British author and scholar (1892–1973) whose Lord of the Rings trilogy became one of the towering classics of fantasy literature and inspired a series of wildly popular films. ALS, on both sides of a 5.5 x 3.5 postcard, Professor Tolkien, Merton College letterhead, January 18, 1948. Letter to J. L. N. O’Laughlin. In full: “What a very kind thought and action! Your most welcome parcel (chosen by one who knows) arrived safely, and in time for Christmas. I am sorry that so long a time has elapsed in our acknowledgement. But you will recall how quickly the Chr. vac evaporates, and I was stricken down with a prevalent form of gastric flu on Christmas Day itself, and could not shake off the effects so that I am now, on the first day of full term!, belatedly coping with many neglects. My wife joins me in grateful thanks, and in praise of your admirable selection. I wonder how things fare with you? I find things on this side gloomy in the extreme; but you won’t want to hear anything about that! The English School changes, and with three more or less active profs. would—if there were prospects of peace—go ahead. Wilson is a charming and energetic colleague. But I am either tired or disgruntled and think Oxford would be a good place to get away from! Best wishes to you and your wife and family for 1948.” In fine condition with a couple light creases to right edge. Accompanied by the original mailing envelope addressed in Tolkien’s hand.
Encouraged by the critical and financial success of the 1937 publication of The Hobbit, Tolkien’s publisher requested more, sparking the sequel that would become the masterpiece of his career. Though he began The Lord of the Rings shortly after, it took over a decade to reach completion (and another six years to reach publication). Transferring jobs from Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College to Professor of English Language and Literature at Merton College, Oxford in 1945—the focus of this friendly letter—a great deal of time was consumed with his academic pursuits. After a trying holiday season, feeling unprepared to return to his classes on the Oxford campus, Tolkien writes, “I am either tired or disgruntled and think Oxford would be a good place to get away from!” Despite his exhaustion at the start of 1948, he spent the year simultaneously fulfilling his duties as a professor and completing The Lord of the Rings. This letter, ringing in a landmark year in his career, is crisply penned in his distinctive calligraphic hand on personal letterhead—a highly attractive and extraordinarily rare piece from the father of high fantasy. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
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