The Universe and Me

Monday, December 05, 2005

Surprised by Inklings

I was surprised yesterday that my niece Shannen, who’s greatly anticipating the new Narnia movie, had not heard of the Inklings, the group of C.S. Lewis’s friends and colleagues who met weekly to critique their writings and discuss current events. Begun around 1933, the meetings continued until nearly 1950, every Thursday evening at Magdalen College in Oxford. In addition to Lewis, the most famous Inkling was J.R.R. Tolkien. He and Hugo Dyson were instrumental in converting Lewis from atheism to Christianity. Reportedly Dyson held such a dislike for Lord of the Rings that when Tolkien read from his works in progress, he was heard to mutter “not another elf!” Other notables in the group were Warnie Lewis (Jack’s brother), Christopher Tolkien (son of Tolkien), R.E. Harvard (Lewis and Tolkien’s doctor, affectionately referred to as “the useless quack”), Owen Barfield (“the man who disagrees with you about everything” and appropriately went on to become a lawyer who lived to age 99), and Charles Williams, an electric personality who never stopped scribbling dark themed supernatural thrillers that no one comprehended. Williams seems to have created a wedge between the good friends Lewis and Tolkien. Lewis’s marriage to divorcee Joy Gresham and his insistence on her inclusion in the Inklings who considered her too brash (can anyone say Yoko?) also strained Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship.


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