Tolkien Gateway

Letter 159

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 159
RecipientDora Marshall
Date3 March 1955
Subject(s)The labour and satisfaction of The Lord of the Rings, remembrance of Charles Williams

Letter 159 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien stated that it took several years to get The Lord of the Rings published. He found it an unfailing delight to find his belief justified: that the "fairy-story" is really an adult genre with a starving audience. He had said so in an essay in the collection dedicated to Charles Williams. As C.S. Lewis had said (hoping, said Tolkien, that his memory served him right) "if they won’t write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves; but it is very laborious". Lewis had finished his "trilogy" first. Tolkien was slower, more meticulous, more indolent, and less organized, but finally produced his effort. It was an enormous labour but he had been amply rewarded and encouraged from letters such as Marshall had written.

Tolkien said that he knew Charles Williams well in his last years. Lewis, pleased with Williams' writings, had put himself and Tolkien in touch with him. Tolkien also got to know him better because Williams came to Oxford during the War. However, they had not influenced each other's writing – too "set" and too different, said Tolkien. Lewis had enjoyed them both but Williams and Tolkien found each other's mind or mode of expression impenetrable (yet they found each other's company delightful).