Saturday 23 November 2019

Love among the Inklings

To what extent were the Inklings a group bound together by Love? The answer is; to a much greater extent than is usual for such intellectual groups composed of colleagues with common interests (e.g. Christianity, literature, the imagination, myth); and with common purposes (writing, socio-political renewal, Christian revival).

Indeed, I would say that the fact that the Inklings was a loving group was what raised it above other superficially similar intellectual groupings. 

At the centre of the Inklings was CS Lewis - who, of course, wrote on the subject of The Four Loves (1960), a man with a genius for friendship, and who genuinely loved his friends. Jack Lewis attended all the meetings, which were held in his rooms; he was driving force that kept them going. And after the evening meeting of the true 'Inklings' dissolved, Jack maintained an extended convivial conversation group for more than another decade, lunchtimes at the 'Bird and Baby' or (opposite) Lamb and Flag pubs.

Of those inklings whom Lewis loved, first was his brother Warnie, second was his student friend Owen Barfield. Then came JRR Tolkien. And in all of these instances, the love was mutual.

Finally, there was Charles Williams...

As always with Williams, the friendship with Lewis is not straightforward. There is no doubt that Lewis loved Williams; but I doubt whether this love was reciprocal - indeed, I have never seen any reference anywhere to suggest that Williams actually loved Lewis as a friend. Respected, yes. Enjoyed the company of, yes. But I am not confident that - after his youth and young adulthood - Williams loved any man.

This is not, perhaps, unusual; because few men can develop robust and lasting loving friendships with other men after early adulthood; and in this respect Lewis was exceptional. 

But with Jack, Warnie, Barfield, Tolkien and Williams we have the core of the Inklings; and at the centre of this web of loving relationships was Jack. He truly was the heart of the group.