group of friends met weekly in Oxford, England, mainly to discuss literature. The group has come to be called “The Inklings” and its most prominent members were C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. Another member, W.H. Lewis wrote about the group that it “was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections.”

The men and their writings show a wide range of interests and treats diverse subjects. Lewis has become famous for The Chronicles of Narnia, The Ransom Trilogy, Screwtape Letters and for Mere Christianity, a work of Christian apologetics. By profession Lewis was an Oxford don whose field of study was medieval and renaissance English literature. Likewise Tolkien was an Oxford professor whose field was early English language and literature, but who gained enormous popularity through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Williams worked as an editor at Oxford University Press and was best known for his series of novels which have been termed “metaphysical thrillers”. Of the three Williams is perhaps the most highly regarded as a literary artist for his poetry based on Arthur and the Matter of Britain.

The Inklings were friends, and most of them teachers at Oxford University or otherwise affiliated with Oxford. They met on Thursday evenings in C.S. Lewis’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s college rooms in Oxford during the 1930's and 1940's for conversation, readings and criticism of their own writings. An overlapping group gathered on Tuesday (later Monday) mornings in various Oxford pubs, usually but not always the Eagle and Child, better known as the Bird and Baby, between the 1940's and 1963. These were less formal meetings, and contrary to popular legend the Inklings did not read their manuscripts in the pub.

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