Stanley Unwin

From Tolkien Gateway
"You are one of those rare people with genius, and, unlike some publishers, it is a word I have not used half a dozen times in thirty years of publishing"
― Stanley Unwin to J.R.R. Tolkien[1]
Sir Stanley Unwin by Walter Stoneman. © National Portrait Gallery

Sir Stanley Unwin (19 December 188413 October 1968) was a British publisher who co-founded the George Allen and Unwin house on 4 August 1914.

In 1936 J.R.R. Tolkien submitted The Hobbit for publication, and Unwin paid his ten-year-old son Rayner a few pence to write a report on the manuscript. Rayner's favourable response prompted Unwin to publish the book. Once the book became a success Unwin asked Tolkien for a sequel, which eventually became The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien wished to publish his mythology (The Silmarillion) after The Hobbit. In late 1937 Unwin examined the Quenta Silmarillion, the Lay of Leithian, and other manuscripts, but he and critic Edward Crankshaw thought it was unsuitable for publication, especially in its current form.[2][note 1] Unwin didn't reject the Silmarillion, but instead of being published as a mythology, he proposed that it should rather be used as source to write "further books like The Hobbit".[3][4]:p. lxxi

Tolkien liked Rayner but, as he said, didn't like much his father, despite their friendly relations. He resented the rejection of The Silmarillion and considered giving The Lord of the Rings to another publisher who would accept to publish both works; but he felt morally obliged to Unwin because of his promise for a sequel, and their personal friendship, and proceeded with him.[5] On the matter of publishing both works, Rayner suggested to his father to have one of Tolkien's sons to edit some parts of the Silmarillion for publication with the Lord of the Rings and later drop it. This infuriated Tolkien who put an ultimatum to Unwin, to which he replied "no" as he didn't have enough time.[6][4]:p. xxx This started a feud between Tolkien and Allen & Unwin.

Ultimately Tolkien wasn't able to reach an agreement with Waldman either, so he compromised.[7] In November 1952 Unwin was on a business trip in the Far East when his son telegraphed him saying that publication of the Rings was the work of a genius but would be risky; to which Stanley replied "If you believe it is a work of genius, then you may lose a thousand pounds".[4]:p. xxxii

Bibliography, selected[edit | edit source]

  • 1960: The Truth about a Publisher (includes mention of the publishing of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)

See Also[edit | edit source]


  1. It is possible that the Quenta that Unwin saw was the one published as Quenta Silmarillion in The Lost Road.