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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
a delightful memoir by George Sayer


Mar 21 2007, 11:41pm

Post #1 of 9 (604 views)
a delightful memoir by George Sayer Can't Post

Well, many of you are more well-read on the subject of Tolkien than am I, so some will have already read this memoir. However, I stumbled on a "sample copy" of a 2002 edition of The Chesterton Review that is dedicated to Tolkien. Here's the TOC (the JRRT specific articles only):

IAN BOYD, CSB . . . . . . . . . . . . . Introduction 1
STRATFORD CALDECOTT . . . . . . . The Horns of Hope: J.R. Tolkien and the Heroism of Hobbits 29
OWEN DUDLEY EDWARDS . . . . . Gollum, Frodo and the Catholic Novel 57
C.S. LEWIS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings 73
CLIVE TOLLEY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tolkien’s “Essay on Man”: a look at Mythopoeia 79
VERLYN FLIEGER . . . . . . . . . . . . A Cautionary Tale 97
DWIGHT LONGENECKER . . . . . . . The Little Way Through Middle Earth 105
LÉONIE CALDECOTT . . . . . . . . . . Film Review 113
PETER MILWARD, SJ . . . . . . . . . Tolkien, the Ring and I 119
OWEN LEE, CSB . . . . . . . . . . . . Wise Words for University Graduands 131
Reviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
News and Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 291

Clearly, you can see this is a periodical devoted to the Catholic viewpoint (as was Chesterton). And some of the JRRT-related content was excerpted and/or published elsewhere. I haven't read Stratford Caldecott's book, so don't know what was included in it.

But there is a lovely memoir here among other memoirs and miscellany in the "News and Comments" section by George Sayer (also published in Tolkien: A Celebration, edited by Joseph Pearce and published in London by HarperCollins in 1999). For those of you (like me) who haven't read that, here are some entertaining excerpts:

Well before the month was up, I turned up with it at Tolkien’s house, then in Holywell. I found him obviously unhappy and dishevelled. He explained that his wife had gone to Bournemouth and that all his friends were out of Oxford. He eagerly accepted my invitation to come to Malvern for a few days. “But what shall I do with the other book? I can’t leave it here.” So I drove Tolkien to Malvern with the typescripts of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion on the back seat. What a precious cargo!

While with us he asked if he could do something to help in the house or garden. He was quite domesticated, not at all an impractical academic. We thought, in the garden, for our garden has never been a tidy or weedfree one. He chose an area of about two square yards, part flower border and part lawn and cultivated it perfectly: the border meticulously weeded and the soil made level and exceedingly fine; the grass cut with scissors closely and evenly. It took him quite a long time to do the job, but it was beautifully done. He was in all things a perfectionist. I think his training in domesticity, in housework, gardening, and looking after chickens and other creatures gave to his writing a homely and earthy quality.

In the pew in front of us there were two or three children who were trying to follow the service in a simple picture-book missal. He seemed to be more interested in them than in events at the altar. He lent over and helped them. When we came out of the church we found that he was not with us. I went back and found him kneeling in front of the Lady Altar with the young children and their mother, talking happily and I think telling stories about Our Lady. I knew the mother and found out later that they were enthralled. This again was typical; he loved children and had the gift of getting on well with them. “Mummy, can we always go to church with that nice man?” The story also illustrates one of the most important things about him, his great devotion to Our Lady. He wrote to me years later a letter in which he stated that he attributed anything that was good or beautiful in his writing to the influence of Our Lady, “the greatest influence in my life”. He meant it.

He was overwhelmed by his fan mail and would-be visitors. It was wonderful to have at long last plenty of money, more than he knew what to do with. He once began a meeting with me by saying: “I’ve been a poor man all my life, but now for the first time I’ve a lot of money. Would you like some?”

The sample copy can be found at www.isi.org/journals/content/chesterton_sample_2-02.pdf

I've saved a copy on my computer, for future reading!!


"an seileachan"

Some say once you're gone, you're gone forever, and some say you're gonna come back.
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior if sinful ways you lack.
Some say that they're coming back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent

Forum Admin / Moderator

Mar 22 2007, 2:24am

Post #2 of 9 (383 views)
Love that guy! [In reply to] Can't Post

(I seem to be saying that a lot lately...but I do!)

Tolkien is Bilbo the scholar, and Sam the gardener, and wise Gandalf. Thank you for that delightful excerpt - and the link! Do you know, offhand, what dates this visit took place?

I do think that he looked to Mary as a "surrogate mother" in his life; that would have been a great comfort to him.

"Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!"


Mar 22 2007, 4:28am

Post #3 of 9 (374 views)
Brought tears to my eyes. Many thanks for these lovely anecdotes of a lovely man. [nt] [In reply to] Can't Post


(former nick: "HobbitLoveR*M-e" among several others, briefly)


Egleria! Iorhael!


Mar 22 2007, 10:12am

Post #4 of 9 (382 views)
four separate excerpts [In reply to] Can't Post

I took the excerpts from four separate parts of the memoir, I should have made that clearer. Sayer goes back to his Oxford days, talking about Tolkien as lecturer and then giving anecdotes from all the years between his student days prior to LOTR up until Tolkien's death. It's really a lovely memoir because Tolkien the human man shows through quite clearly, in all his foibles and weaknesses ("scrupulosity" shouldn't surprise any of us) as well as his charm and talents.


"an seileachan"

Some say once you're gone, you're gone forever, and some say you're gonna come back.
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior if sinful ways you lack.
Some say that they're coming back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


Mar 22 2007, 12:50pm

Post #5 of 9 (379 views)
Nice find! [In reply to] Can't Post

I look forward to reading some of the articles when I have more time. Coincidentally, I recently read a 1974 article by a Christopher Clausen claiming Tolkien was "heavily indebted" to Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse in writing LotR. It induced me to check that book out of the library, though as I know nothing about King Alfred, it was a bit of a tough slog. I think Clausen greatly overstated the debt, and ARRGGH! he called Shadowfax a white horse (pet peeve alert!) but he did point out a few interesting parallels. Anyway, it made me wonder if there was any connection between Chesterton and Tolkien.

ink drawing by JRRT

Luthien Rising

Mar 22 2007, 1:22pm

Post #6 of 9 (381 views)
oh, thank you *so* much! / [In reply to] Can't Post


Lúthien Rising
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. / We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.


Mar 22 2007, 4:29pm

Post #7 of 9 (388 views)
What lovely insights [In reply to] Can't Post

into the great man's attitude to life!

I especially like the bit about him trimming the lawn with scissors - just like Sam who appears to cut the entire Bag End lawn using nothing but shears!

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.

Forum Admin / Moderator

Mar 22 2007, 8:15pm

Post #8 of 9 (361 views)
Delightful indeed. Thanks, a s. / [In reply to] Can't Post


Promises to Keep: a novel set in 19th Century New Zealand.

The Passing of Mistress Rose

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


Mar 22 2007, 9:14pm

Post #9 of 9 (489 views)
Thanks for the link [In reply to] Can't Post

There are a lot of Chesteron-Tolkien cross-over publications, websites, etc.

(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


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