An Inklings Meeting

[Magdalen College, Oxford]

Tolkien and Lewis formed the spine of the Inklings, regularly convening to read and discuss one another’s work in Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College. There were nineteen members in all.

Tempers must surely have become frayed at times – as Tolkien became unyieldingly critical of Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (“about as bad as can be”) or as the English don Hugo Dyson met the latest bulletin from Middle Earth by (according to Tolkien’s son Christopher) “lying on the couch, and lolling and shouting and saying, ‘Oh God, no more Elves’”.
Inkling James Dundas-Grant recalls a typical scene: “we sat in a small back room with a fine coal fire in winter . . . . back and forth the conversation would flow. Latin tags flying around. Homer quoted in the original to make a point . . . . Tolkien jumping up and down, declaiming in Anglo-Saxon.”
John Wain, a former pupil of Lewis’s and an occasional Inkling himself, wrote a hostile account of the group in 1962, stating that they were “politically conservative, not to say reactionary; in religion . . . in art, frankly hostile to any manifestation of the ‘modern’ spirit”. The surviving Inklings were outraged, but some of Wain’s criticisms seem difficult to repudiate. Here, for example, is Lewis lampooning T. S. Eliot:

For twenty years I’ve stared my level best
To see if evening – any evening – would suggest
A patient etherised upon a table;
In vain. I simply wasn’t able.

(Jon Barnes)

1 comment:

M said...

What a good laugh! I especially love Dyson's despair.

Refreshing, too, to be reminded that, for all their Greatness, they were still as clay-footed as anyone and could be just plain old irritating-- even if it WAS in Anglo-Saxon!