Tolkien Gateway

Letter 197

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 197
RecipientRayner Unwin
Date9 May 1957
Subject(s)Complaining about receiving money

Letter 197 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Allen and Unwin had sent Tolkien a substantial cheque for his earnings from The Lord of the Rings. Rayner reported excellent sales and foresaw continued success. The news arrived when Tolkien was in a rush, which is why he had not thanked them sooner.

Had he known of the "bombshell" earlier Tolkien said he would have thought seriously of retiring in the upcoming July and would have refused two extra years. Now he would be fined for continuing to work, equivalent to his salary, unless his income tax agent was being unduly gloomy about this new installment. Also while remaining in office it was practically impossible to proceed with The Silmarillion. It had sat dormant since last autumn though he hoped to return to it in late June. He had also been ill and afflicted with arthritis that made long sitting painful.

Although aggrieved at being deprived for so many years Tolkien was enheartened by the sales-report, both for himself and for Allen and Unwin. He said that they had been kind and patient and that without their encouragement The Lord of the Rings would still be a heap of manuscript. There was a lot to be said for "the grosser forms of literary success" as a sneering critic had said about another author's "grosser" case.