Barfield has been known as "the first and last Inkling". He was one of the founding members of the Inklings literary discussion group based in Oxford. He had a strong influence on C. S. Lewis, and, through his book Poetic Diction, an appreciable effect on J. R. R. Tolkien. Lewis was a good friend of Barfield since 1919, and termed Barfield "the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers". That Barfield did not consider philosophy merely intellectually is illustrated by a well-known interchange that took place between Lewis and Barfield. Lewis one day made the mistake of referring to philosophy as "a subject." "It wasn't a subject to Plato," said Barfield, "It was a way." Lewis refers to Barfield as the "Second Friend" in Surprised by Joy:
But the Second Friend is the man who disagrees with you about everything. He is not so much the alter ego as the antiself. Of course he shares your interests; otherwise he would not become your friend at all. But he has approached them all at a different angle. He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one. It is as if he spoke your language but mispronounced it. How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right?
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