Saturday, 30 April 2016

Z is for Tolkien Photo Challenge Part 3 of 3 and 1000 Posts Contest Last Day! (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

Z is for Z end of the list and the third and final part of the #TolkienCollection Photo Challenge!

Part one of the Tolkien photo challenge was under the letter K and answered the first seven questions. Part two of the Tolkien photo challenge was under the letter R and covered questions 8 through 14.

Here's part three of the #TolkienCollection:

15. Item you consider to be a must-have for every collector -- authorised editions of the books, of course! I don't mind collecting other editions, but during my annual rereads I only ever read the 50th anniversary edition, since it has most of the typos and errors corrected. I'd like to get the 60th anniversary edition...

16. Top three items you'd take on an adventure -- The Lord of the Rings and copies of The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers plus some of the poems. Also the original Caedmon recordings. Is that a lot of books to carry in one's backpack? Maybe, but I've always done that -- carried more books than clothes or other items, everywhere I go!

17. The oldest item you own -- maybe the hardcover The Lays of Beleriand? No, that one isn't a first edition or even a first printing, so it must be my dad's copies of The Lord of the Rings from the 1970s and the biography of Tolkien from the same decade.
Besides the truly rare (like the recent discovery of a Tolkien poem called Noel), there are few items that were actually published in Tolkien's lifetime. To own something old, then, would mean first editions or printings of The Hobbit, Mr Bliss, The Lord of the Rings, Farmer Giles of Ham, and a couple of other items. Maybe one of those letters or postcards that comes up at auction once in a while.
I don't own even a copy of the first edition of The Hobbit, with the original Riddles in the Dark chapter! Must get on that...
Cursory research shows I can get one of the original 1, 500 copies, first impression of the first edition, published 21 September 1937, for only 12,000$. Perhaps we could sell our car...

18. An item it took you a long time to obtain -- just started this year, purchasing items I've known of for ages but somehow never bought before! I've gotten Bilbo's Last Song, a copy of The Devil's Coach Horses, Tolkien's brother Hilary's book Black and White Ogre Country, and so on. I'm still missing two major items: the original Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Tolkien Family Album by Priscilla Tolkien. Hammond and Scull also have two massive companion tomes out that I really want (who can resist a big fat book?).

19. An impulse buy -- a few months ago I got a print of Pauline Baynes illustration from The Chronicles of Narnia, signed by Baynes! Okay, so that's not a Tolkien work, but...

20. Your choice -- I ought to have taken a photo of this to share. I have a notebook I started writing in about 20 years ago, where I kept lists of interesting words Tolkien used, doodled line drawings of the walls of Minas Tirith (this has been one of my stock doodles since about the age of 12), copied out some of the poems, and worked over and over again on translating Errantry and a couple of other poems into Turkish.

It seems as though many people have stock doodles. When you're sat in a meeting and trying to concentrate, and you pick up a pen or pencil... Besides Minas Tirith, mine feature geometric shapes, sunset on a sea, a branching tree (another Tolkien-inspired item), a cat silhouette, fish outlines, and a few other bits and pieces.

 Tree of Amalion and Stylized Tree, from Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien

Here's to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and all the hosts, participants, and commenters!

You can still keep commenting on all the R to Z posts, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest -- The winner will be drawn this weekend and announced on Wednesday!

What kinds of doodles do you draw?

Friday, 29 April 2016

Y is for Dorothy Sayers and W. H. Auden (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

Y is for Dorothy Sayers and W. H. Auden.

Lewis and Tolkien both admired many of Sayers' works -- except for the Lord Peter Wimsey stories.

"'She was the first person of importance who ever wrote me a fan-letter,' [Lewis] later recalled, and he added, 'I liked her, originally, because she liked me; later, for the extraordinary zest and edge of her conversation -- as I like a high wind.' She did not, however, come to any meetings of the Inklings. ... 'She never met our own club,' Lewis said, 'and probably never knew of its existence.'" (all quotes from Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings and The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien)

She was also an admirer of Charles Williams: "'I got in from Magdalen last night about 12 and found her sitting up' [he wrote to his wife]. 'We conversed till 2.15. I like the old dear, but she's rather heavy going. I should find 2.15 late for one's dearest friends -- but what can one do.'
"[Later on] she sent him a thirty-six page letter. 'She has, under the compulsion of [The Figure of] Beatrice,' Williams told his wife, 'been reading Dante and Milton, and feels she must write to someone, and to whom but me? Quite a sincere letter; I begin to admire Dorothy seriously as a human being, which I never did before!'"

Interesting to think that if it hadn't been for Williams, Sayers might never have translated Dante's The Divine Comedy.

Auden was an admirer of both Tolkien and Williams. "'I had an extraordinarily moving note from W. H. Auden in America,' Williams told his wife in the spring of 1940. 'He said he just wanted to tell me how moved he was by the [Descent of the] Dove (and he no Christian) and he was sending me his new book "as a poor return".'"

Much later, Tolkien, in a letter to Auden, noted: "It was most kind and generous of you to send me a copy of About the House. I do not pretend that in me (a less generous-minded man than you) your writing arouses the same immediate response. But I can report this. I took the book away (when I took my convalescent wife to the seaside). I took it up to read one night when I was about to get into a warm bed (about midnight). At 2.30 a.m. I found myself, rather cold, still out of bed, reading and re-reading it."

I haven't read this book of poetry before, but now I really want to!

Here is Auden's review of The Lord of the Rings, which appeared in The New York Times in 1956:

Don't forget to keep commenting, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest!

End of the A to Z tomorrow, hope everyone's had a great month!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

X is for X Marks the Spot (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

X is for X marks the spot!

Not strictly Inklings-related, but a recap of some Tolkien travel-related places I've visited, in Switzerland, England, and Italy.
Lauterbrunnen is widely thought to be the inspiration for Rivendell.
Click on the photo for the post featuring all photos! 
A very Shire-like place.
Can you see me in the tree?
Click on the photo for the post featuring all photos!
Bookstore with books in a gondola...and a gondola gliding by!
Click on the photo for the post featuring all photos!

Speaking of books, here's what I got at the Library in English book sale!

And just a couple of days ago at a lunchtime book sale hosted by the staff association of the World Meterological Organization:

Don't forget to keep commenting on the A to Z posts, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest!

Two posts to go in the challenge! How's everyone doing?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

W is for World War I (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

W is for World War I.

The 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme is this summer.

While at King Edward's School in Birmingham, Tolkien and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Smith, and Christopher Wiseman, formed an unofficial and semi-secret society called the TCBS (The Tea Club and Barrovian Society name alluded to their meeting spots -- tea in the library (which was not permitted) and Barrow's Stores near the school).

They kept in touch after leaving school and, following a "council" of the TCBS in 1914, Tolkien began devoting more energy to writing poetry, thanks to the shared ideals and mutual encouragement of the Society.

Tolkien, Gilson, and Smith were at the Battle of the Somme. On leaving, as he crossed the English channel with his battalion, Tolkien wrote a poem called "The Lonely Isle", a haunting verse subtitled "For England".

Gilson was killed in action almost on the first day of the battle. Smith was killed in 1916.

Christopher Wiseman and Tolkien survived, and Tolkien named his third son after Wiseman.

(Other interesting stories in and around Tolkien's war time experiences are in Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth, and on Garth's website.)

This is the reason for the line in the introduction to The Lord of the Rings refuting the suggestion that the story is an allegory of World War II: "To be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than in 1939... by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead."

Another intriguing character from this time is H. B. K. "Rex" Allpass, who witnessed a friend's suicide, and then was lost on a battlefield in World War II. There are so many story possibilities hidden in these very brief details...

Tolkien, in a letter to his son during World War II, had this to say on refugees and the general misery and destruction:

It all seems just as relevant now, sadly.

I've got a new ROW80 goal!

Since my goal for the last little while had been to try to read all the books we already own, before I got to attend the Library in English book sale, and since the sale happened last week (more to come in tomorrow's post!), I needed something more concrete as a goal, to at least make me feel less guilty about not editing.

With that in mind, I volunteered as a sponsor for the current ROW80 round!

I've got to write a -- hopefully -- inspiring post for the official site. My last sponsor post was way back in 2011!

Don't forget to keep commenting on posts, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest!

Have you reshuffled your goals lately?
What projects are most important right now?

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

V is for Various Readings, Knitting, and Byron at Villa Diodati (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

V is for various readings.

I love the idea of the Inklings reading aloud from their essays and stories and poems, discussing all sorts of ideas having to do with myth and fairy tales and history and language... All over a pint or two in firelit rooms...

It's funny to think of, but they probably sat with their hands idle. Whereas a group of women, when they met, would have had a quilting circle, or a bit of sewing or knitting in their hands.

Speaking of which, I never really specified it as part of my ROW80 goals, but I still try to keep up my knitting projects! The only thing is, I seem to have been a bit lax in taking photographs. I'm in the middle of three things at the moment, a blanket for a cousin's new baby, a shawl for a friend, and a sweater for myself (that one is not likely to ever be finished). In between I made a few more new-baby items, including these wee hats:

It's a good thing that I have other photos to share instead!

It's interesting that I can't seem to find any direct reference to Tolkien's views on the Romantics (Byron, Shelley, Keats, and so on). C. S. Lewis's ideas I could distill -- if I had all my books from storage! I know I keep saying this. But there might be a light on the horizon! We're looking into having everything shipped...

All this is bringing me in a roundabout way to our last visit to the villa that Lord Byron stayed at, 200 years ago next month, when he arrived in Geneva. We've visited the Castle of Chillon, which inspired his Prisoner of Chillon poem, but we've also been up to see the villa Diodati, which is still a private residence, across the lake (roughly) from our village:

Byron's meadow

Villa greenhouse

Road behind the house



Villa Diodati

It was so quiet back then that you could hear the lake lapping on the shore far below

Peering in at the gate...

Don't forget to keep commenting on as many posts as you like, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest!

And if you've seen any interesting/strange/weird/must-see A to Z posts, share them in the comments below!
Have you seen any related to poetry or knitting?

Monday, 25 April 2016

U is for the University of Oxford (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

U is for University of Oxford.

I feel badly that I don't have new photos to share. We've been talking about taking a quick weekend trip to revisit Oxford; I'd especially like to see the parts I haven't gone to yet, including a visit to Tolkien's grave, a visit to Lewis' grave, a drink at the Mitre, a drink at the Lamb and Flag, afternoon tea at the Eastgate hotel...

Until then, though, I leave you with two quotes from Tolkien's collected letters:

During the war, Tolkien was involved in teaching forces cadets at the university, on the wartime 'short courses'. He reports in a letter to C. S. Lewis on a fellow teacher, M. R. Ridley, who was "astounded at the ignorance of all 22 cadets" and adds in a PS:

"Ridley's first question in the test-paper was a group of words to define -- apposite, reverend, venal, choric, secular, and a few others. Not one case got any of the words right."

If I'm being completely honest, I have no idea what venal and choric mean. Looking them up in the Oxford English Dictionary, I don't feel as badly; they're from Latin and Greek, respectively. I never had a classical education, after all.

Here's Tolkien on children and adults and vocabulary, from a draft letter to New Statesman:
"Life is rather above the measure of us all (save for a very few perhaps). We all need literature that is above our measure -- though we may not have sufficient energy for it all the time. But the energy of youth is usually greater. Youth needs then less than adulthood or Age what is down to its (supposed) measure. But even in Age I think we only are really moved by what is at least in some point or aspect above us, above our measure, at any rate before we have read it and 'taken it in'. Therefore do not write down to Children or to anybody. Not even in language. ... An honest word is an honest word, and its acquaintance can only be made by meeting it in a right context. A good vocabulary is not acquired by reading books written according to some notion of the vocabulary of one's age-group. It comes from reading books above one."

Reminder: Don't forget to keep commenting, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest!

And don't forget to support our A to Z hosts, who've been doing such a great job!

Co-Host Helpers/Assistants 2016; Arlee Bird's A to Z Ambassadors

J Lenni Dorner What Are They?  @JLenniDorner
(honorary member-at-large)

Hope you all enjoy the last week of the challenge!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

T is for the History of Middle-earth and Tolkien's son Christopher (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

T is for Christopher Tolkien,Tolkien's youngest son and, later, editor and publisher of many posthumous works, plus the 12-volume History of Middle-Earth series.

[Reminder: Don't forget to keep commenting, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest!]

There is a LOT of Tolkien we'd never have seen, if not for the tireless efforts of Christopher!

Christopher Tolkien talks about his father:

Christopher Tolkien talks about his father and languages:

Christopher Tolkien talks about The Silmarillion:

Christopher Tolkien read the end of The Lord of the Rings:

I like this entry from C. S. Lewis's brother's diary in 1946 (quoted in Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings):

"'An exquisitely lovely spring day. [To] the Bird and Baby as usual in the morning, where I had started on my second pint before J [C. S. Lewis] arrive. When Humbhrey [Harvard] came, he suggested an adjournement to the Trout at Godstow; which, picking up Christopher Tolkien on the way, we did, and there drank beer in the sunlight. The beauty of the whole scene was almost theatrical, and that notrhing might be lacking to show off the warm grey of the old inn, there was a pair of peacocks.'"

Peacock in the Geneva Botanical Gardens

Doesn't that sound an idyllic afternoon?

Friday, 22 April 2016

S is for Prince in Switzerland (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

S was supposed to be for Robert Havard, family doctor to the Lewises and Tolkiens, and occasional Inkling.

But I find I have no specific anecdote about him and, instead, have yet another reason to wonder what is in the air in 2016.

I'm referring to the news about Prince -- it broke yesterday around dinner time our time.

Of course, with Prince, you can't go running to the Internet to listen to all the songs you remember and various albums one after another (as I did with Bowie. I wouldn't need to do this at all if all our CDs and tapes weren't in storage!). If you search for Prince at all on YouTube, you get, on the first page, some rather disturbing results and not a single one of his songs.

After some more searching through Google, I managed to find a Polish site that had a copy of the official video for Diamonds and Pearls (I was about 13 when this song came out), and another suspicious looking site had The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.

One thing that was entirely new to me: Prince wrote a song about the vineyards in our canton! It's called Lavaux, and was featured on the album 20Ten, the one given away with various newspapers and Rolling Stone.

You can still listen to the song on the 20 Minutes website, but I've got no way to link to it here. But I can feature the lyrics:

One of the historians I follow on Twitter was suggesting we should make a roll of the dead (I never even mentioned Victoria Wood, among others, on the blog) in Old English, as the list keeps expanding and maybe this will help make it all seem more elegant and story-like.

What songs have been stuck in your head recently?

Thursday, 21 April 2016

R is for Ready, Set, Go! Contest for 1000 Posts and Tolkien Photo Challenge Part 2 of 3 (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

is for ready, set, go!

1000 blog posts today!

I hit 500 posts back in May 2011, after nearly four years of blogging; it's been five years since then.

Many posts about the writing journey, about Tolkien, about books read and authors followed (remember the year of the unexpected Neil Gaiman?), travels galore, and so much more... I'll collate them someday, I hope.

The week-long contest starts today!

But first, the #TolkienCollection Photo Challenge!

Part one of the Tolkien photo challenge was under the letter K and answered the first seven questions. Part two covers 8 through 14:

8. Create a rainbow with items in your collection -- I'm excusing myself from this one on the grounds that taking all the books I have here (missing all the ones in storage!) off from the shelves and arranging them would take twice as long and be twice as messy with baby involved.
Instead, here she is at birth, when I was rereading The Lord of the Rings:

9. Your most unconventional item -- one of the many items in storage is a textbook written by one of Tolkien's students!

10. The "Arkenstone" of your collection -- I wish I had a first or signed edition to speak of. It's hard to pick just one item since, when we moved here, I made sure to bring them all with me, and didn't leave a single main item behind!

11. Your guilty pleasure (books, artwork, action figures, etc.) -- I do have a One Ring I was given as a gift. I find it odd that people might want to collect Sauron or orc-related items. Smacks a bit of the "orc-play" Tolkien refers to in A New Shadow.

12. Wishlist item -- Besides first editions and things? And something signed? And Songs for the Philologists? Okay, well, something more feasible -- I'd like to complete my collection of reprints of the editions of Parma Eldalamberon and Vinyar Tengwar that feature original works by Tolkien.
I'd also really like to visit the Wade Centre and the Bodleian and see the originals of all these manuscripts! And, since I now live much closer to France, I'd like to meet Christopher Tolkien...
Not too much to ask, is it?

13. Item you forgot you owned -- just discovered it the other day. Not strictly an item, but I have an email from Professor Verlyn Flieger from over 10 years ago that she wrote in response to a question I'd sent referring to certain mythological archetypes in The Lord of the Rings.

14. Largest item in your collection -- probably Rateliff's big fat book. Not complaining, I love big fat books. Otherwise, the movie tie-in jigsaw puzzle, which was lots of fun to work!

And now, the contest! I keep saying it's week-long, but it's actually going to run until the end of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Prize rules are simple:

I'll do an overall name draw at the end of the A to Z Challenge of everyone who's commented on the remaining letters, including this one. Those who comment on more than one letter earn extra chances!  For instance, if you comment on letters R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z that means you have nine chances to win!

Links to your blog and to Facebook and Twitter will earn an extra chance! But please let me know in the comments that you've done it, otherwise I won't be checking.
Grand prize is a 30$ gift card to the online book retailer of your choice!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Q is for Questions and Answers and Post Number 999 (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

Q is for questions and answers!

By which I mean the very many scholars and authors who have explored facets of Tolkien’s work and influences, including Charles Noad, Corey Olsen, Dimitra Fimi, Douglas Anderson, John Garth, John Rateliff, Taum Santoski, Verlyn Flieger, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull and many more...

I always hoped I'd be part of this group someday. I had a fledgling idea for a thesis once, and even sent an email to Verlyn Flieger about it! She was gracious enough to reply, but questioned whether it was an idea worth pursuing. In the back of my mind, I think that if I ever go back to school for a higher degree, I'd do it purely for fun, to study English, and to maybe explore that original idea further...

The most recent scholarly edition I read was the new publication A Secret Vice, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins:

A Secret Vice is an annotated edition of one of Tolkien's lectures, all about the private and personal creation of languages (along with those furthered by international committee, such as Esperanto, and those created specifically for literature, such as Swift's vocabulary for some of the places in Gulliver's Travels). A different form of the lecture was included in the collection The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, but this edition reprints many of Tolkien's draft phrases and notes, providing an over-the-shoulder view of his thoughts coming together.

Speaking of long-term projects, something I did for my 500th post milestone was to collate all my blog posts by theme. I'd love to do that again, because tomorrow... I will hit 1000 posts!

Even if I can't manage that, though, I will be hosting a week-long contest, same as last time. Stay tuned!

What is your latest blogging milestone?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

P is for Charles Williams (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

P is for The Place of the Lion, by Charles Williams.

I've read a couple of his other books, but reading his work is kind of like reading James Joyce's Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake -- you need help.

I haven't read Finnegan's Wake, but I have read Ulysses, and I did it in a very specific way: I read a chapter a week; first I'd read the chapter, think about the words, enjoy the flow of language, and try to understand what was going on; then I'd read the Stuart Gilbert analysis book (which I actually bought by accident once and was later really glad I had), and learned about all the references and symbols Joyce had used, so that then I actually understood what I'd read.

Charles Williams is like that. On one level, you can understand the plot of the tale just fine. But he's got so many esoteric references and connections and clues, that you would get more meaning from the story if you knew them all.

"'Taliessin through Logres contained some beautiful poetry,' wrote T. S. Eliot a year after the book was published, 'but also some of the most obscure poetry that was ever written.'" (from Humphrey Carpenter's biography of the Inklings.) Earlier on, Eliot had said of Williams' work, "There are no novels anywhere quite like them. [He] makes our everyday world much more exciting, because of the supernatural which he finds always active in it." To some extent, this was actually how Williams seemed to live his life.

Williams became an Inkling through C. S. Lewis. He'd been writing piles of stuff -- poetry, criticism, plays, biographies (including one of Lord Rochester), and more -- when Lewis happened to read Neville Coghill's copy of The Place of the Lion. They started a correspondence, and when Williams was transferred to the Oxford University Press office in Oxford during the war, he began to attend the regular Inklings sessions.

Carpenter relates that, another time, "another visitor made an even briefer appearance, and not strictly at an Inklings meeting. This was T. S. Eliot, whom Charles Williams had been eager to introduce to Lewis for some time. They met over tea at the Mitre Hotel one day in the last months of the war. Eliot's opening remark scarcely delighted Lewis: 'Mr Lewis, you are a much older man than you appear in photographs.' The tea party progressed poorly, and was enjoyed by no one except Charles Williams, who seemed to be immensely amused."

As for J. R. R. Tolkien, he once recorded in a letter to his son: "'Also I saw C. S. L. and C. W. from about 10.40 to 12.50, but can recollect little of the feast of reason and flow of soul, partly because we all agree so.'"

Later, though, after Williams' death, he noted, "'I think we both found the other's mind (or rather mode of expression, and climate) as impenetrable when cast into 'literature', as we found the other's presece and conversation delightful.'" Carpenter's biography goes into their relationship at some length, including Williams's thoughts on The Lord of the Rings:

Tolkien's poem goes on for two more pages -- clearly he did grow close to Williams during the Oxford years.

On 15 May 1945, Lewis' brother Warnie wrote in his diary, after taking a telephone message that told him "Mr Charles Williams died in the [hospital] this morning":
"'I felt dazed and restless, and went out to get a drink: choosing unfortunately the King's Arms, where during the winter Charles and I more than once drank a pint after leaving Tollers [Tolkien] at the Mitre, with much glee at "clearing one's throat of varnish with good honest beer" as Charles used to say. There will be no more pints with Charles; no more "Bird and Baby"; the blackout has fallen, and the Inklings can never be the same again.'"

He might not have meant it as prophesy, but he was right. By 1949, thoughh they might have been working on essays and stories, the Inklings were no longer reading aloud to each other parts of their MSs, and "Thursday nights now depended chiefly on conversation. ... This meant that the success of the evening was rather less certain, depending entirely on the mood of those present. ... The end came almost imperceptibly, and for no apparent reason. The last Thursday Inklings to be recorded in Warnie Lewis' diary was 20 October 1949. ... 'The best of them,' said John Wain [author and student of Lewis], 'were as good as anything I shall live to see.' ... Tuesdays at the Bird and Baby continued, but that was not quite the same thing, and the word 'Inklings' no longer appeared in Warnie Lewis's diary."

Ten letters to go in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge!

Thank you again to all the hosts and minions. They've been doing a great job keeping up morale, commenting -- there's even swag! I do love that word. They've also been sharing some good advice and tips, including this important post about sharing and tagging images. I have a LOT of visits and comments to catch up on. Weekends don't work for me cos of baby, but if work gets back on an even keel, as I hope it will next week, then all my lunches will be free and I will visit with gusto!

I also seem to have made a wee scheduling error when I was putting up all my placeholder draft posts. My 1000th blog post is coming up! It will be on Wednesday, but I'd originally thought it was going to be Thursday. So some of my posts might not match their assigned letters... But there will be a celebration! And chocolate! And a contest! Stay tuned...

Have you reached any blogging milestones lately?

Monday, 18 April 2016

O is for Owen Barfield (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

O is for Owen Barfield, veteran, lawyer, and author. He was as much an Inklings as his day to day fortunes allowed him to be, especially after he'd turned to the law full time as the only means of making a living possible for him.

Unfortunately the books of his that I've read, including Poetic Diction, Saving the Appearances, History in English Words, and his childrens' tale The Silver Trumpet, are all back in storage, and I can't really refer to them to refresh my memory of some of his main ideas. I know I'd like to reread them, and would definitely recommend them.

I know a number of his thoughts on language and myth making had a direct influence on both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien; the most recent example can be seen in the the latest Tolkien publication, an annotated edition of one of his lectures, A Secret Vice, all about the private and personal creation of languages (along with those furthered by international committee, such as Esperanto, and those created specifically for literature, such as Swift's vocabulary for some of the places in Gulliver's Travels).

A different form of A Secret Vice was included in the collection The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, but this edition reprints many of Tolkien's draft phrases and notes, and there are at least two places where the reader can see him working out an idea, and then simply writing "cf. Barfield" in the margin.

The Lucy in the Narnia books, of which the first book is dedicated to her, is named after Barfield's daughter.

I've already shared the video of when Barfield visited the Wade Centre, where many of his papers are collected.

One book I haven't read yet is Verlyn Flieger's Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World, which apparently includes an analysis of Barfield's influences on Tolkien. And now, looking through the official Barfield website, I've come across a number of essays I'd like to read:

A highly valuable, and surely not easily refutable, exposition of the relation between the legal history and economics, and the necessity of trust to good economics, it is nevertheless as well to be frank, that it is unorthodox in its approach. But for this reason, it is in some respects ahead of its time: it is accepted now, as it evidently was not when Barfield wrote it, that banks, in extending credit, are creating money; and the concern with the immaterial nature of credit is extremely contemporary. There are very interesting nuggets relating to the history of trust; and it is unusual in itself to read an Englishman praising the civil law of equity, rather than the common law.
Trade unions may not have the power they once did. But this pamphlet should still be read for all its analytical power. The contemporary analysis of the political situation in the run-up to the Second World War, which points out the economic causes of the crisis, while not reducing it to them, is excellent. Barfield’s analysis of the function of the state as an instrument of national competition still rings through. Above all, the pamphlet is a spur to thought.
Beginning analytically, the extraordinarily heartfelt nature of this essay reveals itself quite quickly. It was originally a lecture delivered in 1953, at the request of Barfield’s great friend Cecil Harwood, as part of a series on “Rudolf Steiner and Christianity”. In our time of doubt, it is perhaps most wisely informative on the enigmatic connection between death and God the Father.
The historian John Lukacs once asked Barfield, “Have you ever considered writing your own intellectual autobiography? I literally CANNOT think of a more important book. [...] What I mean is something like the history of your memory, and not the reverse.” Apart perhaps from an abandoned “psychography” from the 1940s, this is the closest Barfield came to writing his intellectual autobiography. In itself, it records the evolution of an individual consciousness.

And also these articles:

In tendency this article is of a piece with Barfield’s bold declaration to T. S. Eliot, some time after he had published The Waste Land, that,”I am a little tired of literature that can do nothing but point out ironically that there is nothing much going on but disintegration and decay.” It points out that there can be no rigorous separation between literature and life, and finally embodies an attitude to life – an excited attitude. If Barfield’s literary aesthetic was often traditional, it was because he thought that the best vehicle to convey it.
The speculative claims in this article can be tested only according to their internal logic, broad correlation with history, and the sense of their rightness. There is a wealth of literary insight in this summary, rather than review, of Dorothy Faulkner-Jones’ book, The English Spirit. For instance her remark of the storgic, rather than erotic appeal of Jane Austen’s novels. The reference to the the living prototype of Hamlet’s previous incarnation as Troy’s Hector might raise an eyebrow; but the reference to Hamlet’s great capacity for love, equally might cause one to smack one’s face: not obvious, but surely correct.
An occasional piece which nevertheless makes some points about the nature of the creative imagination and the nature of infinity.
Owen Barfield was a friend of the poet Walter de la Mare. This piece was written at the centenary of his birth, when his reputation was wavering. It is also a very clear illustration of what might be called Barfield’s perennialist aesthetic, one not fixated on modernity and modernism.
Breaking into the A to Z to touch on a bit of ROW80 -- the Library in English book sale starts on Friday!

I made some more inroads into the books we already own, reading two delightful Somerset Maughams and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I'm 20 pages away from finishing the latter, so no spoilers please! It's so off-kilter and interesting, and really sort of ethereal... Despite the dystopian element, it actually feels more like a study in adolescence. It reminds me so much of what high school was like, and what it felt like, the constant inwardness, the endless desperate search for connections and meanings, the roundabout discussions and analysis of the most minute events and feelings and words, the overall sense of invincibility and plans for the future, all of that. It's going to be one of those books that are difficult to stop reading, I think.

I read three books -- and then just yesterday I found one that had fallen behind a stack of others. I doubt I'll ever finish reading all the books in these piles!

What did you last pick up at a book sale? Any unexpected, intriguing finds?

Saturday, 16 April 2016

N is for Nevill Coghill, and Richard Burton (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

N is for Nevill Coghill, Fellow, Professor, war veteran, and translator of the Canterbury Tales. Apparently it was Coghill who first got C. S. Lewis to read Charles Williams -- but that's for another letter.

Coghill and C.S. Lewis used to take country walks together and, as Humphrey Carpenter relates, "while striding together over Hinksey Hill they would talk excitedly about what they had been reading that week. Coghill never forgot how on one such walk Lewis, who had just encountered the Anglo-Saxon Battle of Maldon, boomed out some lines from the end of the poem:

'Hige sceal Þe heardra, heorte Þe cenre,
mod sceal Þe mare, Þe ure maegen lytlađ.'

'Will shall be the sterner, heart the bolder, spirit the greater as our strength lessens.'"

This is one of those interludes that makes me wish I was back there!

Coghill also staged many undergraduate theatrical productions at Oxford, and one of the actors included was Richard Burton.

I hadn't known much about Burton before we moved to Switzerland, but ever since we moved out to our village, I've been learning more about him, because he used to live in the next village over, and is buried there.

Burton at the gate of his house in Celigny, Le pays de Galles (the country/land of Wales)

Spiderwebs in Celigny

Photos of Burton at the Buffet de la Gare, a restaurant across the train tracks from his house

Buffet de la Gare

Le pays de Galles

Cemetery entrance


Also buried here is author Alistair MacLean, who wrote, among others, The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare

Celigny village

View of Lac Leman and the alps from Celigny

View from a bed and breakfast between the two villages

Stream and a scented log fire at a cave (vineyard) in Celigny

All this and I still haven't actually seen a Burton film!

If you have, which would you recommend?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at