The Other Inklings | Lord David Cecil

A while back, I started introducing you to the Inklings of Oxford. Why? Because the Inklings was a legendary writer’s group that gave birth to such masterpieces as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

But there were more people in the Inklings than just C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Let’s take some time and meet a few of the lesser-known Inklings.

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I’m a firm believer that bad things happen for good reasons. I believe that this was the case with Lord David Cecil, Oxford professor, historian, biographer, and our next lesser-known Inkling.

Lord David was a delicate child who developed a tubercular gland at the age of eight. Due to the required surgery and recovery time, he spent large amounts of time in bed, where he developed his love of reading. And if you consider a love of reading anything less than a wonderful thing, you and I won’t see eye to eye on a lot of things (because you are wrong).

Cecil was the grandson of Lord Salisbury (a 19th-century British Prime Minister) and the son of James Gascoyne-Cecil (the 4th Marquess of Salisbury). Born on April 9th, 1902 in London, Lord David was the youngest of four children, meaning that his title of Lord was one of courtesy only.

Lord David attended Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford before becoming a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford from 1924 to 1930. Cecil published his first book, The Stricken Deer, a study of poet Thomas Cowper, in 1929 and made an immediate impact as a literary historian. He went on to write studies on Walter Scott and Jane Austen.

In 1939, Cecil became a Fellow of New College, Oxford. After a brief stint in 1947 at Greshem College in London, Lord David returned to the University of Oxford in 1948 as a Professor of English Literature until 1970. During his tenure, Lord David published studies of Thomas Gray, Thomas Hardy, Dorothy Osborne, Walter Pater, and William Shakespeare. But he did not limit his studies to literary figures, covering distant relative Lord Melborne, visual artists Max Beerbohm, Edward Burne-Jones, Augustus John, and Samuel Palmer, as well as a number of others.

Having established himself as an authority on the arts from his volume of work, Lord David Cecil appeared frequently on BBC television in his retirement.

Cecil died on January 1st, 1986, leaving behind three children: actor and journalist, Jonathan Hugh; historian, Hugh Peniston; and literary agent, Alice Laura. He was preceded in death by his wife Rachel, author of popular novel, Theresa’s Choice.

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My sources for information:

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The Other Inklings | Nevill Coghill

Last week, I started introducing you to the Inklings of Oxford. Why? Because the Inklings was a legendary writer’s group that gave birth to such masterpieces as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

But there were more people in the Inklings than just C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Let’s take some time and meet a few of the lesser-known Inklings.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When I think of the Inklings, I think of stalwart men who express themselves through high fantasy or high academic interests. I do not think of someone who worked with stars of the stage and screen, and yet Nevill Coghill was just such an Inkling.

Coghill was born in 1899, saw action in World War I as a second lieutenant in the trench mortar division of the Royal Artillery, then went on to an education at Exeter College in Oxford, earning a first-class degree in English in 1923.

It was during his time at Exeter that Coghill befriended C. S. Lewis. Lewis, an atheist at the time, viewed Coghill’s Christian faith as an archaic value system.

Coghill became a fellow of Exeter in 1925, demonstrating his talents as a dramatic producer in his leadership of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Among the actors whom Coghill directed in those years was the young Richard Jenkins, who later earned worldwide fame under the name of Richard Burton. In 1957, Coghill was elected the Merton Professor of English Literature.

Nevill Coghill is best known for modern translation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canturbury Tales, which was originally translated for BBC radio production, though now is a standard text for students of English Literature.His translation took on a second life by being transformed into a West-End and Broadway musical with Martin Starkie. This production earned one Tony Award for Best Costume Design in 1969, and was nominated in four other categories as well.

Coghill was married, fathered a daughter, and divorced. According to a memoir by Reynolds Price, Neville “lived a quietly homosexual life thereafter.”

He was Merton Professor of English Literature of the University of Oxford from 1957 to 1966. He died in November 1980.

The Other Inklings | Warren Lewis

Hang around any bookstore or writer’s group for more than a few minutes and you are bound to hear something about the Inklings of Oxford. Why? Because the Inklings was a legendary writer’s group that gave birth to such masterpieces as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

But there were more people in the Inklings than just C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Let’s take some time and meet a few of the lesser-known Inklings.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Warren_LewisWarren Lewis is best known for being the elder brother of C. S. Lewis, but he was also one of the founders of the Inklings of Oxford, a writer of French history, and secretary for his brother later in life.

Born in Ireland in 1895, Warren blazed a trail that his little brother would follow. When their mother died while the boys were still young, they clung to each other as their father grieved. Together, they imagined, wrote, and illustrated books on the fantasy world of Boxen.

Warren attended an English boarding school outside London, where his brother would join him, under the regime of a harsh headmaster.

After school, Warren joined the military and served for eighteen years, seeing service as a supply officer in WWI and traveling the globe. He retired as a captain in 1932, only to be called up again for service in WWII in 1939 where he served as a major.

At the end WWII, Warren took up residence with C. S. Lewis near Oxford, where they lived together until his younger brother’s death in 1963.

Warren renewed his Christianity in 1931 and was one of the major influences in bringing about his brother’s conversion. He enjoyed walking tours, writing French history (a lifelong passion of his), and quaffing ale at Inklings meetings.

C. S. Lewis described him as “my dearest and closest friend.” But Warren was more than just a friend. Ironically, though most people only know Warren Lewis as the brother of C. S. Lewis, the world would not know C. S. Lewis at all but for Warren, his life, and his influence.