Tolkien Gateway

Letter 72

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 72
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
Date31 May 1944
Subject(s)Inklings meeting, work on The Lord of the Rings, Hobbits names, wartime bigotry

Letter 72 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien had been to an Inklings meeting where a chapter of Warnie Lewis's book on Louis XIV had been heard, along with some excerpts from C.S. Lewis's Who Goes Home? (Tolkien suggested should be called Hugo's Home).

The rest of his time (barring chores) had been occupied by a desperate attempt to bring "The Ring" to a suitable pause, Frodo's capture, before he was obliged to perform examining. By sitting up all hours he had done it and read the last two chapters ("Shelob's Lair" and "The Choices of Master Samwise") to C.S. Lewis. Lewis had been moved to tears by the last chapter.

Sam's name, said Tolkien, was not short for Samuel but for Samwise, Old English for "Half-wit". His father's name Ham came from Hamfast, which was Old English for "Stay-at-home". That class of Hobbits usually had very Saxon names. Tolkien would have preferred Goodchild over Gamgee if he thought Christopher would have allowed it.

Tolkien planned to get his eight new chapters typed and sent to Christopher. However, he had not done any serious writing for a few days, having had to sweat at Section Papers[note 1] and deal with a punctured bicycle tire.

Resuming the letter on 3 June, Tolkien explained that the gap occurred so that he could get some chapters typed to send. He had finished two. He reported being increasingly heartbroken to hear crass comments of elderly and stupid gentlemen as allied armies drew near to Rome. On another occasion, he had been dining with Rice-Oxley just after the election to the Rectorship of Lincoln had been announced. A college master loudly proclaimed, "Thank heaven they did not elect a Roman Catholic to the Rectorship". Tolkien's guest whispered, "Models of tact and courtesy!"

[edit] Note

  1. Examination papers for cadets taking English at Oxford.