Thursday 28 August 2014

What was the real, core, functional personnel of The Inklings during the Charles Williams years of 1939-45?


I am developing the thesis that Charles Williams was the dominant personality of The Inklings during the war years when he lived in Oxford,

Following on, I have tried to establish who the other regular members were during this period.


Surveying the available evidence summarized in Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings, and Diana Pavlac Glyer's The Company They Keep and checking in Warnie Lewis's diaries, and various letters and biographies of CS Lewis - it is clear that for the period of 1939-45 there were only four regular Inklings:

1. CS Lewis

2. Warnie Lewis

3. JRR Tolkien

4. Charles Williams.

There were several other people who were 'visitors' during this time, or else very infrequent; others began the period but drifted away (e.g. Coghill) or moved away (e.g. Fox), or whose membership was delayed by war service (Havard), - but only these four were regular attenders throughout the whole six years.


So, the Inklings seems to break down into into at least three distinct periods:

1. The early phase, probably from the late 1920s to 1939 - when the Inklings were dominated by Tolkien and Lewis but had a fairly large group (about seven) of fairly regular attenders.

2. The Charles Williams Years - 1939-45 - when the regular group became small, and probably therefore more intense and focused in their proceedings than at any other time, (quite aside from the fact that any group containing CW could not help but be highly intense and focused on him!), and with concerns I have surmised here:

3. And the later years from Williams death in 1945 to about 1949, when Tolkien and Lewis again dominated, and the group recruited new members, and some members became more regular (eg Dyson moved to Oxford in 1945).

So again the average Inklings meetings became larger (about seven - this is also implied by Warnie's post-war diary comments about 'small' Inklings meetings when there were four present - as if the usual was more); until Tolkien withdrew and the evening meetings ceased - after which the group continued as its established convivial drinking club meeting, with a much larger and looser membership, on Tuesday lunchtimes at the 'Bird and Baby' pub then the Lamb and Flag.


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