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A Secret Vice

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A Secret Vice is the title of a lecture apparently held by J.R.R. Tolkien in August 1930 at an Esperanto Congress in Oxford.[1] The lecture deals with constructed languages in general, and the relation of a mythology to its language. Tolkien contrasts auxiliary languages (like Esperanto) with artistic languages constructed for aesthetic pleasure.[2]

The title (consisting of as phrase occuring in the lecture) was created by Christopher Tolkien for the publication of the lecture manuscript in The Monsters and the Critics.[3]


Tolkien begins by briefly discussing Esperanto but states that the topic of his lecture rather concerns "secret" languages. As an example of such language, he first recalls an incident where he overheard a man working on his own "secret grammar" while Tolkien was in the army in the First World War. He then continues by mentioning and analysing two constructed languages: the children's play-languages Animalic and Nevbosh. The next constructed language discussed is Naffarin, a more advanced, private language "partly overlapping the last stages of Nevbosh". Finally, Tolkien discusses the languages he created for his mythology and gives examples of his Elvish poetry (with translations in English).[2]

Included in the lecture are:

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: II. Reader's Guide, pp. 882-3
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, "A Secret Vice"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, "Foreword"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Elvish Poetry and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets", in Parma Eldalamberon XVI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden), p. 98