TOLKIEN, John Ronald Reuel (1892-1973). Autograph letter signed (“JRRT”). To George Sayer, Oxford, 7 August 1952. 2 pages, 8vo, on 99 Holywell, Oxford stationery, creased; morocco folding case.
G[EORGE] A[LLEN] & U[NWIN] ARE NOW CLAMORING TO RECONSIDER THE LORD OF THE RINGS
In 1937, at the urging of his publishers Collins, Tolkien began writing “a new Hobbit.” Due to his full-time academic position, progress was slow, and he abandoned the manuscript for most of 1943. He began writing again in April 1944, and completed a revision of the earlier portions of the work in 1949. In April 1952, Collins declined to publish the work; by August 1952, nearly every major British publisher had rejected the work.
George Sayer received a copy of Tolkien’s manuscript from their mutual friend, C. S. Lewis. Sayer and his wife became enthusiastic fans of the work, and invited Tolkien to stay with them at Malvern in August when he was on break. Having heard that publisher George Allen & Unwin had an interest in publishing the work, Tolkien writes George Sayer to request the return of the manuscript and to coordinate a visit: “Can you still put me up?...I could come any time after the 18th that is suitable to you and your wife. The earlier the better for me since G. A. & U. are now clamouring to reconsider the Lord of the Rings, so that the sooner you have finished it – I could not leave you in the middle of the third book for all the publishers in the world, and anyway I greatly desire to hear your opinions at the end – the better for me in that regard.”
During his visit, at Sayer’s urging, Tolkien created the first recorded readings from The Lord of the Rings which still survive. Sayer also encouraged Tolkien to send the manuscript to Rayner Unwin (see lot 220). In a letter to Rayner Unwin enclosing a blurb from Sayer for The Lord of the Rings, in which Sayer refers to Tolkien as the “greatest living poet,” Tolkien refers to Sayer as “the most normal reader and liker of the work that I could think of…the blurb…surprised me.”