Thursday, 9 May 2019

The temporary breakdown in Tolkien's marriage in 1946?

I remember when I first read Humphrey Carpenter's 1977 biography of JRR Tolkien, that it heavily hinted at some unspecified marital problems of a fairly serious type; and I have been waiting for the past several decades to learn about these in more detail.

I now feel that these can be pinpointed to a period in late 1945 to early 1946.

I have located this significant marital disharmony at the exact same that Tolkien seems to have had a 'nervous breakdown', with enforced absence from work; although I am unsure of the direction of causality.

Overall, I suspect that it was Tolkien's nervous breakdown that caused, or exacerbated, the problem to the extent that that he and Edith decided to spend some time apart, while he recovered his state of mind.

There seems to have been a build up of problems with Tolkien speaking about this to Warnie Lewis in December 1945, and period of separation in March-April of 1946 which Tolkien called a rest-cure. This had Christopher and his father living in a pub, while Edith and (presumably) Priscilla went to Bournmouth.

This time apart (variously described as ten days or three weeks) seems to have been helpful; and I don't know of any other periods when separation was needed.

I have always assumed that the nature and chronology of the Tolkien marital problems was known about for sure by some Tolkien scholars who have had access to unpublished material, including Humphrey Carpenter; but had not been made public presumably due to the sensitivities of living people.

Is any reader able to confirm or refute my inferences on this matter? If you would rather not make your response public, then I can be emailed at the address in the sidebar.

No comments: