Tolkien Gateway

Letter 318

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 318
RecipientNeil Ker
Date22 November 1970
Subject(s)Recalling professors and mentors from Tolkien's undergraduate days

Letter 318 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien was most grateful to Ker for sending his article on Napier.[note 1] Tolkien had entered the English School in 1913 at his own request, not realizing the generosity of Exeter College to allow this without depriving him of his classical exhibition. Ker's essay confirmed Tolkien's guess that Farnell[note 2] was responsible. Farnell had introduced Tolkien to Napier, a meeting in a darkened room where he could hardly see the man. They never spoke again although Tolkien attended his lectures.

Having missed Napier (who had advanced illness at the time) Tolkien had what he called the singular good fortune that Sisam[note 3] became his tutor. Although Sisam derived many benefits from Napier's example, his own teaching was spiced with pungency, humour, and practical wisdom. Sisam laid the foundation for Tolkien's own library.

[edit] Note

  1. A.S. Napier (1853-1916) was the Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford during Tolkien's time as an undergraduate.
  2. L.R. Farnell, Rector (or head) of Exeter College, 1913-1928
  3. Kenneth Sisam (1887-1971) who during Tolkien's undergraduate period was a research student and assistant to Professor Napier.