At the beginning of October, my friend, Danielle, came for a visit. We took a couple day trips during her stay, and one of those days found us in Oxford. Its an absolutely gorgeous city, so rich in history, it's almost mind-boggling! But I think the highlight of the day was our visit to The Eagle and Child, the pub where the Inklings used to gather.
For those who require a quick lesson, the Inklings were an informal literary discussion group whose most famous members include JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. I've read differing accounts on the details, of this being the location where The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was first read, or where perhaps Out of the Silent Planet, still in its infancy, was handed over for inspection, or even where The Lord of the Rings was introduced (apparently, to less than unanimous approval)! The details may be fuzzy, but some semblance of truth remains, and lends to its visitors a spirit of admiration and joy-- as do the writings these men left behind.
And it was lovely to share this with a dear friend. We may not have written any great prose, nor thought any truly great thoughts, as others before us have, but the time was sweet and the shared memory lovely.
In his book, The Four Loves, CS Lewis writes on friendship:
In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles [Williams] is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's [Tolkien's] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald... In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious 'nearness by resemblance' to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah's vision are crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy' to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.
What a sweet description of shared friendships, and what a blessed expectation of our future adoration of the shared Christ!
"My happiest hours are spent with 3 or 4 old friends in old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs." CS Lewis
As Danielle and I left the pub, we passed a small group of tourists asking the staff "at which table the Inklings had sat" to which he quickly replied "Actually, at this table right here. Shall I wipe it off for you?"
As the Inklings met every week of the term for almost 30 years, (and the pub was renovated the 60s), I sincerely doubted his sales pitch. In fact, probably every tourist in there that day thought they were sitting at that very special table.
But we certainly enjoyed our table, enjoyed pondering the stories within those walls, and will treasure the memories we took with us as we went on our way into the grey Oxford streets.