Had you the good fortune of being present at a gathering of the Inklings, you might have witnessed J. R. R. Tolkien reading from the cycle of private myths that would become The Lord of the Rings. (You might then have also heard fellow Inkling H. V. D. Dyson complaining “Oh God, not another [expletive] elf!”) Or you might have heard C. S. Lewis read from works-in-progress such as The Screwtape Letters, a satire in which a devil explains with withering perspicacity the weak points in the human soul, or Perelandra, a fantastical thought experiment that imagines the temptation of Eve on another planet. You might have heard a play by Owen Barfield, poetry by Charles Williams, a study of French history by Lewis’s brother Warnie, or other contributions by some of the 20 or so Christian writers, scholars, thinkers, and readers that met in various configurations from the 1930s to the 1950s to share writing, criticism, and conversation. By all accounts, you certainly would have heard laughter, passionate debate, the clink (when they met in their favorite Oxford pub) of beer glasses, and, despite the inevitable ebb and flow of friendships, the buzz of intellectual camaraderie.

A review of Philip and Carol Zaleski’s The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and Grevel Lindop’s Charles Williams: The Third Inkling.

Read the full essay (free registration required) at the Jewish Review of Books.

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