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  1. halfir's Avatar
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    #1

    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Please post any comments you may have on Hammond &amp; Scull's paper in this thread.Edited by: halfir
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  2. Oak's Avatar
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    Wonderful article. These writers have excellent command of the English language. They pack a lot of information into their article. I am pleased that the Plaza has such scholarly members. Now to the sections I found particularly interesting.

    More potentially
    damaging still are forgeries of Tolkien letters, drawings, and
    signatures. These are becoming common, particularly on eBay but also in
    listings by respectable dealers. Offered, sometimes sold, usually one
    by one, over the past two years, they have entered the market to an
    extent that some forgeries are being represented as typical of
    Tolkien’s signature, typewriting, letter paper, and embossed address
    stamp, in order to support the ‘authenticity’ of other forgeries. The
    drawings we have seen are in a style unlike any that Tolkien used,
    though they have similar subjects (trees, mountains), and are ascribed
    to him only on the basis of an imitated signature.

    The thread entitled 'Hideous' features many of these forgeries. They are obviously forgeries and resemble nothing of Tolkien's work. Yet people are ignorant enough to be taken because it has a signature they think is Tolkien's.

    A separate paper could be written about the claims that places in <st1:country-regi&#111;n w:st="&#111;n"><st1:place w:st="&#111;n">Britain</st1:place></st1:country-regi&#111;n>,
    and elsewhere, have made on Tolkien. Here we can mention only a few.
    Some have been pressed more strongly than others, but all are
    questionable if not ridiculous.

    Greed often fuels the false claims. Look at this quote: from the text of the article. On 16 December 2001 the <st1:city w:st="&#111;n">Birmingham</st1:city> Sunday Mercury declared that ‘a rabble from <st1:placename w:st="&#111;n">Ribble</st1:placename> <st1:place w:st="&#111;n">Valley</st1:place>’, a ‘<st1:place w:st="&#111;n">Lancashire</st1:place> lot’ who had ‘sniffed a fast buck’, had ‘had the effrontery to muscle in on our Hobbits’. Their claim may be true, but greed is fueling this bickering. It all seems very childish for adults to be acting this way.

    An interesting case also occurred in <st1:country-regi&#111;n w:st="&#111;n"><st1:place w:st="&#111;n">France</st1:place></st1:country-regi&#111;n>,
    after a Tolkien devotee named Eric Thoumelin, who lived in
    Montreuil-Bellay, persuaded the local authorities to rename an area
    near its castle ‘La Promenade J.R.R. Tolkien’. For this they sought the
    approval of the Tolkien family and of Rayner Unwin. Newspapers
    reporting the inauguration of the Promenade on 28 September 1991 made
    it clear that the name was chosen not because Tolkien had any
    association with the place, but because of the efforts of Thoumelin who
    found similarities between the town and Tolkien’s works. Over the
    years, however, this fact was forgotten, and in 2005 an offer appeared
    on eBay of a holiday among the chateaux of the Loire, noting that the
    walled town of Montreuil-Bellay ‘was the holiday home of author J.R.R.
    Tolkien, who used the area for inspiration for many of the concepts in
    “Lord of the Rings” – in particular for the description of the Shire,
    which is based on the rural utopia of the region. Any afficionado of
    the book should be able to match the appearance of the chateau in
    Montreuil-Bellay with the description of a building in the book.’

    Here we go with twisting of facts again. This whole article is about how information is lost or warped and repeated in the altered state over and over again, the most glaring being Mabel's missionary term in Zanzibar. The above information warping, though is going to make this seller very rich and the buyer very angry when he finds the truth.



  3. klemenko's Avatar
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    #3


    Well done, Findegil. It's always good to look with a critical eye even on the works of reputable authors - but one has to be Wayne or Christina to point out such errors as those mentioned in the essay.

    Excellent text!<DIV ="WebWizRTE" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" marginwidth="1" marginheight="1">


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  4. geordie's Avatar
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    #4
    Just spent an enjoyable hour or so (off and on) reading through the piece. It certainly rewards close reading; the footnotes are a mine of information in themselves. I'd thought I knew of most of these daft claims for 'the heart of Tolkien country', to paraphrase the sort of wild stretches of the imagination; but the Scottish ones are new to me, and hard to beat.
    (And I'm no fonder of the likes of Matthew Lyons, nor Stoneyhurst's Mr Hewat than I was before reading this post, I can tell you!)

    But back to the footnotes, and beyond. Let's take some time to ponder Findegil's 'thought for today'.

    Much more can be said about the issues we have discussed, and about related subjects such as the search for sources for or influences on Tolkien’s works. We included an entry on source-hunting in the Reader’s Guide (p. 969) but were deliberately brief. Too few critics consider, for instance, that not everything in Tolkien had an external source: he was a highly imaginative writer, and in the process of storytelling ideas may arise naturally, out of the structure and from the needs of the story. Unfortunately, some critics become obsessed with their ideas and reject anything which contradicts a pet theory or cherished idea on which they may have spent much time and energy – as may be seen sometimes on the Plaza.

    Amen to that!

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  5. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    One important thing (of many) that this article illuminates isthe difficulty involved in writing biography, and indeed history, and the problems of evaluating the reliability of source material. Those of us who have been involved with "reminiscence" as a historical tool know these too well, and how easy it is for even the wary to be led astray - as I have been in the past, for example by the ideaof Tolkien as bronco-buster. But as the authors indicate, erroneous accounts continue to grow hydra-headed. Regular Lorists will recollect the tale of Tolkien the Misogynist Midwife, for example, that surfaced in the fairly recent past.

    Yes indeed, very well done!
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  6. halfir's Avatar
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    #6
    Of course I expected a super nova - and we got one- but in the studied and reflective style of learned scholarship that we have come to expect from our good friends Wayne and Christina. An excellent piece which we would all do well to take to heart.

    geordie made a veryvalid point when he commented on the importance of the footnotes, and I would particulalrly like to draw attention to the following:

    <A name=r36></A>[36] Richard Holmes, in his essay ‘Biography: Inventing the Truth’, comments that ‘biographers base their work on sources which are inherently unreliable. Memory itself is fallible; memoirs are inevitably biased; letters are always slanted towards their recipients; even private diaries and intimate journals have to be recognized as literary forms of self-invention rather than an “ultimate” truth of private fact or feeling. The biographer has always had to construct or orchestrate a factual pattern out of materials that already have a fictional or reinvented element’ (The Art of Literary Biography, ed. John Batchelor [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995], p. 17 [of pp. 15–25]). Holmes also reminds us usefully that ‘a final, truthful, “definitive” account must always be something of a chimera. We get back the answers only to the questions we ask of a life’ (p. 19).{my bold emphasis}.



    The entire article would have been worth that footnote alone, yet it is in fact it a cornucopia of helpful comment and scholarly observation.







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    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  7. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">BTW, my post was a simul with geordie that I didn't notice at the time.
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  8. SarumanRingMaker's Avatar
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    Wow. A round of to Wayne and Christina for this remarkable work. We are always warned to double, triple-check resources, and check for credibility, but what I particularly like is an explanation of the problems if you don't. Being told 'Don't do this' is less meaningful than being shown why you don't. Slander and falsities have always exsisted, because we tend find those stories 'juicier.' As in reality, the facts are usually not as exciting, and of course the internet has thrown another monster into the mess, as inaccuracies get repeated more and spread far easier.

    If nothing else, I am now convinced I don't want to be a biographer (not that seriously considered it, but this has solidified my opinion
    ). I would not have the patience or diligence of Wayne and Christina, to write a just biography about anyone.

    I read it last night, and have not gotten to the footnotes, but trust the statements from others - reading them would be worth, and I will do so when I can. If I may dare to ramblemy thoughts of quality biographies.

    There was a lot about the complications of memory, and the bias of written records themselves. I think this was implied throughout the article, but I didn't catch direct comments about the fact that people act differently in different roles. This also effects the biography, because it paints a different picture of the person. You don't act the same around co-workers as you do around family. I don't act the same around students as I would friends. I'd imagine Tolkien was the same, we act differently in depending on the situation and the roles we are in. It's not that we put on 'fake masks' we simply emphasize, and choose to portray different parts of our personality to our family, than to our friends, co-workers, etc.

    If someone were to write a biography of me, depending on who they go to is going to give them a different image. It's logical to want to seek out the close friends, but not only is their memory faulty, but they will be extremely biased. As personal friends tend to want a positive story written about their friend. Therefor, they emphasize what they like, while probably discarding the weaknesses. While being a personal friend might have more weight than an acquaintance, it's still going to be biased, as the friend will either consciously (or sub-consciously) recount the positives.

    Now if this biographer were to track down an acquaintance, I spent a sizable amount of time with for a week, but since have not corresponded with, hopefully it's not the one that I reamed and cussed out. The personal friend would probably write it off as "My friend was having a bad day and this guy decided to get in his way when he shouldn't have." Where the guy I reamed, might tell the biographer "He's got a foul mouth and a hot temper."

    The biggest question facing biographers then: is it their job to accurately report the facts through snapshots, these 'moments in time.' However, not only do that, but try to uncover what these moments in time reveal about the person they are writing about? Thus creating some sort of myth, or representation, of the person, because the 'myths' tend to create a more interesting biography.

    I'll try to end all this rambling shortly, but I think there is value in the myths that are created in biographies. Let's try to separate the known facts from a personal interpretations and biases. I'll use the George Sayers example.

    We know Tolkien and Sayers were in correspondance, we know Sayers spent time with Tolkien in August, and we know Tolkien asked Sayers for his opinion about the books. What Sayers recalls about the 'moment' afterwards is his personal speculation and opinion. It could be inaccurate, and as the authors pointed out Sayers didn't have a secret agenda to spread poor information, but either misremembered or was unaware of Tolkien's true mood about publishing his books at the time. I think there is still value in what Sayers does recall.

    I can tell you sometime last June (as I was on my break, and it was in the summer) I had a 'catch-up on our lives' conversation with a friend. I can't give a specific date, I can tell you some of the things we caught up on, I can tell you based on what we did talk about how her life was going and maybe how she was feeling. She might tell you that I am completely wrong, I don't know.

    So, when Tolkien asks Sayers to read his story and tell him what he thought, Sayers took that to mean Tolkien was concerned, possibly depressed about his books being published. Maybe Tolkien actually was feeling gloomy at the time (we all do from time to time) , and as a friend Sayers decided to lift his spirits. Then when he is asked about it later, Sayers recalls he seemed depressed at the time, but his book was published, so after he shared his opinion felt Tolkien was refreshed to try and get his books published. I admit, that this type of speculation, may not belong in biography (I don't know, I don't want to be one ), but there may be some truth, or something to uncover behind a person's faulty memory, or interpretation of the 'facts,' which creates a myth, or an image, of the person a biographer writes about.

    I may have rambled too much, but truly a remarkable article that gave me lots of ideas about biography, truth, and consequences to mull over. Edited by: SarumanRingMaker
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  9. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">this type of speculation, may not belong in biography
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">The only biographies I have ever written have been a couple of obituaries ( a special genre) and some entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - but from what I gather from those who have successfullyproduced full- length ones,from time to time they are certainly confronted by isssues of this nature. This is acceptable, provided the speculators admit that this is what they have to do, and show their evidence for so doing.
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">Life on the Plaza - from the training grounds of RPG to discussions of epistemology!
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  10. Moros's Avatar
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    #10
    As someone who spends a great deal of time analyzing and choosing sources myself (although of a different sort), I am very appreciative of this paper. Well-done!

    However, there is one aspect in this discussion of sources that is not addressed directly in the paper--although it is alluded to a number of times. That is, the validity of primary written sources. Hammond &amp; Scull explain at length the dangers of trusting secondary sources--Grotta, Carpenter, et al.--as well as the memories of individuals, but there is no direct cautioningof the reader towards the written primary sources as well. These may be just as dangerous as any of the more common mis-uses of sources, simply because people think they are infalliable.

    The truth is though that they are not. In regards to this paper and the study of Tolkien's life in particular, extreme weight is given to things such as Tolkien's letters, census materials, army registers and others, but the validity of these sources are all suspect to scrutiny (or at least should be). Tolkien's letters are the closest thing we have to his own thoughts, yes, but do they reflect exactly what he was thinking? Perhaps not. Letters tend to have biases towards the recipient, thus events can become twisted in order to appease this second party. The census materials and army registers are not subject to this kind of bias, but the quality of their information should not be above reproach either. The army clerks were not perfect, nor were they usually directly involved with the situation on the battlefield, thus inconsistencies in their reports are not impossible. The same can be said of government officials; typos are more common than you would think. Similarly, proximity to an event does not necessarily mean a first-hand account is the most reliable or accurate. I can think of at least one or two examples in my own studies where a later source has actually been of better scholarly quality because further information had come to light onlyafter the initial source had written their account.

    Anyway, I am not saying that all primary sources are wrong, or even that they should all be scrutinized in minute detail, but rather just to remember that there is more to a source's quality than whether it is a 'primary' source or not. I think H&amp;S put it best: "This is not to say: do not trust anything you read, but rather: do not trust everything youread."

    Ultimately though, I thoroughly enjoyed this paper. It is just personal experience that makes me a little excited about source material.
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  11. halfir's Avatar
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    I think that Hammond &amp; Scull cover much of what you have to say, especially with regard to the Letters in their extensive quote from Richard Holmes in Note 36.
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  12. Moros's Avatar
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    halfir: I would agree in regards to the letters and Note 36, but not with respect to the other primary written sources. The closest that I saw was the following:

    "New information about Tolkien frequently comes to light. Not all of it is true, but in recent years much has been added to our store of knowledge. Some has been unearthed by enthusiasts; much has become available in papers newly opened to the public. We have mentioned Tolkien’s war records in the National Archives: enlistment papers, division, brigade, and battalion diaries, as well as individual officers’ medical files, were unsealed only some ten years ago. So too have Oxford University papers such as election records and minutes of faculty meetings, released after a statutory period of time, and national census data through 1911. But even if records are open, they may not be catalogued or even sorted, though archives and libraries are under pressure to reduce their backlogs and extend facilities online."

    In this section, H&amp;S say that not all of the informationis true, but then go on to say that "much has become available in papers", thus implying that whatis found in these papers is true. The only problems they subsequently point out with these sources is that they may be unorganized--again implying that the facts found therein are true, just not easily-accessible.

    This is not a negative critiqueof the essay at all. Like I mentioned above, I very much enjoyed the read. It is just something additional that I would have taken special delight in seeing.
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  13. Ankala Teaweed's Avatar
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    #13
    Well so far, I am struggling to read the essay as it is hurting my eyes.

    Dear halfir, when next you post a long essay, could you please insert line spaces between the paragraphs? As you do in your posts? It would help mightily.

  14. halfir's Avatar
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    #14
    There has been a problem in the transferring of the paper that Wayne and Christina presented from my computer to the Plaza in the form they requested. They have already raised their own concerns with me as what I have posted is not as they presented.

    I am forwarding the texts they sent me to Faldras to see if his techno-wizadry can sort out the problem. If it can then what is currently on offer in terms of format will be replaced. My apologies to Wayne and Christina for this, and to any Plaza members who have found my rendition of the text difficult to read. Mea culpa!
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  15. halfir's Avatar
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    #15
    Moros:
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  16. Findegil's Avatar
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    #16
    SarumanRingMaker wrote:

    There was a lot about the complications of memory, and the bias of written records themselves. I think this was implied throughout the article, but I didn't catch direct comments about the fact that people act differently in different roles. This also affects the biography, because it paints a different picture of the person.

    This is another avenue we could have explored, and one that is explored in more extensive writings (by other writers) on the nature of biography or historiography. Your point is well taken. One of Tolkien’s students may remember him one way, a close friend or family member quite another. Or he might be remembered as a stirring lecturer on Beowulf, transforming the room into a mead-hall, by a student who enjoyed Anglo-Saxon, but less fondly--mumbling and spitting, hard to understand--by an English School student who objected to Anglo-Saxon being compulsory. The biographer has to make sense of varying testimony. How well did this person know the subject, how often did they interact, under what circumstances? The personal reminiscence is always interesting, as it puts the reader close to the subject at a particular moment in time. But its accuracy has to be considered. Were other witnesses present? Is there supporting documentary evidence?

    There is indeed something interesting in how one is remembered by friends, etc., what impression was made on them, what reputation was formed by the interaction, and what biographers make of it. Hugo Dyson, for instance, among Tolkien’s friends in the Inklings is universally remembered by those who knew him as gregarious, preferring conversation to readings, but he is now probably most famous as the Inkling who said, when faced with another reading from The Lord of the Rings in progress, ‘Oh **** not another elf!’ Or rather, who said it according to the C.S. Lewis biographer A.N. Wilson, who doesn’t give his source. It could be a case of biographical ‘reconstruction’, something Wilson felt that Dyson might have said in the circumstances, given his character. Or, if said, it could have been meant in jest. We do know, from Warnie Lewis’s diary (see Chronology, pp. 314-15), that Dyson was granted a veto on readings from The Lord of the Rings at Inklings meetings if he was present. Anyway, the quotation is generally accepted as fact (and often ascribed to Lewis instead), and that one crude remark now influences how many think about Dyson. We tried to give a balanced biography of him in the Reader’s Guide.

    As for George Sayer, his memory was sometimes fallible just as everyone’s memory is sometimes fallible, and one mistake doesn’t make someone an unreliable witness in every respect. But we singled him out as an example of what happens when, in research, one finds conflicting accounts--of how The Lord of the Rings got back to Allen &amp; Unwin and was finally published--and what must be done about them: comparing accounts, finding documentation, looking closely at the chronology of events. Sayer was clearly relying on his memories, even though he could have checked them by consulting letters in his possession, which he knew he possessed and could locate. It may not have occurred to him to check these, if he believed strongly enough in the accuracy of what he recalled. But the result was more than one inaccurate account (Sayer’s 1992 address, by the way, is also reprinted in Joseph Pearce’s Tolkien: A Celebration), details of which have entered the literature and been repeated from one author to another.

    The next question might be: Why should it matter if Sayer didn’t have quite as important a role in getting The Lord of the Rings published as he says in his accounts? Why bother to dispute it? It matters only if one is concerned to have the whole truth, an abstract goal but one we think worth aiming for. An account like Sayer’s muddies the water, and if there are enough of them like it, the water (the biographical or historical record) becomes very muddy indeed. At any rate, Sayer provided encouragement to Tolkien and boosted his confidence by letting him tape-record some of his writings. Both of these are facts and much to Sayer’s credit. Also, his impressions of Tolkien are valuable as impressions, and his recollections of their walks with the Lewis brothers serve as a cross-check (and vice-versa) on the Lewises’ accounts.

    Wayne &amp; Christina


  17. geordie's Avatar
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    #17
    Hugo Dyson, for instance, among Tolkien’s friends in the Inklings is universally remembered by those who knew him as gregarious, preferring conversation to readings, but he is now probably most famous as the Inkling who said, when faced with another reading from The Lord of the Rings in progress, ‘Oh **** not another elf!’ Or rather, who said it according to the C.S. Lewis biographer A.N. Wilson, who doesn’t give his source. It could be a case of biographical ‘reconstruction’, something Wilson felt that Dyson might have said in the circumstances, given his character. Or, if said, it could have been meant in jest. We do know, from Warnie Lewis’s diary (see Chronology, pp. 314-15), that Dyson was granted a veto on readings from The Lord of the Rings at Inklings meetings if he was present. Anyway, the quotation is generally accepted as fact (and often ascribed to Lewis instead), and that one crude remark now influences how many think about Dyson. We tried to give a balanced biography of him in the Reader’s Guide.

    I think this is a biographical reconstruction, on the part of Wilson. The phrase just doesn't 'chime' with what I know of Dyson's character, nor the 'character' of the Inklings meetings; though, as I've remarked elsewhere, Tolkien was not above 'bawdy', and Lewis was perfectly capable of recounting a very 'rude' barrack room ballad to a friend in one of his Letters.

    For myself, I prefer Christopher Tolkien's account of the 'Oh, not another elf' episode. If there were such an episode, that is - it may have been an impression, based on one or more occassions, and given as an example of the sort of exchanges usual at an Inklings meeting. Here's what Christopher has to say:

    'Well, I should mention the very important figure of Hugo Dyson, who was an English don... brilliant, vastly entertaining man who - didn't like The Lord of the Rings. I remember this very vividly - my father's pain, his shyness, which couldn't take Hugo's extremely rumbustious approach. Hugo wanted fun; jokes, witticisms, lots of drink. And Lewis, who I deeply admired and loved, ... had a strong manner and he would say, "Shut up, Hugo, come on Tollers!" and the Lord of the Rings would begin with Hugo lying on the couch, lolling and shouting and saying, "Oh God, no more elves!". It was - the Inklings was a bit like that'.
    (from the film 'JRRT - A Portrait of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien)

    It's worth remembering that young Christopher was himself an Inkling, the last now alive, and I give to his eyewitness account more credence than I would that of Wilson's - no matter what objections others might raise.

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  18. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #18
    A personal communication from Christopher supports geordie's point. He adds that the use of the f word at any of the Inklings would have been completely unacceptable.

    A. N. Wilson is not always a reliable source - a pity, since he is a prominent figure who isvery pro-Tolkien.
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  19. geordie's Avatar
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    #19
    Dorwiniondil -

    And on a different note - I see that the essay has been edited to include paragraph breaks, so making it easier to read. My thanks to those responsible.

    It's all in the books...

  20. Findegil's Avatar
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    #20


    geordie, thanks for reminding us about Christopher's comment about Dyson. We had forgotten about that. It's been a few years since we last watched the Landseer film. Dorwiniondil, we think that Christopher sent us much the same comment, after reading what we wrote about Dyson. We'll have to put something about this in our addenda and corrigenda.

    Wayne &amp; Christina


  21. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    Context: Christopher had noticed a letter I wrote correctinga statement by P.J. Kavanagh in the Spectator -Kavanagh attributed this utterance to Lewis (!?!). But Ifear that that has now entered the folklore as a solid fact, perpetuated by those who saw the Kavanagn piece, but not my correction.
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  22. SarumanRingMaker's Avatar
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    #22
    Thanks for the reply Findegil and further explanation about George Sayer's comments.

    The next question might be: Why should it matter if Sayer didn’t have quite as important a role in getting The Lord of the Rings published as he says in his accounts? Why bother to dispute it?

    Good stuff. I don't think it really matters, but I do think we are seeing changes in how biographies are written. Now I think we see biographies that want to create a good story, or almost a myth, about a person, because this is often more interesting to readers than the truth. The issue then is when authors take great liberty in speculation, but are unclear (or worse - pushing) whether they're speculating or stating facts. Or, as pointed out in your essay, biographers who don't look at their own research with a critical eye.

    The last biography I read was at university, a few semesters ago, Giants by John Stauffer. It was a good one, and interesting because it's a dual biography about President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It was interesting seeing the two biographies in one, because I think Stauffer was much kinder (or at least, more cautious) in his treatment of Lincoln than Douglass. He was more clear when pointing out controversies, disputes, and speculation over Lincoln's life. There seemed to be just as much speculation, and uncertainty, about Douglass but Stauffer passed more of it off as 'known facts.' It was a good read, and very ambitious to attempt two biographies, but that was it's main weakness. I was disappointed in the Douglass part, because it wasn't so much a dual biography, more 'Lincoln bio' and then 'Lincoln through Douglass' eyes.' Which is fine, but don't try to sell it as biography about two men, when it's not!

    Why youth? There is already enough youth. Why not a fountain of smart?

  23. Findegil's Avatar
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    Moros wrote:

    Hammond &amp; Scull explain at length the dangers of trusting secondary sources -- Grotta, Carpenter, et al. -- as well as the memories of individuals, but there is no direct cautioning of the reader towards the written primary sources as well. These may be just as dangerous as any of the more common mis-uses of sources, simply because people think they are infallable. The truth is though that they are not. In regards to this paper and the study of Tolkien's life in particular, extreme weight is given to things such as Tolkien's letters, census materials, army registers and others, but the validity of these sources are all suspect to scrutiny (or at least should be).

    Indeed they should be. As we say in our first paragraph: every piece of evidence must be considered. This includes primary sources. We concentrated in our paper on secondary sources because Tolkien enthusiasts, and Tolkien scholars, naturally go to those in the first instance, and these works allowed us to show how evidence has been used, should be used, or should not be used. But it’s good to add the note of caution you write about primary sources.

    These can and do contain errors, but are the foundation of research. The scholar who relies only, or primarily, on secondary sources is seeing everything filtered through the work and judgement of others. For many scholars, that’s the norm: one works with what’s available. Sometimes that’s enough, and the problem then is to choose the sources wisely, or at least to know their faults and limitations. When writing our Companion and Guide we looked at as many sources we could, primary and secondary, but especially sought out primary sources. We started with Carpenter’s Biography, Letters, etc., then went on to libraries and archives, knowing that much ground was open that had not been covered before, and concerned that our work be as complete as possible. We had no illusions that archival sources would be free from error, but one learns how to work with them, and the more one knows about a subject the better errors can be spotted.

    Tolkien's letters are the closest thing we have to his own thoughts, yes, but do they reflect exactly what he was thinking? Perhaps not.

    Or perhaps so. They have two particular values. First, they contain basic facts, e.g. Tolkien saw C.S. Lewis that morning, later he had a lecture, etc. Second, they include his views on various subjects. The purely chronological elements are fairly safe to trust, as they were noted within a very short period of time. Philosophical elements are subject to Tolkien’s skill at expressing them and to the reader’s skill in interpreting them. A letter also represents thoughts only at a particular moment, and one has to allow that a person’s views may change over time. Also, in regard to his writing, Tolkien sometimes explained what he did years previously in terms of what he was thinking years later, so that too has to be taken into account.

    Letters tend to have biases towards the recipient, thus events can become twisted in order to appease this second party.

    Perfectly true, illustrating the need to cross-check facts with other sources as far as possible.

    The census materials and army registers are not subject to this kind of bias, but the quality of their information should not be above reproach either. The army clerks were not perfect, nor were they usually directly involved with the situation on the battlefield, thus inconsistencies in their reports are not impossible. The same can be said of government officials; typos are more common than you would think.

    Census records are especially problematic. Since Wayne has had, through his college, temporary online access to the U.K. census for the past month, we’ve been looking at it again (having done so years ago at Kew) and using the back-door and side-door tricks (standard librarian magic) one has to perform in order to find what’s wanted -- finding some records under names spelled correctly, others under wildly different spellings (e.g. ‘Tonkien’ for ‘Tolkien’), depending upon how the census-taker heard the name pronounced or wrote it down, or how the online indexer interpreted the manuscript sheet. It’s maddening and time-consuming but fruitful. As for army clerks, granted that they can introduce errors and inconsistencies, but fortunately one can cross-check battalion and brigade diaries (written daily and on the spot), the diary of the divisional engineers with which Tolkien was involved as a signals officer, and his own small diary kept while in service in France, as well as the official history of the Lancashire Fusiliers. The War Office medical records are mostly printed forms filled in by hand, designed to minimize error by being fairly simple.

    Similarly, proximity to an event does not necessarily mean a first-hand account is the most reliable or accurate. I can think of at least one or two examples in my own studies where a later source has actually been of better scholarly quality because further information had come to light only after the initial source had written their account.

    Such things are always possible. However, proximity to an event usually means a greater degree of accuracy, and certain kinds of evidence are more trustworthy than others, for instance the archival records of Oxford University from Tolkien’s day. Meeting minutes were kept during the event and typically read at the following meeting and corrected if necessary. References within the minutes, e.g. to Tolkien being put on a committee, can be confirmed by a later reference to the committee, with Tolkien’s name attached, presenting a report. Mentions of Tolkien being appointed a particular student’s supervisor or examiner are supported by later entries, as well as by printed evidence in the Oxford University Gazette. And so forth.

    The question of proximity to an event also brings to mind a problem of dating Tolkien’s art. If Tolkien dated a painting or drawing (or a poem) at the time of its creation, he usually did so precisely to the day or days. If he added a date later to an undated piece, it might be a month or season in a specific year, merely the year, or a run of years with a question mark. We came to find that later dates must be looked at with caution. In the Bodleian Library is a sketchbook, described as ‘containing drawings and sketches of landscapes in S.W. Ireland, 1952’. This date derives from the only dated piece in the book, a drawing inscribed on the verso ‘Castle Cove. Kerry. Aug 1952’. Carpenter accepted this date, and from it concluded in his Biography that during August 1952 Tolkien was on holiday in Ireland. We likewise accepted this date in Artist and Illustrator. When Christina began to compile the Chronology (while Wayne was still finishing his bibliography of Arthur Ransome) she placed the holiday in Ireland at the beginning of August 1952, the only time in that month when Tolkien’s movements were not otherwise accounted for. But that gap was filled when we saw Tolkien’s letters to the George and Moira Sayer, indicating that he was then in Oxford. Christina checked the whole of the 1952 long vacation in case Tolkien had mistaken the month, but there was no possible gap. We therefore concluded that when adding the date later, Tolkien had got the year wrong. But he obviously had been to Kerry, and we needed to know when. We wrote to both Christopher and Priscilla Tolkien, asking if they could help. Christopher could not, but Priscilla replied that she had accompanied her parents for the holiday in Kerry, and was quite sure that it took place in August 1951. She was not sure of the exact date it began, but it was soon after she had her Viva for her final examinations at Oxford. She was sure that they returned from Cork on 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, because she remembered vividly the bells ringing from the Cathedral as the ferry sailed through the town. We accepted her dating because it is so closely associated with an event of great significance in her life, and so more likely than not to be correct. She had many other memories of the holiday which tie in with inscriptions on other drawings in the sketchbook, and even remembered the name of the ferry, which Wayne was able to confirm.

    In this section [the last section of our essay], H&amp;S say that not all of the information is true, but then go on to say that "much has become available in papers", thus implying that what is found in these papers is true. The only problems they subsequently point out with these sources is that they may be unorganized--again implying that the facts found therein are true, just not easily-accessible.

    What we wrote is that (1) new information about Tolkien frequently comes to light, (2) not all of it is true, but (3) much (i.e. the part that is true) has been added to our store of knowledge. ‘Much has become available in papers’ in contrast to that which ‘has been unearthed by enthusiasts’. Sorry, these sentences aren’t as clear as they should have been. We were trying to make a distinction between what has been found in newly opened papers such as the war records at Kew and the Oxford University archives on the one hand, and on the other through the efforts of enthusiasts such as Andrew Morton and Maggie Burns, who have been able to dig into local history records -- some of which are, perhaps, only recently available, others not. Anyway, we didn't mean to imply that such papers and records are necessarily ‘true’, only that new information is still being discovered, and sometimes it calls into question what had earlier been considered ‘fact’. In this way we led into the final part of our paper, regarding an area where we were wrong and had to modify our thinking.

    Wayne &amp; Christina



  24. Moros's Avatar
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    #24

    First of all, allow me to thank you both for taking the time to respond so thoroughly to my posts; it is good to see Tolkien scholars engaging in discussion in addition to producing essays. <?: prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    As for your response itself, I am largely in complete agreement. I always assumed <I style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">you[/I] knew what I was talking about, considering it is such a huge part of what you do. Thus, my posts were more aimed at being supplementary, for the benefit of other readers,rather than corrective. Furthermore, the response you have just provided for me is providing even <I style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">more[/I] supplementary information for people regarding the use/analysis of primary sources, and it makes me very happy to see such a quality review of the topic. So thank you once again!
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  25. halfir's Avatar
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    Returning to the supposed expletive comment that Wilson claims Dyson made about LOTR and Elves, reading the diaries of both Warnie Lewis and of C S Lewis, and the three volumes of Lewsis's collected letters, it is very clear to me that both the Lewis's and the Inklings made a clear distinction between 'bawdy' and crude vulgarity, and whilst practicing the former eschewed the latter. Therefore I have never accepted the Wilson/Dyson comment and find CT's comment totally convincing in this matter.

    Findegil observes in a response:

    One of Tolkien’s students may remember him one way, a close friend or family member quite another.

    This is very much encapsulated in a comment of John Ryan's, both a student and a scholar of Tolkien in his essay J R R Tolkien, C S Lewis, and Roy Campbell ( in The Shaping of MIddle-earth's Maker), when he writes:

    Perhaps it only remains to conclude that Carpenter's work is not the final biographic work on Tolkien, not least because of its coldness, and the many things which remain unsaid. The official biographer, a young man who never heard Tolkien in action, in his serious and reverntial style, has missed much which still remains to be gathered. It is to be hoped that there will appear ere long some study which collects offbeat unofficial Tolkien, not the man seen by his family or his peers, but the one who was very much a combination of Gandalf, Treebeard and Tom Bombadil to his eager if ingenuous hobbit students.
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  26. halfir's Avatar
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">My grateful thanks to Faldras for his work on improving on the earlier presentation of the Findegil text -which had got lost in translation from my computer.Edited by: halfir
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  27. halfir's Avatar
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    Wayne and Christina have informed us thatthey now have a blog post linking totheir paper at http://wayneandchristina.wordpress.com/.
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  28. N.E. Brigand's Avatar
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    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    Quote Originally Posted by Dorwiniondil
    A. N. Wilson is not always a reliable source - a pity, since he is a prominent figure who isvery pro-Tolkien.
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">Indeed. His article "Wagner for Kiddies?" which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Nov 24. 2001, and was reprinted the next year in an all-Tolkien issue of the Chesterton Review (pp. 275-6 of this large pdf) includes such passages as these two:
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    It seemed obvious to me on this reading that the Ents in The Lord of the Rings have partly been suggested by the talking apple trees in the film of The Wizard of Oz, and more by the suicides who have turned into trees in Dante's Inferno.
    <?: prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />- - - - -- - - - - -
    Moreover, though a devout Catholic, Tolkien deliberately excluded religion from The Lord of the Rings--there is just a strange moment when the hobbits are about to settle down to a meal with the elves, and the older, more dignified elves turn silently in prayer towards the east. The hobbits, being earthly creatures, do not understand what is going on.

  29. geordie's Avatar
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    #29
    Elves? East?? - yes, this does sound strange. Seems to me that it's Mr Wilson who doesn't know what's going on.

    *edit - just looked at the article; this passage actually appears on p.272, along with a reference to the alleged Dyson outburst - 'Oh no, not another .... elf'.

    Wilson says here that he got the story from Christopher. Given the evidence supplied by Findegil and Dorwiniondil (and myself) above, I have me doubts...

    I think that Wilson is mistaken in this, as in various other points in his published writings on Tolkien.Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  30. N.E. Brigand's Avatar
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    #30
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">Sorry about the error with the page number, and thanks for the correction, geordie. I was having trouble getting the pdf to download on this rickety old computer, and relied on some notes I took years ago (given the subject of this thread, it is amusing that I should have done so, and been in error).Now I've got it open. What first catches my eye is this: although Wilson corrects Andrew Marr as to who is said to have made the exclamation, he lets Marr's version of the quote stand: "Oh no! Not another ******* elf!" which is slightly different from what appears in the biography Wilson wrote.
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1"><?: prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">Regardless, I had completely forgotten that Wilson mentions the quote in that article, or that he
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    there identifies Christopher Tolkien as his source. However, I think that readers were meant to guess that from how he presents the passage in his C.S. Lewis: A Biography (1990).Here is the paragraph in question, on pp. 216-17. After quoting John Wain's assessment of the Inklings as "a circle of instigators", <?: prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="&#111;n"><st1:place w:st="&#111;n">Wilson</st1:place></st1:City> goes on:
    But this was not how the Inklings saw themselves. Another new face in the circle after the war was J. R. R. Tolkien's son Christopher. He felt that the famous Thursdays were never without embarrassment. He developed a profound attachment to and admiration for Lewis which made the cooling between his father and Lewis all the more painful to him. The old 'cut and thrust' of conversation was beginning to cause wounds on all sides. Dyson, for example, who had been elected to a Fellowship at Merton after the war and now taught English there, felt a marked antipathy to Tolkien's writings, so that the readings of The Lord of the Rings -- always a high point of the better evenings -- were no longer a pleasure. Aware that some of his audience were unappreciative, J. R. R. Tolkien mumbled and read badly. Christopher, who was about to show himself one of the most eloquent lecturers Oxford had ever known, was brilliant at reading aloud, and took over the task. But he could not be sure that his readings would not be interrupted by Dyson, lying on the sofa with his club foot in the air and a glass of whisky in his hand, snorting, grunting and exhaling -- 'Oh ****, not another elf!' In such an atmosphere, it was not surprising that the Tolkien readings were discontinued.
    (<st1:City w:st="&#111;n"><st1:place w:st="&#111;n">Wilson</st1:place></st1:City> doesn't bowdlerize the word I give in asterisks. Nor does Bill Bryson, in the quote I give below.)

    Given that <st1:City w:st="&#111;n"><st1:place w:st="&#111;n">Wilson</st1:place></st1:City> reports having been a guest of Christopher Tolkien's while conducting his researches for the book, and that he had permission to quote briefly from some of J.R.R. Tolkien's private papers (like "The Ulsterior Motive"), it is surprising, even in the face of some of Wilson's other errors, to learn from this forum that Christopher T. feels this quote is mistaken.


    Curiously, another use of "Oh ****, not another" is also somewhat well known -- and may have become published at about the same time.A Google search for that four-word phrase(unbowdlerized) yields some 72,500 results, but only the first 91 matches are shown, the others being "very similar to [those] already displayed". Of those 91 hits, most lead to completely different phrases ("not another" X, or Y, or Z)each listed just once or twice, but two phrases turn up much more frequently. The supposed Dyson quote about LOTR leads, with 21 matches. The second-most common quote yields 10 results. It's attributed to a paleontologist, Simon Conway Morris; I encountered it in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, an introductory science book for general readers, where on p. 327 the text reads:

    With his supervisor, Harry Whittington, and fellow graduate student Derek Briggs, Conway Morris spent the next several years making a systematic revision of the entire collection, and cranking out one exciting monograph after another as discovery piled upon discovery. Many of the creatures employed body plans that were not simply unlike anything seen before or since, but were bizarrely different. One, Opabinia, had five eyes and a nozzle-like snout with claws on the end. Another, a disc-shaped being called Peytoia, looked almost comically like a pineapple slice. A third had evidently tottered about on rows of stilt-like legs, and was so odd that they named it Hallucigenia. There was so much unrecognized novelty in the collection that at one point upon opening a new drawer Conway Morris was famously heard to mutter, "Oh ****, not another phylum."

    This was apparently in the 1970s. A few pages later Bryson notes that many of these discoveries were later reassessed. What's not clear from Bryon's 2003 book is just when Conway Morris's exclamation became widely known. Bryson's endnote for that paragraph gives Richard Fortey's 2000 book, Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution as his source. However, on p. 332 Bryson quotes from an interview ofFortey, indicating that by sometime in the 1990s at least, Conway Morris"regretted being so irremediably associated with views that he no longer altogether held. There was all that stuff about 'oh ****, another phylum' and I expect he regretted being famous for that". And apparently the work that most popularized Conway Morris's research was Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, from 1989 -- but I don't have a copy to see if the exclamation actually appears there.

  31. geordie's Avatar
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    #31
    Given that Wilson reports having been a guest of Christopher Tolkien's while conducting his researches for the book, and that he had permission to quote briefly from some of J.R.R. Tolkien's private papers (like "The Ulsterior Motive"), it is surprising, even in the face of some of Wilson's other errors, to learn from this forum that Christopher T. feels this quote is mistaken.

    That's interesting - where does Wilson say this? (sorry if I've missed it). But it's not so surprising. William Ready and George Sayer - (two sides of the coin as far as I'm concerned, when it comes down to their intentions in writing of Tolkien) - both had, or in the case of Ready claimed to have had, long talks with Tolkien, and still managed to get their facts wrong. The thing is, what and who do we believe? I think that Christopher's account, in the film documentary and in letters to Dorwiniondil and Findegil, is more plausible than that of Wilson. Wilson is at heart a journalist, and has a nose for something contentious.

    (It hardly needs stating, but I will anyway, for the sake of newbies, and of non-Plaza members who regularly view our site - that what we're doing here is not to knock Wilson, but trying to establish facts, and sometimes it's necessary to challenge what is known as 'a well-known fact', especially when such 'facts' are repeated, sometimes with variations, across the media).

    Speaking of which - can anyone advise me how to get a copy of that edition of The Chesterton Review? In spite of the current mania for the printed word on the screen, I can't handle all this messing about with reading off the PC. Whilst scrolling helplessly up and down that large file,
    I see tantalising glimpses of some good stuff - and some tosh - in that edition of that mag. that I would really like to get my teeth into, and finding them again - let alone reading them - is a chore!

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  32. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #32
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">A couple of things: CT is a pretty hospitable person. I know of a number of people who have stayed with him, including one Russian translator.The fact that one has availedoneself of his generosity does not presume an imprimatur for one's writing, any more than that he has allowed access to papers in the Bodleian normally closed to researchers. (Actually, I suspect that the even greater difficulty of getting hold of them these days may have something to do with the way Wilson used them... or that may be lack of charitable assumptions on my part.)
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">For many, many years I have been in at least two minds about A.N. Wilson. In the 1980s he gave promise of being quite a good novelist, but he junked that in favour of "whyohwhy" journalism, and I became much less interested. Then I found myself workingwith him on a TV programme about that unjustly neglected 19th century campaigner Josephine Butler - the end result was not impeccable,but by popular TV standardsgenerally accurate. Much more recently he has given very favourable reviews in highly visible places to a couple of books which I also approve of.Also, as a journo, he has never perpetrated the sort of thing that Julian Birkett did to the Tolkien Society about 10 years ago for the BBC. And yet ....
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">I'll just take another glaring instance from his biography of Lewis. He quotes a letter of Lewis's to Barfield in 1938 about Magdalen students, who were studying pastoral poetry with him, regarding sheep grazing in the groveas mere nuisance - and one of his colleagues "has been heard to ask why sheep have their wool cut off." Further, as quoted by Wilson, Lewis cites a conversation he heard between two students to the effect that pleasures which were "Nazi" and / or leading to homosexuality were "feeling the wind in your hair, walking with bare feet on the grass, and bathing in the rain." Lewis adds: "Think it over: it gets worse the longer you look at it." I remember reading that letter and agreeing with Lewis: those undergraduates could at best be described as weird, It seemed to me of a piece with Orwell not much later being denounced for praising a rose bush bought from Woolworths on the ground that roses are bourgeois. And yet somehow Wilson takes this as being Lewis agreeing with those ideas!!
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Since the biography was published I have also come across a garbled version even of Wilson's version, i.e., that Lewis equated gay men with Nazis. "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens".Edited by: Dorwiniondil
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  33. Findegil's Avatar
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    #33


    Another point about Wilson, returning to the conversation with Humphrey Carpenter cited in our paper ('Learning about Ourselves: Biography as Autobiography'). Carpenter was asked if he had an audience in mind when he wrote. 'When A.N. Wilson was writing his life of C.S. Lewis,' he replied, Wilson would tell him 'how the book was going'. Wilson had produced a convincing theory that Lewis for all of his life was 'trying to expiate the unfortunate and embarrassing sexual relationship he'd had at an early age with a friend's mother, Mrs Moore'. But Wilson left this out of the first draft of his book, fearing that he would 'upset the loyal Lewis following who he envisaged would be the principal audience for the biography'. Carpenter saw this and realized that he, himself, had as one of his main aims 'upsetting the loyal fans'. 'Around each figure', he said, 'there's an absurd cult of admirers, people who want the great person to remain untarnished. And it's a challenge to try and tarnish them, to prove to these rather silly people that human beings aren't perfect, least of all if they're great artists' (p. 275). 'Where's all that vital stuff?' he asked Wilson. He felt forced to be respectful to Tolkien, and regretted it; but he seems to have encouraged Wilson to 'upset the loyal fans', which Wilson did, rightly or wrongly.

    Wayne &amp; Christina



  34. halfir's Avatar
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    #34
    <DIV =WebWizRTE topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" marginwidth="1" marginheight="1">In his Introduction to the second edition of Jack- A Life of C S Lewis George Sayer offer some fairly trenchant criticism of what he sees as aspersions cast by Wilson in his biography of Lewis. He does however, say that after talking to Maureen, Mrs. Moore's daughter, he, Sayer, has had to revise his view of the relationship between Lewis and Mrs Moore, and accept that they had been lovers.
    <DIV =WebWizRTE topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" marginwidth="1" marginheight="1">
    <DIV =WebWizRTE topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" marginwidth="1" marginheight="1">As to the rightness or wrongness of disclosing such information people will take different positions, although I personally would look to the intent of the author in publishing and using such information. If it is just meretricious scandal then I see little value in including it. Moreover,the fact thatLewis and Mrs. Moore were involved in a relationship does not diminish in any way the contribution to intellectual and spiritual life that Lewis made nor should it lessenour admiration for his achievements. As Tolkien observes in Letter # 213 in commenting on Beethoven:
    <DIV =WebWizRTE topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" marginwidth="1" marginheight="1">
    <DIV =WebWizRTE topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" marginwidth="1" marginheight="1">Modern 'researchers' inform me that Beethoven cheated his publishers , and abominably ill-treated hisnephew; but I do not believe that has anything to do with his music.
    <DIV =WebWizRTE topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" marginwidth="1" marginheight="1">
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

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    #35
    The trouble with Lewis in this respect is the nature of the posthumous cult he has inspired, particularly in the USA, where at least some devotees want to believe that he was (among other things) a perpetual virgin - Wilson attributes this to Hooper, how accurately I'm not sure. As I've mentioned before, more than a few Lewisites in the USA appear to be fairly fundamentalist evangelicals, and want Lewis, despite all the evidence, to be purer than pure. Hence the difficulty some of them have with any reasonably honest assessment of the man - he came eating and drinking (especially the latter), and consorted with publicans and sinners (especially the former).
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  36. halfir's Avatar
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    #36
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">As usual the 'disciples' distort the nature of the 'Master'!
    He that would foil me must use such weapons as I do, for I have not fed my readers with straw, neither will I be confuted with stubble.

  37. Findegil's Avatar
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    #37


    In note [7] of our essay, we wrote that Daniel Grotta seemed to be the source for the notion that Mabel Suffield had been a governess in England before she married Arthur Tolkien, but that we couldn't find this in Carpenter or elsewhere. Since the essay was posted, however, we've noted that Priscilla Tolkien said the same about Mabel in her Radio Oxford interview with Ann Bonsor, and no doubt this was Grotta's source, which we had previously overlooked. The following note is included among the latest addenda and corrigenda to The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide on our web site:

    According to Priscilla Tolkien in an interview recorded by Ann Bonsor (see Reader’s Guide, p. 114), Mabel Suffield before her marriage had been a 'governess'. In the nineteenth century governess could mean, as it does today, 'a woman employed to teach children in a private household', whether resident in that place (a 'private governess') or not (a 'daily governess'), but also (without further definition) 'a school teacher'. (In the 1881 U.K. Census, the occupation of Arthur Tolkien’s sisters Grace and Florence is recorded as 'Private Teacher', which we assume to have the same meaning.) . . . Mabel's experience as a governess, however, could not have been extensive before she left England, at the age of twenty-one, to join her fiancé in the Orange Free State.

    Wayne and Christina

  38. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #38
    <DIV =WebWizRTE leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" marginheight="1" marginwidth="1">Many thanks for this. I don't suppose that the Sultan of Zanzibar was mentioned??
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  39. Findegil's Avatar
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    #39


    I don't suppose that the Sultan of Zanzibar was mentioned??

    No, we can still call that a fantasy.



  40. N.E. Brigand's Avatar
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    #40
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    Quote Originally Posted by N.E. Brigand
    Curiously, another use of "Oh ****, not another" is also somewhat well known -- and may have become published at about the same time ...
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">It's attributed to a paleontologist, Simon Conway Morris; I encountered it in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, an introductory science book for general readers, where on p. 327 the text reads:
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">

    ...There was so much unrecognized novelty in the collection that at one point upon opening a new drawer Conway Morris was famously heard to mutter, "Oh ****, not another phylum."
    This was apparently in the 1970s. A few pages later Bryson notes that many of these discoveries were later reassessed. What's not clear from Bryon's 2003 book is just when Conway Morris's exclamation became widely known. ... apparently the work that most popularized Conway Morris's research was Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, from 1989.
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">An amusing coincidence: Conway Morris turns up again in Tolkiena, in Kristine Larsen's article, "SAURON, Mount Doom, and Elvish Moths: The Influence of Tolkien on Modern Science" in Tolkien Studies 4 (2007): 223-33. On p. 226, discussing fossil species named for Tolkien's characters (e.g., a tardigrade named Beorn leggi and a genus of mollusks named Frodospira), Larsen writes that "Simon Conway Morris named a genus of fossil priapulid worm from the Cambrian Period (circa 500-570 million years ago) Ancalagon in 1977". She also notes that Leigh Van Valen may have classified the most fossil species (all mammals)using Tolkien's names, including a "new genus, Ancalagon, [which] was renamed Ankalagon by Van Valen in 1980 when he became aware that Conway Morris had already used the name for his new priapulid genus in 1977 (Van Valen 'Ankalagon' 266)."Edited by: N.E. Brigand

  41. Oak's Avatar
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    #41


    Quote Originally Posted by Dorwiniondil
    The trouble with Lewis in this respect is the nature of the posthumous cult he has inspired, particularly in the USA, where at least some devotees want to believe that he was (among other things) a perpetual virgin - Wilson attributes this to Hooper, how accurately I'm not sure. As I've mentioned before, more than a few Lewisites in the USA appear to be fairly fundamentalist evangelicals, and want Lewis, despite all the evidence, to be purer than pure. Hence the difficulty some of them have with any reasonably honest assessment of the man - he came eating and drinking (especially the latter), and consorted with publicans and sinners (especially the former).
    It is human nature for people to try and interpret an author and his work through one's own philosophic lens. No group is blameless when it comes to intellectual dishonesty of this kind. I've seen Evangelical groups try to interpret Tolkien as a Christian work and most of us on the Plaza know that is just pure tosh. Then on the other extreme Masons try to read Masonic symbolism into it and post moderns try to read post modern interpretations into the work- equally false. It is best to just let the novel be itself and not try to over analyze it.

    In the biography of C. S. Lewis it is hard to ignore his relationship with Jane Moore. There is no proof this relationship was a platonic one.



  42. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #42

    Indeed. As far as Tolkien is concerned, as usual I quote Le Guin:

    No ideologues, even religious ones, are going to be happy with Tolkien, unless they manage it by misreading him.<?: prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  43. post moderns try to read post modern interpretations into the work



    Last year, one of my professors speculated that The Lord of the Ringswas a pretty good example of a postmodern work (he wasn't actually saying that Tolkien intended anything of the sort, at least, just commenting on the final result). His main argument was that the book drew attention to its 'textuality', what with the Red Book frame, the prologue, and the Appendices. This is a fair observation, but it's not the most important feature of the book-selecting the features you focus on and giving greater weight to certain elements can yield just about any interpretation.
    Not to mention that calling any book to which the word 'textuality' can be reasonably applied postmodern is a pretty weak and useless definition of the term. Andbefore anyone says that any definition of postmodernism is useless, I'll assert that despite postmodernists' insistence to the contrary, the idea is pretty simply definable, and actually moderately useful (and really kind of common sense).

  44. geordie's Avatar
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    #44
    Just noticed that Wayne and Christina's actual paper seems to have dropped off the list. Has something slipped?



    It's all in the books...

  45. I'm not sure what's up- will look into



  46. geordie's Avatar
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    #46
    Ah! It hath returned! many thanks to all concerned.



    It's all in the books...

  47. geordie's Avatar
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    #47
    On the subject of erroneous statements - I've just found a reference to this blog (on another site)

    Look here

    I see it's by a friend - Wellinghall; a right good bloke. Never knew he had a blog till now. Enjoy! Here's a taster -

    IT'S SPOOKY IN ERIC BRISTOW'S PUB - DAILY STAR :

    DARTS legend Eric Bristow wants TV’s Most Haunted team to check out his pub’s bottle-bunging ghost – and then throw it out. Five-times world champ Eric Bristow, 52, took over The Swan in Leek, Staffordshire, in August last year but has since discovered all sorts of ghostly goings-on...

    Eric, known as the Crafty Cockney, said: “It’s the oldest pub in Leek, it’s 1620-odd, has a black and white front and is opposite a church...

    He said: “It’s a lovely pub. It just needs a bit doing to it, like all these old pubs. “We call one room The Tolkein Room because JRR Tolkein, author of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, wrote books in there.

    Incredible, isn't it?

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  48. geordie's Avatar
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    #48
    Another one I like concerns Tolkein's (sic) childhood in Birmingham:

    The Birmingham Evening Mail features an example of a guided city walk in Birmingham from the Get Walking Keep Walking initiative which offers participants the opportunity to see sites of historic interest. These include Sarehole Mill and the gates leading to the University of Birmingham law building. Both features are thought to have possibly inspired Birmingham-based author JRR Tolkein when writing his epic novel The Lord of the Rings...

    The article from which this quote is taken concerns the topic of walking for exercise in urban areas. The unfortunate term the author uses for this activity is 'street walking'.

    I thought there were laws against that sort of thing...

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  49. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    #49
    <DIV =WebWizRTE marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" leftmargin="1" topmargin="1">I wonder if both of these could be referred to the Tolkein Society website?
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  50. geordie's Avatar
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    #50
    While publicising the Forest of Bowland, Andy Cronshaw (another brainless wonder) opines:

    Peter Jackson could have filmed his Lord of the Rings trilogy here. In fact it’s well known that Tolkien drew much of the inspiration for his fictional landscapes from his time as a student at Stonyhurst college in Clitheroe. The landscape really does combine the sleepy beauty of the hobbits’ Shires against the stark intimidating mountains of Mordor.

    Sure he did. Well known fact.

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  51. geordie's Avatar
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    #51
    As another example of what we're discussing in this thread, take a look at what I've dragged in from another site:

    look here

    - half-truths at best.

    It's all in the books...

  52. I know this is an old thread..but there is something I would very much like to get to the bottom of and that is how many times did Tolkien really stay or indeed visit the Ribble Valley.

    In the article is states Tolkien stayed there only 3 times which is at loggerheads with what is published elsewhere and expressed in the article.

    You mention that Tolkien's first visit was from 21st March to 1st April 1946.

    In fact his stay on this occasion was shorter, it was the 25th March when he arrived and the 1st April when he left Stonyhurst.

    but!! the interesting bit is in the his comment on his stay, Tolkien simple said 'See 17th Aug 1945', which obviously suggests to read an earlier comment from a previous visit.

    Also if John Tolkien lived there during the best part of the war, why would he want to sign the guestbook?! If he arrived sometime in 1940, it seems a strange thing to sign the guestbook two years later in 1942.

    I have a photograph from a newspaper article taken from the guest book in 1946.

  53. Findegil's Avatar
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    #53
    Quote Originally Posted by stargazer2013 View Post
    In the article is states Tolkien stayed there only 3 times which is at loggerheads with what is published elsewhere and expressed in the article.

    You mention that Tolkien's first visit was from 21st March to 1st April 1946.

    In fact his stay on this occasion was shorter, it was the 25th March when he arrived and the 1st April when he left Stonyhurst.

    but!! the interesting bit is in the his comment on his stay, Tolkien simple said 'See 17th Aug 1945', which obviously suggests to read an earlier comment from a previous visit.

    Also if John Tolkien lived there during the best part of the war, why would he want to sign the guestbook?! If he arrived sometime in 1940, it seems a strange thing to sign the guestbook two years later in 1942.

    I have a photograph from a newspaper article taken from the guest book in 1946.
    The date '21st March' is a typo for '25th March'; this is correct in the Chronology volume of our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide.

    Tolkien's comment on his stay, 'See 17th Aug 1945', was his way of echoing the comment left by his son John on 17 August 1945: 'Each time more enjoyable'. J.R.R.T. did not stay at New Lodge at that time. Christina went through the visitor's book page by page on an arranged visit to New Lodge, and took photographs, which we've just examined again.

    John Tolkien did not live at New Lodge 'during the best part of the war', but elsewhere at Stonyhurst. New Lodge was a guest house; John stayed there on a few occasions, for reasons unknown to us: maybe it was a form of holiday.

    Our point in all this was to show that many reports of Tolkien's visits to Stonyhurst are exaggerated, if not outright invention.

    Wayne & Christina

  54. Many thanks for that is really is appreciated, though somewhat tantalizing at the same time!

    A resident who lives elsewhere on the campus and goes on holiday around the block and signs 'Each time more enjoyable' and a first time visitor who likes to be quoted as 'Each time more enjoyable' when they've never stayed there before. :)

    I don't suppose Tolkien wanted to work anonymously while working on LOTR and John Tolkien 'signed' him in? All completely fascinating, I have no idea!!

    Thanks again.

  55. Findegil's Avatar
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    #55

    A resident who lives elsewhere on the campus and goes on holiday around the block and signs 'Each time more enjoyable' and a first time visitor who likes to be quoted as 'Each time more enjoyable' when they've never stayed there before. :)


    Even a clergyman (especially one in charge of providing food for staff and students, as John was) needs a holiday, and long-distance travel was strongly discouraged during wartime. JRRT's reference to his son's earlier comment was no more than an easy way of saying that he enjoyed his time at New Lodge also.

    I don't suppose Tolkien wanted to work anonymously while working on LOTR and John Tolkien 'signed' him in? All completely fascinating, I have no idea!!

    That would be very unlikely, in fact dishonest. You mustn't think of Tolkien in the 1940s as being famous in the way he would become much later, and you mustn't accept the manufactured notion that he wrote The Lord of the Rings at Stonyhurst. In fact, in regard to his first recorded visit, in 1946, Tolkien told his publisher that he went away (to New Lodge) because he had come near to a breakdown, and by doctor's orders 'ate and slept and did nothing else' (Chronology, p. 299).

    Wayne & Christina

  56. Athelas_H's Avatar
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    #56
    Very interesting Scholars post :)
    To be honest there were a couple of points that I thought were true facts about Tolkien before reading this post. Thanks Wayne and Christina for debunking some Tolkien myths; it's always good to see truth triumph.
    As to people adding to the myth surrounding Tolkien I think that it is a shameful act especially when the myth is constructed purposefully by someone for whatever purpose. Why lie about someone?
    Previously known as 'Briony' and 'Stinker_8'.

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