- Book Notes
Two trade paperbacks published by Brewin Books of Studley, Warwickshire, deserves some attention here. The first, described briefly in "Book Notes" for Tolkien Studies 6 (2009), is Tolkien's Gedling, 1914: The Birth of a Legend (2008), by Andrew H. Morton and John Hayes. Despite the dual byline, this book is entirely written by Morton, with Hayes sharing the authorship as credit for the research he contributed. The slim book, generously illustrated with historical photographs, supplements Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Tolkien by giving an interesting account of Tolkien's aunt Jane Neave (née Suffield, 1872-1963), and her Phoenix Farm, which she operated, with her farming partner Ellen Brookes-Smith (1863-1927), at Gedling near Nottingham from around 1912 to 1922. Tolkien visited Phoenix Farm in Gedling in September 1914, at which time he wrote the earliest version of his poem "The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star," from which parts of his mythology descended. Morton's prose style is journalistic and frequently repetitive. As literary criticism this work is decidedly pedestrian, though even Morton expresses some doubt of the idea he puts forward of Jane Neave as an inspiration for Gandalf. Despite such elements of folksiness, there is an interesting amount of new biographical material herein about Tolkien and his family, and the numerous, charming photographs depicting the people involved at the farm and the farm itself make for a nice work of local history. Some reminiscences of the farm by Colin Brookes-Smith (1899-1982), the son of Jane Neave's farming partner, and quotations from his account, written very shortly before his death, of his family's 1911 Swiss holiday with Tolkien and Jane Neave add considerably to the book. Price £9.99 ISBN 9781858584232.
Tolkien's Bag End (2009), by Andrew H. Morton alone, is a follow-up and companion volume to the former book. The subject this time is Jane Neave's farm called Bag End, located at Dormston, near Inkberrow in Worcestershire. Jane Neave owned this farm from around 1923 to 1931, and from it Bilbo Baggins's home got its name. Other than this elementary association, the direct connection of this small book with Tolkien is very tenuous. The writing style is similarly repetitive as in the earlier book, from which some material is duplicated. But again the numerous [End Page 345] photographs and the Tolkien family history are the primary elements of appeal. A descriptive pamphlet for the farm, prepared for its sale in May 1931, is reproduced in facsimile. Price £9.99 ISBN 9781858584553.
Because of the over-large size of this volume of Tolkien Studies, we have regretfully been forced at the last minute to postpone until our next volume an extensive review of The Ring Goes Ever On: Proceedings of the Tolkien 2005 Conference: 50 Years of The Lord of the Rings, edited by Sarah Wells and published by The Tolkien Society. In the meantime, we recommend the two volumes of these proceedings, and note that ordering details can be found at www.tolkiensociety.org. We apologize to The Tolkien Society, to our reviewer, and to the many contributors to these proceedings for this delay. [End Page 346]