Friday, 19 June 2015

What was an Inklings meeting like? - Depictions of The Inklings

1. An Inklings meeting was the (usually) Thursday evening/ night meeting in CS ('Jack') Lewis's rooms; to read work in progress, criticize it, and have conversations arising from this. These true Inklings meetings probably finished in October 1949.

The Inklings was not the Tuesday (later Monday) lunchtime gatherings at various pubs in Oxford, again focused on Jack Lewis, which happened especially at the 'Bird and Baby' (Eagle and Child), later the Lamb and Flag. These were attended by The Inklings, but also a wideish range of others - and they were just for general, mostly light, conversation. These informal, convivial, conversational meetings continued until Jack Lewis's death in 1963.   

2. There is no direct transcript of an Inklings evening, featuring the actual people who attended. The nearest to this are a few, paragraph length, summary entries in Warnie Lewis's diary - a selection from which is published in Brothers and Friends: the diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis.

3. The best known word-by-word depiction of an Inklings meeting is a chapter in Humphrey Carpenter's group biography The Inklings (1978); which he creatively reconstructed by sampling and synthesizing from multiple writings of the Inklings, together with hints from Warnie's diary.

4. JRR Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers (an unfinished and posthumously published novel to be found in Christopher Tolkien's edited The History of Middle Earth, Volume 9, Sauron's Defeat) comprises a highly Inklings-style meeting of a club based explicitly upon The Inklings and written to be read at The Inklings; but with different, fictionalized and composite participants.

This probably captures the spirit of an Inklings meeting more closely than any other source.

5. CS Lewis also left a short depiction of an Inkling's-esque club which can be found in an unfinished fragment of a story named The Dark Tower, and which was posthumously edited and published by Walter Hooper in 1977.

6. Owen Barfield was an infrequent, but very keen, Inklings participant - and arguably The Inklings evolutionarily-arose-from the Barfield- Jack Lewis conversations and written debates of the 1920s. Barfield published a novel entitled Worlds Apart (1963) which describes a weekend long conversation of a very Inklings-like character - including characters based on Barfield and Jack Lewis.

For further suggestions - see Diana Pavlac Glyer's The Company They Keep (2008).


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