C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien first met in 1926 when they were both on the faculty at Oxford University. They had many common interests and quickly became friends. At that time Lewis was not a Christian, and Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis' conversion to Christianity.
Around these two men gathered a group of friends who referred to themselves as "The Inklings." Membership in the Inklings was informal and flexible, but always included Lewis and Tolkien. They met on Thursday evenings in Lewis' apartment and on Tuesday for lunch at "The Eagle and Child," an Oxford pub popularly known as "The Bird and Baby." At these meetings, they read and discussed literary works in progress and almost everything else under the sun.
Other Inklings included:
- Charles Williams
- Owen Barfield
- Warren Lewis (brother of C.S., retired army officer, and author of several books on French history)
- R.E. Havard (the Lewis brothers' physician)
- Christopher Tolkien (son of J.R.R.)
- many others.
The cross fertilization of ideas from these discussions influenced their writings. For example, Lewis' That Hideous Strength was powerfully influenced by the ideas of Charles Williams. Tolkien was a perfectionist, and it is highly unlikely that The Lord of the Rings would ever have been published if it had not been for Lewis's encouragement of Tolkien.
George MacDonald, of course, was not a member of the Inklings since he died in 1905. He was, however, an influence on many of them, particularly Lewis, and to a lesser extent, Tolkien.
Dorothy L. Sayers was not a member because she did not live in Oxford. However, she was a close friend of Williams and Lewis.