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11674RE: [mythsoc] Joseph Pearce

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  • David Bratman
    Mar 9, 2004
      At 09:43 PM 3/9/2004 -0600, Jay Hershberger wrote:
      >He also is of the
      >opinion that until the Tolkien Estate releases the manuscripts, letters, and
      >other papers for critical and scholarly review, independently of the
      >family's control, we should reserve judgement about what we do know about
      >Tolkien.

      Having written a couple books on the subject, Pearce has hardly reserved
      his judgment about Tolkien. Possibly he meant something slightly different
      from how that sounds.


      >For example, Pearce does not regard HC's biography or edition of
      >the letters as definitive or authoritative because according to Pearce, the
      >family screened what HC was allowed to see and had to approve of his writing
      >before it was published. I found that perspective very interesting.

      That depends on what one means by "definitive" or "authoritative", but I do
      not believe an unscreened biography necessarily has a moral superiority
      over a screened one, though in many cases it may. One has to judge by
      results, and the results I see are this:

      1) Carpenter's biography of Tolkien, despite a number of factual errors
      that have turned up over the years, remains remarkably accurate, and
      subsequent scholarship (much of it in the original papers) has confirmed
      its penetrating insights into Tolkien's character.

      2) None of the unauthorized biographies of Tolkien show even a tithe of the
      same understanding of Tolkien.

      3) Carpenter's other early scholarship (especially his biography of W.H.
      Auden) is also excellent, but his subsequent work has grown ever more
      wayward and useless in trivial psychoanalyzing and in inability to draw
      useful conclusions from accumulations of facts, which I think shows the
      perils of the "unbuttoned" approach he's been increasingly drawn towards.

      4) While there's much of Tolkien's thought that the published Letters
      doesn't cover - and much it couldn't cover even if it included every word
      he'd ever jotted - it is fully reliable as a record of the most important
      thoughts he recorded about his literary work at various stages in his life.
      To claim otherwise would be to fall into the paralysis of Smedley Force.

      - David Bratman
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