Roger White, Judith Wolfe, and Brendan Wolfe, eds., CS Lewis and His Circle: Essays and Memoirs from the Oxford CS Lewis Society (2015)
Closely following The Fellowship, a splendid group biography of the Inklings, comes this new collection, a fine companion volume for those looking for more on CS Lewis and company. A student society founded in 1982 with the aim of grappling with “the rich relationship between Christianity, culture, and the imagination, including literature,” the Oxford CS Lewis Society has had hundreds of talks given under its aegis throughout the years. What a delight it must have been for an Oxford student sympathetic to these themes to be able to belong to this club and participate in its activities.
Much of the material produced for the club has never been published, but in this volume we are privileged to read a pithy but very rich and deep selection, encompassing essays on philosophy, theology, and literature in the first half, and memoirs of the Inklings in general and CS Lewis in particular in the second. Some highlights for me included Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, giving an appreciative reassessment of one of Lewis’s less popular novels, That Hideous Strength; Peter Bide’s memory of how he married Lewis and Joy Davidman, setting straight the record which has been rather sentimentalized and distorted by fictional treatments; and Owen Barfield himself, who outlived almost all his fellow Inklings, brilliantly analyzing his relationship with Lewis and teasing apart their intertwined opinions.
Each reader, however, will find his or her particular points of interest, whether in studies of the esoteric fiction of Charles Williams, considerations of the relationship of WH Auden to the Inklings, or personal reminiscences of Lewis and his family and friends. Framed by a Foreword and Afterword that put them into the context of the origin and history of the Society, these diverse contributions give a welcome taste of the many ways there are of encountering and understanding Lewis and the Inklings.