May 31, 2013

Loose end resolved

I wondered if Tolkien knew Robert Graves, and wondered if he took seriously or assimilated any of Graves' brilliant speculations in the White Goddess (e.g., vis a vis Galadriel).  Sort of made sense to me, given that they were contemporaries, both creative literary types who came out of World War I engaged in the study of archaic poetic forms, thinking hard about what modernism had overwritten or obscured, and thinking about the elemental persistence of those things.

I think this anecdote answers my question, and several more that hadn't yet occurred to me:
I am neither disturbed (nor surprised) at the limitations of my 'fame'. There are lots of people in Oxford who have never heard of me, let alone of my books. But I can repay many of them with equal ignorance, neither wilful nor contemptuous, simply accidental. An amusing incident occurred in November, when I went as a courtesy to hear the last lecture of this series of his given by the Professor of Poetry: Robert Graves. (A remarkable creature, entertaining, likeable, odd, bonnet full of wild bees, half-German, half-Irish, very tall, must have looked like Siegfried/Sigurd in his youth, but an Ass.) It was the most ludicrously bad lecture I have ever heard. After it he introduced me to a pleasant young woman who had attended it: well but quietly dressed, easy and agreeable, and we got on quite well. But Graves started to laugh; and he said: 'it is obvious neither of you has ever heard of the other before'. Quite true. And I had not supposed that the lady would ever have heard of me. Her name was Ava Gardner, but it still meant nothing, till people more aware of the world informed me that she was a film-star of some magnitude, and that the press of pressmen and storm of flash-bulbs on the steps of the Schools were not directed at Graves (and cert. not at me) but at her.

Found here.


Blogger First Sea Lord said...

The White Goddess is an amazing, difficult, often inaccurate but wildly insightful book about ancient threads of women and goddesses in religion, poetry and Pan-European (get it?) culture.

Tolkien, dear old fellow that he was, was, I'll wager, just plain old scared of girls. The first word that should come to mind to describe Ava gardner is not "pleasant."

June 2, 2013 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

I really enjoy The White Goddess, which I think has about the same relationship to anthropological reality as do the hobo names in Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise. But it's just awesome anyway...

Tolkien and women...yeah. I think "just plain old scared of girls" is probably a very good guess. Forget madonna/whore, I think he had a Lobelia/Galadriel complex. Legends of the Fall probably covers the precursors.

I mention The War (I, not II) because Tolkien does in his "Foreword to the Second Edition", and draws a distinction between the two:

One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.

June 2, 2013 at 4:13 PM  

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