Friday, October 8, 2021

The New Arrival: Edith Bratt biography

 So, this week's new addition to the books in my office is THE GALLANT EDITH BRATT: J. R. R. TOLKIEN'S INSPIRATION by Nancy Bunting and Seamus Hamill-Keays (Walking Tree Press, 2021).

This comes as the latest entry in what seems to be a new and promising branch of Tolkien scholarship: biographies not about Tolkien himself but about people who were important in his life, to round out his milieu. First there were the two books (booklets, really) about his aunt, Jane Neave. Then the full-length biography about Fr. Francis Morgan, his guardian (originally in Spanish but since translated into English). And now this new book about his wife, Edith Bratt Tolkien.

I haven't had time yet to give this one more than a glance, but even that's enough to raise some questions that I'll want to read the biography to answer. 

First, this biography ends around the time its subject was thirty. But Edith Tolkien lived to be eighty. Did nothing of interest or importance happen to her after around 1918? That seems, at the mildest, unlikely.

Second, Carpenter is harshly treated. The authors may have a good reason for that, but I've beginning to think that maybe it's time to call an end to Carpenter-bashing. 

 Third, the book seems to bog down at one point over the question of whether Tolkien knew Sanskrit (I'd say yes) and whether it was an important influence on him (I'd say no --certainly not as much as, say, Gothic).

Looking forward to reading the thing and seeing if I learn the answers to these and other questions.

--John R.

--current reading: "The Mirror of Galadriel"

"[The trees] stood up in the twilight like living towers 

. . . amid their ever-moving leaves countless lights 

were gleaming, green and gold and silver"

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