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Re: Cancelled - Wheelbarrows at Dawn: Memories of Hilary Tolkien

Subject: Re: Cancelled - Wheelbarrows at Dawn: Memories of Hilary Tolkien
by Deagol on 2010/11/9 14:17:41

The last day or two has been "interesting" to say the least. I have seen a lot of opinions given on the situation. As one of the authors of the book I thought I should say a few words to, if nothing else, correct a few misunderstandings.

This is not the place to go into things in any great detail, but I can say that the Estate's lawyers Manches were contacted at an early stage of the project and several times as it progressed.

The book itself is often referred to as a biography of Hilary Tolkien, but its objective is/was to fill in the (very large) gaps in what is known of his life, to correct some incorrect information that is out there, to trace Hilary and Ronald's lives (together and apart) and to try to show that they (and the extended family) were very close – something you may not realize from reading the various biographies in print. Along the way we earthed all sorts of interesting bits and pieces, and tell more of family and friends that have hitherto been little more than names. As Stu quite correctly comments, this is not something that will be of interest to some/many Tolkien readers, but there is a small but passionate group that, like me, want to know about all things Tolkien – his life, his views and his influences.

We wanted to include various letters in the book, some from members of Ronald's family, or failing that to give some account of their contents to illustrate how close and loving the family was and what they talked to each other about. This has been the sticking point that it has not been possible to overcome thus far.

I should also point out that the Estate have not been demanding money for permissions or anything like that. They are not out to make money, merely to protect the copyrights, which are commercially sensitive. Their stance is that publication would reduce the value of the letters and consequently reduce the value of other Tolkien letters.

The madness of the situation is that every year we see letters published in part or in full in auction and sale catalogues. This is of course not restricted by copyright considerations as the items are for sale and it is considered fair dealing to show the buyer what they are paying out their hard earned money for.

The publication of the book had to be cancelled as there was not time to make further changes to the book and get it printed and bound in time for the launch. What happens in the future I really don’t know. Only time will tell.

Personally, I have had a lot of fun writing the book and have learned so much and worked out so many things that would never otherwise have occurred to me. Following Hilary through the First World War was especially moving. Just to sit and leaf through the letters and photographs was a huge thrill and a great privilege. I felt very much like a little boy let loose in a toy shop for the first time. I have got to know Hilary and Ronald and their family better than I ever would have if the book had never been started, and that is what really matters to me.