At 03:46 PM 3/1/2003 -0700, Jane wrote:
>Well, we could try to imagine Tolkien's reaction to these boondoggles.
>Would the fact that in San Francisco and Seattle people are actually
>removing superhighways please him? Or would he be too disgusted by the
>whole nonsense to care? I don't know whether Tolkien ever expressed his
>opinion of superhighways or not, but I'll bet he didn't care for them, and
>I'll also bet that someone on this list knows whether or not he ever
>commented in writing on the topic.
Of course Tolkien had comments on this subject. For instance, in Letter
181, comparing England to the pre-Scouring Shire:
"I would not say that we had to suffer the malice of Sharkey and his
Ruffians here. Though the spirit of Isengard, if not of Mordor, is of
course always cropping up. The present design of destroying Oxford in
order to accommodate motor-cars is a case."
The "present design" to which he was referring to was a plan to run a new
highway through the beautiful Christ Church meadows south of central
Oxford. Tolkien was totally opposed; so were a lot of other people; and it
was never built. But it's worth noting that the only alternative presented
at the time was the status quo: constantly clogged traffic jams in central
Oxford itself. Only a few years earlier he complained in Letter 135 that
he had decided to move:
"This charming house has become uninhabitable -- unsleepable-in,
unworkable-in, rocked, racked with noise, and drenched with fumes. Such is
modern life. Mordor in our midst."
And that was the result of traffic going past his front door that the
meadows highway would have relieved. Ironic, isn't it? When I first
visited Oxford some 25 years ago the traffic situation was pretty much
unchanged from when Tolkien wrote in the '50s, and still very bad. Since
then it's improved somewhat, due to planning more intelligent than the
meadows highway design.
I don't recall anything about Tolkien cheering when various ugly modern
constructions were torn down, but not much of that was yet being done in
his day. He certainly had a lot of complaints about new construction going
up, though. Somewhere in Carpenter's biography is a reference to Tolkien
moaning "There goes the last of England's arable" whenever he saw new
buildings replacing a field. He owned a car during the 1930s, but after
World War II decided not to do so again, largely out of principle. (Though
he was perfectly willing to ride in other people's cars.)
- David Bratman