Tolkien Gateway

Letter 298

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 298
RecipientWilliam Luther White
Date11 September 1967
Subject(s)Origins of the Inklings

Letter 298 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien gave White a brief account of the name Inklings from memory since the group had no recorder. The name's origin was an undergraduate jest. It had been founded in the mid-thirties by then undergraduate Tangye-Lean, whose ambition was to found a club that would prove lasting. To that end he invited some "dons". C.S. Lewis was Tangye-Lean’s mentor; both he and Tolkien joined. They met in Tangye-Lean's rooms in University College and at each meeting members were to read aloud unpublished compositions. There would be immediate criticism and if thought fit, contributions could be voted into a Record Book that Tolkien kept.

That club soon died but its name transferred to a circle of C.S. Lewis’ friends who met in his room in Magdalen. Had the first club never existed C.S. Lewis would have created it, for he had a passion for out-loud readings and a facility for extempore criticism beyond the others.

The name was a "jest", said Tolkien, because it was an ingenious pun suggesting people with vague or half-formed intimations who dabbled in ink. C.S. Lewis never claimed to have invented this name.

[edit] Controversy

According to Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien, the letter "was printed, apparently without permission, with Tolkien's address and private telephone number at the head of it, in White's book" (The Image of Man in C.S. Lewis).