Tolkien Gateway

Letter 284

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 284
RecipientW.H. Auden
Date23 February 1966
Subject(s)Disapproval of a book about himself, the settlement with Ace Books, thanking Auden for a book loan

Letter 284 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

W.H. Auden and Peter H. Salus planned to write a book about Tolkien if it did not meet with his disapproval. Auden and Salus had attended a meeting of the New York Tolkien Society that was reported in the New Yorker and later the London Daily Telegraph. In the latter newspaper Tolkien read, on 20 February, that Auden had told the Society that Tolkien lived "in a hideous house – I can’t tell you how awful it is – with hideous pictures on the walls".

Tolkien said he should have replied to Auden's 28 December letter weeks ago; he and his wife had been ill.

Tolkien regretted that Auden and Salus had contracted to write a book about him; it did meet with his strong disapproval. It was an impertinence that would not have enough usefulness to justify the distaste and irritation given to the victim. At the least he wished that any such book could wait until he had produced The Silmarillion. He was constantly interrupted in this, but nothing more so than in all the pother about "me" and his history.

He had received reports of Auden's visit to the New York Tolkien Society. He could not say that the (he imagined garbled) notices of Audens' or Salus' remarks gave him any pleasure.

Tolkien reported that he had come to an agreement with Ace Books on a 4 percent royalty and an understanding to not reprint their unauthorized version of The Lord of the Rings when their supply was exhausted. The money this would produce would be welcome but not any great riches.

Tolkien thanked Auden for sending him a copy of his About the House. He had taken the book with him when he took his convalescent wife to the seaside and had stayed up to 2:30 a.m. reading and re-reading the work.