The Diaries of J.R.R. Tolkien

From Tolkien Gateway

The Diaries of J.R.R. Tolkien refers to the unpublished diaries of J.R.R. Tolkien. The manuscripts are part of the Tolkien Papers at the Bodleian Library, a collection which is only open to researchers working under the auspices of the Tolkien Estate.[1]

Humphrey Carpenter was given access to the writings and quoted several passages in his work J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, noting that Tolkien used the diaries "chiefly as a record of sorrow and distress, and when ... his gloom dissipated he ceased to keep up the diary entries".[2] Permission to research the diaries was also granted to Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull for their preparation of The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (a work which also includes several quotes from the diaries).[1]


  • New Year's Day 1910: "Depressed and as much in dark as ever, [...] God help me. Feel weak and weary." [Entry in the first of Tolkien's preserved diaries][2]
  • April 1910: [After seeing Peter Pan at a Birmingham theatre]: "Indescribable but shall never forget it as long as I live. Wish E. had been with me."[2]
  • January 1913: Tolkien starts keeping a diary (entitled "JRRT and EMB in account together, AMDG") of how many hours he works and, in red ink, his performance of religious duties.[3]
  • [Unknown date, referring to his school years]: "Did a lot of private lang."[2]
  • January 1922: "Eric Valentine Gordon has come [to Leeds University] and got firmly established and is my devoted friend and pal."[5]
  • 1924: [Concerning the birth of Christopher: "Now I would not go without what God has sent."[2]
  • 1926: [Carpenter notes that Tolkien wrote "his diary from 1926 to 1933" in the alphabet 'Quenyatic'/'Feanorian'][2]
  • 1926: [As part of a summary of events of 1925, Tolkien writes:] "The Tale of 'Roverandom', written to amuse John (and myself as it grew) got done."[6]
  • ?1920s-1930s: [On C.S. Lewis]: "Friendship with Lewis compensates for much, and besides giving constant pleasure and comfort has done me much good from the contact with a man at once honest, brave, intellectual - a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher - and a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord."[2]
  • ?1930s: [On Christopher Tolkien:] "a nervy, irritable, cross-grained, self-tormenting, cheeky person. Yet there is something intensely lovable about him, to me at any rate, from the very similarity between us"[2]
  • 1933: [On the occasion of driving his family to visit relatives in Birmingham:] "I pass over the pangs to me of passing through Hall Green - become a huge tram-ridden meaningless suburb, where I actually lost my way - and eventually down what is left of beloved lanes of childhood, and past the very gate of our cottage, now in the midst of a sea of new red-brick. The old mill still stands, and Mrs Hunt's still sticks out into the road as it turns uphill; but the crossing beyond the now fenced-in pool, where the bluebell lane ran down into the mill lane, is now a dangerous crossing alive with motors and red lights. The White Ogre's house (which the children were excited to see) is become a petrol station, and most of Short Avenue and the elms between it and the crossing have gone. How I envy those whose precious early scenery has not been exposed to such violent and peculiarly hideous change."[2]
  • August 1955: [Notes on his visit to Italy with Priscilla:] : "Venice seemed incredibly, elvishly lovely"[2]; "contrary to legend and my belief, Italians ... dislike exaggeration, superlatives, and adjectives of excessive praise. But they seem to answer to colour and poetic expression, if justified."[7]
  • Late 1963 or early 1964: [Carpenter notes that soon after C.S. Lewis's death, Tolkien "began to keep a diary, which was something he had not done for many years. In part it was an excuse for using another alphabet that he had invented; he called it his 'New English Alphabet'.]: "Life is grey and grim. I can get nothing done, between stateness and boredom (confined to quarters), and anxiety and distraction. What am I going to do? Be sucked down into residence in a hotel or old-people's home or club, without books or contacts or talk with men? God help me!"[2]
  • 1968-1971: [Carpenter notes that Tolkien kept a diary "for a brief time during [the] Bournemouth years".][2]