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Lot #331
J. R. R. Tolkien Handwritten Letter Signed

A 'thank you' letter from 77-year-old J. R. R. Tolkien, "still partly crippled" and convalescing from a broken leg

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Estimate: $5000+
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A 'thank you' letter from 77-year-old J. R. R. Tolkien, "still partly crippled" and convalescing from a broken leg

ALS, one page both sides, 5.75 x 7, George Allen & Unwin Ltd. letterhead, February 18, 1969. Handwritten letter to Boyd Hooper, in full: “This is most regrettable: I mean six months or so is far too long a gap between the receiving of your gift (from the hands of my daughter) and any expression of thanks. Curmudgeonly indeed, if there were no kind of excuse. Your tie most delightful, and according well when I have a mind to go into browns and reds, was only (re)discovered two days ago by my wife. Unfortunately it arrived when I had only just begun to live in my present house—still in chaos after a disastrous removal—and I had not yet even a bedroom in order. Also I was soon taken back to hospital, and returned on Sep. 20 still partly crippled and under treatment for blood-congestion. Your gift had been put safely (too safely) away. Anyway, as it is, (for this land) miserably cold, with a NE wind, I am going into brown and red tomorrow! It was most kind of you to think of me. I much envy my daughter and her visit to Reidsville.” In fine condition.

Accompanied by a typed transcription of the letter from Walter Hooper (1931-2020), the assistant chaplain of Jesus College in the University of Oxford, who was the brother of the letter’s recipient, Arch ‘Boyd’ Hooper, Jr. (1935-2018), a traveling salesman of fine men’s apparel, most notably Robert Talbott neckwear. Walter and Priscilla, Tolkien’s only daughter, were lifelong close friends, who obtained the referenced tie when the pair visited Boyd in the U.S.

The reverse of the transcription contains a handwritten letter from Walter to his brother, noting that he is enclosing the letter from Tolkien, who “is trying desperately hard to finish another book, The Silmarillion, which is to be a companion to his well-known The Lord of the Rings before he dies.” In addition to his work at Jesus College, Walter Hooper, of Reidsville, North Carolina, was a writer, a literary trustee for Owen Barfield, and, briefly in 1963, the private secretary of C.S. Lewis when the latter was in declining health. Hooper devoted himself to Lewis's memory after his death in November 1963, eventually taking up residence in Oxford, England, where he became a C.S. Lewis papers custodian, advocate, and editor of his works. The Lewis papers, as researched by Hooper, contain primary data on the friendship between Lewis and his fellow Oxford don J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien’s mention of his own “partly crippled” nature refers to his hospitalization on June 17, 1968. While Tolkien and his wife, Edith, were preparing to move from Oxford to Bournemouth, the author fell down some stairs and broke his leg. Afterward, as he told his son, Michael, ‘I was picked up off the floor of the hall and transported to the Nuffield [Orthopedic Center] as I was and never went back again - never saw my room, or my house again.' Doctors operated on the leg and several weeks passed before Tolkien was allowed up on crutches.

Tolkien would pass away at the age of 81 on September 2, 1973, some four years before The Silmarillion would be published. Due to its unfinished nature, the complex work was edited and published posthumously by his son, Christopher Tolkien, with the assistance of Canadian fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay. The Silmarillion is comprised of five parts and describes the universe of Eä, the homeworld of Valinor, Beleriand, Númenor, and Middle-earth, within which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts Featuring Animation
  • Dates: #668 - Ended June 14, 2023

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