Thursday, October 1, 2020

Tolkien and Leeds 1920

One hundred years ago John Ronald Reuel Tolkien 

was appointed

 Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds 

and arrived in the city take up the post.

Tolkien would be joined by his growing family after his wife Edith gave birth (in Oxford) to their second son Michael. Initially Tolkien rented a room at 21a St Michael's Road, Headingley and returned to Oxford at the weekends.
As the Tolkien's approached Christmas 1920 they were starting down a road that would see the family move to Leeds and become part of the community of which the University was the centre.

To maintain the connection with his young family, Tolkien began a tradition that would last till the eary 1940s,  festive letters to his children. The first was written to his eldest son John, in Oxford (from Father Christmas, North Pole) in December 1920.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Christopher Tolkien (1924 - 2020)

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (21 November 1924 – 15 January 2020) was the third son of the author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), and the editor of much of his father's posthumously published work. He drew the original maps for his father's The Lord of the Rings, which he signed C. J. R. T.
Christopher was born in Leeds in the same year that his father had been made Professor of the English Language at Leeds University at the age of thirty-two. His parents had purchased 2 Darnley Road and had moved with their children, John (6) and Michael (4) from St Marks Terrace.
He was baptised Christopher Reuel, the first name being in honor of Christopher Wiseman.

The Tolkien Society  is an educational charity, literary society, and international fan club, devoted to promoting the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tolkien and Wright

Tolkien's first academic post as Reader in the English Department at the University of Leeds came after his work as a lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary. In late 1918 parts of the latest edition were still being compiled at Oxford. Tolkien worked on the etymology of warm, wasp, water, wick (lamp) and winter.

For any philologist the compilation of glossaries was an essental part of the study of texts. Tolkien's application for the post in Leeds would see him join an academic institution familiar to one particular tutor during his undergraduate studies. This tutor was Joseph Wright.

Wright was born in Idle near Bradford in 1855 and from humble beginnings took an active interest in education as both teacher and pupil. Largely self-taught, Wright would eventually study Comparative Philology in Germany and on returning to England was engaged by the Taylor Institute in Oxford. Wright remained part of the University to his retirement in 1925.

In 1925 Wright wrote a letter of recommendation for Tolkien's application at Rawlinson and Bosworth chair of Anglo-Saxon:
"I have known Professor Tolkien intimately since the beginning of his undergraduate days at Oxford, and have greatly admired his keen interest in the philological study of Latin, Greek, and more especially the Germanic Languages. He regularly attended my classes and lectures for two years on Comparative Philology in general, and on Latin, Greek, and Gothic, and I formed a high opinion of his attainments in these subjects..."
Tolkien Gateway: Joseph Wright
Joseph Wright

Joseph Wright, Taylor Institue, Oxford

Wright had attended evening classes at the Yorkshire College of Science, Leeds at the start of his academic career when he was a schoolmaster in Bradford. The Yorkshire College of Science was founded in 1874 and was one of the institutions that became part of the University of Leeds.
The relationship between the undergraduate Tolkien and Prof. Wright was brought to the screen this year in Dome Karukoski's  Tolkien

Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) and Wright (Derek Jacobi)
Wright died in 1930 and his wife Elizabeth and Tolkien were named executors in his will. When Elizabeth died in 1958 the final settlement of Wright's will could be completed. This was that his 'residuary estate', '.. shall pass to the University of Leeds ..'.

In 1963 the Joseph Wright Scholarship was established. The fund provides for students wishing to undertake research degree study in English or German languages or literatures within the School of English or the Department of German.

University of Leeds

The Tolkien Society  is an educational charity, literary society, and international fan club, devoted to promoting the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

There only four short weeks till the exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth currently running at the Bodleian Library, Oxford closes (closing date 28th October). With free entry (pre-book a time slot) this opportunity to view items from the Tolkien Trust, Marquette University and the Bodleian Library's Tolkien Archive is well worth the visit.

A chance to view this rarely displayed collection was thrill, made even more so in that Tolkien's Father Christmas Letters and the development of the story Roverandom, featured amongst the illustrations, drafts, sketch-books and other artefacts.

Tolkien started writing these communications in 1920, starting with a note from ' .. Fr. Chr. ' to  his son John (aged 3). Tolkien was commuting between Oxford and Leeds having been elected to the post of Reader at the University of Leeds.

This tradition continued and Christmas 1924 'Master John Francis Reuel Tolkien' duly received his letter, to the family's new address in West Park, Leeds.

With Tolkien's academic career seeing him return to Oxford and the greater works of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion establishing his talent as an artist and story-teller it was heartening to see this Leeds connection as part of that story.

The Tolkien Society will be hosting a four day conference in Birmingham in 2019. Tolkien 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Society and bring together fans, scholars and artists from far and wide. Be There!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tolkien and Yorkshire

100 years ago the First World War was still raging with casualties and deaths now into the millions.

For Tolkien trench fever had seen to his transportation back to England and by the 8th of November 1916 he was back in Birmingham. By December he was well enough to leave hospital and initially convalesced at Great Haywood.

Towards the end of this period of recovery he was taken ill again and was sent to a sanatorium in Harrogate.

Tolkien would continue to recuperate
and re-train in East Yorkshire These events are now marked with the plaques in Hornsea and Hull.  

 2017 is also the centenary year of John Ronald and Edith Tolkien's  walk near Roos in East Yorkshire and the 'hemlock glade' that became woven into the evolving fabric of his legendarium as the story of Beren and Luthien.
Tolkien Society Seminar 2017

The Tolkien Society's Seminar  has been held Leeds since 2015 and building on previous years it was a great success. This year's subject 'Poetry and Song' was addressed in papers by both established and upcoming Tolkien scholars. This year's seminar saw regular speakers Dr Dimitra Fimi and Dr Andrew Higgins joined by Dr Stuart Lee of the University of Oxford

Plans are on-going for the 2018 Seminar which again will be held in Leeds.

The scheduling of the Seminar in early July coincides with  the International Medieval Congress which is held annually at the University of Leeds.

Tolkien Society

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tolkien and Gordon, the Leeds connection

By the time Tolkien took the position of Reader at the University of Leeds he had already made many contributions to the academic life of the University of Oxford.

He had returned to Oxford with his wife Edith and infant son, John, in 1918 and worked as a  lexicographer engaged in the compilation of the New English Dictionary. He also provided private tutoring to undergraduates and was in the process of compiling a Middle English Glossary for his former tutor Kenneth Sisam.

After moving to Leeds, as the plaque at 2 Darnley Road now testifies,

      '.. he collaborated on a new edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ..'.

This collaboration with E.V. Gordon would see Tolkien the tutor, working with one of his former students. Gordon studied at University College, Oxford and an entry in a college account book from 1920 of payments to tutors confirms his tutelage by Tolkien. 
Gordon went on to succeed Tolkien as Professor at Leeds and the friendship and collaboration that developed during their time there would have no doubt continued had it not been for Gordon's death in 1938.

The Brotherton Library at Leeds holds a collection of Tolkien and Gordon's letters purchased in 2014.

Tolkien Society Seminar 2016

The Tolkien Society's Seminar returned to Leeds for a second year and was a great success. This year's subject 'Life, Death and Immortality' proved most popular with those who attended. Many papers were submitted and created a full schedule for the event. Among this year's speakers were  Dr Dimitra Fimi and Dr Andrew Higgins editors of the recently republished essay by Tolkien, 'A Secret Vice'.

Plans are on-going for the 2017 Seminar which again will be held in Leeds.

The scheduling of the Seminar in early July coincides with  the International Medieval Congress which is held annually at the University of Leeds.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tolkien links with Leeds in 2015

The Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds made the purchase of letters, poems and prose that will form the Gordon-Tolkien Collection held by the Brotherton Library.

            'They provide insight into the close friendship between Tolkien and Eric Gordon,
              who joined him in the English department at Leeds in 1922.'


Among the papers is a draft of a drinking song 'The Root of the Boot' (Sam's 'Troll Poem' from The Fellowship of the Ring). This was performed at the Whitelock's Ale House, Turk's Head Yard in Leeds back in March.

Tolkien Society Seminar 2015

The Tolkien Society's Seminar was held in Leeds this year; this annual event hosted by the TS consisted of a range of papers under the theme 'One Hundred Years of Middle-earth'.

Plans are ongoing for the 2016 Seminar which again will be held in Leeds.

The scheduling of the Seminar in early July coincides with  the International Medieval Congress
 held annually at the University of Leeds.