Tolkien Gateway

Letter 83

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 83
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
Date6 October 1944
Subject(s)Encountering and admiring Roy Campbell

Letter 83 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien felt wealthy, like finding a forgotten bob in a pocket, not because he had received £51 for teaching Cadets but because he had a week before the next term. He and C Williams had gone to Bird and B. and met Jack and Warnie. While engrossed in conversation Tolkien noticed a strange tall gaunt man half in khaki with a large hat, bright eyes, and a hooked nose sitting in a corner. He was taking an intense interest in their conversation and to Tolkien it was very much like Trotter at the Prancing Pony.

Once he butted into their conversation he was revealed as Roy Campbell. C.S. Lewis had not long ago violently lampooned him in the Oxford Magazine.[note 1] Tolkien was gratified to find that Campbell wanted to meet Lewis and himself. At an evening meeting two nights later, Lewis insisted on reading his lampoon of Campbell to him and he laughed it off. Tolkien said the man himself was gentle, modest, and compassionate. He was most interested to learn that this old-looking, war-scarred Trotter was 9 year younger than himself.

Campbell told them of his adventures. Originally an Ulster protestant he had become a Catholic after sheltering Carmelite fathers in Barcelona. They were caught and Campbell nearly lost his life. But he got the Carmelite archives from the burning library and took them through Red territory. Campbell spoke Spanish fluently and had been a professional bullfighter. He fought for Franco and chased the Reds out of Malaga, recovering their left-behind loot. Being patriotic he had fought for the British Army since. He had stories about poets and musicians, from Peter Warlock to Aldous Huxley. It was not possible to convey an impression of such a rare character, soldier, poet, and Christian convert.

Tolkien called C.S. Lewis's reactions odd. It was a tribute to Red propaganda that Lewis believed all that was said against Franco and nothing said for him. Tolkien said that hatred for the Catholic Church is the only final foundation of the Church of England. Lewis reveres the Blessed Sacrament and admires nuns. Yet if a Lutheran is jailed he is up in arms while if Catholic priests are slaughtered he disbelieves it.

Tolkien encouraged Christopher to ramble on in letters. He asked for what he was thinking as well as exterior events.

[edit] Note

  1. Campbell had been a strong supporter of Franco in the Spanish Civil War and Lewis had called him a "particular blend of Catholicism and Fascism".