Saturday, 20 November 2010

How similar are Dolbear & 'Humphrey' Havard? John Havard's opinion

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I have been in contact with John Edward Havard, eldest child of the Inkling Robert Emlyn Havard (1901-1985) - who was nicknamed by the other Inklings things like 'Humphrey', 'UQ/ Useless Quack' and the 'Red Admiral' (with reference to a red beard Havard sported while serving in the Royal Navy during the 1939-45 war).

According to an early comment, Havard is the model for the character Dolbear in the Notion Club Papers.

Although I recognized several similarities (and also differences) between the biography of Havard and that of the fictional Dolbear, I was curious to know whether Havard's son saw any similarities in personality and manner between the fictional and factual versions.

In a nutshell - according to Havard's son, there seems to be some biographical similarities, and a couple of similarities of appearance, but on the whole there is apparently little similarity of personality or manner.

This suggests that Tolkien's use of real life Inklings as models for the Notion Club was based on scattered superficial resemblances rather than on any profound identity of character.

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From two e-mails from John Havard to Bruce G Charlton - 19 and 20th November 2010. Quoted with the author's permission.

Page references are to Volume IX of the History of Middle Earth - Sauron Defeated, edited by Christopher Tolkien and published by Houghton Mifflin 1992.

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John Havard speaks:

"On page 5, in what Christopher Tolkien assumes is an early draft, there is the first “List of Members”. Here Dolbear is explicitly identified as Havard, the only occasion that this occurs and Christopher suggests that the name is derived from a well known pharmacist in Oxford.

"A much fuller list of members occurs on page 11 at the beginning of the second edition of the Papers, but they now appear to have little relation to individual inklings, nor with the Colleges given or the dates of birth. The ages are some thirty years later than those of the 1940s Inklings and are not even relatively correct. My father was among the youngest of the Inklings while Dolbear is the oldest, and I know of no connection that he had with Wadham.

"The descriptions are perhaps more relevant. Dolbear is described as a chemist who concerns himself with philosophy, psychoanalysis and gardening. Father’s first degree was in chemistry and he did have philosophical interests. Also he had earlier practiced Freudian psychology at the Warneford. He had a fairly large garden though I do not think this was a major interest, he usually had someone to look after it for him. He is described as having a red hair and beard, which father did have when younger, and the nickname “Ruthless Rufus” which could bear some relation to Humphrey or the Useless Quack.

"Page 12. There is an entry for Night 54 which was written by Dolbear when the meeting was held in his house. Individual Inklings did visit us from time to time mostly for social reasons or to go for walks but I was aware of no meetings.

"Pages 18-20. This is the most extensive reference that I have been able to find. Dolbear contributes to the discussion on space travel making use of his scientific background. This is quite consistent with father’s interests, he did comment to Lewis about the text of Out of the Silent Planet and the other novels about space travel.

"The incident where he appears to go to sleep and wake suddenly sounds more like Alice’s Dormouse than anything I can relate to. (He falls asleep again on page 36).

"Page 33. Lowdham says “There is no difficulty with Rufus. The drink urge explains most of him”. This is no doubt intended to be jocular but relates little to reality. Father drank beer but rarely spirits.

"Pages 80 – 81. After the collapse of Jeremy, Dolbear growls “leave him alone”. This may be reference to father’s medical experience but “growls” does not ring a bell.

"I was somewhat taken aback by Dolbear’s directness and gruff manner as I do not recognise this behaviour as typical of father, though I cannot say what may have happened in many years of Inkling meetings.

"I did not find much of father’s character that I recognised in Dolbear when I was reading the Papers. I had the impression that Tolkien was more interested in providing light relief while he followed up the topics discussed than in any serious exploration of character."

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2 comments:

David Bratman said...

This is very interesting, and I would like to see addressed more of what I consider the heart of the matter, Dolbear's distinctive contribution to the Notion Club. He sleeps a lot, but when he awakens he makes delphic - cryptic but very wise - remarks. What I wonder is less about the sleepiness, but the delphic quality - was that at all a part of Havard's character? And Dolbear, despite the small quantity of his contributions, is clearly vitally important to the Notion Club, leading one to wonder if Havard was as central to the Inklings in this way. This is not, however, a question likely to be easily answered without having been at the meetings.

Regardless, I consider this of far more interest than matters of college affiliation (evidently picked for Notion Club members at random, as in no case is it related to the parallel Inkling's college) or age (they're younger than the Inklings to enable the story to be set in the future, and there seems little pattern for the others' relative ages either). Scholarly interests, though, in all cases seem to be quite relevant to the parallel's interests, and here Dolbear, as with the others, is close to Havard.

bgc said...
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