Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Edith Tolkien

Image source
Edith Bratt Tolkien
I finally saw the Tolkien film and enjoyed it, although it took a few liberties with the facts. It made me want to do my own research on Tolkien's Lúthien, Edith Mary. From The Council of Elrond:
Edith was born in Gloucester on the 21st January 1889, the illegitimate daughter of Frances Bratt. Her mother had never married, and never named the father on the birth certificate though she did keep a photograph of him, and his identity was known to the Bratt family. It is not known whether Edith ever knew her father’s name. Frances brought her daughter up in Handsworth, Birmingham, and Edith had a relatively happy childhood, surrounded by both her mother and her cousin, Jennie Grove. She grew to be remarkably pretty, small and slim, with grey eyes and short dark hair.She quickly showed a talent for music, and played the piano very well.
When Frances died, Edith was sent to Dresden House School in Evesham, a girls’ boarding school that specialised in music. There she met Mabel Sheaf, who continued to be a close friend throughout Edith’s life. By the time she left, Edith was expected to be able to make a career as a piano teacher, or maybe even a concert pianist. However, her guardian, the family solicitor, didn’t really know what to do with the girl. He found her a room at Mrs Faulkner’s, supposing that her landlady’s fondness for music would provide a sympathetic atmosphere and a piano for practice. However, Mrs Faulkner only wanted Edith to play and accompany soloists at her soirees, and would not give her the time to practice. To add slightly to the problem, there was no urgency for Edith to seek employment as she had inherited a small amount of land in various parts of Birmingham, and the rent from these provided her with just enough income to live on.

 She met the Tolkien brothers at Mrs Faulkner’s and found them very pleasant, particularly John Ronald. Edith and Tolkien soon became allies against “The Old Lady” and took to frequenting Birmingham tea-shops together. They particularly liked a tea-shop with a balcony overlooking the pavement from which they could throw sugar lumps into the hats of passers-by. Romance was almost inevitable. Both Edith and Tolkien were orphans in need of affection, and they found that they could give it to each other. In the summer of 1904, they decided that they were in love.
In 1909, towards the end of the autumn term, Tolkien and Edith arranged to go for a secret ride in the countryside. But Fr Francis found out, and was deeply shaken by the romance. The priest considered himself a father figure to Tolkien, and demanded that the love affair should stop for both propriety’s, and Tolkien’s, sake. However, he did not specifically bid Tolkien not to see Edith, and so, with the ingenuity of youth, they decided that they could continue to meet clandestinely. One day they spent an afternoon together, taking a train out into the countryside. Another day they went to a jewellers where Edith bought Tolkien a pen for his 18th birthday, and he bought her a wrist-watch for her 21st birthday.
After some time of this secrecy, Edith decided she had to move away from the situation, and she took up an offer of lodgings in a house in Cheltenham with an elderly solicitor and his wife. Soon after that, Fr Francis heard word of their previous meetings, and he banned Tolkien from seeing Edith, only allowing him to see her once more to say good-bye. He put a ban on their communication until Tolkien was 21 – three years away. But until she left Birmingham, Tolkien looked for her everywhere he went, and they did manage a few accidental meetings. But then, as recorded in Tolkien’s diary, Fr Francis found out that they were still seeing each other: (Read more.)
More HERE.

Meanwhile, I am listening to this:



Nancy Reyes said...

Tolkien, unlike CSLewis, often mentored female students in his home (where the presence of his wife would mean no chaperone was required).

And many of them saw the Tolkien's as a second home and visited them even after they graduated. Edith became a mother to many of these women.

The biographies only mention this in passing, usually in reference to publishing the Hobbit, but one wonders if the Professor and his wife in "That Hideous Strength" are based on Tolkien...
it's too bad that those writing of Edith ignore the culture of wives as home makers as being something useful.

elena maria vidal said...

Fascinating! I could not agree more....