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Letter 267

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 267
RecipientMichael Tolkien
DateJanuary 9-10, 1965
Subject(s)Fame and famous people, Tolkien's mother and bitterness

Letter 267 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

Tolkien noted the recent deaths of his friend Dr. C.T. Onions, aged 91 ⅓ years, and of T.S. Eliot. He called John Masefield’s 8 lines of verse on Eliot in The Times a perfect specimen of bad verse, almost down to Wordsworth’s zero-standard.

The limitations of Tolkien's "fame" neither disturbed nor surprised him. He had gone to hear the last lectures of Robert Graves, the Professor of Poetry (who had delivered what Tolkien called the most ludicrously bad lecture he had ever heard). Afterward he introduced Tolkien to a pleasant young woman who had attended it and they got along quite well. Graves laughed, saying that it was obvious neither of you had ever heard of the other before. The lady was Ava Gardner, which still meant nothing to him till some people informed him that she was a film-star of some note. The press of newsmen and storm of flash-bulbs outside were not directed at Graves and certainly not Tolkien.

On the other hand, Tolkien's "ego" got a lot of strong boosts now and then. Burke Trend a recent honorary Fellow and secretary to the Cabinet met Tolkien and declared himself a "fan", as were most of the House on both sides. Four days earlier he had received a warm fan-letter from Iris Murdoch (which he told Michael if that name was just an "Ava Gardner" to him it could not be helped).

Tolkien recalled his mother's death: She was young, worn by persecution, poverty, and disease yet had handed to her small boys her Faith. It was bitter to him when his children strayed away from the Church. Tolkien had met many bad priests but one Father Francis outweighed them all. He had been an upper-class Welsh-Spaniard Tory that some considered a pottering old snob and gossip, which Tolkien said he was and was not. From him he had learned charity and forgiveness.