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Re: [mythsoc] Re: The Coalbiters

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  • John Rateliff
    ... As it so happens, I added a paragraph about Buckhurst in the new edition of H.o.H. as part of Appendix V, identifying (insofar as possible) the people to
    Message 1 of 7 , Oct 23, 2011
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      On Oct 23, 2011, at 7:16 PM, Michael Martinez wrote:
      Wayne and Christina, I appreciate the information.  I have revised the paragraph to read thus (linking to both the Viking Society Website and the appropriate volume):

      Helen Therese McMillan Buckhurst was an Icelandic scholar and friend of J.R.R. Tolkien's whom he met at Oxford; in 1926 she read a paper, "Icelandic Folklore", at a meeting of the Viking Society in London. The Viking Society publications are available online. The Helen Buckhurst paper was published in Volume X – Proceedings. Thanks to Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull for the reference.

      Not quite as robust as the brief biographical note you provided here but I hope I'll be able to return to this topic in a future article.

      And you have added something to my growing list of things to read.  :)


      As it so happens, I added a paragraph about Buckhurst in the new edition of H.o.H. as part of Appendix V, identifying (insofar as possible) the people to whom Tolkien gave presentation copies of THE HOBBIT when it was first published. The paragraph on Helen B., who seems to have been an interesting person in her own right, reads as follows:

      Helen Buckhurst, 1894–1963, a resident student, English language tutor, and Icelandic scholar who had been a Fellow and Tutor at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford (1926–1930). Tolkien had been appointed to supervise Buckhurst’s thesis, The Historical Grammar of Old Icelandic, in December 1927 (Scull & Hammond, Companion & Guide Vol. I, page 143), and like so many of his students she became a family friend; she was also a friend of the American medievalist Kemp Malone and his family. An adult convert to Catholicism, in June 1929 she became Priscilla Tolkien’s godmother. At the time of The Hobbit’s publication she was teaching at Loreto College in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, a Catholic girls’ school founded in 1922; her letter of thanks to ‘Dear Ronald’, dated 23rd September [1937], praises The Hobbit as ‘delightful . . . my only complaint is that there are not more illustrations. I only hope it is the first of many such books’ (MS. Tolkien 21, folio 117). See The Annotated Hobbit for a discussion of her paper on ‘Icelandic Folklore’ and the belief that trolls turn to stone in daylight (DAA.80–82).

         By the way, may I say it's quite the honor for Michael to include me in his interview series; I'm v. much looking forward to the next interview.

      --JDR
    • David Bratman
      ... Both because of the occasional inaccuracies in Carpenter s Tolkien biography (often due to sources unavailable or unabsorbable by him) and because of the
      Message 2 of 7 , Oct 25, 2011
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        "Wayne G. Hammond" & Christina Scull <Wayne.G.Hammond@...> wrote:

        > Carpenter's biography is more reliable by virtue
        > of his access to all of the Tolkien papers and because it was vetted
        > by persons with their own authority, though with Carpenter too we
        > corroborated as much as possible, and caught him out on a few points.

        Both because of the occasional inaccuracies in Carpenter's Tolkien biography
        (often due to sources unavailable or unabsorbable by him) and because of the
        brevity of what's intended as a narrative biography, I consider its value as
        a reference work to have been eclipsed by the Companion & Guide. There is
        nothing one would want to look up for factual reference in the biography
        that isn't also in the latter. The biography's value now is as a brief,
        readable, and reliable account of Tolkien's life, personality, and creative
        goals. In this it still far outclasses any competing works of its kind.

        Carpenter's _The Inklings_ has not been superceded in this way. Glyer's
        _The Company They Keep_, though vital as a deeper and more sophisticated
        analysis of the Inklings' intergroup relations and influences, is not
        intended as a full history of the group or as a complete factual reference
        book.


        > Grotta's principal source for his account seems to have been Nevill
        > (note correct spelling) Coghill, from whose testimony (in an oral
        > history recorded soon after Tolkien's death) he extrapolated at
        > length.

        Which Carpenter seems not to have used, and to whatever extent (limited, as
        you note) it's useful, it was the principal reason to consult Grotta prior
        to the publication of C&G.


        > From the Companion and Guide you could know that in December 1927
        > Tolkien was appointed the supervisor of Helen McMillan (note correct
        > spelling) Buckhurst, an advanced student, whose thesis was to be The
        > Historical Grammar of Old Icelandic. She was, for a time, a Fellow
        > and English language tutor at St Hugh's College, Oxford.

        This raises a point that puzzles me. She is described as an advanced
        student on p. 143 (1927) and a former Fellow of St. Hugh's on p. 150 (1929).
        John Rateliff says she held her position at St. Hugh's 1926-30, so if that's
        accurate, query "former". Also, if it's accurate, her appointment as Fellow
        came before her becoming an advanced student, and if not it's hard to cram
        the Fellowship in between the presumable completion of her thesis and 1929,
        also suggesting it came before. But this seems chronologically backwards to
        my limited understanding of practices in these matters, so: more generalized
        query.


        "Michael Martinez" <michael.martinez@...> wrote:

        >I don't think there is a definitive list for the Coalbiters

        There isn't. Lazo's list of known Coalbiters (Braunholtz, Bryson, Coghill,
        Dawkins, Gordon, Lewis, McFarlane, Onions, and Tolkien; derived, I suppose,
        from Carpenter) is the best we have.

        There's no definitive list of Inklings, either, by the way. Carpenter's
        list is, again, of known full members, omitting guests and peripherals, and
        absent anyone we don't have a record of, of whom there could be quite a few
        in the early years, perhaps.
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