Tuesday 29 May 2012

Which Inklings are the Notion Club Principals? And who is missing?


There are six main members of the Notion Club. Their resemblances with real-life Inklings are partial and mixed and - in the later drafts - inessential.

But, accepting that, what follows are my current thoughts on the identity of the real-life Inklings upon whom the big six were based.


Members Zero. Significant omissions: CS Lewis and Charles Williams.

I now feel that Lewis is omitted from the Notion Club Papers although at an early stage his initials were tentatively noted next to a character called Franks, who perhaps led to the name Frankley. Lewis was the cause and core of the real-life Inklings - but absent from the NCPs for the simple reason that Part 1 is substantially a debate about Lewis, especially his Space Trilogy.

Another core Inkling, Charles Williams, is also absent from the NCPs because he had died (May 1945) only a matter of half a year before Tolkien began to write the book (Late 1945), and Tolkien was not the man to write fiction about a recently-deceased friend.

Lewis would do this kind of thing - i.e. use fresh experience in his writing, as with A Grief Observed - but not Tolkien. Tolkien believed that raw experience needed many years of composting before use in fiction.

The subtraction of Lewis and Williams makes for a big, big difference between the Notion Club and the Inklings - how could it be otherwise when two of the largest and most distinctive characters of the twentieth century are missing?


The main six members of the Notion Club are 1. Ramer, 2. Guildford, 3. Lowdham, 4. Jeremy, 5. Dolbear, 6. Frankley.

1. Ramer is the main Tolkien mouthpiece in the early part of the NCPs.

2. Guildford is described as the club's recorder who does not read pieces very much - this role is most like Warnie Lewis; but not much else about Guildford is like Warnie: Guildford is rather irritable and critical; Warnie was the opposite.

3. Lowdham's extravert and boisterous character comes from Hugo Dyson (this was identified by initials in an early draft), but many of his interests, abilities and attributes are from Tolkien himself.

4. Jeremy seems a younger character, and behaves almost like a son to Lowdham - and I suspect he comes originally from Christopher Tolkien.

5. Dolbear was identified by initials with 'Humphrey' Havard in an early draft, and has several clear points of resemblence.

6. Frankley. I don't have any sense of him being developed from any real-life Inkling, indeed he doesn't seem to have much of an identifiable personality or role, and I expect he would have been eliminated from later drafts. Perhaps Frankley is the mere residue or shell of the projected CS Lewis 'Franks' character after the obviously Lewis-ite characteristics have been subtracted?


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