Subscribe to Christianity Today
The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community
Diana Pavlac Glyer
The Kent State University Press, 2008
288 pp., $30.00
Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C. S. Lewis (Clark Lectures)
Matthew T. Dickerson
University Press of Kentucky, 2008
320 pp., $70.00
"The world is like a drunken peasant. If you lift him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off again on the other side." Thus Martin Luther in his Table Talk. His words would serve well as a description of the history of Inklings scholarship. The earliest such scholarly studies argued that the Inklings (Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, et al.) were possessed of "a corporate mind" and that their works had a "similar orientation," "essentially uniform," "clearly defined." So claimed John Wain, a junior member of the Inklings, and various others. But this consensus was toppled from the saddle by Humphrey Carpenter, who maintained, by way of contrast, that the Inklings showed "scant resemblance" to one another and "that on nearly every issue they stand far apart." Carpenter's view, which he bolstered with evidence from senior Inklings who themselves claimed not to have influenced one another at all, has sat lumpenly in place since he published his study in 1979.
Diana Pavlac Glyer has now toppled the Carpenter view. But rather than allowing the cycle of drunken saddlings and re-saddlings to repeat itself, she has thoughtfully poured buckets of clear cold water over the entire subject. Fully sobered up at last, Inklings scholarship is for the first time able to sit straight, inclining neither to the view that the group was reliably homogeneous, nor to the view that its members were utterly immiscible. Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis. It's a typical scholarly progression. But how long it has taken!
Glyer's study brings together in an admirably balanced way all previous work on this hugely significant circle of writers and establishes itself as an indispensable and refreshingly commonsensical guide to the group's internal workings. She analyses the Inklings using a five-fold grid, assessing how the members of the group served as resonators, opponents, editors, collaborators, and referents.
Superbly researched and crystal clear, this work does the difficult ...