The most interesting thing about THE YEARS, from my point of view, has always been that one of the characters in it was inspired by Joseph Wright, Tolkien's tutor; Woolf had been deeply impressed by Wright's biography (written by Mary Wright) and his enlightened attitude towards women (which might in turn have explained Tolkien's support of women's higher education, which many of his generation at best tolerated and more often disparaged). In fact, in the course of my researches I found a letter Woolf had written to Mrs. Wright unknown to the editors of her Collected Letters (after I drew it to their attention they did get it added in, but I forget whether in the trade paperback reprinting or a supplement -- it's a long time ago now).
What startled me this time was coming across a quote attributed to Wright in the editor's introduction to this volume (p. xii). It so happens that I own the two-volume biography of Joseph Wright (although I confess I haven't read it yet; in this case I've only had the book since 2005, so I shd get to it one of these years), so I looked it up. It's a good thing I did, since the editor in fact compressed the quote, leaving out half a sentence without any indication of having done so. Here's the quote as it appears in Wright's book:
"St. Paul and the likes of him have much to answer for, and it is ever my most pious wish that they will reap their due reward. It is due to them, and them alone, that woman has been such a downtrodden creature in the past. It is only the present generation of women that is beginning to realize the abject state of woman in the past. Not so very long ago -- it still exists in many old-fashioned families -- a woman was regarded as a poor weak and feeble-minded creature who had no right to think for herself, but must leave all that to her husband, however silly and stupid he might be. Nay, things were even worse, for a woman was not generally allowed to chose her own husband, that was practically settled for her by her parents or guardian. I am thankful that all this is passing away. Apart from every other consideration, it is much better for the whole human race . . ." *
This is, of course, overstating the case -- Roman law and Mediterranean/Mid-East culture were both pretty misogynistic all on their own -- but he's right in that Paul of Tarsus put a theological imprimatur on misogyny that lasted for centuries (in fact, in some circles it's not over yet).
And did JRRT absorb this lesson from his mentor, along with his encyclopedic knowledge of out-of-the-way words and thirst to learn all he cd about their origin, or dogged determination to see a lengthy project through until its final triumphant completion and publication? Impossible to say, but it is interesting to note that for an author as old-fashion and traditionalist as Tolkien is generally held to be, there's a marked lack of emphasis on 'Obey'. Might be interesting to go back and re-read "The Mariner's Wife" from that perspective.
current reading: THE PARGITERS by Virginia Woolf
*letter of Joseph Wright to his fiancee, Mary Wright; Sept. 5th 1896. Boldface emphasis mine; italic emphasis his. THE LIFE OF JOSPEH WRIGHT, by Elizabeth Mary Wright. (London: Oxford Univ. Pr, 1932). Volume I, page 315. My copy of this book bears a worn sticker in the shape of a green shield that I take to read "[B]oots/[Boo]klov[er']s/[L]ibrary"