Form and Content
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the unassuming holder of the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford, became, by virtue of creating a literary genre relating the fictional history of “Middle Earth,” a legend in his own lifetime. Upon Tolkien’s death, with access to the family and their private letters and papers, Humphrey Carpenter set out a scholarly biography for this intriguing personality, which puts in human perspective his creative genius for those attracted by the literature or the personality.
In Tolkien: A Biography, Carpenter writes with the familiarity of a friend of Tol-kien and his family, the kind of student in whom Tolkien delighted and one in whom Christopher Tolkien, his third child and literary heir, placed complete confidence with family materials. These materials are regularly employed, often as direct quotations within the biography but without the heavy format of referenced citation, though identified in general in bibliographical appendices. With the assistance of Christopher Tolkien, Carpenter selected and edited The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981) in a volume more extensive than this biography. A reading of these letters bears out the care with which the biography was written, confirming the human but genuine nature of its subject while providing for the literary devotee documentation chronicling the development of Middle Earth within the mind of Tolkien and those few...
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