J.R.R. Tolkien Autograph Letter Signed and Annotated Old English Literature Questionnaire.

"I am enormously pressed for time this vacation, and I am ever afraid no such thing will have been done by me in time to be of use to you": Rare autograph letter signed by J.R.R. Tolkien with his list of Old English Literature Questions with annotations and corrections in his hand

J.R.R. Tolkien Autograph Letter Signed and Annotated Old English Literature Questionnaire.

TOLKIEN, J.R.R.

$50,000.00

Item Number: 121974

Rare autograph letter signed by the author of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien regarding a list of 50 questions he has composed examining Old English Literature. One page, entirely in Tolkien’s hand, the letter reads in full, “1 Alfred Street St. Giles Oxford Mar: 17th 1920. Dear Miss Duncan, I enclose a ‘mixed bag’ of 50 questions on the OE period – some of them on ‘Beowulf’ (exclusive of special points of commentary), some more general. A few may be of use to you (many are culled from past papers etc.: those of last year are marked). They are not intended to by models of clear questioning , but to suggest enquiries. The easily available critical writings that might help are all 150 few. I hoped some time to make out something like a select bibliography but I am enormously pressed for time this vacation, and I am ever afraid no such thing will have been done by me in time to be of use to you. I am yours sincerely JRR Tolkien.” Three pages, typewritten and composed of 50 questions, the questionnaire is titled “Old English Literature Questions” with several annotations and corrections in Tolkien’s hand, including to question 1. “A gluttonous race of Jutes and Angles, capable of no grand combinations: [Tolkien has added “lumbering about in potbellied equanimity] not dreaming of heroic toll, and silence, and endurance, such as lead to the high places of this universe, and the golden mountain tone where dwell the spirits of the dawn’ (Carlyle). How far would your reading of Old English poetry land you to modify this estimate?” to question 10. “What may we imagine the effect of the introduction of Christianity (and the [Tolkien has added “subseq.”] attitude of the Church) to have been upon the preservation of the legends (and ideals) of Germanic past?” and to question 28. “Do you agree that compared with ‘The Battle of Maldon’ (which celebrated complete defeat) ‘Brunanburh’ [Tolkien has added “which celebrated a great victory”] is merely competent laureate work that any well educated gentleman of the time could have turned out on conventional models? Can you account for it?” Tolkien has also added a 51st question in his hand at the conclusion of the questionnaire, “Give an account of one important ins. of English poetry. Indicate its value for our knowledge of the subject as a whole.” In fine condition. An extraordinary pairing, offering a unique glimpse into Tolkien’s broad literary knowledge and influences.

Both Tolkien's academic career and his literary production are inseparable from his love of language and philology. He specialized in English philology at university and in 1915 graduated with Old Norse as his special subject. Parallel to Tolkien's professional work as a philologist, and sometimes overshadowing this work, to the effect that his academic output remained rather thin, was his affection for constructing languages. The most developed of these are Quenya and Sindarin, the etymological connection between which formed the core of much of Tolkien's legendarium. Language and grammar for Tolkien was a matter of esthetics and euphony, and Quenya in particular was designed from "phonaesthetic" considerations; it was intended as an "Elvenlatin", and was phonologically based on Latin, with ingredients from Finnish, Welsh, English, and Greek. J.R.R. Tolkien's fully realized fantasy world won over generations of children, and dazzled adults with its deft interweaving of medieval legend and made-up languages, maps, and creatures. Tolkien legitimized the modern fantasy genre, and provided the 1960's counterculture with antiwar, back-to-Eden icons." (NYPL Books of the Century 199). His Lord of the Rings Trilogy, preceded by The Hobbit which introduced the character of Bilbo Baggins, has has went on to become the third best selling novel of all-time with 150 million copies sold.

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