C. S. Lewis And Friends

The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends, by Humphrey Carpenter (Houghton Mifflin, 287 pp., $10.95), is reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, editor at large, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This book is a treat, a Sunday after-church brunch, a fluffy omelette, or a smooth piece of cheesecake. Not only does it look good and smell good, it tastes good. The main ingredient is C. S. Lewis.

That is as it should be. For the Inklings, despite Lewis’s own protestations to the contrary, were C. S. Lewis. He leavened the group; he bound them together. The people who gathered on Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child (or the Bird and Baby as it was nicknamed), Lewis’s favorite pub, and in his rooms on Thursday evenings, were his friends. The commonality that held them together, other than a love for certain kinds of literature and reading aloud, was their relationship to him.

Not that this felicitous book—and Carpenter does write well—is merely a Lewis biography disguised. Much of the information about Lewis has been published before, though perhaps not said so gracefully or poignantly. But Carpenter develops all the other characters as they moved in and out of Lewis’s life. Perhaps since he has recently written a biography of Tolkien, he spends more time on Warnie Lewis and Charles Williams. The book might almost be considered a mini-biography of the latter.

The structure of the book reflects the structure of the Inklings; it is a masterly stroke. Lewis begins and ends the book. The center section (roughly), part two and much of three, concerns Williams. If Lewis was the mind behind the Inklings, one might say that Williams was its heart.

But a heart and a mind flawed. That is the other amazing ...

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