A man of let­ters

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

TO be fan­cied by you, that is more than any hob­bit could have ex­pected.’ So wrote J. R. R. Tolkien (left) to Arthur Ran­some, upon re­ceiv­ing his first fan let­ter from a stranger. The Swal­lows and Ama­zons au­thor had be­come im­mersed in The Hob­bit, which cel­e­brates its 80th an­niver­sary this year, while re­cov­er­ing from a her­nia that he had sus­tained boat­ing on the Nor­folk Broads. Tolkien was thrilled and sur­prised, but he was soon to be­come much bet­ter ac­quainted with the fan let­ter. Later con­grat­u­la­tions came from Terry Pratch­ett, Iris Mur­doch (‘I wish I could say it in the fair El­ven tongue’) and Joni and Charles Mitchell, who sought per­mis­sion to name their record com­pany Lorien and their pub­lish­ing com­pany Gan­dalf. Mar­grethe, Princess of Den­mark, of­fered her own chap­ter il­lus­tra­tions for The Lord of the

Rings, used in the 1977 Fo­lio So­ci­ety edi­tion, and Lynda John­son Robb, daugh­ter of Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son, wrote on of­fi­cial White House notepa­per in 1968, ask­ing for an au­to­graph in her copy of The Hob­bit.

The let­ters, which have not been seen be­fore, will go on dis­play in sum­mer 2018 at the Bodleian Li­brary, Ox­ford. ‘Tolkien: Maker of Mid­dle-earth’ (June 1 to Oc­to­ber 28, 2018) will also in­clude manuscripts, art­work, maps and arte­facts from the Bodleian’s Tolkien Ar­chive, the Tolkien Col­lec­tion at Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity in the USA and from pri­vate col­lec­tions.

One of the Tolkien-re­lated art­works and let­ters on show at the Bodleian next year

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