The Immortal Four: Tolkien and the Barrovian Society ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Its own kind of debating society, the TCBS considered almost any question as long as it avoided relationships with girls. “Oh, we [TCBS] discussed everything under the sun except girls I should say. Oh, yes. That was what bound us together. Somehow you felt ‘this chap and I can talk about anything.’” Wiseman later remembered, “And we also shared the philosophy that, number one is at the top. And I don’t know why those things impressed me so that now you’re sitting there and they sort of come out again. But there it is, and I feel sure that I’ve got it right. . . . But as I say, we formed the TCBS because it—when we had a gap in these exam programs we pushed off to Barrow’s stores in order to have some tea.”[9] And, yet, it wasn’t just girls. Though current events were not prohibited, Tolkien avoided them. “I mean to say that Tolkien was a very constructive person, in a narrow line,” Wiseman explained. “You ask him about Norse poetry, he’s bound to get it right. You asked him about Calvin Coolidge, he might quite easily get it wrong.”[10] Still, if Wiseman remembered correctly, Tolkien dominated the discussions, not just because of his personality, but because of his penetrating intelligence and knowledge. “Well, you couldn’t [feel comradeship] with John Ronald. He wasn’t the comrade of anybody except himself. . . . Oh yes, and he deserved it, too.”[11] Several other students at King Edward’s joined the TCBS as well, but Tolkien, Wiseman, Gilson, and Smith remained the core four of the group.[12]
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