Nestled within the historic streets of Oxford, The Eagle and Child, often affectionately referred to as the “Bird and Baby,” is a renowned public house with a literary legacy that transcends its humble setting. This unassuming tavern was the cherished meeting place of a group of distinguished writers known as the Inklings, who left an indelible mark on 20th-century literature. In this article, we will delve into the history, significance, and enduring charm of The Eagle and Child, a place where literary legends once gathered.
A Rich History
The Eagle and Child has a history that dates back centuries. Its origins as an inn can be traced to the 17th century when it provided a welcoming haven for travelers and locals alike. Over the years, it has undergone various renovations and changes but has retained its traditional English pub ambience.
What truly sets The Eagle and Child apart is its association with the Inklings, a literary group that met at the pub for nearly two decades, from the early 1930s to the 1940s. The Inklings consisted of prominent writers and scholars, with the most famous members being J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
These literary luminaries would gather regularly in the pub’s cosy back room, which came to be known as the “Rabbit Room” due to its décor featuring a rabbit mosaic. It was within these walls that Tolkien and Lewis would read and discuss their works in progress, engage in spirited debates, and offer constructive criticism to one another. It was here that Tolkien famously shared chapters from “The Lord of the Rings,” and where Lewis presented “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
A Literary Legacy
The impact of The Eagle and Child on literature is immeasurable. It was within this unpretentious setting that some of the most beloved and enduring works of fantasy literature were conceived and nurtured. The pub itself became a character in the story of the Inklings, a place where creativity thrived, and ideas flourished.
The Legacy Lives On
Today, The Eagle and Child continues to attract visitors from around the world, drawn by the allure of its literary history. The pub maintains its traditional charm, with low ceilings, wooden beams, and a warm, inviting atmosphere. The Rabbit Room, adorned with memorabilia and photographs of the Inklings, remains a point of pilgrimage for fans of Tolkien and Lewis.
The Eagle and Child, Oxford, is not just a historic pub; it’s a living testament to the power of friendship, creativity, and intellectual exchange. Its role as the meeting place of the Inklings has etched its name into the annals of literary history. As you step into this timeless establishment, you can almost hear the echoes of spirited discussions and the rustling of manuscript pages. It’s a place where the magic of literature still lingers, inviting patrons to savor a pint, engage in conversation, and perhaps, find inspiration in the hallowed footsteps of the literary legends who once gathered here.