Writers in the Penumbra of the Inklings


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
This thread is a place for the identification and discussion of authors who were not frequent attendees of the famous Oxford writers' group that included J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield, but who were known to one or more of them, perhaps corresponded with one or more of them, and probably would have been welcome at Inklings sessions.

To get the discussion started, I offer the following list -- which isn't quite the same thing as described in the previous paragraph, but overlaps with it to some extent.

CSL Pupils, Academic Friends, etc. who wrote books


Como: James Como, C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table. 1979.
Gibb: Jocelyn Gibb, ed. Light on C. S. Lewis. 1965.
Graham: David Graham, ed. We Remember C. S. Lewis. 2001.
Poe: H. L. and R. W. Poe. C. S. Lewis Remembered. 2006.
White: White, Wolfe, and Wolfe, eds. C. S. Lewis and His Circle. 2015.
Some of my information is from Walter Hooper’s valuable book C. S. Lewis: Companion and Guide.

Aldwinckle, Stella. Founder of Oxford’s Socratic Club, with which Lewis was much involved. Author of Christ’s Shadow in Plato’s Cave. Contributed “Memories of the Socratic Club” to White.

Bailey, George. Journalist, author of Germans, which contains reminiscences of Lewis on pp. 142ff of the Avon Discus paperback edition (1974).

Bayley, Peter. Author of studies of The Faerie Queene etc. “From Master ot Colleague” in Como.

Benedikz, Benedikt. Palaeographer. Author of book on the Varangians of Byzantium. I will have to check my file of letters from him to confirm that he heard Lewis lecture or was indeed a pupil of CSL’s. Tolkien was more important for him, and he has written about Tolkien.

Bennett, J. A. W. Medievalist. Colleague. Succeeded Lewis as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. Wrote “The Humane Medievalist” on CSL, which is reprinted in Critical Essays on C. S. Lewis, ed. by George Watson (see below).

Bradbrook, Muriel. Scholar of Elizabethan tragedy, etc. Colleague. Lewis wrote to her on first-name basis inviting her to dinner, 1962.

Brewer, Derek. Medievalist. Author of “The Tutor: A Portrait” (Como) and “C. S. Lewis: 60 Years On,” in Poe.

Cecil, Lord David. Biographer, literary historian, Inkling. Half of his book Visionary and Dreamer is devoted to my favorite artist, Samuel Palmer, and he wrote the introduction to Ruth Pitter: Homage to a Poet (my favorite 20th-century poet).

Cockshut, A. O. J. Author of studies of Dickens, etc. Author of “Lewis in Post-War Oxford,” published in Journal of Inklings Studies.

Coghill, Nevill. Scholar of Chaucer and Langland. Inkling. According to Hooper in CSL: Companion and Guide, Lewis approved Coghill’s rendering of The Canterbury Tales into modern English (Penguin Classics). Author of “The Approach to English” in Gibb.

Dickens, A. G. Historian. Tutored by CSL in political philosophy. Spoke of this for Wheaton’s Wade Center interview conducted by David Llewellyn Dodds. A few lines from it seem to be printed in Duriez’s book on the friendship of Tolkien and Lewis.

Dunbar, Nan. Classicist. According to Hooper, Lewis’s letter to her of 18 Nov. 1963 refers to her as “the liveliest and learnedest of my daughters,” and she was the recipient of perhaps the last letter Lewis wrote, written the day before his death.

Dyson, H. V. D. “Hugo.” Shakespearean and author of book Augustans and Romantics, which Lewis read in proof with approval. Inkling. Along with Tolkien, Lewis’s interlocutor on the important night-time talk in Sept. 1931 that helped Lewis turn to Christian faith.

Elton, Oliver. Literary historian. Elton was neither pupil nor colleague of Lewis, so he doesn’t belong here. He reviewed CSL’s The Allegory of Love. He is included because his surveys of British literary history were so warmly praised by CSL in the obituary he wrote (see CSL’s Image and Imagination essay collection). This suggests to me that when Lewis worked on his Oxford History of the English Language volume, Elton’s work may have been a model for him.

Farrer, Austin. Theologian. Friend. Contributed to Como memoirs collection.

Fitzgerald, Penelope. Novelist and biographer. Wrote brief but good reminiscence of CSL as lecturer (Graham).

Fowler, Alastair. Author of studies of Spenser etc. Provided important testimonial for authenticity of The Dark Tower. Wrote about Lewis as supervisor (Poe).

Grant, George P. Canadian political philosopher. Involved, with his wife, in the Oxford Socratic Club.

Green, Roger Lancelyn. Close friend. Author of studies of children’s books, books for children, etc. He and his wife went to Greece with Lewis and Joy. Co-wrote biography of Lewis.

Hardie, Colin. Colleague. Inkling. Author of studies of Dante.

Harwood, A. C. Prominent Anthroposophist. Friend. Lewis liked his The Recovery of Man in Childhood, which, though Anthroposophist, influenced me beneficially when I was a young father. Contributor to Como collection.

Hough, Graham. Author of A Preface to The Faerie Queene (cf. Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost), The Last Romantics, etc. Confessed great indebtedness to CSL’s Allegory of Love, in the Faerie Queene Book. Wrote “Old Western Man,” a discussion of Lewis’s inaugural lecture at Cambridge, at which Hough was evidently in the audience. Article about Hough in American Scholar 67:1 (Winter 1998).

Jenkin, A. K. Hamilton. Antiquarian of Cornwall. Jared Lobdell suspects that Jenkin’s The Story of Cornwall influenced Lewis’s The Dark Tower. Friend, praised in Surprised by Joy for his way of seeking the very “quiddity” of an atmosphere while on walks, etc.

Ladborough, Richard W. Said by Como to have been Lewis’s closest friend at Cambridge. Seems to have edited a saint’s life, French text.

Lawlor, John. Pupil of CSL. Author of studies of medieval and Renaissance literature, and of C. S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections.

Lings, Martin. Poet; author of Ancient Beliefs and Modern Superstitions, a brief book in the “Traditional School” vein, compilation of biographical information on Mohammed, a “Traditional” survey of Shakespeare plays, etc. Pupil who wrote a very brief account of Lewis (Graham).

McAlindon, Tom. Author of books on Shakespeare, and biographical Two Brothers, Two Wars. Wrote about CSL as tutor for the journal Seven.
Mathew, Gervase. Byzantinist. Inkling. Contributed to Como collection.

Piehler, Paul. Author of The Visionary Landscape: A Study in Medieval Allegory. Wrote exceptionally interesting reminiscence of CSL as tutor and lecturer (Poe).

Pitter, Ruth. My favorite 20th-century poet; correspondent and friend of CSL. Interviewed by Stephen Schofield for The Canadian C. S. Lewis Journal.

Poole, Roger. Wrote the exceptionally interesting “Lewis Lecturing” (Graham). See obituary below.

Raine, Kathleen. Poet. Author of studies of William Blake, encouraged by CSL. Contributed “From a Poet” to Gibb collection.

Rawson, Claude. Expert on Swift, about whom I took a course from him at the University of Illinois in 1986. Author of “The Schoolboy Johnson” (Graham). Reviewed a biography of CSL, I think.

Reynolds, Barbara. Dante scholar and acquaintance and correspondent of CSL. Her “Memories of C. S. Lewis in Cambridge” appeared in The Chesterton Review XVII: 3 & 4 (1991).

Sayer, George. Pupil and biographer of Lewis. He was a master at Malvern College, an English public school. See below.

Wain, John. Author of excellent biography of Samuel Johnson, novels, etc. Wrote Sprightly Running, autobiographical book with early and good account of the Inklings, “A Grete Clerke” in Como (originally in Encounter), and also an article on CSL as teacher (American Scholar).

Warner, Francis. Poet and experimental dramatist. One review said, of his play Meeting Ends: “But as the cavalcade of episodes unfolds, and the sexual games we play are explicitly portrayed, we discover that Meeting Ends is more a satire on rampant sexuality and (in its subtle uses of total nudity) an intelligent antidote to Oh! Calcutta!. It is difficult not to be grateful for an evening of sensuous and intellectual pleasure that convinces us that satiation of sexual appetites is not enough.” Said to have been CSL’s last pupil here: http://www.westminster-abbey.org/press/news/2013/november/abbey-dedicates-memorial-to-c-s-lewis Warner wrote on CSL and the Church of England revision of the Psalter in Beauty for Ashes: Selected Prose and Related Documents. Warner speaks on the Blitz:

Watson, George. Author of Coleridge the Poet. Wrote “The Art of Disagreement” (Poe) and “The High Road to Narnia” (American Scholar) on CSL. Edited Critical Essays on C. S. Lewis.

Willey, Basil. Author of several “background” books and two volumes of autobiography. A letter from CSL begins “Dear Basil.”

About George Grant:
George Grant: The North American C. S. Lewis
Ron Dart discusses George P. Grant as the Canadian C. S. Lewis:

When Grant left Oxford he ended up coming back to Canada, his first published work, big one, was Philosophy in the Mass Age, and you can really see in Philosophy in the Mass Age C. S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man at work. Grant is thinking through, as I mentioned in an earlier presentation, the liberal tradition, which emerged with Puritanism in the 16th century of which Modern secular liberals are enfolded in … and So where does liberalism actually lean, when fleshed out or unfolded? So we have these principles we are enfolded in, what do they look like ethically, theologically, ecclesiologically, when they unfold? So, just as you plant a sunflower seed you get a sunflower plant, an acorn becomes an oak tree, ideas have consequences, as Weaver said. And so, Grant was very concerned, as was Lewis, with the realm of ideas, because he knew that in the realm of ideas there were consequences, in terms of people’s understanding of identity, of purpose, of communities, of education, of culture, and of all these things. Grant when on to be one of the most prolific writers in Canada, and in many ways his time at Oxford with C. S. Lewis and the Socratic Club shaped, informed, and directed much of his philosophical, theological, political, educational, and cultural thinking when he came back to Canada. So I don’t think there can be any doubt that George Grant is the C. S. Lewis of Canada.

Listen to the whole of the talk
Published in Clarion: Journal of Spirituality and Justice, 7 July 2015.

Obituary of Roger Poole:
Roger Poole, literary theorist: born Cambridge 22 February 1939; Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Nottingham University 1969-89, Reader in Literary Theory 1989-96; married 1969 Bente Knudsen (three sons); died Nottingham 21 November 2003.
Roger Poole was as powerful an individualisation of the great tradition of Anglo-European men of letters as one could find. In a world of intensifying specialisms, his world-wide reputation was of a man not only polyglot in his scholarship, but master in his gallant, generous, and sometimes touchy way of the vast muddy field of modern theory, structuralism, post-modernism and all the rest.
He was born in Cambridge in 1939, and educated at the Perse School, from which he won an exhibition to Trinity College in his home town, following his great fellow alumnus, F.R. Leavis, into the study of English literature.
Always faithful to his master's voice, learning by heart Leavis's exacting principles of high seriousness and ardent sincerity, Poole absolutely refused the dottiness and bigotry which overcame some devout Leavisites, and after his First and his appointment as Senior Scholar at Trinity, he took the best of Leavisian Englishness off to Paris as Lecteur in the Sorbonne during the thrilling years leading up to May 1968.
Poole was, one could say, the first Englishman to feel the force of that marvellous French coinage, "the human sciences", and nobody who heard him tell the story would ever forget the account of Jean Hippolite, mightiest of the Parisian Hegelians, reading aloud from the Phenomenology to a packed amphitheatre in the Sorbonne, and improvising its dazzling application to the tempestuous events outside the high windows.
Poole became the first mediator in English of the daunting maîtres à penser in Paris who have so dominated the human sciences these past 40-odd years. His 1969 introduction to the Penguin edition of Lévi-Strauss's Totemism is a classically lucid exposition of a classically opaque original, and Karl Miller, with his usual acumen, snapped up Poole as house tutor in the difficulties of structuralism for the early and best days of the London Review of Books.
Poole began his career-long association with Nottingham University as Lecturer in 1969, and long before the fatuous exigencies of the Research Assessment Exercise, began to publish the long line of his brilliant short essays, scattered so prodigally through so many hard-to-find periodicals. His first big statement, however, Towards Deep Subjectivity, came out in 1972 and remains one of the boldest and least refutable of the assaults upon the impossible idea of scientific objectivity as the guiding light of human inquiry.
In 1978, he followed this success with his extraordinary and controversial biography The Unknown Virginia Woolf. Perhaps the only person ever to have read all 2,000 pages of Sartre's biography of Flaubert, Poole copied Sartre in identifying the unhealing wound in the very depths of Woolf's psyche, simultaneous site of her anguish and her genius.
It was a recklessly brave book to write as the feminists and Virago books swept all women's writing out of reach of all men. Poole responded to some hard vilification with a kind of calm anger in a duologue for the Edinburgh fringe, happily entitled All Women and Quite a Few Men are Right.
In all his thought, however, in his long and passionate meditation upon body and soul (he was, with Charles Taylor, a first and splendid commentator on Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of the body), upon reason and commitment, criticism and conviction, his true Penelope (as Ezra Pound put it) was always Soren Kierkegaard.
A formidable linguist, he learned Danish to court and marry Bente Knudsen, and then to initiate his strong, decisive and exhausting grapple with Kierkegaard. Everything that was best in Poole's vivid sense of being-in-the-world, of trying to keep French abstractions fully charged with the concrete of experience, and his own thought stripped of the ready-made and the illusory, rose up in recognition of Kierkegaard's similar venture. Something, indeed much of the Dane's desperation, the quickness of a sensibility too quick to miss a slight or ignore an affront, the urgency with which he wanted his beliefs validated, the truthfulness which prevented any such fulfilment, found not merely echo but identity in Poole. So his mighty work of 1993, Kierkegaard: the indirect communication, is a talisman of how to labour and find reward in the human sciences: subject and object, author and authority come together in the settled assurance of a great book.
Poole had been most cordially received as Visiting Fellow at York, Toronto, and twice at Yale; he there befriended the giants of deconstruction, while holding a nice balance between the light-headed delightfulness of Big Theory and the exasperating caution of Little Empiricism. (A loving parody of James Joyce, published in 1983 just after the Falklands skirmish as Argentina / Barthes represents a fine token of that cheerfulness which kept breaking into the Kierkegaardian angst.)
He took very hard, however, all that happened to universities as Thatcherism really bit home. Modularisation, publishing by numbers, recruitment and management were hateful to him. So it was a joyful relief that early retirement in 1996 brought more of the acclaim he so much merited, as Visiting Professor at Sussex, and as Fellow - doyen, rather - at the Soren Kierkegaard Research Centre at Copenhagen University in 2000. After such happy renewal, lymphatic cancer struck as he was appointed in 2001 to a Visiting Fellowship in the Department of Divinity at Cambridge, and he gave a final seminar on Kierkegaard in May of this year.

Obituary of George Sayer from The Guardian:

Julian Roskans
Thursday 3 November 2005 19.02 EST
It was in the form room at Malvern College that George Sayer, who has died aged 91, made the greatest impact. He had a challenging and arresting manner of teaching, which allowed for no sitting on the fence. He exacted from his classes the very highest standards, all the time encouraging individual expression and interpretation. He guided pupils towards sensitive and thoughtful enjoyment of literature. Never conventional, he always said what he believed. He was renowned for his kindness and sympathy, the sobriquet "avuncular" being most commonly employed by staff and pupils alike.
Jeremy Paxman was a college pupil from 1964 until 1968. He would not have been alone in describing George as "the most wonderful, inspirational teacher ... a profoundly decent and compassionate man ... the sort of teacher you dream of having".
Sayer was born in Berkshire, the son of a civil engineer. He became a pupil of CS Lewis as an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford. After the war he took up teaching, joining the English department at Malvern, where Lewis himself had been a pupil for a year before the first world war. He retired as head of English in 1974, following which he was librarian until 1978.
Teaching aside, George had a vital part to play in the re-establishment of artistic and academic standards at the college that had inevitably suffered in the hectic last years of the war. He certainly left a lasting legacy by founding the college wine society.
While in Malvern, George often had the pleasure of entertaining Lewis, by now a close friend. The two delighted in walking the Malvern hills, discussing literature and mutual friends, such as JRR Tolkien. On his return visits to Oxford, George sometimes went to meetings of the Inklings, a gathering of friends, most of them teachers and many of them creative writers and lovers of imaginative literature. After Lewis's death, he was made a trustee of the writer's estate. In 1988, George's much-acclaimed and intimate biography of CS Lewis, Jack, was published.
George's first wife, Moira, died of cancer after a long illness. He was married to Margaret for more than 25 years, and much enjoyed being stepfather to her children, who loved Lewis's Narnia stories. Their shared hobbies included gardening, reading and Mozart. In his final years, George spent much time writing and lecturing, and answering letters from the many people interested in Lewis.
Sayer obituary from The Telegraph:
George Sayer, who died on October 20 aged 91, was a gifted schoolmaster at Malvern College and an acclaimed biographer of CS Lewis, the author of The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia; Lewis had been Sayer's tutor at Oxford and the two men later became firm friends.
It is a measure of Sayer's innate diffidence that he did not embark on the biography of his old friend until the late 1980s, some 25 years after Lewis's death in 1963, despite frequent encouragement to do so by Walter Hooper, the leading authority on Lewis.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, CS Lewis was a frequent visitor to "Hamewith", Sayer's house at Malvern. The two men would ramble through the hills around Malvern discussing literature and theology.
Their friendship was close enough for Lewis to seek Sayer's advice when he was considering marrying his friend Joy Gresham, a divorcée. As an American citizen, Joy could not get permission from the Home Office to live and work in Britain; to solve this problem, Lewis proposed marrying her in a civil ceremony, which would give her and her two sons British nationality.
Sayer, a Roman Catholic convert, objected to this ploy. He later wrote in his biography, Jack: CS Lewis and His Times, published in 1988: "A civil marriage with Joy could not possibly be a formality, I said, but would, in fact, make him legally responsible for maintaining the boys if Joy were unable to do so. And what if Joy wanted to contract a real marriage with someone else? Jack answered that, in the eyes of the Church [of England], she could not marry anyone else, since she was already married… But he did not agree with my view of marriage." In the event, Lewis and Joy married at a register office in Oxford in April 1956.
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Theo Zinn, classicist
04 Mar 2015
In 1994 the film Shadowlands - directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Anthony Hopkins as Lewis - purported to explore the marriage to Joy in some detail. Sayer, however, was dismissive, writing: "The film keeps to the bare bones of the story, but de-Christianises it… This is a most serious distortion… Anthony Hopkins was never recognisable as Lewis. Lewis had wit, a glorious sense of humour (he regarded this as one of God's greatest gifts to man) and a rather boyish sense of fun, qualities that made him a joy to meet and a wonderful companion. Hopkins… was usually solemn and, frankly, rather dull - something that Lewis never was. He seemed to be an unhappy character suffering from an obscure sense of guilt. Lewis had none of this."
George Sydney Benedict Sayer was born at Bradfield, Berkshire, on June 1 1914, the son of an irrigation engineer whose work often took him to Egypt. Having been educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, in Perthshire, an experience which instilled in him a love of the Scottish countryside but little else, he went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, to read English; CS Lewis was his tutor, and on first meeting gave his pupil a list of reading material for the vacation, a list which included an Anglo-Saxon primer and The Canterbury Tales.
It was not until his third year at Oxford that Sayer realised that Lewis was a Christian, and he began a spiritual search of his own, which led him to join the Roman Catholic Church. The person who most influenced him in this regard was the Dominican priest Victor White, who was based in Oxford and was a close friend of Jung.
After graduating in 1938, Sayer's immediate ambition was to be a writer. He wrote two unpublished novels and translated two theological works from the German, in which he was fluent, having spent six months in Germany after graduating. He also spent time promoting the cause of the League of Nations, on one occasion meeting Albert Einstein, who confided that if things had been different he would have liked to have been a lighthouse-keeper.
During the Second World War Sayer served as a captain in Army Intelligence, on account of his fluent German. After demob, he decided to become a schoolmaster, in 1945 joining the staff at Malvern - Lewis's old school. When Sayer arrived, the school was at Harrow, having been evacuated when its buildings were taken over during the war by the TFE radar establishment.
In 1949 he was appointed the senior English master, remaining in this post until his retirement in 1974; he continued at Malvern as the school's librarian until 1978.
Sayer was a fine teacher, an inspiration to his pupils (who included the broadcaster Jeremy Paxman). He was never a disciplinarian because he had no need to be. Instead of seating the boys in rows, he favoured placing them at a round table in the middle of the classroom. Essays would be returned with witty and encouraging comments inscribed in red ink, and sometimes embellished with smears of marmalade and paw prints from his cat.
Rather than try to instil a particular view about a work of literature, he would urge his pupils to consult various authorities and come to their own conclusions. His catchphrase, "Do it!", was enshrined in Age Frater: A Portrait of the School, a publication he edited for Malvern's centenary.
It was characteristic of Sayer that he always offered counsel and encouragment to his younger colleagues in the common room. He was also an innovator, introducing course work long before it became the norm in British schools.
Sayer had a fine nose for wine, and was founder of the school's wine society, importing from France barrels of the stuff which he and fellow masters would then bottle at the college. Every Christmas he would organise the purchase of Stilton cheese from Colston Bassett, in Nottinghamshire, which would be enjoyed by members of the common room. Outside his work and his literary interests, he enjoyed horse racing and had an extensive knowledge of gemstones.
Although CS Lewis frequently availed himself of Sayer's services as a chauffeur, the Malvern schoolmaster was known to his colleagues as an indifferent driver who would seek out the most circuitous of routes to avoid having to travel on a motorway.
Sayer occasionally lectured on Lewis, and on JRR Tolkien, who was also a close friend.
George Sayer's first wife, Moira Casey, whom he married in 1940, died in 1977. In 1983 he married Margaret Cronin, who survives him.
@Extollager .... Wow! this looks like the core work for a Master's Thesis. I'm not even going to consider how long it took to bring all this together.
Here's a shorter list that might be relevant.

CSL: Living Poets with Whom Lewis Was in Touch or at least Commented on

Bolt, David – Adam

?Heath-Stubbs, John? H-S knew Williams, at least.

Hesketh, Phoebe – No Time for Cowards

Masefield, John

Palmer, Herbert

Pitter, Ruth

Raine, Kathleen

Skinner, Martyn

Warner, Francis – Perennia

Williams, Charles – Taliessin poems

Lewis also was personally acquainted with T. S. Eliot.
I've read To the World's End by Roger Lancelyn Green. I thought it was wonderful, and it reminded me quite a lot of Charles Williams. I've always wondered if there was a connection. A friendship with Lewis instead is not what I would have expected.

As for Masefield, I have read his books for children, and especially love The Box of Delights which I like to reread at Christmas time.
I've read To the World's End by Roger Lancelyn Green. I thought it was wonderful, and it reminded me quite a lot of Charles Williams. I've always wondered if there was a connection. A friendship with Lewis instead is not what I would have expected.

As for Masefield, I have read his books for children, and especially love The Box of Delights which I like to reread at Christmas time.
Yes. Box of Delights is one of those books synonymous with childhood feelings of the magic of Winter and Christmas.
I suppose we could make a weak case for William Gresham, Joy Davidman's first husband, author of the circus noir Nightmare Alley, as a writer in the far fringes of the penumbra of the Inklings. In any event I'm glad he brought along a portable tape recorder to The Kilns and that CSL read from his own works. I haven't yet listened to the Chaucer selection. The readings from Perelandra and That Hideous Strength are very good, aside from a few loud hrrrummpphhs.

Last edited:
This entry above --

Ladborough, Richard W. Said by Como to have been Lewis’s closest friend at Cambridge. Seems to have edited a saint’s life, French text.

-- needs to be amended. The work edited by Ladborough is Le Véritable Saint Genest -- a tragedy by Jean Rotrou -- a play, not a medieval work of hagiography, etc.

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