The Inklings were a small mid-twentieth-century writers’ group from Oxford, England, who met socially, and to share their yet-unpublished works. Such informal meetings of authors are not uncommon, but they are seldom heard about beyond their fellowship.
It is not rare for people to want to know about the authors they have read. Writers as diverse as Shakespeare and J K Rowling have been written about. Devoted fans seem to want to know what “made them click,” and if there are parts of their life they can relate to. It does seem to be rare, however, when an informal club of authors such as the Inklings gets singled out as a group.
Having long been a fan of JRR Tolkien and C S Lewis, it was natural for me to seek out other authors who had some kind of commonality with them. I could relate to the morality and sensibilities of the two authors, and wanted more of the same. I wasn’t seeking a sameness of style or theme, but those who appreciated what T S Eliot referred to as the “permanent things.” I would never have read anything by Charles Williams or Dorothy L. Sayers* if no one had written about these associates of Tolkien and Lewis. I certainly do not enjoy William and Sayers as much as their more famous counterparts, but their relationship to the group has expanded my horizons a bit. And that is a good thing.
Colin Duriez has now added to the public knowledge of the Inklings with a new book. Duriez has written several books about Tolkien and Lewis, but this is his first thorough treatise about the group as a whole. The Oxford Inklings: Lewis, Tolkien and Their Circle came out in January, and his assessable style makes this book very readable. There are many authors who have tried to jump on the popular bandwagon in conjunction with the blockbuster movies about Tolkien’s The Lord of Rings and The Hobbit, and C S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. But there are only a very small handful of biographers who have dug deep into archives to provide insights those, who merely borrow from others, do not have.
I especially appreciated how Duriez uncovers the truth (and dispels some untruths) about the rift in the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien in their later years. He also helps to set straight the rumors about why Lewis seemed to turn from apologetics to fiction. It’s not as simple as some have tried to make it. But you’ll have to read the book to find out the details.
If you are looking to find good reading about C S Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and their associates, there are a few good authors I would recommend. Duriez is one of them.
Here are some other authors who have written about the Inklings you might want to check out (not an exhaustive list):
Diana Pavlac Glyer
Clyde S. Kilby
*Sayers was not officially an Inkling, but she was a close associate of Lewis.