Recently, while doing some research on an early edition of one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s lesser known books I ran across a brief article about the author’s life in Oxford and his social network there.
The venerable university city of Oxford has nurtured great writers for centuries and few cities can rival its literary heritage. During the 1930s and 1940s, Oxford’s superior ability to attract literary talent resulted in the creation of the Inklings – a cross between a drinking club and a writers’ group.
The Inklings membership was diverse, but included two of Britain’s most popular fiction writers – J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The group is also known for gathering in a popular pub called The Eagle and Child and combining lofty literary discussion with pints of beer.
The pub, known by locals as the Bird and Baby, is still serving real ales and any booklover can share in their literary hero’s footsteps by hoisting a few pints.
Along with renowned literary legends, the Inklings also included some of the UK’s finest 20th century authors and thinkers who never achieved the success of Tolkien and Lewis. Brilliant writers such as novelist and biographer Roger Lancelyn Green, best known for books on Lewis Carroll and Robin Hood, historian David Cecil, who wrote about Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy, Charles Williams, author of the successful novels Descent Into Hell and All Hallows’ Eve and Warren Lewis, CS’s brother also were regulars at The Eagle and Child.
Some believe that the Inklings were instrumental in supporting Tolkien and Lewis in fantasy fiction. What is known for certain is that the group shared drafts of their works in progress, as well as ideas for future books. Who knows, without the Inklings we might not have had The Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings.