Tolkien & Lewis on the Blessed Virgin Mary ~ The Imaginative Conservative
I found an previous letter final week, hidden between the pages of an previous e book, the content material of which has been haunting me ever since. It was addressed to me at an previous tackle in Florida and I appear to have tucked it away for safekeeping. What I learn astounded me because it comprises revelations about J.R.R. Tolkien which I don’t imagine have ever been printed. It was a photocopy of a letter written by George Sayer, a great pal of each Lewis and Tolkien, and was addressed to Dame Felicitas Corrigan, a Benedictine nun who was a pal of George Bernard Shaw, Siegfried Sassoon, Alec Guinness and Rumer Godden. It had been despatched to me from England by my late pal Stratford Caldecott who had appended to it a short handwritten query: “Shall I write concerning the discovery of this letter for StAR?” Stratford Caldecott, who needs to be no stranger to readers of The Imaginative Conservative, was an amazing Catholic author who died in 2014 on the tragically younger age of sixty. The “StAR”, to which he referred, is the St. Austin Overview, the Catholic cultural journal that I’ve edited since 2001. His observe was dated November 22, 2006. I’ve checked the content material of the St. Austin Overview within the months after this date and may discover no hint that Stratford ever did write on this.
As for George Sayer, with whom I had corresponded when doing analysis for my e book, Literary Converts, he wrote a wonderful biography of C. S. Lewis, which was stuffed with his personal private recollections of his friendship with him. He remembers a hike within the west of England within the firm of Lewis, Tolkien and Warnie Lewis, Lewis’ older brother. The Lewis brothers had been believers in strolling briskly with the intention to get bodily train, which made them annoyed by Tolkien’s frequent halts to admire the great thing about a flower or a tree. Exasperated by these incessant interruptions to their ahead march, they requested Sayer to stroll with the dawdling Tolkien in order that they might stride on on the tempo they desired, arranging to fulfill the stragglers on the pub.
However now to the rediscovered letter, which begins thus: Dame Felicitas, Right here is Lewis’s Patmore. The worth is within the index and the underlinings. In contrast to most dons, he actually had literary style – he knew nice poetry when he met it.
Evidently, Sayer had despatched Dame Felicitas his copy of a quantity of Coventry Patmore’s poems, which had presumably as soon as belonged to Lewis. Dame Felicitas had written a dissertation on Patmore, a Victorian poet and convert to the Catholic religion, whereas she was learning on the College of Liverpool. Lewis, for his half, was an amazing admirer of Patmore’s poetry, as is obvious from his references to Patmore within the three volumes of his printed letters. That is all very fascinating in its personal proper, as is the revelation contained within the subsequent paragraph: He by no means recovered from his N. I. Prot perspective to Our Girl. His grandfather Hamilton, the native Belfast vicar, was violently anti-R.C.
The abbreviation, “N. I. Prot”, is shorthand for Northern Eire Protestant, whereas “R.C” (clearly) is an abbreviation for Roman Catholic. This says nothing which has not already been mentioned. It’s the subsequent paragraph that comprises the true revelatory bombshell: However Tolkien in a letter to me (nonetheless unpublished) wrote: “I attribute no matter there’s of magnificence and goodness in my work to the affect of the Holy Mom of God.”
Now that is actually one thing! It’s not that Tolkien’s love for the Blessed Virgin Mary is a shock or that it has not been revealed earlier than. Quite the opposite, it’s properly documented. He writes in his printed letters of the “lovely devotion to Our Girl that has been God’s approach of refining a lot our gross manly natures and feelings” and to a Jesuit pal he wrote of “Our Girl, upon which all my very own small notion of magnificence each in majesty and ease is based”. As well as, with respect to The Lord of the Rings, he wrote that “the invocations of Elbereth, and the character of Galadriel as straight described (or by way of the phrases of Gimli and Sam) had been clearly associated to Catholic devotion to Mary”.
That is all very properly, certainly splendid, however what’s additional particular about these newly revealed phrases of Marian devotion is the attribution of all that’s good and delightful in his work to the Blessed Virgin’s “affect”. Such affect should embody, on this context, the affect of her intercession, the facility of her prayers. It’s not merely that his devotion to her has refined his sensibility, neither is it merely that his notion of magnificence is based upon her personal magnificence, neither is it merely that a few of that is mirrored within the Marian traits of a few of the characters in his personal work. It’s that her prayers empowered his Muse. It’s she that impressed the phrases and blessed the pen because the phrases poured forth onto the web page. He wrote along with her help. It was her voice that was singing in concord along with his.
Homer had begun The Iliad with a prayer to his Muse: Sing Muse, of the anger of Achilles and its destructiveness. One can think about Tolkien starting his personal epic with an analogous prayer: Sing Mary, of the facility of the One Sin to rule all of them and of its destructiveness, and sing Mary of the Sin’s personal destruction on the Mountain of Doom, often known as Golgotha.
This essay was first printed right here in June 2022.
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