Saturday, 5 October 2013

A previously unpublished letter from JRR Tolkien - 14 June 1973


Professor JRR Tolkien
c/o George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
Ruskin House
40 Museum Street
London WC1A 1LU

14 June 1973

[To:] B Charlton Esq.
[Address here]

Dear Mr Charlton

Thank you very much for your kind letter. I am delighted that my books have given you pleasure.

THE SILMARILLION is far from complete and I have not looked at it for some considerable time. Therefore I regret that I cannot predict when it will see the light of day.

Yours sincerely, 

pp. JRR Tolkien

[initials] MJH 


This previously unpublished letter from JRR Tolkien to B[ruce] Charlton throws light on major unresolved biographical and creative aspects of the authors last months; in the sense that he was terminally ill, busy, and persecuted by unwanted attention from many sources (including far too many demanding letters from enthusiastic but inconsiderate fans) - yet he still found the time and energy to dictate a kindly note to a fourteen year old reader.



Samson J. said...

Wow, Bruce, thanks for sharing!

Troels said...

What a wonderful thing, thank you for sharing it with us!

“MJH” is of course Margaret Joy Hill who worked with George Allen & Unwin and who handled much of Tolkien's fan mail from their London offices. She visited Tolkien regularly, the last time in August 1973 (see more details in Scull & Hammond, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader's Guide pp.366-7).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Troels - I never bothered mentioning this little letter before, because it doesn't say anything new or especially interesting (and did not have his personal signature - 'pp' indicates that it was signed by the secretary, M. Joy Hill). But it was only very recently I realized that the important thing about this note was that it actually existed. I do feel ashamed that I bothered Tolkien with my letter (which was, I vaguely recall, asking him all for sorts of extra details about elves). But it does him great credit as a human being that he sent a reply (which delighted me) - although as a creative artist and an elderly and sick man with many more important things to do, I would prefer that he had not bothered!

Troels said...

Reading about Joy Hill in Scull & Hammond's Reader's Guide it would seem that she worked also as a kind of filter for Tolkien.

I cannot imagine that she brought every single piece of fan mail to their meetings (if so, they would probably have had to meet for several hours every day), so your letter must have passed that initial ‘censorship’ of Ms Hill which means that she must have felt that it contained something that would interest or delight the old man.

So you should definitely not feel bad about it.