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TOLKIEN, J. R. R. (1892-1973). Autograph postcard signed (‘J R R T’) to [Alan] Rook, [20 Northmoor Road, Oxford], 21 April 1943.
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TOLKIEN, J. R. R. (1892-1973). Autograph postcard signed (‘J R R T’) to [Alan] Rook, [20 Northmoor Road, Oxford], 21 April 1943.

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TOLKIEN, J. R. R. (1892-1973). Autograph postcard signed (‘J R R T’) to [Alan] Rook, [20 Northmoor Road, Oxford], 21 April 1943.

Two pages, 87 x 138mm.

A wartime postcard from Tolkien to the Cairo poet Alan Rook, contrasting his own literary inactivity – necessitated by the war effort – with the work of poetry sent to him by the younger man, on which he offers his opinion.

Provenance: Dominic Winter, 13 December 2000, lot 360.

After apologising for a failure to be in touch, Tolkien assures Rook that he has ‘never forgotten you and those pleasant days which preceded this ghastly storm’. He hopes that Rook is feeling better and is able to appreciate ‘the blessing of being released, discharged, or whatever they call it’. For his own part, Tolkien is ‘deplorably overworked … I am running one of the Admiralty-RAF courses, which means no vacation at all … So I have not had a moment to do anything intelligent for weeks and weeks (It’s months since I wrote a line myself)’. He offers his opinion on the [poetry] book, ‘Snapshots’, sent to him by Rook, though he is constrained to a certain extent by his failure to actually finish reading it: ‘I hope you may managed one day to paint a/the great picture. I don’t perceive the philosophy of it yet or the technique – but how should one from the note-book. You are certainly perfecting a poignant ‘snap’ technique: Aeroplane (no 2) is (if I may be allowed to say so) an almost flawless example’.

Alan Rook (1909-1990) was a student at Oxford in the 1930s, perhaps studying under Tolkien, and editor of the 1936 issue of New Oxford Poetry, the journal to which Tolkien had contributed the poem Goblin Feet in 1915. He served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, attaining the rank of major, and was one of the Cairo poets, the literary group formed from a pre-war assemblage of academics in the city mixed with British Army personnel. Tolkien became the first director of the Navy and Air Force cadet courses for the English School at Oxford, intended to broaden the mind of the British serviceman.
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