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Old 02-08-2011, 01:38 PM   #121
garm
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Mithalwen - well said! (btw - I tried to PM you, but your inbox is full. Could you PM me, please? Thanks)
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Old 02-08-2011, 02:52 PM   #122
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A valid point, Mithalwen, but you overlook the fact that one earlier book had already been allowed, Black and White Ogre Country. So the case is perhaps not quite as black and white as you make it.

I just see it as very unfortunate, all round.
Was it allowed or did it slip through the net? Even so I am sure you would agree that it would be a dangerous to assume that because something is consented to once that consent will always be given...

I do understand that scholars are interested in the letters of their subjects but I also fear that people claiming they have the right to know everything on those grounds will be counterproductive since subjects will self censor and not keep diaries and write letters at least not with an awareness of possible publication that would also be self censorship.
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:00 PM   #123
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I don't have time to do a long detailed analysis as I'm getting ready to go out for my birthday dinner so I'll make this quick.

Really, I'm not even that curius about what was in that letter. I don't care what he wrote to Hilary. It seems to me that all the parties involved in this are making it seem like this letter contains what surely must be earth shattering information when in reality, it probably more closely resembles my cousin and I's discussion at Christmas where nothing important was discussed. In the end, it's just making a mountain out of a mole hill. Yes, I believe that the Estate should have let the book go forward, especially since they've probably done more to destroy their privacy by making this into a big issue then releasing the book would have.

Thanks for the congrataltions, Mith! I'm excited to finally be an adult.
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:11 PM   #124
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I think whatever Tolkien may or may not have wanted to happen to the information in the letters at the time he wrote them is fairly academic - unless one imagines him to be sitting on a cloud somewhere fretting about what is or isn't contained in a biography of his brother. I honestly think Tolkien's own feelings/wishes are impossible to guess at - it may well be that he would have no problem at all with this material is (whatever it may be) coming out. It seems like the 'Estate' (ie Christopher Tolkien) is the one with the problem.

There are two possibilities here - 1) this material is entirely mundane - the brothers reminiscing about childhood events, everyday trivia, & this is a simple case of CT pointing the Lawyers at the authors (& his members of his own family, let us remember) & shouting 'Get orf my Land!'. Unacceptable to my mind, given the work put into this book by sincere people - I've met the author (in passing at Oxonmoot) & I know that she is not some hack looking to make a fast buck by writing a tacky book on JRRT. And I can't believe that Hilary's children/grandchildren feel any less respect for him than CT feels for his father. If this is about the kind of 'trivia' I'm talking about its very petty on CT's part to stop it being published - whether he has a 'right' to do this or not.

The other possibility is that it is something more 'serious' that the family do not wish to be made public, because it would 'embarass' those family members who are still around, or (at the far extreme) harm the reputation of Tolkien in some way. That becomes more difficult, because, as I've pointed out, the family have authorised a number of biographical works (Letters, Caprenter's bio, Garth's book on Tolkien &WWI), in effect creating an 'authorised' version of JRR Tolkien. Now, if there is more to JRRT than they have told us - & if that 'more' would alter our understanding/perception of him (for good or ill) then I don't see how the family could justifiably object - if a man was, say, a drunken cross-dressing wife-beater, who was at the same time a painter of genius who loved animals, his family would be justified in a) refusing to talk about his personal life at all, & avoiding any authorised biography at all (& thus protecting their sensitivities), or b) being entirely honest & open & authorising a warts & all biography which gave a true insight into the whole man. Where they would not be 'morally' justified would be in publishing an authorised biography which focused entirely on the animal loving painter & failed to mention the drinking, cross-dressing & wife-beating. In such a case, you either say nothing, or you tell the truth - either is justifiable - but lying by telling only half the truth would be unacceptable.

Now, I can't see there is any other option here - its either a petty act, callously destroying 3 years work for no other reason than that they don't want some perfectly harmless trivialities to be made public because they own the letters, or its because the material is something more 'significant' & they want to cover it up - which would be morally questionable, given they have gone out of their way to give us their own 'acceptable' version of JRRT.
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:42 PM   #125
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Well, first of all, that is the case with other writers, so why should Tokien be exempt?

And actually, letters which do not directly pertain to the writing can often yield significant clues or examples or explanations about the writer and his (or her) time.
But where does one draw the line? Where does the public man leave off and the private one begin? Is every aspect of an "artist"'s life to be held up for examination for the sake of posterity, at the expense of making public potentially embarrassing details, especially when said artist has living immediate family?

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After all, why did Carpenter print the letter which Tokien wrote to his son about women? It doesn't pertain directly to Tolkien's writing and is simply advice from a father to a son.
That letter was printed, yes. But Carpenter noted in Letters that there was a gap in the early ones that were of a highly personal nature between Tolkien and Edith. Could this not be something similar?


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Now, I can't see there is any other option here - its either a petty act, callously destroying 3 years work for no other reason than that they don't want some perfectly harmless trivialities to be made public because they own the letters, or its because the material is something more 'significant' & they want to cover it up - which would be morally questionable, given they have gone out of their way to give us their own 'acceptable' version of JRRT.
I'd rather give CT and the Estate the benefit of the doubt. Since they did authorise Letters, I don't necessarily think they wanted to quash this book for no reason. And why would it be "morally questionable" for them to decide that a particular letter's coming to light did not serve any legitimate academic interest and disallow it? Who is in a better position, and has more right, to protect the privacy and reputation of a dead author than his family?
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Old 02-08-2011, 05:01 PM   #126
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I'd rather give CT and the Estate the benefit of the doubt. Since they did authorise Letters, I don't necessarily think they wanted to quash this book for no reason. And why would it be "morally questionable" for them to decide that a particular letter's coming to light did not serve any legitimate academic interest and disallow it?
Its a biography, why would there be a problem with a biography containing biographical details? I don't see that the contents of a biography should be determined solely on the grounds of ' legitimate academic interest'. Biography can be art or entertainment. The question here would be whether the contents of the letter contradicted the image of JRRT the family have carefully created - if it does then it is certainly morally questionable for them disallow it, because that would show that they had deliberately attempted to mislead.

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Who is in a better position, and has more right, to protect the privacy and reputation of a dead author than his family?
but this book has had the support & input of family members.

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Old 02-08-2011, 08:01 PM   #127
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Its a biography, why would there be a problem with a biography containing biographical details?
Perhaps the "details" in question were not seen as appropriate, or necessary to tell the story of Hilary. It wasn't supposed to be another biography of his brother, after all.

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The question here would be whether the contents of the letter contradicted the image of JRRT the family have carefully created - if it does then it is certainly morally questionable for them disallow it, because that would show that they had deliberately attempted to mislead.
If anyone with the family has been attempting to "mislead" in order to protect the man's reputation, I have no problem with it. I would hope my family would do the same in such circumstances. That's a pretty large "if", though, and without knowing the contents of the letter ourselves this is all just speculation.

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but this book has had the support & input of family members.
Not the support of all, apparently. And families can have disagreements. Have any of the supporters come out with what's in the letters in question? Or are they not allowed?
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Old 02-08-2011, 09:47 PM   #128
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Have any of the supporters come out with what's in the letters in question? Or are they not allowed?
I'm kind of wondering about that too. We're arguing about a letter when we don't know what its about, how personal is it, etc. We can't see the reason for it being published/not published. I don't think they're allowed to tell: otherwise there wouldn't be such a problem. If we only knew... but then, I guess, this topic wouldn't exist.
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Old 02-09-2011, 02:32 AM   #129
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I'm kind of wondering about that too. We're arguing about a letter when we don't know what its about, how personal is it, etc. We can't see the reason for it being published/not published. I don't think they're allowed to tell: otherwise there wouldn't be such a problem. If we only knew... but then, I guess, this topic wouldn't exist.
As I understand it we're not talking about 'a letter' but about 'correspondence' - a number of letters from Tolkien to his brother, covering part of their lives together & for which these letters are the only documentaion (the Estate have asked for 20 pages of the book to be removed, & the authors feel that that section is so significant that there is no way to remove it & still tell the story of the brother's relationship.

If I was inclined to speculation I would guess we're talking about the Father Francis-Tolkien-Edith 'triangle' situation - which neither authorised biography (Carpenter or Garth) goes into in any depth. Yet, if we read the few references in Carpenter we see that Father Francis Morgan calls the relationship 'evil & foolish' - 'evil' coming from a Catholic priest is not simply a casual turn of phrase - the context is that Father Francis had heard Tolkien had been seen 'with a girl'. As his guardian & only source of income - which Morgan threatens to withdraw, leaving Tolkien unable to continue with his education - Tolkien is in no position to disobey.

Of course, I could be completely wrong here but that seems to be the only event of significance in the young Tolkien's life that is never really discussed. Spending ones formative years being brought up by a man who sees relationships with women as 'evil & foolish' is hardly likely to engender a healthy view of women (& may be significant as regards the portrayal of female characters in his books - who seem to be Virgin Mary figures like Elbereth & Galadriel, 'Mumsy' figures like Rosie, harridans like Lobelia or Erendis, or Shield Maidens like Eowyn - unlike the more complex & 'human' male characters). However, if I am right then I could understand that anything 'negative' about the Father Francis period would not go down well with a Catholic family like the Tolkiens.
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Old 02-09-2011, 07:43 AM   #130
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Hasn't Angie G seen the letters, or is at least aware of the content in enough measure, and already reported (in post 92)...

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All the material that we planned to go into the book was sent to TE with the first draft. There is nothing in that material that reflects badly on any member of the Tolkien family, indeed, we had every intention of using it to show the loving relationship of the two brothers.
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Old 02-09-2011, 09:25 AM   #131
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None of the material I saw at the Oxonmoot session related to Father Francis' intervention in Tolkien's teen age love affair with Edith, that I can recall now at least anyway.

It's all just letters between family members and family memorabilia.
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Old 02-09-2011, 09:30 AM   #132
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I do understand that scholars are interested in the letters of their subjects but I also fear that people claiming they have the right to know everything on those grounds will be counterproductive since subjects will self censor and not keep diaries and write letters at least not with an awareness of possible publication that would also be self censorship.
Letter writing is a lost art, Mith. Between e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and various other communication adjuncts, I don't believe we'll see correspondence on the level of Tolkien, D.H. Lawrence, Gertrude Stein, or any literary letter-writer of note. In fact, most current authors expound in detail on their own sites.

So, I look forward to "The Unabridged E-mails of Neil Gaiman" or "The Compleat Blography of Umberto Eco" in the future.
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Old 02-09-2011, 10:38 AM   #133
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None of the material I saw at the Oxonmoot session related to Father Francis' intervention in Tolkien's teen age love affair with Edith, that I can recall now at least anyway.

It's all just letters between family members and family memorabilia.
So this is all CT's 'Get orf my land' act - smash up three years of people's hard work just 'cos he owns the copyright on the material. Nothing shocking or offensive, or even mildly controversial?

Don't know which alternative makes him look worse - covering up a 'dark' family secret, or just being petty about his 'stuff'.

Mind you, I haven't been too impressed with his behaviour since he authorised so many (300-400) changes to LotR, & left us only able to buy new copies of the work in an edition that his father (obviously) never approved.

(EDIT - I'm wondering if the attitude of Fr Morgan to women & its effect on Tolkien's work is worth further discussion anyway.....)
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Old 02-09-2011, 07:24 PM   #134
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Fr Francis' attitude toward women and the effect of that attitude on Tolkien would be an interesting topic to look at. To me, it seems unfortunate that Tolkien was beholden to such an obviously unhealthy character. Human sexuality is not "evil", but it is quite possible that the 'good' father's influence may have inculcated within Tolkien a negative, or at least conflicted, view of human sexuality. But without knowing Tolkien's actual thoughts on the matter, it's difficult to be certain about anything here.
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Old 02-10-2011, 06:53 AM   #135
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So this is all CT's 'Get orf my land' act - smash up three years of people's hard work just 'cos he owns the copyright on the material. Nothing shocking or offensive, or even mildly controversial?

Don't know which alternative makes him look worse - covering up a 'dark' family secret, or just being petty about his 'stuff'.
As far as I understand it the first book breached copyright without permission. If that is so it is not petty in my opinion to be protective when the same people seek permission presumably retrospectively for a second work.

If the work were subsequent to permission being granted and permission were subsequently withdrawn then you might have a point. But that isn't the case is it?

If you build a house without planning permission you run a strong risk of having to demolish it. If you buy stolen goods even in good faith you don't gain ownership.

Personally I don't see that the emotional blackmail of presenting a fait accompli and saying but we have spent so much time is morally superior to " being petty about his stuff". It isn't the Estate that has created this situation. It just seems you want to beat up Christopher Tolkien with any stick that comes to hand.

Obviously JRRT didn't approve the changes but he did approve of Christopher and appoint him to be his literary executor. If you don't approve fine. The changes are documented. I am not aware of all previous editions being recalled and pulped. However if you are questioning CRT's validity as editor and executor you are not obliged to take notice of his revisions or read the posthumously published works.

However if you think only what Tolkien published in his lifetime is valid then you cannot criticise his son for not allowing a free for all on everything he ever wrote. I really cannot see how if it is wrong to make justified changes to a published work, many of which are merely capitalisations or hyphens, because they could not have been approved of by a dead writer how you can endorse open publication without consent of matter which the author never intended to publish at all. It is absolutely definate that they don't have JRRT's approval.
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Old 02-10-2011, 12:15 PM   #136
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As far as I understand it the first book breached copyright without permission. If that is so it is not petty in my opinion to be protective when the same people seek permission presumably retrospectively for a second work.

If the work were subsequent to permission being granted and permission were subsequently withdrawn then you might have a point. But that isn't the case is it?
But what is he being 'protective' of - obviously its possible its something which the family do not wish to be made pubic because it would 'embarrass' surviving members of the family or intrude on their privacy in some way, but from those (the writer included) who have seen the material that seems not to be the case - though I suspect they must cover the Fr Francis period to some extent. The other alternative is that it is just general stuff with zero embarrassment value. That being the case, CT, for all he may have a 'right' to stop publication, is under no obligation to do so. He could opt for the 'nice human being' scenario & just let them go ahead & publish. Quite honestly, its what I would do in a similar situation.


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Personally I don't see that the emotional blackmail of presenting a fait accompli and saying but we have spent so much time is morally superior to " being petty about his stuff". It isn't the Estate that has created this situation. It just seems you want to beat up Christopher Tolkien with any stick that comes to hand.
I think they've played their part

Quote:
Obviously JRRT didn't approve the changes but he did approve of Christopher and appoint him to be his literary executor. If you don't approve fine. The changes are documented. I am not aware of all previous editions being recalled and pulped. However if you are questioning CRT's validity as editor and executor you are not obliged to take notice of his revisions or read the posthumously published works.
I am questioning his actions as regards the changes to LotR - which are fairly substantial, & change the meaning of passages in the book in some cases. I can't see that many of them are justified. I think its perfectly valid to question/criticise any changes to a well loved work - particularly when that revision is done without the approval of the author & when that revised work then replaces the one the author did approve.


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However if you think only what Tolkien published in his lifetime is valid then you cannot criticise his son for not allowing a free for all on everything he ever wrote. I really cannot see how if it is wrong to make justified changes to a published work, many of which are merely capitalisations or hyphens, because they could not have been approved of by a dead writer how you can endorse open publication without consent of matter which the author never intended to publish at all. It is absolutely definate that they don't have JRRT's approval.
But they haven't changed anything JRRT wrote - they are merely looking to make what he wrote available. And I have seen absolutely no eveidence that the changes made to LotR are in any way justified - the only change that could have been justified by any supporting evidence would have been to include the missing verse of the Earendilinwe - & CT decided against including that. I'm not talking about fixing typos in the work, btw, I'm talking about actually altering the text itself in a pointless attempt to make it 'perfect'.
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