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John Suffield

From Tolkien Gateway

John Suffield (c. 1833-1930) was the father of Mabel Tolkien and maternal grandfather of J.R.R. Tolkien.


John Suffield was born in Birmingham, England to John and Jane Suffield (nee Oliver).[1] He was raised Methodist (eventually he would become Unitarian) and was one of the first pupils of Queen's College in Taunton, England.[2] He started a drapery shop in the Birmingham city centre but it eventually went bankrupt and he became a salesman for Jeyes Fluid.[3]

He married Emily Sparrow in 1958 and they had seven children, John, Ronald, Edith, Mabel, William and Rose.[1]

John Suffield only reluctantly let his daughter Mabel marry Arthur Tolkien. He was very proud of his family ancestry and didn't feel Arthur's family was good enough for his daughter. When Mabel Tolkien converted to Catholicism he was greatly outraged and tried to forbid her from continuing her conversion.[3]

Humphrey Carpenter described Suffield as "a very jolly man" but Tolkien later described his then 90-year-old grandfather staying with him for a time while Tolkien had pneumonia, "standing by my bedside, a tall thin black-clad figure, and looking at me and speaking to me in contempt – to the effect that I and my generation were degenerate weaklings. There was I gasping for breath, but he must now say goodbye, as he was off to catch a boat to go a trip by sea around the British Isles!"[3][4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 George H. Graham, "John Suffield Jr." dated 10 August 2009, (accessed 8 June 2024)
  2. Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, "IV. 1925-1949(i): 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit'"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, "II. 1892-1916: Early years"
  4. Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, "III. 1917-1925: The making of a mythology"