Eleventy-one and Gross

In the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo is about to reach the age of eleventy-one, in, 'a rather curious number', and at his birthday party, his announcement 'I am eleventy-one today' is met with cheers from the assembled guests. In English there are other invented terms for numbers representing tens, most famously umpty, which is now almost forgotten, but on which was based the very common word umpteen. It would be easy to see this as a piece of whimsical fancy based on Lewis Carroll logic: if we can count to ninety, why not eleventy?

But as always with Tolkien, the roots go deeper, and are planted in the reality of the culture of the ancient world. In Old Eng­lish, the next two tens after hund 'hundred' were hundendlufontig and hundtwelftig: the hund- was a prefix, which also occurred in hundeahtatig 'eighty' and hundnigontig 'ninety'; if we remove the prefix, we get -endlufontig 'eleventy' from endlufon or endleofon 'eleven' and -twelftig 'twelfty'. Why did the Anglo-Saxons count up to 'twelfty'? The answer lies in an ancient system of counting in twelves; much later, at the end of the Middle English period, certain commodities, such as fish, were counted in 'hundreds' that actually contained six score or 120, and this was known as the 'great hundred' or 'long hundred' (OED: hundred n. and a., sense 3). That this probably goes back to ancient times is shown by the fact that in Old Norse 100 was tiu tigir'ten tens', 110 was ellifu tigir 'eleven tens' (exactly parallel to eleventy), and 120 was hundrad 'hundred'. There are even said to be ordinal numerals titugandi and ellifu-tugandi 'tentieth' and 'eleventieth'.

Similarly, the OED shows that, from around 1400, many com­modities were reckoned by the gross (OED: gross n.3), which sig­nified 12 dozen (144). We know that the hobbits used this reckoning from another place in the same chapter, where we are told that the invitations to the special family dinner party were limited to twelve dozen, 'a number also called by the hobbits one Gross, though the word was not considered proper to use of people' — Bilbo offends his guests later in the speech already referred to, by doing just that. The party is even punningly described as 'an engrossing entertain­ment', although the sentence containing this phrase no longer con­tains the mention of  '144' present in the early draft (HMEVl. 23), so many readers miss the pun.

Tolkien is imagining, as with many other matters, that the hobbits continued a practice used by our forefathers. But he presum­ably also knew that the OED has an entry for the similarly formed word eleventeen meaning 'twenty-one', which was used by a 17th-century writer named George Wither (and also revived in a Vic­torian farce by Charles Selby in 1858}. It is also quite probable that he had come across this gloss for the Icelandic word ellefu-tiu in Cleasby and Vigfusson's Icelandic-English Dictionary (1874): '"eleventy" (i.e. one hundred and ten),,..frequent in reckoning by duodecimal hundreds'.

The Ring of Words
(OUP 2006)

Pattern

Some believe the slumber
Of trees is in December
When timber's naked under sky
And squirrel keeps his chamber.

But I believe their fibres
Awake to life and labour
When turbulence comes roaring up
The land in loud October,

And plunders, strips, and sunders
And sends the leaves to wander
And undisguises prickly shapes
Beneath the golden splendour.

Then form returns. In warmer,
Seductive days, disarming
Its firmer will, the wood grew soft
And put forth dreams to murmur.

Into earnest winter
With spirit alert it enters;
The hunter wind and the hound frost
Have quelled the green enchanter.

Poems - C.S. Lewis (1964)

Jack, on hearing of the acceptance for publication of "The Lord of the Rings"






















To J.R.R. Tolkien

[Magdalen College]

Nov 13/52

My dear Tollers

Just a note to tell you with what agreeable warmth and weight your yesterday’s good news lies on my mind – with an inward chuckle of deep content. Foremost of course is the sheer pleasure of looking forward to having the book to read and re-read. But a lot of ther things come in. So much of your whole life, so much of our joint life, so much of the war, so much that seemed to be slipping away quite spurlos into the past, is now, in a sort made permanent.

And I am of course very glad on your account too. I think the very prolonged pregnancy has drained a little vitality from you: there’ll be a new ripeness and freedom when the book’s out. And how pleased Priscilla and Mrs. Farrer will be. God bless you.

J.

(spurlos = without trace)
Collected Letters, Volume III (2006)

Before the publication of 'The Hobbit'

Mr Lewis of Magdalen, who reviews for the Times Literary Supplement, tells me that he has already written urging a review and claiming the book as a specialist in fairy-stories; and he is now disgruntled because he will get 'juveniles' that he does not want, while the Hobbit will not reach him until the vacation is over, and will have to wait till December to be read & written up properly.  Also if the book had been available before the university disintegrates I could have got my friend the editor of the O.U. Magazine, who has been giving it a good dose of my dragon-lore recently, to allocate it and get a review at the beginning of the autumn term.  However, I say these things too late I expect.  In any case I do not suppose it makes in the long run a great deal of difference.  I have only one personal motive in regretting this delay: and that is that I was anxious that it should appear as soon as possible, because I am under research-contract since last October, and not supposed to be indulging in exams or in "frivolities'.  The further we advance into my contract time, the more difficulty I shall have (and I have already had some) in pretending that the work belongs wholly to the period before October 1936. I shall now find it very hard to make people believe that this is not the major fruits of 'research' 1936-7!

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

To Allen & Unwin
28 May 1937

The Father Christmas Letters


Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R.Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.

They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place; how the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining-room; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house!

Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humour to the stories.

In these letters, Father Christmas kept the Tolkien children updated with stories about the hijinks at the North Pole -- the clumsy North Polar Bear and all the things he broke, firework explosions, the discovery of ancient caves full of old cave drawings, and battles with the goblins.

When reading these letters, it's hard to imagine any luckier kids in the Christmases of the '20s and '30s. After all, how many children gets detailed letters and pictures from Father Christmas -- complete with special stamps? Tolkien's love for his kids is evident in the care he took to create these letters, and the affection that comes from "Father Christmas".

Tolkien's old-school style of writing is a bit formal and very correct, but he tosses in comments of exasperation, amusement, and in the last letter, a sort of sad resignation that children will grow up. Maybe it is because they were given to real children, and not intended for publication.

Tolkien's detailed, colourful, beautiful, intricate pictures are what make the letters come alive. You can imagine Tolkien’s children eagerly examining the pictures as well as the written words. They aren't terribly realistic -- Father Christmas never looks quite real -- but their charm makes up for it, such as the murals on Father Christmas's walls, with suns, moons, stars and trees.

Tolkien also sprinkles the stories with things that his kids were probably intrigued by, like prehistoric cave paintings, fireworks, and a comic bear who causes all kinds of mayhem. And fans of Tolkien's fantasy works will probably enjoy checking out things like the invented Elf language (as written by Ilbereth) and goblin language. Tolkien includes a letter from the North Polar Bear in his language too!

No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness and ‘authenticity’ of Tolkien’s “Letters from Father Christmas”. Seek out a copy.

Arthur C. Clarke's ‘Lewisgate’ Speech


At the University of Liverpool on the occasion of his acceptance of D. Litt degree Via Satellite, 1995 Jan. 26: 

"Greetings from Sri Lanka. I'm honoured and happy to be with you today, if only electronically... especially as I have several important links with your city. Although I only visited it once, three local people have had a profound impact on my life..." 

"I'm indeed happy that the Foundation Library has at last found a permanent home with you, and that degrees in science fiction studies are now being granted. It's high time the UK caught up with the US-where there have been hundreds of courses! -and we recognized the importance of one of the most useful links between Snow's famous two cultures." 

"And now I have a -- rather controversial -- suggestion for your degree thesis. Just recently I received an extraordinary book -- Light In the Shadowlands by Kathryn Lindskoog. Her thesis is that C.S. Lewis' posthumous books are at least partly forged. If you don't take this seriously, let me quote a testimonial from an authority you will all admire: 

"A fascinating piece of detective work, which may serve to free C.S. Lewis from the shadows of a misogyny and arrogance which it appears may have been cast upon him... I finished it liking Lewis, as man and artist, better than I had ever done before.... The books' temperate, pleasant tone and elegant illustrations make it a pleasure to read." - Ursula Le Guin. 

"Though I only met Lewis once, I had an extensive correspondence with him, which is now in the Bodleian Library. And I used to see Joy Gresham almost every week at our "White Horse" get-togethers, so I -- and millions of others -- would like to know if there is indeed a 'Lewisgate' scandal..." 

There is another book out about the "controversial" correspondence between Arthur C. Clark and Lewis: From Narnia to a Space Odyssey : The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis . Looks like it is getting mixed reviews, however.

Lewis on Tolkien in 1922

Into Merton for the "English tea" at 4.  Here there was hardly any talk of the strike.  Discussion turned on Fletcher's proposal to co-ordinate the lecture list with the ordinary course of tutorial work.  Everyone agreed, tho' Gordon spoke of the danger of making the thing too much of  "an easily running engine that can give no pleasure to anyone except the engineer".  Miss Lee talked a lot of nonsense about the need for lessons in pronunciation and beginners' "outlines of literature".

Tolkien managed to get the discussion round to the proposed English Prelim.  I had a talk with him afterwards.  He is a smooth, pale, fluent little chap - can't read Spenser because of the forms - thinks the language is the real thing in the school - thinks all literature is written for the amusement of men between thirty and forty - we ought to vote ourselves out of existence if we were honest - still the sound-changes and the gobbets are great fun for the dons.  No harm in him: only needs a smack or so.  His pet abomination is the idea of "liberal" studies. Technical hobbies are more in his line.

C.S. Lewis
All My Road Before Me
Harcourt Brace (1991)

A stone for a lover, not for a poet.


At the dedication of a memorial (pictured here) to CS Lewis in Poets’ Corner yesterday, the Westminster Abbey choir sang one of his poems, “Love’s as Warm as Tears” (to a setting by Paul Mealor, who wrote the music for Ubi Caritas at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011).

Lewis was not a great poet, if a more accomplished one than Adam Fox, whose memorial is visible across the south transept. Lewis had plotted to have Fox, a clerical fellow of Magdalen, elected Professor of Poetry in 1938, even though the candidate himself was well aware of his limitations as a poet or academic. (He admired Plato and wrote a long poem called Old King Coel, published by the Oxford University Press.)

The success of Lewis’s scheme probably lost him any professorship at Oxford, but he was turning in any case against academic politics (as reflected in his novel That Hideous Strength). His neglect by Oxford at least led to his appointment to a chair at Cambridge, which in turn made him write The Discarded Image, his most powerful vehicle for an alternative world view. So much for consequences.

As for Lewis’s poetry, much of it dates from before he embraced Christianity, and in it can be found resentment against the slaughter of the First World War, and, beyond that, against the putative maker of the universe.

Adherence to Christianity may be no requirement for a memorial in the Abbey, but Lewis is generally regarded as a strong Christian apologist. Why? Not, I think for some of his straightforward works in defence of the Christian position. The Problem of Pain is a weak book on a subject that interested him too much and which even mars his Reflections on the Psalms (despite the book’s convincing defence of the Psalms as poetry). Few would turn to Miracles, either, and be satisfied.

No, readers not already in his fan club find themselves most moved in mind by his imaginative writing, such as The Screwtape Letters, from an older to a younger devil, as read on Radio Four this week, or more so by his seven children’s books about Narnia. Lewis saw them as a kind of myth-making, like his friend Tolkien’s tales.

But there is also a certain amount of allegory. (Aslan stands for Christ, no doubt, or, if one may say it without disrespect, he is what the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity would be like if he had become incarnate as a talking lion). Tolkien hated allegory; Lewis read Medieval and Renaissance allegory by the yard for pleasure.

Rowan Williams, who preached yesterday, observed that Lewis (in unlikely alliance with Orwell) knew that you couldn’t trust someone who did terrible things to language. It is indeed the reality of his language that makes Lewis’s style so readable, and his character as an author so likeable. But was he a saint?

He is commemorated by the Episcopal Church (Anglicans in the United States) in its calendar of Holy Women, Holy Men. So are Florence Nightingale, John Calvin and Pope John XIII.

What, then, did Lewis know of love? More than you might think from his scholarly tome The Allegory of Love or his philosophical The Four Loves.

The Abbey was filled yesterday with the rich, English-accented voice of Lewis, from the only surviving BBC recording of his broadcasts. Don’t go to Christ, he said, for the sake of developing a fuller personality. “Look for yourself and you will get only hatred, loneliness, despair and ruin.” The true person will only emerge “if you’re looking for something else”.

This search is not comfortably passive. Love, his poem says, brings the sap of spring, whispering “Dare!” and saying: “Ease, safety, rest,/ Are good; not best.”

(Christopher Howse)
Daily Telegraph (22-Nov-2013)

'The Train in Spain’ by Christopher Howse (RRP £16.99) is available from Telegraph Books for £14.99 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

Personal Sancitity























(W. H. Auden)

W. H. Auden, worked with Charles Williams on a collection of Poetry he edited for Oxford University Press. Many years after first meeting Williams, he would recall that interview in surprising terms and mark it as one of the events that led him to embrace the Christian faith:

"For the first time in my life, [I] felt myself in the presence of personal sanctity... I had met many good people before who made me feel ashamed of my own shortcomings but in the presence of this man... I did not feel ashamed. I felt transformed into a person who was incapable of doing or thinking anything base or unloving (I later discovered that he had had a similar effect on many other people.)"

How could a conversation about 'literary business' generate such an aura of 'personal sanctity'? Yet Williams simply made an exceptionally powerful impression on almost all who knew him.

Notes on Old English

Inkling Neville Coghill habitually took notes at lectures and minutes of meetings in Chaucerian English, just a small sample will suffice from 1923, never mind the context!

“Sir Lewis was ther; a good philosópher
He hadde a noblé paper for to offer.
Well couthe he speken in the Greeké tongue;
And yet, his countenance was swythé yong.”

C.S. Lewis

All My Road Before Me, Page 192

Lewis' favourites



























C.S. Lewis’ favourite psalm was Psalm 19. In Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis said of Psalm 19, "I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world." 

In my opinion this three-part psalm perfectly encapsulates Lewis's three-part experience of Joy. Psalm 19 is related to Lewis' description of space in the fifth chapter of Out of the Silent Planet. That passage begins with "He had read of space..." and ends with "the heavens which declared the glory...". 

In 1992 I published a full-sized 1993 C. S. Lewis calendar for readers of The Lewis Legacy, and for June I included "The Ten Books That Influenced C.S. Lewis the Most"; this list was composed by Lewis himself in 1962 for a delightful series in The Christian Century. 

PHANTASTES by George MacDonald 

THE EVERLASTING MAN by G. K. Chesterton 
THE AENEID by Virgil 
THE TEMPLE by George Herbert 
THE PRELUDE by William Wordsworth 
THE IDEA OF THE HOLY by Rudolph Otto 
THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY by Boethius 
THE LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON by James Boswell 
DESCENT INTO HELL by Charles Williams 
THEISM AND HUMANISM by Arthur James Balfour 

Kathryn Lindskoog

Apologist's Evening Hymn

























From all my lame defeats and oh! much more 
From all the victories I have seemed to score; 
From cleverness shot forth in Thy behalf, 
At which, while angels weep, the audience laughs; 
From all my proofs of Thy divinity, 
Thou, who would’st give no sign, deliver me, 
Thoughts are but coins.  Let me not trust, instead 
Of Thee, the thumb-worn image of Thy head; 
From every thought, even from my thoughts of Thee, 
Oh thou fair Silence! fall and set me free. 
Lord of the straight way and the needle’s eye, 
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die. 

CS Lewis
Collected Poems (1994)

Christendom














The beginning of Christendom is, strictly, as a point out of time.  A metaphysical trigonometry finds it among the spiritual Secrets, at the meeting of two heavenward lines, one drawn from Bethany along the Ascent of Messais, the other from Jerusalem against the Descent of the Paraclete. That measurement, the measurement of eternity in operation, of the bright cloud and the rushing wind, is, in effect, theology.

Charles Williams
First Paragraph of "The Descent of the Dove" (1939)

Biblical Creation and the Fall of Barad-dur?


[Image : John Martin]

(*) I imagine the gap to be about 6,000 years: that is we are now at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were of about the same length as S.A. and T.A. But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh.

* The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 283 (#211)

Tolkien would have been aware of Archbishop Ussher's calculation of the date of Biblical Creation being the year 4004 BC. This is about 6,000 years ago which matches Tolkien's imagined gap between the Fall of Barad-dur and our own days. Although some modern Christian fundamentalists consider that Ussher's date is the actual date of Creation, Tolkien was not a fundamentalist and would not have believed that the date was literally true.

He was, however, a faithful Roman Catholic and perhaps, consciously or subconsciously, he dated his literary creation to a time prior to the supposed date of the Biblical Creation. Therefore, the change in the Earth which altered geography from Middle Earth to Modern Earth may have been caused by the "Biblical Creation" which usshered (pun intended!) in Tolkien's own personal religious beliefs in place of his imagined ones.

The Splendid Century, Warnie Lewis' fascinating book

What can you say about a book that gives you Louis XIV sitting on the grass at Versailles carrying on a conversation with a little girl? This is history with a human face. When Louis made the little girl laugh he knew she liked him for himself and not because she was trying to gain the favor of The Sun King. When you think of Versailles do you think of elegance and sumptuosness? Of course! But do you also picture courtiers eating soup out of one tureen using a communal spoon? Or of using a piece of stale bread as a plate? And if you were lucky enough to be in residence at Versailles your living quarters were likely to be the size of a small attic room. And that's if you were lucky!

This book is also much more than just Louis and Versailles. It lives up to its subtitle. For you also learn about how the church and the army operated; what it was like to be a peasant or a member of the impoverished nobility; there is an excellent chapter on the bureaucracies involved surrounding doctors and dentists; life for a criminal sentenced to the galleys; the education of women, etc. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is only about 285 pages but there is so much learning and entertainment between the covers that you will be amazed. Probably the best thing I can say is that even though it was written almost 50 years ago, the book does not seem dated in the least. I would imagine that in the scholarly world things have come to light which might necessitate changing some things here and there but for the general reader it does not get any better than this! I will always have the image of little Louis (he was only 5 feet 5 inches) sitting on the grass, charming and being charmed by that anonymous little girl...

Bruce Loveitt (Ogdensburg, NY USA

W.H. Auden and the Inklings

W. H. Auden, who attended Tolkien's lectures as an undergraduate, was also an occasional correspondent and was on friendly terms with Tolkien from the mid-1950s until Tolkien's death, initiated by Auden's fascination with The Lord of the Rings. Auden was among the most prominent early critics to praise the work. Tolkien wrote in a 1971 letter:

"I am [...] very deeply in Auden's debt in recent years.  His support of me and interest in my work has been one of my chief encouragements.  He gave me very good reviews, notices and letters from the beginning when it was by no means a popular thing to do.  He was, in fact, sneered at for it".

W.H. Auden, one of Charles Williams greatest admirers, reportedly re-read Williams’s extraordinary and highly unconventional history of the church, Descent of the Dove(1939), every year.

Friendly Ghosts














Magdalen College
Oxford
Dec 11th 1952

Dear Mrs Sandeman

You were perfectly right to put in the bit about the friendly ghosts. I think the absence of fear is, as far as it goes, probable evidence that the experience was not merely imaginary. Everyone fears lest he should meet a ghost, but there seems to be some ground for supposing that those who really meet them are often quite unafraid. Notice that angels. on the other hand. seem in Scripture to be nearly always terrifying & have to begin by saying 'Fear not'.

In Ireland I stayed at a lonely bungalow last summer which the peasants avoided notbecause a ghost had been seen near it (they didn't mind ghosts) but because the Good People, the Faerie, frequented that bit of coast. So apparently ghosts are the least alarming kind of spirit.

With all good wishes.....

Yours sincerely,

C.S. Lewis

Collected Letters - Volume III

Wrong roads...

I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.  A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good.  Time does not heal it.  The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backward mutters of dissevering power'* ... or else not.  It is still 'either-or'.  If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, Preface (1946)

*this line is a quotation from Comus by John Milton (line 814)

"... a hideous shape"
















"Don't!" he cried out, "you're giving in. That's not the way to rule; that's not within you." To keep himself steady, to know somehow within himself what was happening, to find the capacity of his manhood even here -- some desire of such an obscure nature stirred-in him as he spoke.

He felt as if he were riding against some terrific wind; he was balancing upon the instinctive powers of his spirit; he did not fight this awful opposition but poised himself within and above it. He heard vaguely the sound of running feet and knew that Quentin had fled, but he himself could not move. It was impossible now to help others; the overbearing pressure was seizing and stifling his breath; and still as the striving force caught him he refused to fall and strove again to overpass it by rising into the balance of adjusted movement. "If this is in me I reach beyond it," he cried to himself again, and felt a new-come freedom answer his cry.

A memory -- of all insane things -- awoke in him of the flying he had done in the last year of the war; it seemed as if again he looked down on a wide stretch of land and sea, but no human habitations were there, only forest, and plain, and river, and huge saurians creeping slowly up from the waters, and here and there other giant beasts coming into sight for a moment and then disappearing. Another flying thing went past below him -- a hideous shape that was a mockery of the clear air in which he was riding, riding in a machine that, without his control, was now sweeping down towards the ground. He was plunging towards a prehistoric world; a lumbering vastidity went over an open space far in front, and behind it his own world broke again into being through that other. There was a wild minute in which the two were mingled; mammoths and dinotheria wandered among hedges of English fields, and in that confused vision he felt the machine make easy landing, run, and come to a stop.

Yet it couldn't have been a machine, for he was no longer in it; he hadn't got out, but he was somehow lying on the ground, drawing deep breaths of mingled terror and gratitude and salvation at last. In a recovered peace he moved, and found that he was actually stretched at the side of the road; he moved again and sat up.

Charles Williams
The Place of the Lion
Chapter Five : Servile Fear

The Hobbit - A 'New York Times' 1938 review

This is one of the most freshly original and delightfully imaginative books for children that have appeared in many a long day. Like "Alice in Wonderland," it comes from Oxford University, where the author is Professor of Anglo-Saxon, and like Lewis Carroll's story, it was written for children that the author knew (in this case his own four children) and then inevitably found a larger audience. 


The period of the story is between the age of Faerie and the dominion of men. To an adult who reads of Smaug the Dragon and his hoard, won by the dwarves but claimed also by the Lake men and the Elven King, there may come the thought of how legend and tradition and the beginning of history meet and mingle, but for the reader from 8 to 12 "The Hobbit" is a glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible. 

Hobbits are (or were) a small people, smaller than dwarves - and they have no beards - but very much larger than liliputians. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large, stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colors, chiefly green and yellow; wear no shoes because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick, warm brown hair; have long, clever, brown fingers, good-natured faces and laugh deep, fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day, when they can get it). 

Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit whom we find living in his comfortable, not to say luxurious, hobbit hole, for it was not a dirty, wet hole, nor yet a bare, sandy one, but inside its round, green door, like a porthole, there were bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries, kitchens and dining rooms, all in the best of hobbit taste. All Bilbo asked was to be left in peace in this residence, known as "Bag-End," for hobbits are naturally homekeeping folk, and Bilbo had no desire for adventure. That is to say, the Baggins' side of him had not, but Bilbo's mother had been a Took, and in the past the Tooks had intermarried with a fairy family. It was the Took strain that made the little hobbit, almost against his will, respond to the summons of Gandalf the Wizard to join the dwarves in their attempt to recover the treasure which Smaug the dragon had stolen from their forefathers. Bilbo has an engaging, as well as an entirely convincing, personality; frankly scornful of the heroic (except in his most Tookish moments), he nevertheless plays his part in emergencies with a dogged courage and resourcefulness that make him in the end the real leader of the expedition. 

After the dwarves and Bilbo have passed "The Last Homely House" their way led through Wilderland, over the Misty Mountains and through forests that suggest those of William Morris's prose romances. Like Morris's countries, Wilderland is Faerie, yet it has an earthly quality, the scent of trees drenching rains and the smell of woodfires. 

The tale is packed with valuable hints for the dragon killer and adventurer in Faerie. Plenty of scaly monsters have been slain in legend and folktale, but never for modern readers has so complete a guide to dragon ways been provided. Here, too, are set down clearly the distinguishing characteristics of dwarves, goblins, trolls and elves. The account of the journey is so explicit that we can readily follow the progress of the expedition. In this we are aided by the admirable maps provided by the author, which in their detail and imaginative consistency, suggest Bernard Sleigh's "Mappe of Fairyland." 

The songs of the dwarves and elves are real poetry, and since the author is fortunate enough to be able to make his own drawings, the illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the text. Boys and girls from 8 years on have already given "The Hobbit" an enthusiastic welcome, but this is a book with no age limits. All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take "The Hobbit" to their hearts. 

Anne T. Eaton 
New York Times -- March 13, 1938 

C.S. Lewis on the death of Charles Williams

I have heard (from a lady) that he himself, before he went into hospital, had some expectation that he was going there to die.  We, his male friends at Oxford, had had no notion that he was even ill until we heard that he was in the Radcliffe Infirmary; nor did we then suspect that the trouble was serious.  I heard of his death at the Infirmary itself, having walked up there with a book I wanted to lend him, expecting this news that day as little (almost) as I expected to die that day myself.

It was a Tuesday morning., one of our times of meeting.  I thought he would have given me messages to take on to the others.  When I joined them with my actual message — it was only a few minutes' walk from the Infirmary but, I remember, the very streets looked different — I had some difficulty in making them believe or even understand what had happened.  The world seemed to us at that moment primarily a strange one.

That sense of strangeness continued with a force which sorrow itself has never quite swallowed up.  This experience of loss (the greatest I have yet known) was wholly unlike what I should have expected.  We now verified for ourselves what so many bereaved people have reported; the ubiquitous presence of a dead man, as if he had ceased to meet us in particular places in order to meet us everywhere.  It is not in the least like a haunting.  It is not in the least like the bitter-sweet experiences of memory.  It is vital and bracing; it is even, however the word may be misunderstood and derided, exciting.

It is one of the many paradoxes in Williams that while no man's conversation was less gloomy in tone — it was, indeed, a continual flow of gaiety, enthusiasm, and high spirits — no man at times said darker things.  He never forgot the infinite menaces of life, the unremitted possibility of torture, maiming, madness, bereavement, and (over all) that economic insecurity which, as he said in War in Heaven, poisons our sorrows as well as modifying our joys. 

C.S. Lewis
Preface to “Essays Presented to Charles Williams”