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Letter 61

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 61
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
DateApril 18, 1944
Subject(s)Exchanging news, progress on The Lord of the Rings

Letter 61 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

A crowd of Christopher's letters had arrived; a great event said Tolkien that had much delayed breakfast. Tolkien was reminded of his own experiences yet in one way he had been better off: the wireless had not been invented. Tolkien called it a weapon for the fool, the savage, and the villain that destroyed thought. Tolkien had always opposed Christopher’s choice of service but at least he would be spared active service on the ground. Tolkien was glad his son got the chance to read. Tolkien quoted some appropriate lines from Béowulf to his son.

It was a surprise to Tolkien that Christopher disliked the manners of life as depicted by Jane Austen. He stated that those manners had made life a lot easier, smoother, and less frictional, and had kept in check the animals lurking under our social skin.

Tolkien had read to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams his chapter on the passage of the Dead Marshes and the approach to Mordor. Tolkien said he had wasted time on a letter from the Eighth Army. There was a dispute (involving Big Money) on the correct pronunciation of the poet Cowper's name. Since he thought it showed a spot of wit and intelligence in the Army he had sent a Delphic reply with more information than they probably wanted, but did tell them that Cowper certainly pronounced it as "Cooper".

Tolkien related more incidents, told his son he missed him, wished he could be more usefully employed, and decried the stupidity of war. Christopher had mentioned local conditions in South Africa. Tolkien said that the treatment of colour nearly always horrified anyone going out from Britain.