The First Meeting of the Inklings, with George Sayer

I wrote last week about all the literary groups that formed some of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and how L.M. Montgomery was alone. One of those was the Inklings, which made C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien into the writers that they were. Without the daring possibilities in Tolkien’s work and the intelligent conversation of the Inklings, Lewis may never have turned to popular fiction and cultural criticism. Without Lewis’ persistent support and criticism and the company of other mythopoeic writers, Tolkien may never have completed that grand project of turning his mythology into popular story, lyric, and epic. I don’t think that the Inklings were more important to English literature than the Paris Expats or the Bloomsbury Set or the Detection Club, but in terms of the development of fantasy literature, the Inklings created new worlds.

Since I refer to the Inklings and their meetings so often, I thought I would be best to share a bit more of their background. To do this, I want briefly to introduce George Sayer.

Sayer was a student of C.S. Lewis’ at Magdalen College, Oxford. Until the close of the war where he worked in the Intelligence Corps. Following the war, George and Moira Sayer moved to Malvern College where would become a teacher and eventually head of English. The schoolmaster kept up his relationship with Lewis and Tolkien through letters and visits. Some of those audio recordings kicking around the internet of Tolkien reading The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were recorded at Hamewith, the Sayers’ Malvern home (though I don’t know which ones).

Lewis would visit the Sayers and hike through the Malvern Hills–this was, after all, where Lewis went to school as a boy. When he was a student at Oxford, Sayer’s spiritual interest was piqued by Lewis’ tutorials–though Sayer only realized in his third year of tutelage that Lewis was a Christian. Sayer is one of the converts to Catholicism–with Dom Bede Griffiths, Walter Hooper, and a score of others–whose spiritual journey was energized by Lewis and his work. The Sayers remained intimate with Lewis when he married Joy Davidman, the four enjoying visits together at the Kilns before Joy’s death.

Showing an unusual degree of restraint, Goerge Sayer waited until 1988 to write a biography of his mentor and friend. And this is a very good biography–really the best biography for those who simply want to get to know C.S. Lewis. There are other other biographies I would recommend for those interested in literature, spirituality, or sheer fact, but for an intimate memoir-biography, turn to Sayer’s Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times (1988; 1994; 2005). I don’t know if Sayer ever attended an official Inklings event, but his description of how the Inklings emerged and what happened there is a great introduction both to this Oxford literary circle and to Sayer’s biography.


For years no regular event delighted Jack more than the Thursday evening meetings of the little group of friends called the Inklings. His was the second group to use this name. Its predecessor was founded in about 1930 by a University College undergraduate named Tangye Lean. Members met in each other’s rooms to read aloud their poems and other work. There would be discussion, criticism, encouragement, and frivolity, all washed down with wine or beer. Lean’s group consisted mainly of students, but a few sympathetic dons were invited to join, including Tolkien and Jack, who may have been Lean’s tutor. Lean graduated in June 1933, and that autumn Jack first used the name the Inklings to describe the group that had already begun to meet in his rooms.

It was always utterly informal. There were no rules, no officers, and certainly no agenda. To become a member, one had to be invited, usually by Jack. Nearly all members were his friends.

The first was J.R.R. Tolkien, elected Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in 1935 [sic, 1925]. He was forty-two and full of energy. Coming from Leeds, he found the Oxford English School disappointing because it seemed to him that too much time was given to Victorian and modern literature and far too little to AngloSaxon and Middle English language and literature. He set out to remedy this with a remarkable energy and practicality. He also encouraged the study of Icelandic literature by forming another group of dons, called the Coalbiters, to read and translate the Sagas and Eddas. Most members of this group had a good knowledge of the language, but a few beginners, including Jack and Nevill Coghill, were invited to join. Tolkien presided and corrected everyone’s mistakes.

Jack’s first impressions of Tolkien were not entirely favorable, but he found the meetings of the Coalbiters exciting. He loved both the language and the literature, and the study revived his taste for “northernness” and brought back “the old authentic thrill” he had experienced as a child. Tolkien was a rather diffident and private person. He was a domestic man, deeply concerned with his home life and growing family. He was also a most gifted philologist and an inspired storyteller, combining these talents in the languages and people he invented for such books as The Silmarillion. A conservative Roman Catholic, he was rather quick to draw his sword if he thought his faith was under attack. He kept the best of himself for his own secret creative world as a storyteller, of which few indeed had any idea in the 1930s.

Although Jack studied Icelandic literature under Tolkien every few weeks, he did not realize until December 3, 1929, that they shared a taste for “northernness” and a delight in Norse mythology. Jack invited Tolkien to come back to his rooms after a Coalbiters meeting for a chat and some whiskey. He stayed for three hours, “discoursing of the gods and giants of Asgard.” The visit was longer than Jack had intended, but “who could turn him out, for the fire was bright and the talk good.” This discussion was the germ of the Inklings and the beginning of one of the most important literary friendships of the twentieth century. A few days later, Tolkien asked Jack to give his opinion on two poems, lyrical versions of some of the stories later published as The Silmarillion. Jack wrote encouragingly and suggested improvements. Although Tolkien did not care for many of these, he was delighted by Jack’s genuine interest and suggested that they might meet once a week so that he could read the rest of The Silmarillion to Jack.

The duo became a trio in 1933 by the addition of Warren [Lewis], who had been collecting books on the age of Louis XIV since World War I and was probably considering how to approach the study he hoped to write for publication. Although he did not begin his “doggerel history of the reign” until June 1934, meetings of the Inklings were for him among the high points of the week. He brought to the sessions a keen mind, an experience of army life at home and overseas, and a knowledge of a large number of unusual subjects.

In 1934 Hugo Dyson and Dr. Robert E. Havard made it a group. Dyson, a lecturer at Reading University, was volatile, exuberant, and eccentric, a quick-witted comedian; Jack enjoyed his sort of humor. Dyson’s encounter with Councillor Brewer, a man of vast bulk, in an Oxford pub is typical. Hugo addressed him with an almost servile deference, “You will pardon the liberty, sir. I trust you don’t think I presume, but I shall call you Fred.” Then, gazing intently at his full pale face, broke in again, “You’ll excuse me, sir, but am I looking at your full face or your profile?” The Councillor, still smiling determinedly, turned to his friend and began to reminisce about their having rowed together in the Teddy Hall boat the year Teddy Hall was bottom of the river. But we had never heard the story. “Bottom? Bottoms?” said Hugo. “Admirable things if ample enough, but you, sir, of course, could have no difficulty about that!” He much preferred talking to listening, and he disliked The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For these reasons, people sometimes found him irritating.

Dr. Havard (always called Humphrey, a name given to him by Dyson) was Jack’s and Warren’s doctor from 1934 on. Although he was too busy to write much, he was well-read and keenly interested in the processes of literature and in theology. Havard did much to encourage Jack in the writing of the Narnia stories, the first of which was dedicated to his daughter. He was an entirely delightful man and much respected for his concern with the whole person, rather than just the physical body. I remember a reminiscence of Tolkien’s that illustrates this point.

“I told him that I was feeling depressed, so depressed that I hadn’t been to Mass for a couple of weeks. I wasn’t sleeping well either. He said I didn’t need drugs, what I needed was to go to Confession. He was at my house at 7:30 the following morning to take me to Confession and Mass. Of course I was completely cured. Now that’s the sort of doctor to have!”

Nevill Coghill, who read light verse, and Charles Wrenn, who tutored Jack’s third-year pupils in Old English, sometimes came to the group, as did Owen Barfield and other friends of Jack’s who happened to be in Oxford on Thursday evenings.

After the arrival of Charles Williams from London at the start of the war, still others joined the Inklings. Membership required the group’s general agreement. As Warren put it, “We all knew the sort of man we wanted—and did not want.” The latter included dogmatic men who relied, not on evidence, but on cliché—“The sort of fellow,” Jack would say, “who uses language not to communicate thought but instead of thought.”

The ritual never varied. When most of the expected members had arrived (and maybe only three or four would come), Warren would brew a pot of strong tea, the smokers would light their pipes, and Jack would say, “Well, has nobody got anything to read us?” If no one else produced a manuscript, Jack might read something of his own. This was not a mutual admiration society. “Praise for good work was unstinted but censure for bad, or even not so good, was often brutally frank.” To read could be a formidable ordeal. Warren has left an account of the meetings in 1946, which he describes as a vintage year:

. . . [W]e had at most meetings a chapter of what I call “the new Hobbit” from Tolkien; this being the book or books ultimately published as “The Lord of the Rings.” [O]n 30th October . . . there was a long argument on the ethics of cannibalism, and on 28th November Roy Campbell read his translation of a couple of Spanish poems and John Wain won an outstanding bet by reading a chapter of “Irene Iddesleigh” without a smile. At our next meeting David Cecil read a chapter of his forthcoming book on Gray. Sometimes, but not often, it would happen that no one had anything to read to us, and on these occasions the fun would grow riotous, with Jack at the top of his form and enjoying every minute—“No sound delights me more,” he once said, “than male laughter.” At the Inklings his talk was an outpouring of wit, nonsense, whimsy, dialectical swordplay, and pungent judgements. . . .

The same company used to meet on Tuesdays (later Mondays) for an hour or two before lunch at The Eagle and Child (a pub that was always referred to in University circles as “The Bird and Baby”). This particular inn was chosen partly because of its small back room, but mainly because of the character of its landlord, Charles Blagrove, who had

“endless stories of an Oxford which is as dead as Dr. Johnson’s . . . an Oxford in which it was not uncommon for undergrads to fight a landlord for a pint of beer: both would strip to the waist, have a mill in the backyard, and then the battered undergrad would throw down a sovereign and depart.”

Blagrove had begun life as a cab driver. He remembered undergraduates who were so fastidious that they would give him their new suits if they did not fit perfectly. He could talk about the lavish tips he had received for driving “what he used to call ‘fancy goods’ to secluded spots; of the people who used to hire his cab to be taken ‘somewhere where they could find a fight’; of rags, dinners, that general reckless extravagance and panache which prevailed when the security of the upper classes was still absolute, and England ruled the world. . . .”

Jack held meetings of the Inklings in his rooms for fifteen years, until one horrible Thursday in October 1949 when nobody turned up. What were his motives? In his brilliant book, The Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter suggests that he sought to protect himself through the formation of a circle of friends against the powerful inner circle that seemed to him to dominate Magdalen and university politics. This seems to me to be true. He felt isolated during his early years at Magdalen and under dialectical attack during the later ones. For reassurance, he needed fairly frequent meetings with his friends, men who held similar views. Though few who met him casually would have guessed it, he was beneath the surface plagued by Celtic melancholy and a streak of pessimism, qualities the Inklings held at bay. He loved his friends and liked to think that he was of service to them in their literary careers. Meetings of the Inklings made him utterly happy (George Sayer, Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis, pp. 228-234).

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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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49 Responses to The First Meeting of the Inklings, with George Sayer

  1. Bookstooge says:

    “Jack held meetings of the Inklings in his rooms for fifteen years, until one horrible Thursday in October 1949 when nobody turned up”

    So, what happened? Did the group dissolve then, or was it just a one-off thing that made him really sad?

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      His brother, Warren, in the published selections from his own diaries, is pretty laconic about it (27 October): “No one turned up after dinner, which was just as well, as J[ack=CSL] has a bad cold and wanted to go to bed early”! But, to the 10 November entry, “No Inklings tonight, so dined at ‘home'”, an editorial footnote is added: “The last Thursday meeting of the Inklings recorded in Warren’s diary was October 20 (Thursday mornings at the Bird and Baby continued).” Brothers and Friend, eds. Clive S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hannah says:

    I loved reading George Sayers’s “Jack”, ao because of his deep understanding of Lewis, which shows eg in his description of Lewis’s relation to Mrs. Moore: that it gave structure to his life, which he so badly needed after his devastating experiences in the first World War and before that in losing his mother at an early age and then at those awful boarding schools. According to Sayers he could not have lived alone and it gave him the structure and encouragement to start writing, instead of the reverse as other biographers have it, keeping him from his work because of all the chores he had to do for her. Maybe it became so at the end of her life, but certainly not at the beginning of their relationship. Maybe those biographers were influenced by Warren’s tales, tinged by jealousy?
    So great to read this post about the relationship between Sayers and Lewis and how he came to understand him so well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve struggled with the negativity to Mrs. Moore in the literature, though I think it is exactly as you say: being drawn in by Warren and his antipathetic view of Mrs. M. I’m reading A.N. Wilson’s much maligned CSL bio and he tries to recover the value of Moore for Lewis.
      Thanks for the friendly note. I do think this is cool.

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        It’s curious how negative Warren is, or seems, in retrospect, when (as I remember them) there seem lots of glimpses of enjoyment and camaraderie in his published diary entries over all their years together.

        I’ve never caught up with Roger Lancelyn Green’s 1969 Bodley Head Monograph contribution on Lewis (in one volume together with Henry Treece by Margery Fisher and Beatrix Potter by Marcus Crouch), but insofar as his contributions to C. S. Lewis: A Biography (1974) are distinguishable, they seem an interesting parallel to the personal element of Sayer’s Jack.

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        • Yes, Warren is negative. Bad days? Ups and downs? Issue-based problems (housework, drinking)? Dunno.
          I heard someone present on that Green bio but I don’t remember the distinctives. That was 6 years ago. Honestly, I struggle with the Green-Hooper biography. It is so different than Green’s prose, so lacking the storytelling element, very copy-and-paste like. It also isn’t like Hooper in his prefaces–less warm, more detached.
          I don’t love that book.

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          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            How am I going to score in this round of the game ‘Humiliation’ as found in a couple of David Lodge’s novels (where someone’s desire to win loses him tenure when he reveals he’s never read Hamlet)?

            I’m always working through the index to look things up, and I read around the context more or less when I do, with considerable enjoyment, but I’ve (somehow) never read the whole thing right through.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Hannah says:

        How does A.N. Wilson’s bio compare to Sayers’s Jack? Does he actually find any value of Moore for Lewis? Sayers explanation seemed very feasible to me, so a lot more than the duty/burden of looking after her because of his promise to his friend, her son, in case of his death during the first WW.

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        • Wilson is the detached, intellectual, atheistic and interested in the psychology. Sayer’s book is the intimate, personal story, part memoir part biography, from a Catholic perspective. Both men are literary and the prose style is a little different but good for both. Wilson’s book is kind of fun, but the risks he takes are pretty wonky sometimes. There are a lot of errors in the text (you can find lists online). I was really frustrated with Wilson’s biography of Paul: a great read about a completely fictional person–or no one that we could recognize from the texts.
          I do think, in reading things, that the last 5 years of Mrs. Moore were pretty hard. That is life, though.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hannah says:

            Thanks, that really clarifies the differences!
            And would it be a good example of how the ‘detached, intellectual’ can be full of errors, while the ‘intimate, personal’ gives a truthful and more comprehensive portrayal – so of how truth is personal (but not in the sense of being subjective)?
            And maybe Wilson misses a lot because of his atheistic approach?

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            • Hannah says:

              ‘That is life, though’ reminded me of Lewis’s joy in meeting and marrying Joy Davidson and his deep sorrow of loosing her to cancer, resulting in his book ‘Grief Observed’.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, the parallel is there.
                I must says e I get a wee bit annoyed by those that are down on Joy and Mrs. Moore because they “trapped” Lewis. Goodness, do they think so little of Lewis?

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              • Hannah says:

                Also on Joy? I was wondering about that! And with that “trapped” (by Mrs Moore’s endless chores?) Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle” comes to mind …, but I can’t see that with Joy!

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              • No, a different kind of “trapping.” In some views, Joy hunts and bags a hapless Lewis, Mrs. Moore arrests Lewis in a circle of personal requirements and chores. I don’t think the evidence can support either view.

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            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              One of the weird things ‘we’ (Dr. Tolley and I) encountered reading and annotating a copy of the first edition of Wilson’s bio we bought for The Kilns library was, if I recall aright, a note to Sayer’s book (I think just by ‘Sayer’ with page number) as the source of something (rather than going to the source in Lewis which Sayer quotes?) – when he had not included Sayer’s book in his bibliography.

              I later heard from someone who knew him after he got out of touch with us Lewis Society folk, that (if I recall correctly) he was having quite a time of it personally when writing the book (he and his wife of nearly 20 years divorced in the same year it appeared) and, I think, had been finishing it in some haste. There are various interesting things he learned from speakers during his Lewis Soc time (I think of an example or two from Professor Karl Leyser (1920-92), in particular) that made their way into the first edition without being clearly documented as to source.

              He silently introduced revisions into the first UK paperback edition after Douglas Gresham and Lady Jill Freud (“June Flewett”) each took him to task for errors, false depictions, etc. (I think I recall Lady Jill told us of 42 such things she brought to his and the publishers attention). It would be jolly if, like a good Patristic or Mediaeval author, he would produce an new edition with a list of ‘recantations’ added, since he has returned to Christianity (though I have not really followed his work since then, 2009, while occasionally encounter articles online).

              Arend Smilde has a long thoughtful review at Lewisiana.nl

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              • Arend has “a long thoughtful review at Lewisiana.nl” of so many things!
                Thanks for this story. I didn’t know much of the context, nor am I terribly worried about content. I’m curious about what makes people upset, and curious about Lewis through the lens of a wealthy, popular public intellectual. The A.N. Wilson Errata by Kathryn Lindskoog is a bit tetchy but indicative of the Lewis response on this side of the pond. “The hero of this book is A.N Wilson, who quickly and easily sees through everything, and who winks at his readers because they are now in on the joke also”–perhaps that’s a bit harsh considering one of her most critical concerns is that he over-psychologizes. What makes Lindskoog’s critique a wee bit different than many is that she rejects Hooper as a reliable witness.
                What edition am I reading? American soft cover, so probably already fixed a bit. http://cslewis.drzeus.net/papers/wilson-errata/

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              • Hannah says:

                Did you also deal with this in your post https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2016/01/25/lindskoog-affair/ , “suggesting that her commitment to protecting Lewis led her to her accusations”?
                Strange that errors in books can be caused by personal upheavals in a writer’s (Wilson’s) life at the time of publication, like divorces.
                Anyway, I really enjoyed reading Lindskoog’s “The Lion of Judah in Never-Never Land”!

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                I have not seen (or, I think, even heard of!) The A.N. Wilson Errata by Kathryn Lindskoog, though I have quickly found I can read it online at Into the Wardrobe (though I have not paused to do so, before writing this!).

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                I suppose it depends on the personal upheaval and its particular ‘components’ (if that’s a possible word), but I suspect whatever it’s like, ‘distraction’ or ‘distractedness’ as part of it, in various ways, might conduce to errors.

                (In the case of the error I mentioned, I remember wondering if the author, in his vein of Freudian(esque) psychologizing about Lewis, might apply this to himself – secretly ‘murdering’ George Sayer as a biographical ‘father figure’ by ‘accidentally’ omitting his book from the bibliography, yet revealing this by the obscure reference note…)

                I did wonder about something perhaps analogous to what you quote from Mrs. Lindskoog – the style of the book generally (with the glorious exception of the treatment of the OHEL volume) seemed the opposite of the ‘centrifugal’ character of the work of Lewis and other Inklings – who are always (in my experience) sending you off to want to read (lots of) other things (in this case, the works of Lewis) – and was delighted to read Anthony Burgess’s review that it (to my surprise) had just this effect on him!

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              • Thanks David and Hannah for the discussion. I can’t say too much about Wilson–I haven’t finished it yet! Whatever errors there might be, I struggle with the approach he takes–his principles of biography. But he is pilloried in Lewis studies, so that’s enough to make me a bit interested! (because I am a jerk, after all)
                Hannah, no, I didn’t deal with protectionism in my Lindskoog conversation, or just a slanting reference. I wanted to stay pretty focussed. And I have her C.S. Lewis book, having heard her analysis to be generally pretty good.

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              • hannahdemiranda3 says:

                With ‘this’ I meant her A.N. Wilson errata list ;-). I recalled your 2016 post about ‘the Lindskoog Affair’ and wondered about relevance for this discussion, so reread it.
                That one sentence about protection stuck out, because of the ongoing discussion how to discern true from fake news – fact checking is a huge part, but also reliability/integrity, motivation, reputation of the source?

                Liked by 1 person

          • Wilson did train, briefly, for the ordained ministry (Anglican), but gave it up. I think you can tell that in his wildly eccentric writing on religious themes.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Oh, interesting. I didn’t know that. I heard he has returned to faith.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Has he? I am so pleased. I am often intrigued by the way in which the great cynics eventually go deeper than their disappointment and come to faith.

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              • Yes, there were a few high profile articles, like this: https://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/conversion-experience-atheism. Atheists have to be careful who they read, after all, and he kept dabbling (Tolstoy, Paul, Lewis, etc.).
                But I don’t quite see the cycle you see just yet. Perhaps it is because you are in the UK and it has been roughly stable for 30 or 40 years, not a lot of faith change. Where as the post-WWII withdraw happened in Canada 20 or 30 years later, and in the US now. So it is harder to see the cycles in individual lives in the midst of a large tilt. I don’t know if that makes any sense! But we don’t see public intellectuals turn to faith here in North America. Sometimes popstars and actors do.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Many thanks for the New Statesman link. How interesting to see that publication of the Left exploring this question. It was a few years ago when I read a fascinating essay by Roy Hattersley, former unbelieving Deputy-Leader of the Labour Party in which he noted that in every situation of crisis or need he kept meeting Christians and not as proselytizers but just trying to make a difference. I don’t think that the pendulum has swung very far but perhaps it has begun to. The Grenfell Tower catastrophe brought a lot of good will to churches. A local Methodist minister said that he had given up wearing his minister’s collar until the fire. Now he makes a point of wearing it. He found that the local people appreciated that it stood for something good made visible and identifiable.

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  3. Thank you. I found it very interesting. I’ve read Humphrey Carpenter’s book on the Inklings, so I already knew the major facts. But you have added so many little details to the picture!

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  5. Yewtree says:

    Very enjoyable post, thanks.

    I liked Alister McGrath’s biography of Lewis; it was very balanced on Mrs Moore and excellent on Joy Davidman.

    There are some details here that I don’t recall seeing in the biographies that I’ve read, so thank you for sharing. I’ve not read Sayers’ biography and didn’t know about him, nor about Havard.

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    • I haven’t read McGrath’s bio in almost 5 years so I wouldn’t want to say much at this point. I had no red flags about Mrs. Moore. I wondered at the time, though, if he had characterized Joy as a hunter and din’t know enough about Joy’s life to judge. Since then I have read biographies by Santamaria and Dorsett so I’d feel more capable about rereading it now.
      Sayers is fun to read. There is an e-book, paperbacks are plentifully used, and there is a new audiobook (I haven’t heard it so I don’t know if it is any good).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yewtree says:

        I was under the impression that Lewis willingly married Ms Davidman so she could have a UK visa, and then they fell in love.

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        • Yes, that’s the story. But it looks like she was infatuated with Lewis even before moving to the UK–that was why she went. People found that weird. Some of the response to that has been in my view kind of weird.

          Liked by 2 people

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            The Wade put me onto interviewing John Christopher for them, I think in good part on the basis of an article he wrote about knowing her in a science fiction circle in London – but I can’t remember where it was published (and any notes I have would take some pretty literal ‘digging up’): in any case, it’s well worth reading (and my WadeOral History interview is worthwhile, too, if I say so myself.)

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          • Yewtree says:

            Oh I didn’t know that. But I still don’t have a problem with it. Apart from anything else – none of us was there.

            And I’m automatically suspicious of talk about women “entrapping” men. (Or whatever word was used.)

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            • Yes, it makes me suspicious too. Hence my resistance. I am willing to be won over to most any argument, but when it begins with traditionally stereotypical ideas, I resist for a while.
              However, though we weren’t there, as historians we do tray to retell the story so it makes sense of the evidence we have. Joy began writing love poetry to and about Lewis pretty early in their real life together–long before he had intimations of love.

              Liked by 1 person

          • Increasingly I think that all “falling in love”, all eros, has an element of madness in it, and that each time we name it in another we need to give ourselves carefully to self-examination. What there is no doubt about is that eventually Lewis and Davidman mingled eros and agape to the degree that the best marriages do.

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            • Madness, hmm. Do you think madness as inconstancy (“inconstant as the moon” etc.), or as divided self, or as suicide?

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              • The thought that I had was that of being taken possession of by something greater than oneself. It runs completely counter to the “being in control” that is so highly prized by western culture. When it goes wrong it can be something terrible, an obsession that destroys. It must be transformed by the desire of beatitude, not for oneself ultimately, but for the other. But the erotic energy that first draws two people together is not eradicated as one can see in those wonderful marriages of elderly people who are still in love.

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  7. Ever since I saw that you had written this I have wanted to read it but the time only appeared this morning. It is a fine piece of writing and one sentence in particular stood out to me and that was your description of Tolkien as “a domestic man, deeply concerned with his home life and growing family”. What a debt of gratitude we all owe to the lover of male company that was Lewis.
    I took another look at the make up of the Bloomsbury group after reading your essay and realised that the only one that I have actually read is EM Forster. I like Forster. I like his stories and I find his best characters attractive. I recognise the names of the others but they all belong to a history of 20th century English Literature and are not on my library shelves. The Inklings are in fewer histories or Eng Lit syllabi (at least on this side of the Atlantic) but I read and reread them. Perhaps I would rather escape from prison than make it more elegant and comfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Following your example, I just looked ’em up (according to Wikipedia), and find my experience very similar – except I’m always meaning to read Forster, e.g., especially after enjoying the Passage to India and even more the Room with a View movies, and never getting round to it. I did read at least the Gordon bit of Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians in school, and found it…’clever’? as well as nasty and unjust…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Even when I was an undergraduate studying history I found Strachey distasteful. Ian Hislop’s recent television series on “Dogooders” was gloriously civil in its treatment of Victorian philanthropy.
        I am happy to recommend Forster though. His descriptions of human endeavour and human weakness, both of which are inextricably intertwined, are always sympathetic.

        Like

      • It is Forster that I’m least familiar with–and haven’t even seen the movies! Based on my taste, though, I would go to Passage to India and Room with a View before spending time in D.H. Lawrence or some of the outer edge figures.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Also, thanks for the note about writing. That was encouraging.

      Liked by 1 person

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