Tolkien Gateway

Letter to Elsie Honeybourne (18 September 1967)

J.R.R. Tolkien to Elise Honeybourne.jpg
J.R.R. Tolkien to Elise Honeybourne (back).jpg

On 18 September 1967, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a letter to Elsie Honeybourne.[1]

[edit] Excerpt

Thank you very much indeed for your generous and delightful letter, one of the most warming and comforting that I have received. As I said in the 'Foreword' to the American paperback edition (Ballantine Books), I wrote The Lord of the Rings because I wished 'to try my hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.' As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving; and it has been a great pleasure (and a surprise) to find that so many other people have similar feelings. But no one has written me a letter more warm, and few have come near it….

[edit] Transcription

If I dare say so a very hobbit-like kindness to send a present on your own birthday!

PROFESSOR J. R. R. TOLKIEN

Oxford 61639 76 SANDFIELD ROAD HEADINGTON OXFORD

September 18th. 1967.

Dear Miss Honeybourne,

Thank you very much indeed for your generous and delightful letter, one of the most warming and comforting that I have received.

As I said in the ‘Foreword’ to the American paper-back edition (Ballantine Books), I wrote The Lord of the Rings because I wished ‘to try my hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.’ As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving; and it has been a great pleasure (and a surprise) to find that so many other people have similar feelings. But no one has written me a letter more warm, and few have come near it.

I am specially grateful for your pleasure in the names: I took a great deal of trouble with them.

Your own name is a delightful one, and brings to me a suggestion of Kinship. It must be derived (as so very many English surnames) from a village name, but the only ones of that name that I know of are the adjacent villages of Church H (Worcs) and Cow H (Glo). These are not far from Blackminster where my brother has a small fruit-farm, in lands where my maternal ancestors (Suffield) can be traced far back.

It is such a grand name that I must, in any future more complete map of the Shire (often asked for), find a place for it. It is one of the comparatively rare place-names that means what it says: a stream, of sweet waters and/or flowing through flowery meads.

Yours sincerely and gratefully

J.R.R. Tolkien

Incidentally: Cow seems to be a corruption of older Callow ‘bare’ prob. because the land was free from bushes

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[edit] References

  1. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, "Addenda and Corrigenda to The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (2006) Vol. 1: Chronology" at HammondandScull.com (accessed 22 October 2011)
  2. Modern First Editions. 2007 at TolkienBooks.net (accessed 29 November 2011)
  3. Item 555 - J.R.R. Tolkien Catalog 324 (Aug 2007) at RR Auction (accessed 22 October 2011)