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8 Feb, 2010
2010-2-8 6:24:59 PM UTC
Just a quick note, I am going to continue the current embedded thread concerning the "member forum" somewhere else, just so it doesn't get too confusing here.

Thanks W&C and Beren for the enlivening discussion! I can see both sides, and have no opinion myself. I can't wait to hear if one or the other of you change your minds based on the evidence shared between you, but don't have any expectation that there is enough of a preponderance to effectively "answer" the question at hand.
8 Feb, 2010
2010-2-8 7:17:45 PM UTC
I am aware that I am not a pro in this discussion and I do not really dare to share my thought on this, but as a simple admirer of Tolkiens work your discussion touches a deep question regarding my view on Tolkiens character. My kids have seen the “water-colour letter” and they loved it. I have shown your discussion to them and they are confused.

On the one hand there is the English scholar and renown writer who receives letters from his admirers and answers them with the help of a secretary himself with lots of personal referrals to the original letter especially when children write to him, on the other hand there is a Tolkien who does not have the time to write to them and lets a secretary not only phrase and type them but lets her forge his signature under these “fake” letters.
I have had to learn that my admiration of a writer does not necessarily be mirrored in his character so I am open to your much more mature thoughts. How does the style of answering fan post give insides of a character and what does that mean in this special case.
Please forgive me to join into this highly sophisticated discussion but it touches a nerve.
8 Feb, 2010
2010-2-8 8:38:56 PM UTC
Maybe we should sent you a copy of 'letters by J.R.R. Tolkien' to make up to you! Tolkien did write MANY letters, and with many I mean almost on a daily basis. Many are very touching and all are very personal. But it is true that when people started sending letters to Tolkien in bulk someone helped him out to answer all letters. But even then we can see clearly that Tolkien did go through these letters, because in numerous cases he ads a line or two (handwritten) and signed them in person. I can however understand fully (especially since I live a very (extreme) busy life) that there will be moments I'm unable to answer all emails that I receive (and this is also in bulk) - I'd be happy if someone once in a while would aid me. But I believe in Tolkien's case the secretary letters are the exception...
9 Feb, 2010
2010-2-9 3:34:11 AM UTC
I am not going to enter further than this.
I do not believe it to be in Tolkien's nature to allow a secretary to forge his signature. The implications in this discussion seem to be that he was aware of the forgeries (which I do not believe them to be). Why would he have to know?
I know nothing about his secretaries, and I do not mean to imply anything against them, but if these signatures are a forgery could it not be the secretary taking it upon themselves to compose and sign these letters.
9 Feb, 2010
2010-2-9 9:19:43 PM UTC
I too don't believe that Tolkien's secretaries signed letters for him.

And I see no reason to suppose that this might be the case here, with Max's 'water colours' example. Christina and Wayne seem happy with it, and that's good enough for me.

Max, in case you're wondering - 'Findegil' is the name used by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, two of the world's top experts in Tolkien. Wayne wrote the 'collector's Bible', that is; 'JRR Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography', Oak Knoll Books, 1993.

Since then, he and his wife Christina have done much top quality work in this field; they are among a very few scholars allowed by the Tolkien Estate to work with Tolkien's original papers. Here's a list of books written or edited by them (all are published by Tolkien's publisher in the UK; Harper Collins) -

1/ Roverandom - written by JRR Tolkien, ed. Scull and Hammond

2/Farmer Giles of Ham 50th Anniversary edition - written by Tolkien, ed. Scull and Hammond

3/ JRR Tolkien - Artist and Illustrator

4/ The Lord of the Rings 50th Anniversary edition, ed. Scull and Hammond.

5/ The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion

6/ The JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide (two volumes)

These books are generally regarded as essentials for the serious Tolkien collector and scholar.

I ought to declare an interest in this - like one or two other folk on this forum, I contributed one or two things to numbers 5 and 6 in this list.

So - I rate Findegil's assessment of your letter very highly; in my view, you've nothing to worry about.
13 Feb, 2010
2010-2-13 2:30:56 AM UTC
Since there could be a consensus but not a resolution among the writers in this thread, we asked Christopher and Baillie Tolkien about the letter to the Fourth Class and the larger question about secretaries signing Tolkien's name in his style. Christopher knows his father's writing very well, as no one would dispute, and his wife Baillie had direct experience as one of JRRT's secretaries. Christopher replied this morning that the letter of 31 December 1964 is genuinely by his father, 'entirely characteristic, and signed by him: the signature is unquestionable and in no way out of the ordinary'. Further, Christopher rejected completely the idea that his father would have directed a secretary to imitate his signature, or that a secretary would have done so without direction: this would have been 'contrary to his sense of propriety'.

Wayne & Christina
13 Feb, 2010
2010-2-13 3:34:27 AM UTC
I think that certainly settles the matter.

However, I have one point I'd like to add. I was reading through the transcriptions of the uncollected and unpublished letters I have of Tolkien and I found this part of a letter to Baronne A. Baeyens dated 16 December 1963 particularly relevant to this thread:

"I enclose a merely secretarial letter. I am obliged to leave a large part of the letters to a part-time secretary; but I always re-read them before sending any reply, and I felt that your charming and interesting letter deserved a personal note, though it must be briefer than it should be."

He continues for 4 handwritten pages, so much for brevity. :)

Also, Tolkien once sent a secretarial letter unsigned to a Mr. E. Rasdall. In a letter dated 28 August 1964, he apologized for this mix-up.

I think overall Tolkien was extremely gracious with his time in writing letters to fans and admirers (most of them complete strangers); however, he was only human. I don't think its dishonest at all that a secretary assisted him in this overwhelming task. After all, even C. S. Lewis relied heavily on his brother Warren's assistance in his correspondence.

Well, those are my thoughts.
13 Feb, 2010
2010-2-13 3:47:06 AM UTC
I enclose a merely secretarial letter. I am obliged to leave a large part of the letters to a part-time secretary; but I always re-read them before sending any reply

Meaning, we suppose, that he dictated some of his letters to a secretary (which he is known to have done), she typed them, and before posting he read them, as well as re-read the letters to which he was replying. This gave him the opportunity to add handwritten notes below the typewritten part.

Wayne & Christina
13 Feb, 2010
2010-2-13 6:35:59 AM UTC
Thanks so much for posting Christopher and Baille's thoughts Wayne & Christina!

Also, to Jlong for sharing some additional documented thoughts from JRRT himself from other letters.

Max, enjoy your Fourth Class letter!
15 Feb, 2010
2010-2-15 3:37:58 PM UTC
Thank you W&C! We can't really ask for any more than Christopher & Baillie's opinion posted here on the site. It is really very much appreciated.

Beren, we thinks that theory is out the window...

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