Tolkien vs. Auden

Oh no! Two of my favourite (authors who were, at times, regrettably too religious) going head to head in a contest of the wills: that time Tolkien blocked Auden from writing a book about him.

Mr. Auden did, in fact, inform me that he had agreed to contribute to your series a book called J. R. R. Tolkien in Christian Perspective. For various reasons I did not reply immediately to him; but though I regret that my view may not please you, and I am of course grateful for the honor of your attention, it is necessary I think to quote to you now what I said to him.

“I regret very much to hear that you have contracted to write a book about me. It does meet with my strong disapproval. I regard such things as premature impertinences; and unless undertaken by an intimate friend, or with consultation of the subject (for which I have at present no time), I cannot believe that they have a usefulness to justify the distaste and irritation given to the victim. I wish at any rate that any book could wait until I produce the Silmarillion. I am constantly interrupted in this; but nothing interferes more than the present pother about ‘me’ and my history.”

I owe Mr. Auden a debt of gratitude for the generosity with which he has supported and encouraged me since the first appearance of The Lord of the Rings. At the same time I feel obliged to comment that he does not know me.* It is possibly unfair to judge him by the press reports (possibly garbled) about me and my views at a meeting of the so-called Tolkien Society. They at any rate, as reported, showed him to be entirely mistaken about my views on the topics he touched on.

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