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When I wrote in a previous post that John Carey had reported that “green mildew grew on [Tolkien’s academic] gown,” but I queried whether this was really likely, Chaz Brenchley referred me to Tolkien’s Gown & Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books by Rick Gekoski (Constable, 2004) for the definitive word on this vital topic.

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The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books by John Carey (Faber)

I knew I had to get hold of this book after reading John Garth’s review. It is as Garth says, a readable and often funny book that, while it claims to be “a history of English literature and me, how we met, how we got on” (xi), it’s actually a personal memoir about a usual run of subjects. It’s just got a lot of book talk injected in it.

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Did J.R.R. Tolkien model the geography of Lindon on Wales? This question has only been asked a couple of times on the Internet, as best I can determine, and no one has really devised a convincing argument in favor of the idea. So it’s not a burning issue but it piqued my interest after I noticed a question on the Tolkien Society’s Facebook page about whether the Lonely Mountain might have been inspired by the Wrekin (a large hill northeast of Birmingham, west of Telford and east of Shropshire).
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July 2014

This is, without doubt, the most belated issue of my transactions ever. Let’s hope that it will remain so in perpetuum, so I will put this on-line without further ado.

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The Eagle and Child, Oxford. (c) 2013 Lyn Wilshire. A popular meeting place of the Inklings.
The Eagle and Child, Oxford. (c) 2013 Lyn Wilshire. A popular meeting place of the Inklings.

Tourism is an important source of income for any city, region, or country. It was estimated that in 2013 tourism was “worth £106bn to England’s economy”(1). It should therefore come as no surprise that there is such a thing as a Tolkien tourist industry. For several decades Tolkien’s readers have been making private pilgrimages to Oxford; posing for photographs outside one of his residences; visiting the various colleges at which he studied, or where he later became a tutor and lecturer; paying their respects at his graveside, or even dropping in to ‘The Eagle and Child,’ one of his favourite pubs, for a drink. The tourist industry is now galvanising its resources and offering dedicated Tolkien Tours. In April this year Birmingham produced a new Tolkien Trail leaflet, which recommends visits to Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, the houses where Tolkien once lived, and the places he worshipped. This is an invaluable resource for those wishing to visit all the genuine sites associated with Tolkien in the area in which he grew up. However, a more pernicious aspect of tourism is also beginning to rear its head; locations which have only a tangential Tolkien connection, or in extreme cases with absolutely no link to the author are attempting to jump on the tourist bandwagon.

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Some months ago The Huffington Post produced a list of the 9 Best Trees in Literature in which they foolishly listed Ents. Following the news of the sad demise of one of Tolkien’s favoured trees, the pinus nigra in the Oxford Botanic Gardens, I have compiled a list of the the nine best trees in Tolkien’s works. (more…)