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The Inklings (1978)

by Humphrey Carpenter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7121124,702 (4.06)41
Critically acclaimed, award-winning biography of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and the brilliant group of writers to come out of Oxford during the Second World War. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and their friends were a regular feature of the Oxford scenery in the years during and after the Second World War. They drank beer on Tuesdays at the 'Bird and Baby', and on Thursday nights they met in Lewis' Magdalen College rooms to read aloud from the books they were writing; jokingly they called themselves 'The Inklings'. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien first introduced The Screwtape Letters and The Lord of the Rings to an audience in this company and Charles Williams, poet and writer of supernatural thrillers, was another prominent member of the group. Humphrey Carpenter, who wrote the acclaimed biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, draws upon unpublished letters and diaries, to which he was given special access, in this engrossing story.… (more)
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» See also 41 mentions

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Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends recounts the Oxford University literary club whose members included J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield, among many others, that met at the Eagle and Child Pub between the early 1930s and late 1949. The work, like Carpenter’s biography of Tolkien, examines the men’s work as well as the significance of the place. Carpenter ultimately concludes that C.S. Lewis was key to the Inklings’ existence. He writes, “…the Inklings were just one more Oxford club. Yet they were certainly more than that to Jack Lewis” (pg. 161). Even R.E. Havard concluded that the club was “simply a group of C.S.L.’s wide circle of friends who lived near enough to him to meet together fairly regularly” and that many later historians take them “much more seriously than [they] took [themselves]” (pg. 161). As to literary influence, Carpenter argues that Lewis “alone can be said to have been ‘influenced’ by the others (he was as Tolkien said ‘an impressionable man’), but for the rest it is sufficient to say that they came together because they already agreed about certain things” (pg. 160). Tolkien also referred to the group as “the Lewis séance” (pg. 171). Carpenter’s The Inklings is great literary biography for scholars of Lewis’ and Williams’ work, though he spends less time on Tolkien having already written a biography of Tolkien. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Jul 11, 2021 |
This is the definitive biography of the Inklings. Carpenter does a wonderful job giving the story of the group and the stages of their evolution. ( )
  Steve_Walker | Sep 13, 2020 |
Fascinating. I am learning a lot that I did not know.
  drjwsimmons | Jun 5, 2018 |
Lovely biographical study of a circle of friends oh God I'm in too much pain after dancing like a lunatic at my sister's wedding, I'll review this anon. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Really liked it.

It is a biography of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams and it dabbles into the story of the people that joined them for their Inkling meetings.

Lewis was the person that really pulled the group together so the book does focus on him in the beginning and end. I grew to like Williams more towards the end of the book but his beliefs were an odd mix of mysticism and Christianity. It was pointed out that some of life was walled off from the Inklings so the reader gets a fuller opportunity to judge him than Lewis and Tolkien did. Tolkien did not care much for Williams and this led to a cooling of friendship between Lewis and Tolkien. Which was a shame.

It's worth noting that Tolkien said that Lewis's gift of encouragement was the only thing that kept him writing for years. Without Lewis it is possible we never would have had the Lord of the Rings.

Lewis and Tolkein did have different views on some subjects within their faith. But, this did not stop them from seeing the value in the good each followed.

The best and most attractive thing about this book was the story of friendship and how the group met frequently and celebrated their shared passions in their own community around story, good food and drink, tobacco, and friendship. It's a wonderful life. ( )
1 vote Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Humphrey Carpenterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rous, NicholasCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruggerini, Maria ElenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to the memory of the late W.H. Lewis ('Warnie')
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From the nursery window of the big house there could be seen a line of long, low mountains.
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Critically acclaimed, award-winning biography of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and the brilliant group of writers to come out of Oxford during the Second World War. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and their friends were a regular feature of the Oxford scenery in the years during and after the Second World War. They drank beer on Tuesdays at the 'Bird and Baby', and on Thursday nights they met in Lewis' Magdalen College rooms to read aloud from the books they were writing; jokingly they called themselves 'The Inklings'. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien first introduced The Screwtape Letters and The Lord of the Rings to an audience in this company and Charles Williams, poet and writer of supernatural thrillers, was another prominent member of the group. Humphrey Carpenter, who wrote the acclaimed biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, draws upon unpublished letters and diaries, to which he was given special access, in this engrossing story.

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