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The Inklings



In January 1963 C. S. Lewis clarified what "The Inklings" was all about in a letter to the editor of Encounter:

"I have ben reading John Wain's Sprightly Running, and find there a good many references to myself. Many of them are extremely kind, and all are inoffensive: but there is one passage which I must contradict on merely factual grounds. Whether the matter it deals with is at all worth recording, is doubtful: but if it is to be recorded, let us get it right.

"On page 183 Mr. Wain is talking about a very informal club that used to meet in my rooms, and says he was 'surprised by the alliances it was capable of forming.' He thinks Dorothy Sayers was an ally 'because she was a Christian and liked Dante'; Roger L. Green, 'because he was an authority on fairy tales'; and Roy Campbell, 'because he was a Roman Catholic' and 'anti-socialist.'

"The truth is:
  1. Dorothy Sayers, so far as I know, was not even acquainted with any of us except Charles Williams and me. We two had got to know her at different times and in different ways. In my case, the initiative came from her. She was the first person of importance who ever wrote me a fan-letter. I liked her, originally, because she liked me; later, for the extraordinary zest and edge of her conversation -- as I like a high wind. She was a friend, not an ally. Needless to say, she never met our own club, and probably never knew of its existence.
  2. Mr. Green was never more than a casual acquaintance to any one of us except me. In the friendship between him and me, he took the initiative. It was at first a wholly bookish friendship; and to the present day, religion has seldom been mentioned between us, and politics never. He was, and is, a friend, not an ally. We meet solely because we like one another.
  3. I loathed and loath Roy Campbell's particular blend of Catholicism and Fascism, and told him so. I got to know him before I knew who he was. He was for some weeks a mysterious stranger in a pub whose skyscaping and hair-raising stories made me feel as if I had blundered into a picaresque novel. My appreciation of a human flavour quite new to my social palate had nothing to do with approval or agreement or even belief. Mr. Wain might as well think that Alcinous and his court were inspired by diplomatic considerations when they listened with delight to the amazing yarn that Odysseus spun them. And when at last the stranger let out that his name was Campbell, and I (at a long shot) said 'Not Roy Campbell?' I thought it right, before taking his hand, to ask whether he knew that hand had already lampooned him in print. He said he did. There is no question of alliance. Nor did he ever become a friend in any deep sense: not as Mr. Green, or Mr. Wain himself, are my friends. Campbell was more like a tumble in the ring.
"The whole picture of myself as one forming a cabinet, or cell, or coven, is erroneous. Mr. Wain has mistaken purely personal relationships for alliances. He was surprised that these friends were 'so different from one another.' But were they more different from one another than he is from all of them? Aren't we always surprised at our friends' other friendships? As at all his tastes? One may even discover (not without horror) that one's friend prefers bottled beer to beer or processed cheese to cheese. We have to face it."
Collected Letters, Volume III, 1400-1401

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