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 f