The Inklings was a literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England. Its members, mostly academics at the university, included J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Adam Fox, Hugo Dyson, Robert Havard, Nevill Coghill, Charles Leslie Wrenn, Roger Lancelyn Green, James Dundas-Grant, John Wain, R. B. McCallum, Gervase Mathew, C. E. Stevens, J. A. W. Bennett, Lord David Cecil, Christopher Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien's son), and Warren "Warnie" Lewis (C.S. Lewis's elder brother). It met between the 1930s and the 1950s.
The Inklings were literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction, and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Christian values are also notably reflected in their work, though there were atheists and Anthroposophists among the members of the discussion group. Contrary to what has been said about the Inklings, it was not an exclusively Christian club.
As was typical for university literary groups in their time and place, the Inklings were all male. (Dorothy L. Sayers, sometimes claimed as an Inkling, was a friend of Lewis and Williams, but never attended Inklings meetings.)
Readings and discussions of the members' unfinished works were the principal purposes of meetings. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and Williams's All Hallows Eve were among the novels first read to the Inklings.
Inklings readings and discussions were usually held on Thursday evenings in C. S. Lewis's college rooms at Magdalen College. The Inklings were also known to gather at a local pub, The Eagle and Child, known to them as The Bird and Baby, or simply The Bird. But, contrary to common belief, they did not read their manuscripts in the pub. Later pub meetings were held at The Lamb and Flag across the street, and in earlier years the Inklings also met irregularly in yet other pubs, but The Eagle and Child has kept the cachet.
The name was originally associated with a club at University College, founded by the then undergraduate Edward Tangye Lean in ca. 1931, for the purpose of reading aloud unfinished compositions. The club consisted of students and dons, among them Tolkien and Lewis. When Lean left Oxford in 1933, the club died, and its name was transferred by Tolkien and Lewis to their group at Magdalen. On the connection between the two 'Inklings' societies, Tolkien later said "although our habit was to read aloud compositions of various kinds (and lengths!), this association and its habit would in fact have come into being at that time, whether the original short-lived club had ever existed or not."
Named after the Inklings is the Inklings society based in Aachen, and their yearbook, Inklings Jahrbuch für Literatur und Ästhetik, published from 1983 by Brendow, Moers. The yearbook contains scholarly articles and reviews, dealing with Inklings members in particular, but also with fantasy literature and mythopoeia in general.
Also named after the Inklings is the Inklings club at Saint Ignatius Preparatory School in Cleveland, Ohio. The club has been around for several years, reaching back into the late 1990s. Originally with theology teacher Mr. Thomas Healey as the proctor, the club discussed the theological aspects of the works of both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Over the years the club evolved and passed into the hands of Saint Ignatius theology teacher Mr. James Hogan (author of the book Crossways). The club then broadened its scope to include anything as long as it was theology related. The club still exists, though unknown by most of the Saint Ignatius community.
A third group named for and based upon the original Inklings finds its roots in the South-Eastern United States. This group, also known as the Inklings Fellowship, discusses literature, theology, the Inklings' lives and works, the films based on their works, compose music based on their works, as well as critique each others' poetry and fiction. The founders of this group are commonly known by the nick-names Jack, Tollers, and Hugo.
The Smudglings, another literary club, was inspired by the great minds of Tolkien and Lewis and their Inklings. The name is "Smudgling" because the group consists primarily of unpublished authors. Writing of fantasy is encouraged, Christian values are frequently evident in their works, if only symbolically. The group was founded by C. A. Shepherd.
The Wade Center, located at Wheaton College in the U.S. is devoted to the work of the Inklings. Overall, the Wade Center has more than 11,000 volumes including first editions and critical works. Other holdings on the seven foremost authors (Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams) include letters, manuscripts, audio and video tapes, artwork, dissertations, periodicals, photographs, and related materials.
- The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends. Humphrey Carpenter (1979), ISBN 0395276284
- The Inklings Handbook: The Lives, Thought and Writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Their Friends. Colin Duriez and David Porter (2001), ISBN 1902694139
- Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship. Colin Duriez (2003), ISBN 1587680262