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The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
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The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  2,122 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
During the 1930s at Oxford, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams met regularly to discuss philosophy and read aloud from their works. Carpenter's account brings to life those warm and enchanting evenings where their imaginations ran wild.
Hardcover, 287 pages
Published February 27th 1979 by Houghton Mifflin (T) (first published 1978)
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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Oxford University
17th out of 290 books — 37 voters
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by J.R.R. TolkienThe Road to Middle-Earth by Tom ShippeyJ.R.R. Tolkien by Tom ShippeyThe Monsters and the Critics and other essays by J.R.R. TolkienJ.R.R. Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter
20th out of 62 books — 23 voters

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Humphrey Carpenter seems to have a penchant for group biographies. I recently read his excellent book on Evelyn Waugh and his friends, The Brideshead Generation, and now I've finally managed to track down a copy of The Inklings. As with The Brideshead Generation, Carpenter does focus more on one member of the group, C.S. Lewis, than on the others, for, as he argues, "the Inklings owed their existence as a group almost entirely to him." He gives some details about the life of Tolkien (of whom he ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Jana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really interesting, though I feel it focused a lot more on C.S. Lewis than on the others and I would have liked a little more balance. But it still made for a great read.
Nicholas Kotar
Feb 21, 2016 Nicholas Kotar rated it really liked it
A slightly rambling account of the Inklings, focusing mainly on C. S. Lewis, with Tolkien and Charles Williams as supporting actors. It's always pleasant to spend time with these people (even if Charles Williams was certifiably insane). The only issue I have with this book is the strangely detached and critical attitude Humphrey Carpenter takes with respect to C. S. Lewis's writing. This happens in the last quarter of the book, completely unexpectedly, and it cost this book its five star rating. ...more
Katie Dreyer
Aug 06, 2012 Katie Dreyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely superb. Carpenter has written a fascinating biography of a very misunderstood literary group. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and many others (including Lewis's brother, Warnie, and Tolkien's son, Christopher in later years) met regularly in Lewis's Magdalen rooms in Oxford to discuss philosophy and theology, as well as to read aloud their most recent literary endeavors. In one chapter, Carpenter draws from diaries and letters in order to recreate what might have been a ...more
May 05, 2014 Nicole rated it really liked it
I can't believe more of my friends haven't read this book. The friendship and encouragement in art between the Inklings is inspiring.
I've never had an interest in reading The Lord of the Rings, but now I must.
Chris J
Aug 09, 2016 Chris J rated it liked it
First with the positive: Carpenter is a gifted biographer. I feel like I have read my fair share of biographies of subjects from diverse walks of life - popular music, artists, athletes, political figures, etc. The lion's share of those biographies have been absolutely horrendous. In fact, some of the worst books I have ever read were biographies. It obviously is a skill to portray the life and times of someone in a fair yet captivating way. Carpenter has that gift. His Tolkien biography, for in ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Kim rated it it was amazing
I never heard of Charles Williams but he's nearing the top of the if-i-could-meet-anyone-in-the-world-list...
the most fascinating biography(ies) i've read, ever! but i haven't read too many. made me laugh to the point where i had to put the book down! i think the thing i'm learning from the book and it wasn't meant to teach this: one must not be afraid to be wholly passionate. perhaps one will find himself feeling quite alone, but that shouldn't determine one's love for something because whateve
May 15, 2013 Lucinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-r-r-tolkien
A fascinating insight into a group of extraordinary individuals whose sheer creative vision inspired many

‘The Inklings’ were just a group of friends who let their imaginations ‘run wild’ and spent many a happy hour discussing all things remarkable, inexplicable and simply wonderful. As stated on the older edition of this book, the Inklings were…

“A group of writers whose literary fantasies shall fire the imagination of all those who seek a truth beyond reality”

C.S Lewis, JRR Tolkien and their fr
May 03, 2013 Sistermagpie rated it liked it
Interesting overview of the shifting group of friends calling themselves The Inklings and including CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. It really captures what I've always suspected about the group, that their imaginations were huge but their values and beliefs were pretty narrow. I especially couldn't help but think, what with the backdrop of a sort of assumed air of male superiority, how much their relationships with each other had in common with the social life of junior high girls. There was a lot of ...more
Eric Orchard
Jan 11, 2014 Eric Orchard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Excellent, entertaining group biography.
Pam Johnson
May 19, 2014 Pam Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chosen by a book club member, I was amazed that someone would choose to read this since it felt like assigned reading in an English course. Proud of myself that I obediently kept reading, it became something special as the inner personal quirks and relationships of these literary giants were revealed. The thing I'll always connect w/this book, though, was my frustration that these men chose to meet for years in their favorite pub w/cigars, ale and stimulating conversation. Why wasn't I doing som ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, fiction
Lovely biographical study of a circle of friends oh God I'm in too much pain after dancing like a lunatic at my sister's wedding, I'll review this anon.
Mar 25, 2016 Tim rated it it was ok
Not enough about Tolkien, and way too much about Charles Williams.
Jan 21, 2016 Karla rated it really liked it
I cannot recommend this book for every reader, but if you have enjoyed ‘The Chronicles or Narnia’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, I believe you will find this biography of the authors interesting. Particularly as it discusses, in detail, their journeys to get those books written. The author spends the most time on C.S. Lewis. Lewis comes across as the lynchpin of these various teachers and scholars at Oxford in the early 20th century, who was the magnet for others to join their non-official group, ...more
If you are thinking about reading this book, skip ahead to Part 1, Chapter 2, and then to Part 3, Chapter 3, and read from there onward. There is some unnecessary background info. I didn't care for the author's "spin" on things, and the most interesting material begins over halfway through the book.

Part 3, Chapter 3 is fascinating and well-written. The chapter portrays a typical meeting of The Inklings. Humphrey Carpenter compiled material from correspondence and diaries in a seemless way.

Food f
Dec 05, 2009 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carpenter's book seems as effortless as it is deep, with rarely a contrived passage or useless tangent. C.S. Lewis comes out as the center in the book, since according to Carpenter he was the real center of the Inklings. Carpenter shows how the Inklings, at its core, was nothing more than a group of friends with similar interests. Friendship came first for C.S. Lewis, his brother Warnie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and others. That these men produced some of the most memorable literature o ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Cynamonka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Na swój sposób lubię takie książki, które poświęcone są grupie pisarzy. W ten sposób mogę się bliżej przyjrzeć sytuacji, w jakiej się znaleźli, temu, jakie więzi łączyły poszczególne osoby i poczuć, że to nie była tylko "grupa osób", ale przyjaciele, których łączyły naprawdę bliskie relacje, którzy czerpali od siebie, wpływali na siebie i tworzyli wspólnie jakąś części historii literatury. I właśnie taką książką jest zbiorowa biografia Inklingów. Bo chociaż nie była to formalna grupa, a znani są ...more
Nov 05, 2012 Relstuart rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography, myth
Really liked it.

It is a biography of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams and it dabbles into the story of the people that joined them for their Inkling meetings.

Lewis was the person that really pulled the group together so the book does focus on him in the beginning and end. I grew to like Williams more towards the end of the book but his beliefs were an odd mix of mysticism and Christianity. It was pointed out that some of life was walled off from the Inklings so the reader gets
Ryan Reeves
Nov 11, 2012 Ryan Reeves rated it really liked it
Shelves: cs-lewis
A solid book, though more informative than anything, and lacking the verve of "Jack" by George Sayer. I found the book's approach of dealing with the interplay between the Inklings a better fit than the tendency to write on Tolkien or Lewis in isolation, and then only reveling in their friendship as a backdrop to their fiction. Carpenter at least knew the context and several of the Inklings personally, and his prose is lacking in the fawning praise so common in American biographical works on the ...more
Miss Lemon
Well... I wanted more out of this. Or maybe I wanted less. Parts of this were excellent. Describing the three authors and their inspiring each other in their work. But it was one that you had to be ready to flip past pages that gave painful detail of each man's life in details of people and places that weren't fully explained and therefore just words on the page. But if you're willing to filip along then it's a good one to pick up.
R.A. Derdeyn
Aug 01, 2014 R.A. Derdeyn rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book for getting background information primarily on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. There are a number of anecdotes that add to the overall picture of what type of men these were. While it doesn't really expain in depth any of the works that they created, the background information is interesting, including the glimpses of how they conceived literature and their differing approach to writing it.
Dec 19, 2008 Ruby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
(Biography)-Friendship is a driving force in my life and I loved reading about the role friendship played in defining the lives of two authors I greatly admire, namely Lewis and Tolkein. In my mind, Lewis is perhaps the greatest Christian apologist of our era and Tolkein is the father of modern fantasy. I was most touched by
the influence Tolkein's faith in Jesus Christ (Tolkein was a dedicated Catholic) had in persuading Lewis to abandon the atheism which took hold of him after his mother's deat
Jun 04, 2012 Travis rated it really liked it
An excellent book for any lover of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and their historic literary group. Part 3, chapter 3, "Thursday evenings," a reconstructed record of a typical Inklings meeting, is sublime. That chapter should be read by every Christian writer, academic, and book club for its image of a robust society of Christians with strong faiths and minds overflowing with genius and creativity in service to the kingdom of God.

My only complaints were what seemed an unnecessarily long biograp
Aug 29, 2011 Becca rated it really liked it
As an autobiography, the Inklings is everything I could have asked for: informative, thorough, and entertaining. Carpenter addresses their views on the issues of Christianity and literary tradition in a highly illuminating way--he spends a lot of time in particular on Lewis and Williams, who came to Christianity in different ways. Tolkien is, unfortunately, pushed somewhat into the background in this book, which might have something to do with the fact that Carpenter has written a separate biogr ...more
Apr 09, 2016 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Humphrey Carpenter is an excellent biographer. Though he openly admires his subjects as writers he neither idolizes or (even worse, in my opinion) sensationalizes their lives. Yet even in simply presenting the facts, Carpenter brings his subjects to life in an intriguing and important way. I felt almost like a fly on the wall at a meeting of the Inklings. He pulled from diaries, correspondence, and personal memories as well as the Inklings' works to create a sort conversation or debate between t ...more
Jan 28, 2009 Desclian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolkien, c-s-lewis
Carpenter really knows his stuff about both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and he shows it in this book. Though at a few points I think his editorializing opinions of certain realities (such as that Warnie Lewis continued drinking because he didn't like his brother's marriage), in all the book is a good one, and certainly gives a great deal of information both on Lewis as well as Charles Williams. It felt, though, more like a collection of short biographies on each of the more well known members ...more
Andrea Hickman Walker
This was less the collective biography I was expecting and more about CS Lewis. I really did enjoy it, though. I was not aware that the Inklings mainly revolved around him, and discovered the names of a number of people that were important to both him and Tolkien (who, of course, is my main reason for being interested in the Inklings). I had, for example, virtually no knowledge of Charles Williams except for the fact that he was an Inkling. Now I have some interest in finding some of his works a ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Adrian added it
Biography of literary group called the Inklings. Started by C.S. Lewis and held in his room or at a pub- the other two main members were JRR Tolkein and Charles Williams. The group shared a rather naive faith in Christianity and a horror of modernism. They did readings in this group and talked about all manner of literary matters. The book is principally about Lewis. His decision to write the Narnia books, which were in direct competition with Tolkein's "Hobbit", had a direct impact on the fate ...more
Christine Morse
May 09, 2014 Christine Morse rated it it was amazing
After visiting England, Oxford University and The Eagle and Child pub in England these authors, Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers and other Inklings authors mean so much more to me.
This book adds a more complete picture to the existing biographies of the Inklings by showing where their paths crossed and describing how they influenced and failed to influence each others' lives and writings. While Carpenter focuses this book primarily on Lewis and how he acted as the link that brought and held all the Inklings together, the others and especially Tolkien and Charles Williams and Warnie Lewis to some extent are given rich portrayals that provide a fuller picture to this unique ...more
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Tolkien's T.C.B.S: The Inklings 13 23 Aug 22, 2013 06:02PM  
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  • Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World
  • Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis
  • The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
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  • The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis
  • Mere Humanity: G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition
  • C.S. Lewis: A Biography
  • Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Inklings of Oxford: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their Friends
  • Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
  • Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis
Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter was an English biographer, writer, and radio broadcaster.
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“The poet was, of course, always present to assist the debater. Though the logic of Lewis's Christian apologetics may be fallible, the imagination of the writing with its brilliantly-conceived analogies is itself enough to win a reader to his side. As Austin Farrer expressed it, "We think we are listening to an argument; in fact we are presented with a vision; and it is the vision that carries conviction.” 5 likes
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