Title: Tolkien-Gordon Collection
Classmark: MS 1952
Creator(s): Tolkien, J R R (1892-1973)
Main language: English
Size and medium: manuscript papers, pamphlet, book; 1 box
Collection group(s): English Literature
Includes letters, poems and songs by J. R. R. Tolkien sent to Eric Valentine Gordon, Ida Gordon and Bridget MacKenzie.
Gordon was a philologist at the University of Leeds who became a close friend of Tolkien's. Ida Gordon (née Pickles), Eric Gordon's wife, was an academic specialising in Old Norse and Medieval English. Bridget MacKenzie (née Gordon) their eldest daughter, would go on to lecture in Old Norse at the University of Glasgow.
The collection also includes some background information about the collection from the MacKenzie family.
J. R. R. Tolkien and Eric Valentine Gordon met when the latter joined the English department at the University of Leeds in 1922. Tolkien found a friend as well as a colleague in Gordon, as both shared a love of studying medieval philology. The two men worked together on an edition of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' (1925), which was the standard text for many years. They also collaborated on articles, book chapters and a broadcast for BBC radio. Tolkien and Gordon set up a Viking Club for Leeds undergraduates who could join them in medieval wordplay and versification. When Tolkien went to the University of Oxford, Gordon maintained the club and Tolkien continued to send drafts of songs for it. Their collaboration and friendship was maintained through the exchange of letters and academic proofs. Tolkien and Gordon and their respective families also saw each other socially. Gordon died prematurely in 1938 aged 42 which affected his friend deeply. Afterwards Tolkien continued to write to the Gordon family, particularly to Gordon's widow, Ida. She was an ex-student and philology student who had married Gordon in 1930. They had four children the eldest of whom is Bridget MacKenzie.
The collection was previously in the possession of the Gordon family. Some of the songs and poems in the collection were sent to Gordon by Tolkien from Oxford. Others have a different provenance as a number of copies of the songs were given to undergraduates at Leeds. In 1936, A. H. Smith, a former Leeds student who was a lecturer at University College London, asked his students to create an edition of the songs was published as 'Songs for the Philologists'. This could not be distributed because Smith had not asked Tolkien or Gordon for permission to publish. The copy of 'Songs for the Philologists' in this collection was probably sent to Gordon by Smith with the early manuscript drafts of eight of the thirteen songs written by Tolkien included in the volume. Tolkien and Gordon continued to exchange letters, original compositions and other literary works. After Gordon's death Tolkien wrote several letters to Ida which she retained. The collection passed into the hands of Bridget MacKenzie, the Gordons' daughter, before being purchased by Special Collections.
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Catalogues of archives are usually arranged in hierarchies - one hierarchy for each collection in the archive. The details on display will be of a record at a particular level of the hierarchy. There may be other records above, below, or alongside this record in the same hierarchy. You can see the full hierarchy under 'In this collection'.