Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tolkien in Who's Who

Did a spot of research in the university library (Suzzallo-Allen) the Sunday before last to resolve a question I'd been wondering about for a while: when did JRRT first come to be listed in WHO'S WHO? Most recently this came up when I was trying to work out whether children's author Arthur Ransome had written to Tolkien directly in late 1937, having gotten his address out of WHO'S WHO, or whether he'd sent the letter to his own former publisher Stanley Unwin for forwarding.

I'd discovered years back (circa 1997), while browsing in the Marquette library, that he was already listed when THE HOBBIT came out (that is, in the 1937 volume), and supposed it must have been for his BEOWULF essay ("The Monsters and the Critics"). However, more recently I'd read that all Oxford (and Cambridge) professors were listed, and realized his appearance must go much further back.

Checking the old volumes on the shelves confirms this, but reveals a few interesting details I hadn't expected: Tolkien first appears in the 1925 volume (page 2855), even before he was awarded the Oxford professorship, as Professor of the English Language at Leeds. The entry, which lists his recreations as "tennis, fives", had been written before the previous November, since it lists him as the father of two sons, not three. By the time of next year's volume (1926, page 2903), he's listed as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford and the father of three sons, with Exeter College given as his address.

The 1937 volume, the one I was particularly interested in, does indeed give his home address (20 Northmoor Road, Oxford). In addition to the entry on Tolkien himself (p. 3359), his fellow Inklings C. L. Wrenn (p. 3684), Lord David Cecil (p. 578), and Rev. Adam Fox (p. 1162) are also listed, as is future Inkling Charles Williams (p. 3601). Nevill Coghill appears only listed as the heir in his father's entry (p. 666), while C. S. Lewis isn't listed at all, not yet having made much of a mark. Barfield is also missing, but various significant non-Inklings are there: Ransome himself (p. 2777), both E. V. and George Gordon (p. 1308 & 1309, respectively), Stanley Unwin (p. 3417), and fellow writers connected with Tolkien or the Inklings like Lord Dunsany (p. 976), E. R. Eddison (p. 994-995), and Dorothy Sayers (p. 2983). The 1938 volume is of interest because it adds THE HOBBIT and the Beowulf essay to Tolkien's write-up (p. 3381, joining A MIDDLE ENGLISH VOCABULARY and his edition of SIR GAWAIN & THE GREEN KNIGHT).

CSL doesn't make an appearance until 1943 (p. 1842), primarily I suspect on the reputation gained from his wartime radio talks rather than the body of critical work he'd built up by that point; it's characteristic that while Tolkien's entry that year (p. 3118) is unchanged from the one in 1938, six of the nine Lewis books listed in CSL's entry were written or at least published in the years since. Lewis's 'recreation', by the way, is given as "walking"; the 'recreation' line having disappeared from Tolkien's entry by the 1937 volume.


CORRECTION (5/1-07): The two Gordon entries referred to actually come from the 1938 volume, not the 1937 one as stated above. --JDR

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