A is for Author J. R. R. Tolkien and the Inklings

A is for author J. R. R. Tolkien.

Yes, my theme for this year's Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is Tolkien and the Inklings!

Including, of necessity, other authors that were and are linked with the small group of Inklings, centred on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, plus other authors and scholars who have explored Tolkien's works, and a couple of illustrators -- and some surprises!

I hope I can do justice to this theme, and that I can keep up! The A to Z tends to get a bit crazy as the month goes on -- but it's lots of fun! I've been rereading Humphrey Carpenter's biography of the Inklings, and Tolkien's letters, and a few other random bits, to prepare.

Who were the Inklings?

Carpenter opens his book with the following: "Lewis and Tolkien met in 1926 and soon achieved an intimacy which lasted for many years. Around them gathered a group of friends, many of them Oxford dons, who referred to themselves informally and half jestingly as 'The Inklings'. ... The Inklings achieved a certain fame -- or even notoriety, for they had their detractors -- during the lifetime of the group. And when some years later it was noted that The Lord of the Rings, The Screwtape Letters, and [Charles Williams'] All Hallows' Eve (to name but three of many books) had this in common, that they were first read aloud to the Inklings, it became something of a fashion to study the writings of Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams on the assumption that they were members of a clearly defined literary group with a common aim. Such an assumption may or may not stand up to serious investigation. ... [The] ideas and interests of the Inklings [sometimes] contrasted sharply with the general intellectual and literary spirit of the nineteen-twenties and thirties."

An unpublished manuscript by Tolkien is quoted in the book:
"'Hwaet! we Inclinga,' wrote Tolkien, parodying the opening lines of Beowulf, 'on aerdagum searopancolra snyttru gehierdon.' 'Lo! we have heard in old days of the wisdom of the cunning-minded Inklings; how those wise ones sat together in their deliberations, skilfully reciting learning and song-craft, earnestly meditating. That was true joy!'"

The Inklings met, in the main, in Lewis' rooms at Magdalen College on Thursday nights, and at the Eagle and Child (Bird and Baby) pub on Tuesday mornings. During World War II, they "often gathered in the King's Arms opposite the Bodleian Library, in the tap room of the Mitre Hotel, or in the White Horse in Broad Street, a small pub next to Blackwell's book shop."

Tolkien, in a letter to his son Christopher, detailed the Inklings' plans for after the war: "The Inklings have already agreed [that] their victory celebration, if they are spared to have one, will be to take a whole inn in the countryside for at least a week, and spend it entirely in beer and talk, without reference to any clock!"

In the event, there were only a handful of them to celebrate, and not even for a week. Many of them were busy, but their celebration was also shadowed by the untimely death of Charles Williams, a week after V Day, following complications from surgery.

Our last visit to Oxford was c. 2007; seems like I never shared photos from that trip on the blog!

 Bodleian Library

If you could share a drink with an author, who would you like to invite, and what would you drink?

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