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Letter 37

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 37
RecipientStanley Unwin
DateDecember 19, 1938
Subject(s)Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham

Letter 37 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.


Tolkien had agreed to write a forward to a revision by C.L. Wrenn of Clark Hall’s translation of Beowulf but had not answered several inquiries about his progress until Stanley Unwin himself wrote to him. Tolkien said that in spite of his troubles he did not have a sufficient excuse for at least responding to inquires. He said that his accident[note 1], the anxieties and troubles all were sharing[note 2], the lack of a holiday, and the virtual headship of a department had made him unpardonably neglectful. His wife had been sick but was on the mend and the sickness was not cancer, as first suspected. Also, he had lost both his chief assistant and his understudy, but despite all his problems Tolkien promised to write the Beowulf forward at once.

The sequel to The Hobbit had reached Chapter XVI and he feared that it was growing too large. Tolkien asked if there might be any chance of publication if he could finish it by Spring. He offered to let it be read in serial but stated that he had only one fair copy since he had had to revise earlier chapters as the plot and plan took firmer shape. He supposed that a German edition of The Hobbit would never appear which was disappointing to himself and his son since they had a bet on how the opening sentence would read. Tolkien asked if Farmer Giles could be published, which was finished if slender in bulk.


  1. Tolkien had injured himself while gardening.
  2. World War II had begun in September, 1939.