Tolkien Gateway

Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford

Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford refers to J.R.R. Tolkien's retirement speech from the University of Oxford, delivered on 5 June 1959 in the Merton College Hall.[1]

The valedictory remained unpublished until 1979, when one draft of the speech was included in J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in Memoriam.[2] Another draft was published in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983).

In his speech Tolkien observes that as he never delivered the expected inaugural address upon assuming the Rawlinson and Bosworth Chair 34 years earlier, he was in the awkward position of delivering an inaugural address upon retirement.[3]

[edit] Excerpt

”Fourteen more years have now passed, and I still have nothing special to say. Nothing, that is, of the kind proper to inaugurals -as far as I can judge by those that I have read: the products of minds more sanguine, or more efficient and magisterial than mine.

The diagnosis of what is wrong, and the confident prescription of the cure; the wide view, the masterly survey; plans and prophecies: these have never been in my line.

I would always rather try to wring the juice out of a single sentence, or explore the implications of one word than try to sum up a period in a lecture, or pot a poet in a paragraph. And I am afraid that what I would rather do is what I have usually done.”

References

  1. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Reader's Guide (2006), p. 1074
  2. Mary Salu, "Preface", in J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in Memoriam
  3. Michael D.C. Drout, J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment, p. 691