Letter to Niall Hoskin

From Tolkien Gateway

On 16 October 1968, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a letter to Niall Hoskin.[1]

  • Subject: Linguistics (Westron and Elvish languages)
  • Description: Handwritten letter (2 pages) signed by J.R.R. Tolkien, Allen & Unwin 40 Museum Street, London W.C. 1.[2]
  • Publication: None.

According to Pieter Collier, Niall Hoskin was "then 14 years old and interested in languages, and has since become and remained a language teacher, and his enquiries centred, as the reply implies, on linguistic matters."[2] Collier further quotes Hoskin:

"As to the content of the letter: I wrote to him a long time before I tracked down where he was living: hence his reference to a disparity in the dates. You see, he had moved from the Oxford address quoted on the letter itself, retiring to the coast in Bournemouth to write - as he hoped - in tranquillity. In the event, schoolboy detective that I was, I looked him up in the South Dorset telephone book, having read that he had moved there.

I subsequently also received the standard copied letter from Allen & Unwin telling me that Professor Tolkien wasn't replying to letters, and with a copied signature. I didn't keep that one! In the event, although there are plenty of signs in the letter that he did not appreciate the interruption, he was gracious enough to go into some detail: he was also fairly prompt in replying.

My enquiries are now too distant for me to remember precisely what I asked about. Even then - I was 14 - I was interested in languages, and have since become and remained a language teacher, and my enquiries centred, as the reply implies, on linguistic matters. Probably very geeky, but as you say it got his attention! Incidentally, although I live in SW England, the address on the envelope is now that of my parents."

Excerpt[edit | edit source]

"I am afraid that I have no time to provide further linguistic information. Setting out and arranging detailed information concerning the Elvish languages would be a task needing much labour and time. I should myself much enjoy it, but I cannot undertake it for individual enquirers. Such a book, if it ever appears, must wait until I have published, if I am allowed, the legends of the earlier ages..."

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