Long lost Tolkien letters returned to Oxfordshire library

Deddington Library staff are “thrilled” that two letters addressed to them from J.R.R. Tolkien were unexpectedly restored to the library.

The letters, written in 1956 and thought lost, were returned recently, despite being loaned to Oxfordshire County Council in 2000 for an exhibition on the Inklings Group. The council said it could not clarify why the letters had not been returned at the time but emphasized that they had been “stored safely and in appropriate conditions”.

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and an Oxford professor, was in attendance at the library’s opening in December 1956 as a speaker and guest. However, he did not conduct the opening ceremony – a Mrs Lionel Hichens was the guest of honour as Tolkien’s works had not yet achieved the cult status they enjoy today. Despite this, the library’s link with the author was established and earlier this month, 55 years after the original opening, the local police force were presented with framed archival copies of the letters as they moved into their new home in the library building.

The first letter is an acceptance of Miss Stanley-Smith’s invitation to attend the library opening, in which Tolkien states that “though I dislike talking [in this sense], lecturing or addressing a gathering, I should have been sorry to refuse your invitation”. The second apologizes for the quality of his performance and promises the library a copy of his next work, though Deddington’s shelves contain no such volume.

The letters are currently on display in Deddington Library and will be well protected with the local police station situated in the same building. Current librarian Stella O’Neill said that she is “thrilled to have copies of the letters on display in the library.”