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11705RE: [mythsoc] Joseph Pearce

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  • David Bratman
    Mar 10, 2004
      At 02:41 PM 3/10/2004 -0600, Jay Hershberger wrote:

      >Let me try to reconstruct the limits of the conversation:
      >Me: You once said in an interview that we should regard the HoME as
      >secondary material, and rely on Tolkien's published works as primary. Since
      >CT made the final decisions about the shape the Silmarillion would take in
      >published form, what's the difference between the Silmarillion and the HoME?

      I haven't seen this interview, but I take it from context that "Tolkien's
      published works" means works he had published himself, or (as with _The
      Silmarillion_) directly intended for publication. Also that by "secondary"
      is simply meant "less important," rather than the scholarly meaning of
      "secondary source" which is "work by a critic or scholar, not by the
      original author".

      >Pearce: Yes, I see your point. The Silmarillion was published posthumously
      >under CT's direction.

      Your point must have been that _The Silmarillion_ wasn't really passed for
      or ready for publication as Tolkien left it, yes?

      >Yet it seems that a good bit of the Silmarillion had
      >already taken shape or was completed by JRRT, so that CT simply tried as
      >best he could to publish the substance of the Silmarillion in a way which
      >would reflect his father's intent. The HoME is more an attempt to provide
      >readers with earlier versions of materials related to Tolkien's sub-creation
      >that Tolkien never intended for publication.

      All this means is that _The Silmarillion_ is the closest available
      approximation to what Tolkien might have actually published, had he ever
      gotten around to finishing it. But in that sense it's a reconstruction, a
      working version as he left it, not an attempt to make what Tolkien would
      actually have published. Some scholars are of the opinion that the
      Silmarillion was essentially unfinishable within the requirements that
      Tolkien had set himself for it.

      And because the material in _The Silmarillion_ had to be massaged in
      certain ways to be made into a coherent narrative (names and dates changed,
      versions selected, etc.), it is a more misleading account of what Tolkien
      actually left behind than HoME is. In a sense, HoME includes _The
      Silmarillion_, as in some volumes Christopher describes individual
      manuscripts he does not reprint because they formed chapters of _The
      Silmarillion_. True, no individual piece in HoME would be likely to have
      been published by Tolkien exactly the way it stood; but there's nothing in
      _The Silmarillion_ of which that's likely to be true either.

      >What would be great is for
      >scholars to have access to all of these manuscripts and papers.

      And that's pretty much exactly what we have. Fourteen honking large
      volumes of it. There's very little left out except for repetitive pieces
      and some linguistic material, much of which is now being published
      separately. It's all there for people to look at, and to construct their
      own mental images of the Silmarillion from, without Christopher's
      intervention but with his guidance.

      >The same
      >could be said about the letters. We know they are not complete, and that CT
      >was very careful in monitoring HC's access to them. With this in mind, we
      >should probably be conservative as scholars regarding the biography and the
      >letters as being authoritative or definitive. A definitive biography and
      >edition of the letters may have to wait until such access is granted.

      I'd go along with the reasoning here only so far as to say that the more we
      have, the more we know. And, unlike HoME, the Letters are indeed very
      selective. But definitiveness in scholarship is not a function of how much
      material the scholar has - there's no such thing as perfect insight into a
      subject's mind - but of the use the scholar makes of them.
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