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.