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TCG Letter #370 / Carpenter Letter #142


From
J.R.R. Tolkien
To
Father Robert Murray
Date
2 December 1953
Type
Typed Letter Signed
Transcript
Partial
Robert Murray had offered Tolkien some thought on The Lord of the Rings to which Tolkien replies. Tolkien was pleased by Murray's words of encouragement and his perceptive attention to detail of the matter at hand. He says that The Lord of the Rings is a Catholic work, describing it as an unconscious act at first but consciously so in the revision.

He says that he is grateful for his upbringing, and describes his mothers sacrifice and ultimately her death from the poverty which befell her because of that faith.

Tolkien says that he is not “nourished” by English Literature, considering himself no better read than Murray himself. Tolkien was brought up “on the classics”, finding early pleasure in Homer. He describes his pleasure as a philologist, in the association of “word-form” coupled with “word-sense” and noting that he has always enjoyed foreign languages. Tolkien then closes with his fears of the publication, and the comments from the public and critics, for he has “exposed” his heart to “be shot at”.

The 2023 revised edition of Letters restores a paragraph where Tolkien talks about how non-Catholics will receive the book, and describes how he might be able to get proofs of The Lord of the Rings for Murray to read.

A portion of the introductory paragraph (removed by Carpenter after the first sentence) can be partially read on screen in the movie Tolkien A Film Portrait.
Tags
References
J.R.R. Tolkien A Descriptive Bibliography, Di1, p. 350; Dii26, p. 357; Dii34, p. 358
Tolkien and the Great War, p. 13 (single sentence quoted)
J.R.R. Tolkien: Scholar and Storyteller, p. 284
Tolkien & the Silmarillion, p. 56-7
The Tablet, 15 September, 1973, pp. 779-80
Silke Anzinger, "Von Troja nach Gondor.Tolkiens „The Lord of the Rings“ als Epos in vergilischer Tradition," in Vestigia Vergiliana: Vergil-Rezeption in der Neuzeit edited by Thorsten Burkard , Markus Schauer and Claudia Wiener. (2010) pp. 363-401. p. 372 note 32
Marco Cristini "The Fall of Two Cities: Troy and Gondolin." Thersites 15 (2022), p. 10
Portions of the original letter are viewable in Tolkien A Film Portrait (1996) at approximately 1:22:06 and 1:22:19
Ivano Sassanelli, "Religious and Catholic: Primary and Secondary World in Tolkien's Letter no. 142", in Giuseppe Pezzini & Eden O'Brien (ed.), Tolkien and the Relation between Sub-creation and Reality, Inklings Studies Supplement 3 (2023), pp. 107-26


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