Coming from Jowett Walk into the centre of Oxford –for Jowett is located slightly towards the outskirts of the centre, where there is space for the expanse of pitches so beloved in the evenings— there are two main options as to the direction in which one walks. One route takes you through Holywell Street, past Mansfield College, and up onto Broad Street, where you find the Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre, Blackwell’s Bookshop, and a host of other important features; the other route winds up along the South Parade, passing the Natural History Museum on the right, and threading the narrow passage of the Lamb and Flag pub before putting you out onto the wide stretch of St Giles’.
Opposite you when you exit the Lamb and Flag Passage is the Eagle and Child, another pub, and one now perhaps more famous among fans of a certain type of literature than it is among drinkers. It was in this pub where, on Tuesday mornings during term and in the nights outside of it, the group called The Inklings would meet: JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and perhaps a dozen or fewer more on any given occasion.
In a secluded corner of this ancient drinking-house, they would read to each other extracts of their most recent compositions: Tolkien would share a new chapter of The Hobbit, Lewis would invite criticism of his literary criticism or Narnia chronicles, Williams would declaim one of his twisting poems. With the literature having been read, the others would then critique it, often without holding back. It was a crucible of fire, and from it some of the most influential literature of the 20th Century was born.