The Inklings was an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England, for nearly two decades between the early 1930s and late 1949. Its more regular members (many of them academics at the University) included J. R. R. "Tollers" Tolkien, C. S. "Jack" Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Christopher Tolkien (J. R. R. Tolkien's son), Warren "Warnie" Lewis (C. S. Lewis's elder brother), Roger Lancelyn Green, Adam Fox, Hugo Dyson, R. A. "Humphrey" Havard, J. A. W. Bennett, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill. Other less frequent attenders at their meetings included Percy Bates, Charles Leslie Wrenn, Colin Hardie, James Dundas-Grant, Jon Fromke, John Wain, R. B. McCallum, Gervase Mathew, and C. E. Stevens. The author E. R. Eddison also met the group at the invitation of C. S. Lewis.
The Inklings were literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction, and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Although Christian values were notably present in several members' work, there were also atheists among the members of the discussion group.
"Properly speaking," wrote Warren Lewis, "the Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections."
As was typical for university literary groups in their time and place, the Inklings were all male. (Dorothy L. Sayers, sometimes claimed as an Inkling, was a friend of Lewis and Williams, but never attended Inklings meetings.)
Readings and discussions of the members' unfinished works were the principal purposes of meetings. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and Williams's All Hallows' Eve were among the novels first read to the Inklings. Tolkien's fictional Notion Club (see Sauron Defeated) was based on the Inklings.
The name was associated originally with a society of Oxford University's University College, initiated by the then undergraduate Edward Tangye Lean circa 1931, for the purpose of reading aloud unfinished compositions. The society consisted of students and dons, among them Tolkien and Lewis. When Lean left Oxford during 1933, the society ended, and its name was transferred by Tolkien and Lewis to their group at Magdalen College. On the association between the two 'Inklings' societies, Tolkien later said "although our habit was to read aloud compositions of various kinds (and lengths!), this association and its habit would in fact have come into being at that time, whether the original short-lived club had ever existed or not."
Until late 1949, Inklings readings and discussions usually occurred during Thursday evenings in C. S. Lewis's college rooms at Magdalen College. The Inklings and friends were also known to gather informally on Tuesdays at midday at a local public house, The Eagle and Child, familiarly and alliteratively known in the Oxford community as The Bird and Baby, or simply The Bird. Later pub meetings were at The Lamb and Flag across the street, and in earlier years the Inklings also met irregularly in yet other pubs, but The Eagle and Child is the best known.
Named after the Inklings is The Inklings Society based in Aachen, and their yearbook, Inklings Jahrbuch für Literatur und Ästhetik, published from 1983 by Brendow, Moers. The yearbook contains scholarly articles and reviews, dealing with Inklings members in particular, but also with fantasy literature and mythopoeia in general.
The Marion E. Wade Center, located at Wheaton College, Illinois is devoted to the work of seven British authors including four Inklings and Dorothy L. Sayers. Overall, the Wade Center has more than 11,000 volumes including first editions and critical works. Other holdings on the seven foremost authors (G. K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Inklings Owen Barfield, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams) include letters, manuscripts, audio and video tapes, artwork, dissertations, periodicals, photographs, and related materials.
The members of the Inklings are the three Caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica in James A. Owen's novel, Here, There Be Dragons.
There is a small, informal, Literary and Theological discussion group at Saint Ignatius High School, in Cleveland,Ohio, named for the Inklings, they discus books, theology, politics, and many other matters. The works of Lewis and Tolkien are regular topics of discussion.