Item #2798 Typed Letter Signed [TLS] introducing The Lord of the Rings. J. R. R. TOLKIEN.
Typed Letter Signed [TLS] introducing The Lord of the Rings
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TOLKIEN, J.R.R.

Typed Letter Signed [TLS] introducing The Lord of the Rings

“There is no more about Mirkwood or the northern countries, I am afraid; and the story moves away down the Great River to the kingdoms of the South. But there is a great deal of Ancient History and geography and genealogy in it: too much, I dare say, for all but the most devoted friends of Hobbits… But I hope very much that when at last you get it you will not be disappointed. It will take a very long time to read, even once, and even quickly!”

EIGHT MONTHS BEFORE PUBLICATION, TOLKIEN ANXIOUSLY INTRODUCES HIS MASTERPIECE, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, TO A FAN OF THE HOBBIT.

Tolkien had begun work on The Lord of the Rings in December of 1937 and by early 1950, after over twelve years of labor, the writing was essentially complete. The road to publication, however, was not an easy one, for Tolkien feared his book would have difficulty finding an audience. In February, 1950, he wrote about his concerns to his publisher (Allen & Unwin): “My work has escaped from my control and I have produced a monster: an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and rather terrifying romance, quite unfit for children (if fit for anybody).” (Carpenter, 213).

Tolkien’s admission that he had produced a “monster” turned out to be prescient, for seeing the book through publication proved to be a challenge for both him and his publisher and three years after completion, the first volume (The Fellowship of the Rings) was still not in print.

At the time of the present letter – December 2, 1953 – publication finally seemed imminent, and Tolkien was understandably nervous. Writing to Mrs. F.L. Perry, a fan of The Hobbit, he explains the delays in publication (it was supposed to be published by Christmas, 1953), worries that the book will be too long and expensive to reach a wide audience, introduces the world of The Lord of the Rings and expresses his hopes that she will like the book despite humbly worrying that it is filled with too much history, geography, and genealogy.

His was right to be concerned about further delays in publication – the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring wouldn’t actually appear until July 29, 1954 – but of course his other major concern – that the book would not find an audience – was wildly misguided.

The letter reads in full:

December 2nd, 1953

Dear Mrs. Perry,

Thank you very much for your letter, and kind words. All I can say is that, if you have so much enjoyed The Hobbit, then at least you will not be disappointed with The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, I have not only been crushingly busy this year, but also during October and November often ill, and certain adjuncts, necessary to publication, which only I can supply (e.g. maps) have been so long delayed that issue of Vol. I for Christmas, as planned, has become impossible. I hope it will appear early in 1954, and the next two vols. in quick succession. I am correcting the proofs of Vol. II at the moment.

I do not know the price yet. Alas! Having put so much into this sequel, it has grown to such a large book that size and cost alone will, I fear, keep it out of many hands that would enjoy it. But I hear that the Americans are taking it up, after seeing an advance copy of Vol. I, and I am told that may make a larger issue and a rather lower price possible on the side of the Water.

There is no more about Mirkwood or the northern countries, I am afraid; and the story moves away down the Great River to the kingdoms of the South. But there is a great deal of Ancient History and geography and genealogy in it: too much, I dare say, for all but the most devoted friends of Hobbits.

I would send you some proof-copies, if I had any to spare, and if I did not think that you would enjoy it more, when it is complete, and has maps and appendices and all. But I hope very much that when at last you get it you will not be disappointed. It will take a very long time to read, even once, and even quickly!

Yours sincerely,

[signed] JRR Tolkien

Typed Letter Signed ("J.R.R. Tolkien") to Mrs. F.L. Perry, two pages, on one half-sheet (both sides) of Tolkien’s 76 Sandfield Road stationery. Center mailing fold, two tiny closed tears at extreme edges; generally fine. Housed in custom presentation folder. As far as we can tell, this letter is unpublished.

References:

Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Price: $37,500 .

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