Owen Barfield Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although largely neglected by students of twentieth century English literature, Arthur Owen Barfield’s writings significantly influenced several of the most popular contemporary English authors, especially C. S. Lewis. It is difficult to classify Barfield. His writing reveals a lifelong interest in epistemological questions, especially the roles of language and imagination in the development of human consciousness.{$S[A]Burgeon, G. A. L.;Barfield, Owen}

Barfield was born on November 9, 1898, in London, the youngest of four children. His father, Arthur Edward Barfield, was a successful lawyer. His mother, Elizabeth Shoults Barfield, was a zealous feminist, active in the struggle for woman suffrage. They were both lovers of music and books; evenings in the Barfield home were often spent playing the piano and singing or reading aloud from some popular book.

Barfield was tutored at home until he was eight years old. He was then enrolled at Highgate Preparatory School. There he received a classical education centered on the study of Greek and Latin. In December, 1916, he was awarded a scholarship at Wadham College, Oxford University. His entrance was delayed by military service, as he served during World War I with the Royal Engineers from 1917 to 1918. With the end of war, and after recuperating from a wound, he began studies in English literature at Wadham College in October, 1919. He was awarded a B.A. in English language and literature, with first-class honors, in 1921. He subsequently earned a B.Litt. in 1928 and a bachelor of civil law degree in 1934.

After leaving Oxford, Barfield worked as a freelance writer and did part-time editorial work for several periodicals, including New Statesman, London Mercury, and Truth. In 1925, he published his first book, The Silver Trumpet, a fantasy for children. A second book, History in English Words, appeared in 1926. In 1928, he published Poetic Diction, his most important work. Barfield also published later editions of this work; the third edition, for example, appeared in 1973.

Barfield was married to Christian Maude Douie in 1923, a dance teacher whom he had met...

(The entire section is 901 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Adey, Lionel. C. S. Lewis’s “Great War” with Owen Barfield. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria, 1978. Recounts their significant debate over anthroposophy.

Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978. Provides biographical information about Barfield and other Inklings.

Duriez, Colin, and David Porter. The Inklings Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Lives, Thought, and Writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Their Friends. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001. Provides an introduction to the Inklings and an A-Z section that contains many biographical articles, as well as entries on the group’s publications, themes, and theology.

Grant, Patrick. “The Quality of Thinking: Owen Barfield as Literary Man and Anthroposophist.” Seven 3 (1982). Explores the influence of anthroposophy on Barfield.

Knight, Gareth. The Magical World of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield. Shaftesbury, Dorset, England: Element Books, 1990. Examines three major themes of Barfield’s works: the importance of the imagination, the evolution of human consciousness, and how this evolution is revealed in the changing meanings of words.

Potts, Donna L. Howard Nemerov and Objective Idealism: The Influence of Owen Barfield. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1994. A study about Barfield’s influence on poet Nemerov.

Reilly, R. J. “Owen Barfield and Anthroposophical Romanticism.” In Romantic Religion: A Study of Barfield, Lewis, Williams, and Tolkien. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1971. Explores the influence of anthroposophy on Barfield.

Sugerman, Shirley. “A Conversation with Owen Barfield.” In Evolution of Consciousness: Studies in Polarity, edited by Sugerman. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1976. An interesting interview with the writer.