Handwritten postcard signed by JRR Tolkien to Miss Kilbride
Autograph postcard signed (JRR Tolkien), to Miss [Katherine or Kitty] Kilbride, giving news of the travails suffered that year and of his family, and complaining about the state of Oxford in the age of Morris Motors.
The card reproducing in colours Josef Madlener's Heilige Familie (published in series of six by F.A. Ackermann), one page, closely written in a minute hand, minor creasing to corners and discoloration but overall in fine and attractive condition, 8vo, [Oxford], 24 December 1938.
It is quite densely written and is a nice sampling of his handwriting.
The postcard showing the Holy Family walking through a Tolkienesque wooded glade with mountains in the distance - another such postcard by Joseph Madlener, entitled Der Berggeist (Mountain Spirit), executed in strikingly similar style, showing a white-bearded sage in a wide-brimmed hat feeding a lamb, was preserved by Tolkien in an envelope marked 'Origin of Gandalf'. That card, like ours, was published by Ackermann, albeit in 1935. Another link with The Lord of the Rings is the account Tolkien gives in our card of Oxford, which brings to mind the debased state of the Shire after Saruman's despoiling modernization: "Oxford is changing very fast and mostly (not wholly) for the worse. It is no longer a University town. The old dialect is driven off the streets, and the old shops are fast being replaced by the dreary semi-municipal architecture of a London suburb; the field for miles are covered with mass produced 'dormitories'. All to house an inessential (and indeed pernicious) industry [Morris Motors]. But people have done that sort of thing since the world began!
This is an exceptionally early letter by Tolkien: only nine, two of them formal addresses, predating it in the collection published by Humphrey Carpenter, where ours does not appear; the main sequence of the published letters beginning in 1937 with Letter 10. The recipient is K.M. (Katherine or Kitty) Kilbride, who had met Tolkien when studying in Oxford, it is believed at a summer school, and is thought to have been teacher living at Bradford. Her copy of the The Hobbit was sold at Sotheby's New York, 13 December 2002, lot 152, for $75,000.
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