B is for J. A. W. Bennett (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

B is for J. A. W. Bennett.

Post #2 on the Inklings!

Bennett isn't, strictly speaking, an Inkling. He was a Fellow at Oxford and a Professor at Cambridge. He sometimes turned up at an Inklings, and one day apparently happened to be in C. S. Lewis' rooms during the following incident between Lewis and an Australian student:
"And on another occasion when an Australian student professed that he could never read Arnold's Sohrab and Rustum, and refused to admit its good qualities even after Lewis had chanted a hundred lines of it at him, Lewis declared, 'The sword must settle it!' and reached for a broadsword and a rapier [which] were inexplicably in the corner of the room. They fenced -- Lewis of course choosing the broadsword -- and, said Bennett, 'Lewis actually drew blood -- a slight nick.'"

We used one of Bennett's reference books (oh, how I miss my books in storage!) in my Middle English class at university. It was a seminar class, a higher level class taken by a handful of undergraduates who didn't necessarily have to choose that class towards their degree; you would assume that everyone there was there because they had chosen to study Middle English.

And yet. Students being what they are, there were still kids who acted like fools. I remember one boy showing up to class on the Monday that a paper was due, saying he needed an extension because he hadn't been able to finish the essay, since he'd had a "swim meet on Saturday morning"!

I'm sure the professor felt like using Lewis' broadsword on him, and I could almost wish he had! As far as I remember, he didn't cave in, and did lower the kid's grade, though he didn't fail him utterly.

It's a shame no one got a photo of Lewis brandishing a sword. In his stead, here's Reepicheep the valiant Mouse:

Have you ever wielded a sword?


sage said…
A professor fencing (or swordfighting) with a student, amazing. We definitely live in different times.
Hi Deniz - those must have been the days at Oxford ... I wished I'd had more time with my father discussing his time there, as too my uncle ... but sometimes growing up doesn't give those openings - life got in the way.

Such fun they must have had ... mostly one hopes with only a nick or two - as here ..

I'd love to be a fly on the wall at all the inkling meetings ... I had an uncle and aunt (who weren't, if you get my meaning -very close friends of my father's) who taught at Oxford ... and yes I'd have liked to have spent time with them discussing academic life ...

Cheers Hilary
Patrick Stahl said…
I have not wielded a true sword, but I have certainly pretended to.
djinnia said…
I used to have wooden field stakes for surveying that my dad would make into swords for us. He would duct tape around the "grip" and it would even have the cross bit tacked above for the guard. My brothers and I would then proceed to bash them in a disorganized melee
Em-Musing said…
Ha! No sword, but yes I've wielded a machete. I live in the jungle of Akumal, Mexico and everyone has a machete, in fact, I have four. My grandson (11) recently visited and he thought it was adventurous to go into the jungle with a machete and chop down some vines. He felt like Indiana Jones.
Studied the Inklings in school but had no idea about Bennett's connection. Thanks for enlightening me!
- Joy @ The Joyous Living
Helen Hollick said…
Enjoyed this - thanks for sharing!

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Nas said…
Enjoyed this post Deniz, and learned something new!
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks for coming by, all!
I'd like to learn how to use a sword...

Ooh, Em, have you heard Amanda Palmer's newest song? It's called Machete :-)