Tolkien, J.R.R. (1892 – 1973)
“the best way of doing hobbits is to make them absolutely ordinary human beings”
A superb three-and-a-half-page autograph letter signed by J.R.R. Tolkien, July 1956. The author writes to a Miss Sykes, discussing suggested illustrations she has sent to him for inclusion in a forthcoming edition of Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien opens, “You are more than justified in writing, and I ask your forgiveness for causing you anxiety. I have been neglectful, I fear; but I am a dreadfully harried man, having a v. full time job, to stick all The Lord of the Rings business is extra and plus.”
He goes on, “I have done nothing further in the matter, since the publishers are not at present inclined to consider any edition illustrated or more ‘deluxe’ and costly than the one just issued. I have been prevented, by illness earlier in the year and other difficulties, from going to London for a long while; and though you were obliged to send your drawings to me (and I must return them) by post, I have a great reluctance to send them into an office in that way, while under my care. I have shown your drawings to other ‘readers’ and the response has been good; though most agree that the best way of doing hobbits is to make them absolutely ordinary human beings (except for a neat goatee or buskin of hair), and not too childlike, round-eyed etc. I cannot remember what notes I mentioned (having no secretary, I have no copies, unless I type).
But I think what you need is a copy of the book. I am sorry that I have nothing left (save my own copy!); but I will if you like send some copies that would do to work from. I. a defective American copy pp.321-336 omitted – but should be supplemented perhaps by copying the missing bit from a library copy. Or/alternatively a paper-bound uncorrected proof copy (minus the drawings of Mordor Gate and Runes). II. A copy (with one defective page) of the English edition – defect amended. III A perfect copy with two errors (appearing in all edns.) amended by hand of the American edition. These you could keep for the present, though for purely ‘historical’ sentimental and bibliographical reasons I should like to have them back eventually. The Americans you could keep, if you wished. I should be v. pleased to see any further drawings you make; though I cannot encourage any great hopes of your labour being rewarded in a practical way in the near future.”
The author signs boldly in fountain pen ink, then adds a postscript, which he signs with initials, “Except that – if and when I get any money from the book after the vast costs are defrayed: I have had none at all yet – I like some of the drawings so much that I should like to consider asking you to allow me to purchase some for myself, in the event of an illustrated edition being indefinitely postponed”. In very fine condition.