“Inklings and Arthur Series Introduction” by David Llewellyn Dodds

It was as an ‘Arthurian’ that I first consciously encountered Charles Williams, with that adjective applying to both him and me. (I, ever since I was given Emma Gelders Sterne and Barbara Lindsay’s retelling, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table,  as a little fellow, however hair-raising were Gustaf Tenggren’s depictions of Lancelot’s sword splitting Meliagrance’s helmeted head in half and the giant Taulurd’s severed arm in mid-air as Sir Tor hewed it off.)  It was only later that I realized I had already happily encountered him, enriching Dorothy Sayers’ notes in her translation of Dante’s Comedy.

However, it was not until I thought to ‘work on him’ seriously that I came to learn how many of Williams’ Arthurian writings were still unpublished. In this adventure of reading I ended up as a textual editor. But I have also been in awe of that other kind of editor – of a thematic collection of papers – ever since I saw Mark Ormrod working on England in the Fourteenth Century when we were both teaching at Harlaxton College. If working on a single author’s unknown works has its rewards, it takes a certain kind of skill and editorial eye to bring all those perspectives together into a single volume.

Sørina Higgins has clearly done a particularly awesome piece of work in editing The Inklings and King ArthurJ.R.R. TolkienCharles Williams, C.S. Lewis, & Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain. On a scale much less grand, we have aimed to do something similar here with the ‘Inklings and Arthur’ series this winter. The series will highlight a dozen posts from leading and emerging scholars from the fields of medieval and renaissance literature, Arthurian studies, and Inklings studies–as well as poets, writers, artists, and students.

I am honoured to serve as guest editor of this little series of online works to help celebrate its appearance – and relieved to think I have our seasoned host to pilot me safely through any shoals or reefs which may appear en route. While it is my particular delight to be the first to see the ferment of our contributors’ ideas and savour the results, I am happy to think you will be joining me in their enjoyment in the weeks ahead. Watch for an Inklings and Arthur post each Wednesday, and feel free to join in the conversation.

David Llewellyn Dodds has edited the Charles Williams and John Masefield 
volumes of Boydell & Brewer’s Arthurian Poets series, the first while 
President of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, living at and looking after 
The Kilns. His most recent publication is “‘Tolkien’s Narnia’?: Lit., 
Lang., Saints, Tinfang, and a Mythology – or two – for Christmas”, in 
Tolkien Among Scholars (Lembas Extra 2016). He is currently editing 
Charles Williams’s Arthurian Commonplace Book, and an early cycle of 
Arthurian poetry, The Advent of Galahad,  for publication (with 
tortoise-like slowness, if not steadiness).

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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12 Responses to “Inklings and Arthur Series Introduction” by David Llewellyn Dodds

  1. dalejamesnelson says:

    David, since you include a cover image for the Masefield volume, would you care to say something about that edition?

    I’m looking forward to contributing a Wednesday post on Martyn Skinner’s The Return of Arthur (one-volume edition 1966). Skinner wasn’t an Inkling, but sort of an Inkling-at-one-remove, in that he was the pen-friend (at least) of C. S. Lewis, who suggested the subject of The Return to him. Skinner’s poem abounds in Lewisian elements as well as Arthurian ones (to the extent that these can been distinguished!). From my current incomplete draft of the upcoming post:

    “The Return was Skinner’s ‘grandest work, for which he had to devise or adopt a metrical scheme which could be adjusted at need to convey gripping narrative, evocative description (some of his finest passages portray the beauty of the English countryside), comic strip journalism or the profoundest spiritual insights while retaining the continuity of the whole. The triumphant result places him among the truly great poets of the English tradition and language’” (quoting from Roger Ellis’s obituary of Skinner, published 12 Nov. 1993 in The Independent).

    The Return of Arthur is much in the spirit of the Inklings.

    I hope we will have a post on Tolkien’s Fall of Arthur, which I’m keen to read for the third time.

    Dale Nelson

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Dear Dale,

      Thanks for that appetite-whetting quotation! I am embarrassingly weak on the post-Inklings Arthurian poets, except David Jones (one of whose works was happily chosen by somebody at Boydell & Brewer – Richard Barber, perhaps? – to put on the cover of the Williams paperback), and Vernon Watkins – if we can count him (for his memorial verse and his Taliesin poems). So, it will be great to learn more about Martyn Skinner. As, about more recent prose retellers, in Suzanne Bray’s contribution next week!

      After having prepared the Charles Williams volume (which was originally intended to include Arthurian Torso like its Eerdmans predecessor – except that I added so much new material, that they decided at the last minute it would be too long, if it did), I suggested what I thought would be the easy task of reprinting Masefield’s previously-published Arthurian verse works. This was welcomed, and Richard Barber kindly let me go searching for an unpublished apparently Arthurian work mentioned in the late Constance Babington Smith’s biography of Masefield. I never managed to track it down, but did discover unpublished Arthurian works in the Houghton Library at Harvard and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin! So, Richard Barber and B & B kindly let me expand that intended ‘simple’ collection into an even thicker volume than the Williams one.

      A fascinating thing about Masefield’s retelling, the major one between Tennyson and Williams, is that it incorporates not only a cycle using various verse forms, but a play! (The biggest of my discoveries in terms of length is another play – which is compatible with the cycle and other play, but very different in character. The cycle – even in its finished form – includes variants of some details of the Arthurian story, and later poems are definite alternatives.) Another interesting aspect, tying in with your quotation about Skinner needing “to devise or adopt a metrical scheme”, is Masefield’s solution, in contrast to both Tennyson before and Skinner after, in choosing to use various verse forms in poems in the cycle – a solution which Williams seemed to arrive at, too, at around the same time, in his Advent of Galahad cycle, and which continued to be his solution as that was partly revised into and partly simply replaced by his later Arthurian poetry. (Curiously, Williams does not mention or list Masefield’s Arthurian works in his Masefield chapter of Poetry at Present (now available in the Internet Archive), and I never encountered a reference to them by him anywhere else – though perhaps Grevel Lindop now has in his far wider reading of unpublished Williams letters and related papers – or someone else familiar with unpublished papers unavailable to me before I edited Masefield.)

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dale, in editing this blog I have in mind a cluster of “Honourary Inklings,” not just the original cider-gatherers. So I tend to include Joy Davidman, Dorothy Sayers, Ruth Pitter (friends) and Geo. MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton (influences). I’d be glad to see something about Skinner.


  2. Sarah Thomson says:

    So pleased to see you are editing Williams’ Arthurian Commonplace Book and the Advent of Galahad, David.

    Liked by 2 people

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Thank you, Sarah! I am embarrassed that it is taking me so long that they were not at the service of the contributors to this collection of essays, but, dum spiro, spero!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on The Oddest Inkling and commented:
    Brenton Dickieson is running a series of blog posts, edited by David Llwellyn Dodds, over on Pilgrim in Narnia. Please have a look!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dale:
    I’ve written a few posts about “The Fall of Arthur” over on The Oddest Inkling; click on the “J. R. R. Tolkien” tag and you should find them. 🙂 I’d love your comments over there!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Inklings & Arthur on Pilgrim in Narnia | The Oddest Inkling

  6. Dan Hennessy says:

    Reblogged this on The Kingdom of Memory and commented:
    What is the Kingdom Of Memory as it pertains to Western Civilization, if the mythic idea of “Camelot” is not included? Not an idyllic kingdom, or a Western Kingdom, at all, it seems, without King Arthur’s ultimate world included. This series highlights a dozen posts from leading and emerging scholars from the fields of medieval and renaissance literature, Arthurian studies, and Inklings studies–as well as poets, writers, artists, and students. Thanks again to Brenton Dickieson for his dedication to this world of thought, that of the Inklings, which, I feel, is a modern key to the defense and preservation of Western thought and our way of life as Westerners (see Aragorn’s speech at the Black Gate and its inspiration… Shakespeare’s Crispian’s Day Speech by King Henry V in the play of that name…).


  7. Pingback: The Inklings and Arthur Series Index | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  8. Pingback: The Inklings and King Arthur: Selfies and News | A Pilgrim in Narnia

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