J.R.R.Tolkien ~ Biography ~ The Inklings ~ Tolkien the Artist ~ Tolkien’s Passing ~ Tolkien’s Grave ~ Beren and Lúthien
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“Properly speaking, the Inklings 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 Inklings were an informal literary group of which J.R.R. Tolkien was a founding member. The group which was indicative of it’s time was all male, with members over the years numbering as many as nineteen, though on a week to week basis, these informal meetings held between four and six participants. It’s most well know members were Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams.
Here is an interesting quote by Philip Zaleski on his book about the Inklings…
“Behind these practical studies lay powerful, intertwined, and potentially contradictory beliefs: that language provides a key to the rational, scientific understanding of the world and that language is more than human speech, that it claims a divine origin and is the means by which God created the cosmos and Adam named the beasts.
As we will see, both ideas strongly influenced the Inklings, whose leading members wrote many words about the meaning of words. For Owen Barfield, language is the fossil record of the history and evolution of human consciousness; for C. S. Lewis, it is a mundane tool that “exists to communicate whatever it can communicate” but also, as in That Hideous Strength, an essential part of our metaphysical makeup for good or ill; for Charles Williams, language is power, a field of force for the magician, a vehicle of prayer for the believing Christian; for Tolkien, language is a fallen human instrument and a precious divine gift (“O felix peccatum Babel!” he exclaimed in his essay “English and Welsh”), a supreme art, and, as “Word”, a name for God.”
~ Philip Zaleski,
This group would meet and read aloud the unfinished works that each writer was working on. Tolkien reading passages from The Lord of the Rings, Lewis reading Out of the Silent Planet, and William sharing All Hallows’ Eve were among the many writings heard at the Inklings meetings.
The name ‘The Inklings’ was originally used by a society at Oxfords University College, created by Edward Tangye Lean in 1931. During these meetings students and dons, among them Tolkien and Lewis would read aloud unfinished compositions. Lean eventually left Oxford and the society was terminated. Tolkien and Lewis later resurrected the name for name for their group at Magdalen College.
It is impossible I suppose to calculate how much these meetings influenced the written words of the authors as they progressed on their great works of fiction. However, one can’t deny how much it likely helped Tolkien to read aloud his work and gain feed back from his friends and colleagues.
Alan Jacobs wrote about the comradery and friendship the developed between these men.
“Freedom of friendship dominated, and this helped to make the gatherings of the Inklings a kind of informal school – the only kind of school Jack Lewis could ever like: a thoroughly informal training in living better and thinking more wisely.”
~ Alan Jacobs, The Narnian.
For years the Inklings met on Thursday evenings in the college room of C. S. Lewis at Magdalen College. Later they would gather on Tuesdays at midday for meetings at The Eagle and Child the most famous meeting place of the group, which they affectionately called The Bird and Baby, or simply The Bird.
The Rabbit Room with it’s hearth and cosy gathering space was a favorite meeting place within the pub. Today you can find photos and quotes on the walls of the room commemorating their famous patrons.
Here are two video showing a quick look at the Eagle and the Child…
Outside and in the front rooms of the Pub
A video of part of the Rabbit Room
Other members of the Inklings
Owen Barfield ~ Nevill Coghill ~ W.H. Lewis
J.A.W. Bennett ~ Lord David Cecil ~ Jim Dundas-Grant ~ H.V.D. “Hugo” Dyson ~ Adam Fox ~ Colin Hardie
Robert E. Havard ~ R.B. McCallum ~ C.E. Stevens ~ Christopher Tolkien ~ C.L. Wrenn