Thursday evenings in Lewis's Magdalen College rooms and Tuesdays for lunch at the Eagle and Child public house, Tolkien joined C. S. Lewis and a revolving cast of others in a beloved ritual.

Over tea—or ale—and pipes, these Oxford thinkers and writers read aloud from their works, traded anecdotes and jibes, and engaged in what Lewis called "the cut and parry of prolonged, fierce, masculine argument." Many passages of The Lord of the Rings found in the Inklings their first—and unfailingly appreciative—audience, much to the delight of their author.

Lewis, a fellow and tutor in English at Oxford's Magdalen College from 1925 to 1954 (he moved on to a professorship at Cambridge), was the group's vociferous nucleus.

Around him were usually arrayed, along with Tolkien, Lewis's brother Warren (Warnie), the medical doctor R. E. ("Humphrey") Havard—known affectionately by the group as "the Useless Quack"—and the eccentric author, lecturer, and Oxford University Press editor Charles Williams.

Beyond these was a larger circle of friends and sometime attenders that included the London solicitor and scholar Owen Barfield, the Oxford English professor and theatrical producer Nevill Coghill, Tolkien's son Christopher (himself a lecturer in languages at Oxford after the war), and the Dominican priest and humanities lecturer Gervase Mathew.

We begin this brief gallery of several Inklings with a look at the "personality" of Oxford itself. We end with two pages on Tolkien's relationship with Lewis, which strongly influenced the thought and writings of both men.

Old Boys and Ivory Towers

The Inklings' OxfordThe clock on the tower of Tom Gate at Christ Church still strikes "Oxford Time," five minutes slower than the rest of the city—or indeed the world. ...

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