Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tolkien: As If

A quick post here to say that Michael Saler's long-awaited book, As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality, is on the threshold of publication.  I say threshold because the Kindle edition is currently available (click here), and the hardcover and trade paperback versions, published by Oxford University Press, are due imminently.  (The author tells me that Amazon says the publication date is January 9th, but he's just got his own copies so it should be shipping sooner.)

The hifalutin subtitle, "modern enchantment and the literary prehistory of virtual reality", mainly refers to the idea of modern imaginary worlds, in which authors and their readers share in willing suspension of disbelief.  So the book covers the Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and Tolkien's Middle-earth. The book examines how fans began to inhabit imaginary worlds persistently and communally starting in the late 19th century, in effect transforming them into virtual worlds that presaged contemporary virtual reality.

I read the Tolkien chapter in advance, and can say it represents a fascinating look at Tolkien from the outside looking in (i.e., culturally and historically), rather than (what is usual in Tolkien studies) from the inside looking at the details or the literary background of specific aspects of Tolkien's invented world.  The trade paperback is currently priced at $27.95 (though who knows if Amazon may discount it after publication). Recommended.

**Update 12/12** The trade paperback is now in stock. Click here for the Amazon page.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Evangeline Walton News

For some time now I have been working with Evangeline Walton's literary heir, Debra L. Hammond, both in sorting the archive of papers and in preparing new Walton publications.  Some of the first fruits have begun to appear, so I'd like to bring notice to them here.

First, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has just published a new short story we found in Walton's papers, "They That Have Wings". It appears in the November/December 2011 issue.  Some reader comments about this issue can be found here.  Also, I was interviewed about Evangeline Walton for the F&SF blog, and was able to expand on other Walton projects that are in the works.  See it here.

It is mentioned in the interview, but I'd also like to call attention here to the new website where further information can be found.  We will post further news there as things develop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tolkien and the Newman Association

A while ago I stumbled on a reference to a letter, co-signed by Tolkien, published in The Times for Friday, 28 January 1949 (page 5).  This letter isn't referenced in any of the usual sources, so it makes for a minor discovery.  The letter is signed by Tolkien and nine others, comprising the Honorary President of the Newman Association and nine Honorary Vice Presidents, the latter including Tolkien.  The letter registers protest at the arrest of the Cardinal Primate of Hungary by the Hungarian government.

Tolkien's affiliation with the Newman Association was previously undocumented.  The Newman Association was founded in 1942, and continues to this day. (See their website here.)  Tolkien's involvement does not seem to have been extensive. I am grateful to Dr. Christopher Quirke, Secretary of the Newman Association for looking into the matter and conferring with his colleagues. He reports:  "I made enquiries and saw numerous letter headed paper for the Association during its early years and Tolkien's name does appear in a long list of Vice Presidents that we appeared to have during those early years. The Association was founded in 1942, for Catholic university graduates, and Oxford was prominent at its foundation. I can't say more than that. I don't know, for example, how involved he was with the Oxford circle."

Tolkien was unquestionably very busy professionally all throughout the 1940s, but it's interesting to note that for a time at least he managed some additional volunteer work for the Association devoted to John Henry Newman, founder of the Birmingham Oratory where Tolkien himself had been educated as a boy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dale Nelson's Summation on Tolkien in pre-1970 blurbs

Dale Nelson sent a nice summation of the situation with Tolkien and pre-1970 blurbs, and with his permission I pass it along here:

Well, Doug, I'm to the point of saying the survey is done so far as I expect to be able to take it, barring any lucky further discoveries.

Here are my conclusions:

a.Thirteen paperbacks referred to Tolkien and/or The Lord of the Rings on front or back cover.

b.Lancer led the way with Tolkienian marketing, using it on 5 of their books.

c.An American fan of Tolkien just looking at paperback cover blurbs would be led to the following:

--5 works of genuine high fantasy for adults: Eddison's Worm Ouroboros and Mistress of Mistresses, Morris's Wood Beyond the World, Dunsany's King of Elfland's Daughter (all Ballantine); Pratt's Well of the Unicorn (Lancer);

--2 Tolkienian fantasies for children: Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath (Ace)

--4 works of swords-and-sorcery: Howard's Conan the Adventurer and Conan the Conqueror (Lancer); de Camp's Tritonian Ring (Paperback Library); Moorcock's Jewel in the Skull (Lancer)

--1 work of fantasy that I'm not prepared to put into any of the categories above: Hubbard's Slaves of Sleep (Lancer)

--1 work of science fiction: Herbert's Dune (Ace)

It seems to me that publishers were slow to distinguish Tolkienian fantasy or high fantasy from other kinds of fantasy.  Put another way, I suspect that American paperback publishers clearly differentiated science fiction from fantasy, but that was as fine a distinction as they were prepared to make for several years.

Publishers seem to have been a bit slow to catch on to the idea of multi-volume fantasy cycles.  Ballantine's Eddison books are referred to as a "group."  Lancer's Jewel in the Skull is heralded as "the first of a series destined to rank with... the Lord of the Rings trilogy."  As un-Tolkienian as this book (and its author) were, it might be considered to be the one that comes closest to alluding to the idea of a multi-volume fantasy work with continuing characters and so on; or it might be "tied" for this with Eddison.  (NB I haven't seen the two middle books yet; I don't think they allude to Tolkien, but perhaps they do.)  To my eye, the cover design of the Eddison books is most "Tolkienian" (in so markedly looking like Ballantine's Tolkien set).


Thanks, Dale!

With regard to the distinction in the 1950s and 1960s between fantasy and science fiction, I'm not sure American publishers were any clearer than British ones.  Remember the blurb (by Naomi Mitchison) on the original edition of The Fellowship of the Ring that called it "super-science-fiction"?  I've always thought that an odd description, and recently came across a good contemporary explanation of this usage. In Basil Davenport's Inquiry into Science Fiction (1955), he wrote:

Recently there appeared a book called The Fellowship of the Ring, which, though intended for an adult audience, is pure fairy tale; its characters are elves and enchanters (and not a hint of a gene or a chromosome among the lot) but even that carries on the jacket a quote saying, "This is really super-science-fiction."  That is, of course, sheer nonsense; it is hard to know where to draw the line defining science fiction, but it certainly excludes The Fellowship of the Ring. What the critic actually means is, "This is imaginative writing, but you needn't be ashamed to be seen reading it." (pp. 79-80) 

Basil Davenport (1905-1966) was one of the first heavyweight literary critics to proclaim the worth of science fiction as literature. He served for many years on the Editorial Board of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and published his short book on science fiction in 1955,  five years before Kingsley Amis's New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (1960). One of Davenport's first books was a companion to Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia, An Introduction to Islandia (1942). He also introduced the omnibus of five novels by Olaf Stapledon, To the End of Time (1953) and edited some anthologies of science fiction and horror.

An interesting sidelight of Davenport's comment is the idea that Mitchison meant Tolkien's work to be seen as imaginative writing (super-science-fiction)of a type that one needn't be ashamed to be seen reading---whereas the implied derision is that one should feel ashamed to be seen reading regular science fiction. Such bone-headed attitudes persist to this day, but are thankfully less common. Even Margaret Atwood has finally  admitted that she writes science fiction!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pre-1970 Paperbacks with Comparisons to Tolkien

**updated entry**

Thanks in particular to Dale Nelson, and a few others who emailed me, I can now post a follow-up on what books published before 1970 have blurbs with comparisons to Tolkien.  There are no hardcovers here simply because I don't know of any, and no one suggested any **but see the comments below**.  Here are the results, chronologically (and subject to future revision!):

1965:  The Ace edition of Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  Interestingly, Ace had published their pirated edition of The Lord of the Rings in May (volume one) and July (volumes two and three) of 1965. The three volumes have cover art by Jack Gaughan, as does the Ace edition (G-570) of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  The blurb here merely calls the book "a fantastic novel in the Tolkien tradition."

1966 brings us two candidates.  The first published was probably Conan the Adventurer (Lancer Books, 63-526), by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp. The front cover (with artwork by Frank Frazetta) doesn't make any comparion to Tolkien, but on the rear cover it says in large letters: "Adventures more imaginative than 'Lord of the Rings'". Conan the Adventurer was the first of an eleven volume series, but it is the only one with a blurb mentioning Tolkien's works.

The other candidate from 1966 is bibliographically confusing, and sometimes erroneously dated to 1965.  This is the Ace Books edition of Frank Herbert's Dune, published in hardcover by Chilton in 1965.  (Tolkien was sent a copy of the book by its editor at Chilton, Sterling Lanier, an author in his own right and a correspondent of Tolkien's.  When the British edition of the book was to be published in 1966, the British publisher Gollancz also sent Tolkien a copy of the book, requesting a blurb.  Tolkien declined, saying he found the book too distasteful.) The paperback edition of Dune published by Ace Books is undated, but on the cover it highlights the fact that the book was the "Winner of the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year".  The Nebula Award's banquet had been held on March 11,1966, where the first Nebula Awards were presented by the recently-formed organization of Science Fiction Writers of America. The Hugo Award was announced at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland, Ohio, from September 1st-5th, 1966.  Thus, by these dates, the Ace Book edition of Dune could not have come out until around the end of 1966.  The mention of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings comes in a blurb by Arthur C. Clarke on the rear cover, where he says of Dune: "I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord of the Rings." (Clarke himself was an acquaintance of Tolkien's. Sometime in the mid-1950s they had lunched together with C.S. Lewis in Oxford, and Clarke spoke again with Tolkien in September 1957 when Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was presented with an International Fantasy Award, just following the 15th World Science Fiction Convention held in London.) 

On to 1967, for which we have two entries **for three more entries, see addenda at bottom**, both books by E. R. Eddison and both published by Ballantine.  In April 1967 The Worm Ouroboros was published, and the front cover says "an epic fantasy to compare with Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'." (For the cover illustration see my previous post.)  Published in August 1967, Eddison's Mistress of Mistresses has a back cover blurb stating: "The second volume in the fantasy classic most often compared with J. R. R. Tolkien."

1968 brings another two examples, the first being the Paperback Library edition of L. Sprague de Camp's The Tritonian Ring, with a cover by Frank Frazetta. Here is the first real blurb that aims directly at Tolkien's readers:  "Thrilling sword and sorcery for the fans of Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings.'"

And next we have another Alan Garner book, again published by Ace (G-753), The Moon of GomrathOn the back cover, it says "Here, told with the talent of a Tolkien and the wonder of an Andre Norton, is what befell the two Earthlings . . ." At the bottom  of the rear cover there is a bizarre quotation from a review (presumably of the hardcover edition of 1965) that was published in The New York Times: "From one Tolkien shiver to another, there is a gripping power to these episodes."  The front cover art is by the late Jeffrey Catherine Jones (1944-2011). 

The final book comes from 1969.  Nancy Martsch (via Dale Nelson) noticed that I missed one occurrance of a Tolkien-related blurb in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.  The July 1969 Ballantine edition of William Morris's The Wood beyond the World has a phrase in the back cover, noting that "William Morris has been described as 'obviously a Nineteenth Century Tolkien . . .' " The blurb is backgrounded by some foliage in Gervasio Gallardo's typical style, as is often fond in his many glorious covers for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.  I do not know where the "obviously a Nineteenth Century Tolkien" quote comes from, but it sounds rather like Lin Carter, the "Consulting Editor" (not the Editor, who was Betty Ballantine) of the whole Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which ran from 1969 to 1974.  I plan to post a bunch of my work-in-progress on this series in the future. 

One last notice here. Thomas Kent Miller suggested the Curtis Books edition of Edison Marshall's The Lost Land (originally published as Dian of the Lost Land by Chilton  in 1968), but the undated edition by Curtis Books seems to have come out in 1972 (Curtis Books in fact published only between 1971-74), so that rules it out.  The blurb on it says:  "A Thrilling journey to a world beyond Middle Earth and Narnia". Here, at least, is an early misspelling of Middle-earth, a common error which continues to this day in major news organizations like The New York Times, which can never get it right. But a look at the wraparound cover for The Lost Land is still in order, for it's another Gervasio Gallardo cover, one of his more surreal types, but a Gallardo nonetheless, and one that isn't often seen.  

Interestingly, the bulk of these early blurbs seem to have originated with people who had some connections with Tolkien.  Betty and Ian Ballantine published The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with their firm in 1965.  The editor at Ace Books who published the pirated edition of The Lord of the Rings in 1965, and who published the Alan Garner books, was Donald A. Wollheim.  Though he professed himself to be no great fan of Tolkien's, Wollheim knew what sold, and was happy to supply book-buyers with what he expected would sell.  L. Sprague de Camp was another acquaintance of Tolkien's.  They began corresponding in 1963 and Tolkien entertained de Camp at his house in February 1967, as de Camp was returning to the U.S. from a trip to the Middle East and India.  Tolkien's acquaintance with Arthur C. Clarke and Sterling Lanier I have mentioned above, but one can also add Alan Garner's name to those connected to Tolkien.  Garner was a student at Magdalen College, Oxford, in the mid-1950s, and has acknowledged that he met both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, though Garner claims that Tolkien's writings had no influence on him. Many readers question this assertion.  

Addenda:  Thanks again to Dale Nelson, we now have three more entries for 1967.  I don't have the months of publication for these titles, so the order given here is random.  But all three are from Lancer Books, a mass market company that published around 2,000 titles from 1962 to 1973.  The editor (after 1965) was Larry T. Shaw, who had edited a number of science fiction magazines in the mid-1950s.  The first is L. Ron Hubbard's Slaves of Sleep (Lancer 73-573). 

The requisite blurb is on the rear, and reads:  "SLAVES OF SLEEP is a magic carpet into adventure, romance, fantasy, and dazzling color. It rates a place on your shelves next to the works of Tolkien, Burroughs, and Robert E. Howard."

The next is a book by arch-Tolkien basher Michael Moorcock, The Jewel in the Skull (Lancer 73-688).  I don't have a scan of the back cover, where the blurb concludes:  "a stirring new saga of swords and sorcery by a brilliant writer, the first of a series destined to rank with the Conan series and the Lord of the Rings trilogy." 

And finally, another Conan book, The Hour of the Dragon (Lancer 73-572), by Robert E. Howard and edited by the ubiquitous L. Sprague de Camp.  The blub on the front cover reads (somewhat ungrammarically): "Howard's only book-length novel, worthy to stand beside such heroic fantasy as E. R. Eddison and J. R. R. Tolkien."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Roundup: TS8, More Stybiorn news, etc. etc.

Reports of printed copies of Tolkien Studies volume 8 being received have reached me from a couple of sources, though my own copies haven't yet arrived.  Nor does it currently (at the time of posting) seem possible to order the new volume via the West Virginia University Press order page, alas. [UPDATE: this has finally been fixed.]

Also on the Tolkien front, Doug Kane sends news of the imminent release of the paperback of his Arda Reconstructed, which has a redesigned cover, which I post here courtesy of Doug.  It looks quite nice.  

Paul Edmund Thomas has passed along some further information on the forthcoming reprint of E.R. Eddison's Styrbiorn the Strong, coming from University of Minnesota Press. It will indeed have the exquisite decorations by Eddison's brother-in-law, the artist Keith Henderson.  But the best news of all is that it will contain previously unpublished material intended for the book written by Eddison himself.  This includes a 1000 word dedicatory epistle to his brother Colin, and a 1500 word closing note that was used only in a very brief form, edited to less than a page.  Add to this Paul's Afterword and this makes for the most complete, and most desirable edition of Styrbiorn ever. One of Keith Henderson's decorations can be seen on the dust-wrapper to the original Jonathan Cape edition (right).

The dust-wrapper design of the Albert & Charles Boni edition (left) is uncredited, but Paul suggests that it is by Boris Artzybasheff, who certainly did the (also uncredited) design for the Boni edition of The Worm Ouroboros (published, like Stybiorn, in 1926).  

In my previous post I observed that by 1976 the publishing practice of comparing anything to Tolkien, in order to attempt to sell it,  had reached a ubiquitous level. Seeing Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet blurbed in the 1976 Pocket paperback edition as "a fantasy world that brings to mind the writings of Tolkien" set me to wondering how and when this phenomenon started.  I first read Tolkien in the summer of 1973, and I recall that by the time Terry Brook's Sword of Shannara came out in April 1977, the blurb on it ("For all those who have been looking for something to read since The Lord of the Rings") was utterly meaningless. So when did this start?

The earliest occurrence I can find (on a paperback volume) is actually appropriate.  It appears on the first printing (April 1967) of the Ballantine edition of The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison, where it says "an epic fantasy to compare with Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'." The cover is even by Barbara Remington, who did the covers for the Ballantine paperback editions of The Hobbit and the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings in 1965.  Can anyone find anything earlier, or some other pre-1970 uses? Perhaps even on hardcover volumes? I will note here that I checked the cover of every volume of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which ran from 1969-1974, and didn't find any such thing. Of course that was when the firm was run by Ian and Betty Ballantine---after they sold out and left in 1974, things changed.  Lester del Rey and Judy-Lynn del Rey ran the fantasy and science fiction imprints, and we can thank Lester del Rey for the careers of both Terry Brooks and Stephen R. Donaldson, boths triumphs of marketing over quality.

The other question that emerges out of this is how far were publishers willing to stretch credulity (and logic) in order to compare something to Tolkien.  What books got such misplaced attempts at marketing?  I do not mean this question necessarily to refer to literary quality, or the lack thereof.  Certainly Leonora Carrington's book is of a high quality and it seems merely publisher cynicism that they would attempt to market it so directly to the masses they perceived to all be Tolkien readers. Another case like this is Franz Werfel's Star of the Unborn (1946), which Bantam resurrected in May 1976 with the following description:  "A vision as magnificent and far-reaching as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or Frank Herbert's Dune".  It is labelled "Fantasy" on the spine, and the cover has a definite fantasy feel.  Again, it's of high literary quality, but of a style quite different from the high literary quality of Tolkien. Of course, in the wake of the moderate success of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which revived all sorts of older books and gave them them a "fantasy" label, thus bringing about the birth of a publishing category, publishers were looking for anything they might so label as fantasy.  Newcastle tried its own Forgotten Fantasy series which ran to more than a dozen books.  And I'm grateful to have seen such books reprinted at that time or perhaps it might have been years before I encountered them, so there certainly are plusses to consider in the growth of the label. 

The oddest of such books as I encountered is probably Astra and Flondrix (1976), by Seamus Cullen. I'll copy the front (very Boschian) and rear covers here.  The blurb on the rear cover is, in itself, priceless ("an erotic Tolkien"!). (Click on any of the images to see them in a larger size.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

News and Notes

The contents of Tolkien Studies volume 8 have gone live at Project Muse (the subscription database accessible in most universities and some public libraries). Jason Fisher first noted this on his blog, but you may need (for a time) to finagle the URL a bit to access the newest issue (read the comments at his blog entry).  Jason and a couple other people have also commented on the length of the review-essay of The Ring Goes Ever On: Proceedings of the Tolkien 2005 Conference: 50 Years ofThe Lord of the Rings”.  Yes, indeed, it is large. But there are various reasons. In fact the first half was done and should have appeared in volume 7 last year, but we had to cut something, for a too large issue came together very late.  And usually a volume of essays has something like ten to twelve essays in it, so in order to have an in-depth reviews, one needs space, often 3,000 to 5,000 words.  And with the one hundred essays in the massive two-volumes of The Ring Goes Ever On,  well, you can easily do the math.  I'll leave the matter there--personally I think the extended coverage is justified in many ways.  And it is so much more than a book review, which is why it was given the header of review-essay.

John Rateliff gave this new blog a kindly welcome at his own blog. John's most recent (as of this writing) entry tells of the passing of the 20th Lord Dunsany, the artist and architect Edward John Carlos Plunkett (1939-2011), the grandson of the fantasist. I had been going to post a note about this, but John has said most of what I would have, so I'll merely refer readers to John's post and add a few points here.  First, one of Dunsany's late fantasy stories, a partial return to the form of thirty years earlier, was written in 1946 for his seven-year old grandson. This is "The Dwarf Holobolos and the Sword Hogbiter" which John has described in his thesis on Dunsany as a “blending of ‘Fortress Unvanquishable Save for Sacnoth’ with Don Rodriguez, borrowing its style from one and the flavor of its marvels from the other. Amusing but not up to Dunsany’s usual standards.” It was first published in Collins for Boys and Girls no. 1 (July 1949), and reprinted in Worlds of Fantasy & Horror (a temporary re-titling of Weird Tales magazine), Summer 1994. The other point I'd like to make is that it's worth checking out this link to see examples of the artwork of Edward Plunkett. (Click on the header “Catalogue”.) 

I'd also like to make mention of the passing of Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), the last of the original surrealists. She died in Mexico, where she had lived for almost seventy years. A major figure in twentieth century art and sculpture, her fantasy fiction hides in the shadows of her other achievements, but it does have a following. Perhaps her most notable literary work is the novel The Hearing Trumpet (translated into French in 1974 and published in English in 1976, with illustrations by one of her sons, Pablo Weisz-Carrington). Here's the cover from my 1977 Pocket books edition, sporting the ubiquitous (even in those pre-Sword of Shannara days) blurb comparing it to Tolkien.  Among her other writings are the short novel The Stone Door (French translation 1976; English original 1977), and the collections The House of Fear: Notes from Down Below (1988), and The Seventh Horse and Other Tales (1988). Obituaries appear in The Guardian and in The New York Times.

And a new book on the horizon is the long-awaited anthology of essays from Oxford University Press, From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages, edited by Michael Adams.  Tolkienist Arden R. Smith contributes the opening chapter on "International Auxiliary Languages", and the chapter on "Tolkien's Invented Languages" is by Edmund Weiner, one of the three co-authors of The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary.  The new collection is scheduled for November.  See the Amazon page.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eddison's Styrbiorn to be reissued!

The cover of the new edition
The University of Minnesota Press has announced for their Fall 2011 list a long overdue reissue of E.R. Eddison's historical novel Styrbiorn the Strong, originally published in 1926 by Jonathan Cape in London and Albert & Charles Boni in New York. The original editions sported decorations by Keith Henderson (no word on whether they are to be included in the new edition).  New material to the University of Minnesota Press edition will include an Afterword by Tolkien-scholar and Eddison-specialist Paul Edmund ThomasAmazon lists the republication to be in August, while the Minnesota Fall 2011 catalog says September, but I believe this has been pushed forward another month or two. 

The dust-wrapper blurb on the original Cape editions reads as follows:

The Swedish prince, called Styrbiorn the Strong, after a meteoric career in which he shook the lands of the Baltic, fell in the year 983, still in his early youth, in the attempt to wrest the kingdom from his uncle.

The writer follows history closely. His intimate knowledge of the Viking civilization and spirit is taken at first hand from the ancient literature of the North. In his swift, dramatic narrative he takes no sides, but leaves his actors--Styrbiorn, King Eric the Victorious, and his fatal queen--to impress their personalities on the reader by their own words and actions.
Styrbiorn was Eddison's second novel, the next after The Worm Ouroboros  (1922).  It was followed in 1930 by Eddison's translation of Egil's Saga, after which Eddison returned to his invented world of Zimiamvia, with Mistress of Mistresses (1935), A Fish Dinner in Memison  (1941), and the posthumous Mezentian Gate (1958).  

We do not know the precise date that Tolkien first encountered Eddison's writings (beyond Tolkien's comment that it was "long after they appeared"), but it is very probable that Tolkien read them soon after his friend C. S. Lewis discovered them in late 1942.  Lewis frequently shared his enthusiasms with Tolkien and other members of their small literary group, the Inklings.  Lewis in fact wrote a fan letter to Eddison on 16 November 1942, calling The Worm Ouroboros "the most noble and joyous book I have read these ten years".  Eddison replied and sent Lewis a copy of Mistress of Mistresses.  A correspondence developed, such that Lewis hosted Eddison at a dinner-party in Oxford  on 17 February 1943.  There Eddison met Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Lewis's brother, Warnie.  Eddison read aloud the chapter "Seven Against the King" from A Fish Dinner in Memison, then published only in the United States.  Eddison returned for a second gathering of the Inklings on 8 June 1944, reading a chapter from his work-in-progress The Mezentian Gate. Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher that this new chapter was "of undiminished power and felicity of expression".

The main source of Tolkien's views on Eddison is a letter Tolkien wrote to Caroline Everett for her M.A. thesis at Florida State University.  The letter, dated 24 June 1957, contains the following paragraph:

    "I read the works of Eddison, long after they appeared; and I once met him [sic].  I heard him in Mr. Lewis's room in Magdalen College read aloud some parts of his own works—from Mistress of Mistresses, as far as I remember [sic].  He did it extremely well.  I read his works with great enjoyment for their sheer literary merit.  My opinion of them is almost the same as that expressed by Mr. Lewis on p. 104 of the Essays Presented to Charles Williams *.  Except that I disliked his characters (always excepting Lord Gro) and despised what he appeared to admire more intensely than Mr. Lewis at any rate saw fit to say of himself.  Eddison thought what I admire 'soft' (his word:  one of complete condemnation, I gathered);  I thought that, corrupted by an evil and indeed silly 'philosophy', he was coming to admire, more and more, arrogance and cruelty.  Incidentally, I thought his nomenclature slipshod and often inept.  In spite of which, I still think of him as the greatest and most convincing writer of  'invented worlds' that I have read.  But he was certainly not an 'influence'."  (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 1981, p. 258)

Styrbiorn as an historical novel set in the old North is about as far removed from Eddison's invented world of Zimiamvia as you can get, but the gorgeous prose is as seductive as ever. This long-overdue reissue is an event. 

* Lewis wrote:  "You may like or dislike his invented worlds (I myself like that of The Worm Ouroboros and strongly dislike that of Mistress of Mistresses) but there is no quarrel between the theme and the articulation of the story. Every episode, every speech, helps to incarnate what the author is imagining. You could spare none of them.  It takes the whole story to build up that strange blend of renaissance luxury and northern hardness.  The secret here is largely the style, and especially the style of the dialogue.  These proud, reckless, amorous people create themselves and the whole atmosphere of their world chiefly by talking."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tolkien Studies volume 8 at the Printer

Tolkien Studies volume 8 is at the printers, and finished copies are expected to begin shipping towards the end of June. 311 pages this time.  The cover reproduces two extracts of letters by R. Q. Gilson as detailed in John Garth's very moving article.

The table of contents is reproduced below:

v  Editors’ Introduction

vii Conventions and Abbreviations

1 “Legend and History Have Met and Fused”: The Interlocution of Anthropology, Historiography, and Incarnation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy-stories”
Philip Irving Mitchell

23 Tolkien’s Goldberry and The Maid of the Moor
John M. Bowers

37 Language in Tolkien’s “Bagme Bloma”
Lucas Annear

51 “Wingless fluttering”: Some Personal Connections in Tolkien’s Formative Years
José Manuel Ferrández Bru

Notes and Documents:

67 Robert Quilter Gilson, T.C.B.S.: A Brief Life in Letters
John Garth

97 The Hen that Laid the Eggs: Tolkien and the Officers Training Corps
Janet Brennan Croft

114 Book Reviews
Compiled by Douglas A. Anderson
Contains reviews of Quenya Phonology: Comparative Tables, Outline of Phonetic Development, Outline of Phonology by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Gilson [review by John Garth];  Hither Shores volumes four and five [review by Mark T. Hooker]; Music in Middle-earth edited by Heidi Steimel and Friedhelm Schneidewind [review by Gerald Seaman]; Middle-earth Minstrel: Essays on Music in Tolkien edited by Bradford Lee Eden [review by Gerald Seaman]; The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-Earth’s Magical Style by Steve Walker [review by Richard C. West]; The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, edited by Christopher Tolkien [review by Tom Shippey]; and Book Notes by Douglas A. Anderson.

143 Review-Essay: The Ring Goes Ever On: Proceedings of the Tolkien 2005 Conference: 50 Years ofThe Lord of the Rings two volumes, edited by Sarah Wells
Deidre A. Dawson

243 The Year’s Work in Tolkien Studies 2008
David Bratman and Merlin DeTardo

297 Bibliography (in English) for 2009
Compiled by Rebecca Epstein and David Bratman with Michael D.C. Drout, Merlin DeTardo, and Douglas A. Anderson

309 Notes on Contributors

See the publisher's website.