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The Inklings

Note: This page is adapted from the "Inklings" page on the web site of the late Ross Pavlac (with some material from the "Inklings" section of the "Library" page), and was recovered from his web site The Avenging Aardvark's Aerie (as archived by The Internet Archive.)

Items that are of special interest are indicated by a dot to the left of the item. Highly interesting items are marked with a blue dot (Recommended). Items that are "must-have" are indicated with a red dot (Highly Recommended).

Last updated: Tuesday, 17-Sep-1996 23:52:28 CDT

[Introduction] [Owen Barfield] [G.K. Chesterton] [C.S. Lewis] [George Macdonald] [Dorothy L. Sayers] [J.R.R. Tolkien] [Charles Williams] [Further Reading]


The Inklings were a group of Oxford dons who, in the 1930s to 1950s, would gather regularly, smoke cigars, drink beer, and read their latest works in progress to each other, then critique them and discuss other topics. They were also Christians.

The best-known Inklings were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Other members included Owen Barfield, Tolkien's son Christopher (who Tolkien claimed was much better at reading Lord of the Rings aloud than J.R.R. himself was), Charles Williams, etc. Dorothy L. Sayers, while not an Inkling per se (this was after all, an Oxford don group, and women weren't there at the time), was close friends with members of the group. There are also two writers who were not members of the group, but were major influences on them: G.K. Chesterton (who was a friend of Sayers) and George MacDonald (who was C.S. Lewis' major literary influence.)

The two largest collections of Inklings-related material are at Wheaton College near Chicago, Illinois (the Marion E. Wade Center) and at the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The two exchange photocopies of materials, so unless access to originals is mandatory, researchers need only visit one of these two institutions to view the extant material. Note that the Wade Center also has C.S. Lewis' wardrobe (yes, that wardrobe!) and J.R.R. Tolkien's dining room table (which researchers sit at when taking notes.)

Owen Barfield

G.K. Chesterton

The Ball and the Cross
1909. Paper: Boydell Press, Suffolk, England, 403 pp.
An apocalyptic vision of Christianity versus atheism.
The Flying Inn
No, the Inn does not take off from the ground, despite the title. Dystopian novel about prohibition, Islam and other topics. Highly recommended for Christians who enjoy a good beer now and then; those from militant teetotaler denominations should avoid this book.
Highly RecommendedThe Man Who Was Thursday
1908. Paper: London: Penguin Books, 186 pp.
A nightmare about anarchy in a world without God. This is Chesterton's best-known fiction work other than his Father Brown detective stories, and with good reason. If you love paradoxes, this book is for you!
The Napoleon of Notting Hill
1904. Paper: New York: Paulist Press, 197 pp.
A Utopian novel showing the logical results of increased nationalism.

Some sample quotes:

The other day I was going along very fast in another man's motor-car and another man's fur coat, when the man sitting next to me said, "I wonder what kind of vehicle will be passing along this road 400 years hence." Then he was silent for a moment and then said, "I bet on flying machines."
I said, with equal simplicity and conviction, "I bet on ox-wagons." (Illustrated London News, February 16, 1907)

He accurately predicted as early as 1933 that Germany would start a war against Poland:

May I mention again the threat of Prussia [Germany] to Poland, which I am quite certain is the threat of war to Europe. (Christendom in Dublin, 1933)

C.S. Lewis

Space trilogy:
Out of the Silent Planet London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1938. New York: Macmillan, 1943.
Perelandra London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1943. New York: Macmillan, 1944.
That Hideous Strength London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1945. New York: Macmillan, 1946.
The Chronicles of Narnia (7 vols.):
Highly RecommendedThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Highly RecommendedThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Highly RecommendedPrince Caspian
Highly RecommendedThe Silver Chair
Highly RecommendedThe Horse and His Boy
Highly RecommendedThe Magician's Nephew
Highly RecommendedThe Last Battle
Highly RecommendedThe Screwtape Letters
New York: Macmillan Company, 1961, 185 pp.
It's not easy being a demon, as this classic shows.
Technically this does not belong, as it was written well before Lewis' conversion. This is a collection of stories he wrote about a fantasy world when he was a child.
Of Other Worlds New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966, 148 pp.
A posthumous collection of essays and short stories by Lewis.
Caveat emptor: all of the short stories here also appear in The Dark Tower and Other Stories and all of the essays here also appear in On Stories, so if you have those two books, you needn't buy this one.
The Dark Tower and Other Stories
New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977, paper, 158 pp.
A posthumous collection of short and unfinished fiction by Lewis. Warning: there is an ongoing controversy over whether "The Dark Tower" is an experiment by Lewis that went badly and was abandoned, or whether it has been heavily edited and modified by his estate.
Avoid the following books:
The Case for Christianity
(Published by Touchstone Books and Collier Books.)
This book is an abridged, cut version of Mere Christianity.
The Grand Miracle
This book is a partial subset of God in the Dock.
The Seeing Eye
This book is a partial subset of Christian Reflections.
Also note:
The World's Last Night
Overlaps with The Weight of Glory (Macmillan, 1949, rev. 1980) and Christian Reflections (Eerdmans, 1967.)
The Weight of Glory
is the American version of Transpositions (Bles, 1949.)

On the important issues of tobacco and beer, according to Douglas Gresham (Lewis' stepson), "Jack and Warnie (Warren Lewis, CSL's brother) both preferred Three Nuns and Gold Block brands of pipe tobacco, and they smoked Gold Flake (Warnie) and Senior Service (Jack) cigarettes for the most part with Players Navy Cut as a second preference." C.S. Lewis would also smoke Gold Flake, according to a later message.

"As for beer, he preferred any good draught bitter preferably off the wood if well kept. He did not much like bottled beer and absolutely loathed canned or tinned beer. Strong Ceylon or Indian tea was also something he enjoyed."

George Macdonald

The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald
The Golden Key
The Gray Wolf
The Light Princess
1895. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 252 pp.
1858. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 252 pp.
The Princess and Curdie
Lippincott/Chatto & Windus, 1882
The Princess and the Goblin
Strahan & Co., 1872
The Story of Little Christmas
The Wise Woman
Strahan & Co., 1875

Dorothy L. Sayers

J.R.R. Tolkien

Charles Williams

Note that Charles Williams' novels are not in a series, and may be read in any order. His writing style is dark and complex, and heavily laden with atmosphere and symbolism; thus, his books are not to everyone's taste. A good "first" book to try would be either The Place of the Lion or All Hallows' Eve.

If it is still available, Eerdmans used to have a boxed set of all seven novels in trade paperback format.

All Hallows' Eve
Pellagrini and Cudahy, 1948. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 273 pp.
Descent into Hell
Pellagrini and Cudahy, 1937. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 222 pp.
The Greater Trumps
Pellagrini and Cudahy, 1932. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 230 pp.
Many Dimensions
Pellagrini and Cudahy, 1931. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 269 pp.
The Place of the Lion
Pellagrini and Cudahy, 1933. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 206 pp.
Shadows of Ecstasy
Pellagrini and Cudahy, 1933. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 224 pp.
War in Heaven
Pellagrini and Cudahy, 1930. Paper: Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 256 pp.

Further Reading

Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings
Book-length study of the group as a whole. A pretty good summary, but one should be careful of Carpenter's bias: he is a Tolkien scholar, and whenever he presents a situation where Tolkien and Lewis disagreed, Carpenter takes Tolkein's side.
Lindskoog, Kathryn. Light in the Shadowlands
Multnomah Books, Sisters, OR, 1994. 345 pp., paperback.
Since C.S. Lewis' death, there have been a number of discrepancies in the posthumous work that has appeared. The attitude of the (mostly anonymous) owners of the Lewis estate has not helped any. Lindskoog lists all the discrepancies in encyclopedic fashion and at great length. Some of her arguments can be easily answered, others indicate (at best) sloppy scholarship by the people in charge of this crucial literary legacy. Many of her questions are still unresolved.
Midwest Chesterton News
GKC newsletter. $11 for 12 (monthly) issues.
John Peterson, 740 Spruce Rd., Barrington, IL 60010.
The C.S. Lewis Foundation
(800) 554-7456.
Has some resources for sale, including the C.S. Lewis Index.
Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation
Suite 230, 3379 Peachtree Road, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30326. (800) 229-3788.
Has some radio tapes by C.S. Lewis (including the famous "Four Loves" tape), as well as some resources about Lewis.
Johannesen Press
P. O. Box 24, Whitehorn, CA 95589. Phone: 707-986-7465 or Fax: 707-986-1656.
Publishes reprints of George MacDonald books (in full, not the trimmed-down versions published today.)
La Sierra University Press
4700 Pierce St., Riverside, CA 92515 (909) 785-2091
Has some resources for sale, including the C.S. Lewis Index.
The Mythopoeic Society
PO Box 6707, Altadena, CA 91003, or j.verba1@genie.geis.com
A half-academic, half-fannish organization devoted to the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. They have various publications and an annual conference.
New York C.S. Lewis Society
c/o Clara Sarrocco, 84-23 77th Avenue, Glendale, NY 11385

© 1996 by Ross Pavlac.
Contents of this page are for private, non-commercial use only!

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