The Works of Philip Kaveny
British author, Marxist critic, and academic, Raymond Williams (1922-1989), and British author, critic, and academic J.R.R Tolkien (1892-1973), share enough significant markers as outsiders within the British class (caste) system that an application of some of Williams’ formulations relating to the process of mediation between sub- and superstructure would be interesting as applied to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. 
For purposes of this study, we have chosen to examine some aspects of the relationship that developed between J.R.R. Tolkien and the representatives of his British publisher Allen and Unwin starting from 1937, the year of The Hobbit’s publication, until 1954. This was year when volume one, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring first appeared.
William’s calls his theoretical approach “cultural materialism,” at once evoking the Marxist focus on the economic means of production and emphasizing the role of cultural production. Stressing the complex interaction of culture and society, he investigates the material, historical factors that inform culture –part of societies “superstructure –but he also shows how culture shapes society in an ongoing process of contesting and resisting dominant Modes of Production. (My Italics, Norton Anthology, 1566)
In a sense the entire fate of The Lord of the Rings was culturally determined by a subtle interplay between the economic base of modern British capitalism and the cultural, social, and business relationships which were intertwined with it. But this is the point where I continue rather than stop. If I am doing a Marxist analysis, then to consign the publication of The Hobbit to a series of happy accidents, and the existence of The Lord of the Rings to Tolkien’s personal necessity is to defeat my argument before it has probably started.
Analysis and Conclusion
The following three of Raymond Williams’ formulations are useful for understanding J.R.R Tolkien’s non-academic publishing successes and failures: “the dominant, the residual, and the emergent.” I think they can help inform this study. For example, Tolkien’s experiences as a language professor made him part of the residual of a previous system which was governed by a kind of pre-capitalist model of social relationships. These relationships that were not simply all business and the bottom line as we have come to understand them. The vast amount of personal attention and encouragement Tolkien received from his publisher’s representatives was very different from the way his other submissions were treated. In the initial marketing of The Hobbit, Tolkien was compared to another Oxford professor of a century before, Lewis Carol, who, while a Mathematics professor wrote Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. So I suspect that at least in the mind of the publisher there was a kind of cultural space for a book like The Hobbit and the potential for Tolkien to be marketed as a kind of mid 20th Century Lewis Carol. This holdover expectation persisted to the point of letting Tolkien illustrate the story even though he was not a professional artist, but did produce some engaging drawings drawing which were omitted from the 1947 edition of The Hobbit for economic reasons. I will address later in this paper a certain William Blake-like quality, in color and intensity possessed by some of Tolkien’s later art work. Further, we will explore the significance this had for the production of The Fellowship of the Ring. Therefore Tolkien’s production of The Hobbit, and even his position as Don and his historical connection to Oxford, represent a kind of marketable residual property. At the same time it might be recognized as not archaic by the general potential readership. In a sense Tolkien might be thought of as quaint but not weird. Then Allan and Unwin is behaving in way that is quite understandable and logical within the dominant mode of production of the period of study. But it is not just as simple as a few bucks on the bottom line since the first printing of The Hobbit was around five thousand, and the second printing was lost in an air raid.
By this I mean that all forms of capital are not easily measured in short-term profit and loss. In a sense, I think that Allen and Unwin may have been thinking of it as a kind of investment, which, at relatively low cost, might bring them future profits and children’s book awards. I am not contending that this was all part of a considered decision, but rather the direction in which things may have moved.
As I have done more work on J.R.R. Tolkien since I first drafted this paper, it would seem that he was playing a kind of game where he attempted to pit two publishers, Allen & Unwin, and Harper Collins against each other by offering them something they wanted in return for publishing something he wanted. In 1947 Tolkien revised The Hobbit in order to make it integral with The Lord of the Rings which he was completing at the time. This was done with the hope of offering The Lord of the Rings for publication along with The Silmarillion which was rejected originally along with a number of other items written by Tolkien shortly after the publication of The Hobbit in 1937.
This is only conjecture. But Christopher Tolkien and a number of scholars edited The Silmarillion for publication after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death and the original material for The Silmarillion as it appeared in 1977 differed greatly from what was submitted in 1937. There was a serious disagreement between members of the team working The Silmarillion as to whether Tolkien’s work was to appear in discrete scholarly units or woven together as narrative. The narrative camp lost and Christopher Tolkien, and Guy Gavriel Kay (1954- ), his assistant, went their separate ways. Kay went on to do his own creative writing. In a sense Kay did with his own work what he sought to do with J.R.R Tolkien’s and in the process became a major 20th Century High fantasy author. To rephrase what I am saying, the only complete and commercially published works during the period of this study were The Hobbit (1937), Farmer Giles of Ham (1949), and volume one of Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring (1954). So in a sense Allen and Unwin never really swayed from their 1937 decision.
In his autobiography The God Father Papers Mario Puzo states that with the success of The Godfather he learned a great secret which he wished he would have understood as a young man. He said he had spent easily the first half of his life trying to get some of what he believed to be great literary works published. But, then he learned that if you produce a blockbuster bestseller then you can get anything published. I don’t know if that was true or not for Puzo later, but it did raise this question. Why didn’t J.R.R. Tolkien give Sir Stanley Unwin what he wanted, more Hobbit’s, and then get the rest of his work published? I have asked this question to number individuals who comprise the inner circle of contemporary Tolkien scholarship, that is to say those who have been granted the highest level of access to Tolkien resources by Christopher Tolkien. The consensus answer is because he couldn’t. However, being of a postmodern bent, I keep asking questions. In a sense he did give Allen and Unwin more Hobbits, along with the a lot of other things from the history of Middle Earth and the Third Age in The Lord of The Rings, but he gave them to them on his own terms.
I think that the key period in all of this is really the period of negotiation between J.R.R. Tolkien and the two publishers. Because in a sense Tolkien really has nothing to lose since all of his other work that does not include Hobbits has been effectively stonewalled by Allen and Unwin. Though he may have not known that for certain. Raynar Unwin also makes the point that the 1937 rejections may have in fact been unintentionally ambiguous. This may have given J.R.R Tolkien the idea that his other work might be made publishable even though after World War II the sheer economics of publishing a work of over a million words, as the combined Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings presented Milton Waldman of Harper Collins with insurmountable problems
An interesting thought in all of this was that J.R.R. Tolkien might have been waiting for Raynar Unwin, who had originally been his ten-year-old first reader for The Hobbit in 1936, to complete his Masters degree in The United States at Harvard and then take his position in the family firm which is in fact what finally led to the publication of The Lord of the Rings. Though not a true sequel to The Hobbit, it was at least recognizable to the next generations of readers. There are a number of in fact interesting questions which though past the scope of this study might be addressed in my future work. It was clear that Allen and Unwin priced volume one, The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, at 21 shillings (about $50.00 in 2006) and offered Tolkien a profit-sharing agreement to cut costs and still projected a thousand pound loss. But most important, they ignored the paperback rights, feeling that The Fellowship of Ring simply did not fit the profile of United Kingdom paperback reader. This was just at the time when the two-bit culture of the paperback revolution was about to sweep the publishing world.
As mentioned earlier in this paper, J.R.R Tolkien illustrated some of his work which gave it a special charm and character and sometimes at its best a William Blake-like power and naïveté. This led to something which he was greatly disappointed by with The Fellowship of the Ring because to was deemed too expensive to produce four color plates that he wanted to be included. The plates appeared forty years later in J.R.R. Tolkien Artist & Illustrator, By Wayne G. Hammond & Christiana Scull.( Houghton Mifflin Company Boston and New York 1995). Here is what reviewer had to say about the plates
“One returns to it as I am doing just at this instant, as I turn to page 161 fig. 156 to Tolkien’s rendering of untitled third page of the (Book of Mazabul)…” “in the three ‘pages’ from the fragmentary record book of the Moria Dwarves found by the Fellowship in book 2, chapter 5… ‘It had been slashed and stabbed and partially burned, and it was so stained with black and other dark marks like old blood that little of it could be read’.” The Illustration is more than the words in this case, for the page appears like nothing else I have seen in a book. It is not an object of art but, simply put, an embodiment of the doom of Moria’s dwarves. It is a historical document, which still speaks even after flame and fire and war. It is almost like a rift into another world which it was Tolkien’s role–only–to chronicle.”
What Tolkien did with this illustration was to draw on his actual experience working with Anglo Saxon Manuscripts which would have been quite familiar to him. The Beowulf manuscript which Tolkien translated went through a similar fate, according to Michael Drout, one of the editors of the Journal Tolkien Studies. It is clear from the illustrations and just about everything else that Tolkien did that he had an extraordinary commitment to his work. What is extraordinary is the degree that his publishers bought into it. Perhaps a reason for it was that they too were at the point of change. Rayner makes it clear that he too was astounded by the attention Tolkien was able to garner for his projects, those that were accepted.
I think it’s clear that he was in a sense constrained by inescapable personal economic realities that played out in a very complex manner indeed. In the end Tolkien, faced with what turned out be the stonewall rejections of 1937 material and Milton Waldmen’s rejection of The Silmarillion and Lord of The Rings package in 1951 still managed to get some of his work out by in fact integrating The Hobbit and a synthesis which allowed Lord of The Rings to at least refer to his body of then-deemed un publishable. I also can envision a profitable use of Raymond Williams’ terms the archaic, residual, dominant, and emergent. I think that these terms might be very profitably applied to the reception of The Lord of The Rings in the half-century since its publication, and of course the economic impact of all of the related spin, which of course by now have an economic impact in the billions, if you count films and video and role playing games, and the proposed New Zeeland theme park. In a sense Tolkien’s Middle Earth has developed into a secondary universe in its own right. I think Williams’ formulations, even the few that I have used, are robust enough to do the job. However I don’t think that one can use the term ‘emergent’ effectively retrospectively, because to do so would be to argue for a level of determinism with which I am not comfortable.
 For example, they were WWII and WWI veterans, respectively. They were both scholarship students at Oxford and Cambridge, and of course they both produced academic and creative writing. But perhaps most importantly, they both lived to see England transformed as global multinationals replaced modern capitalism in the last third of the 20th Century. Tolkien was an outsider for other reasons. He was born in South Africa in 1892, returned to England with his mother and brother in 1895 shortly before his father died there. His mother converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before her death in 1904, leaving the brothers as orphans, and finally as wards of Roman Catholic priest Father Francis Morgan.
 The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 1565-1567.
 I think that Fredric Jameson says it best on page 141 of The Cultural Turn. “Thus the system is better seen as a kind of virus … and its development as something like an epidemic (better still a rash of epidemics, an epidemic of epidemics). The system has its own logic which powerfully undermines it and destroys the logic of more traditional or pre-capitalistic societies ….” The only thing Jameson did not note here was this epidemic also destroys earlier stages of capitalism.
 Cantor also offers a rather interesting hypothesis to explain Tolkien’s relationship to his own world of his literary creation based on Tolkien’s view of his work as being one of reporting his imaginary world rather than creating it. So that his secondary world in all its components is real to Tolkien in the same way that a high functioning schizophrenic is real to them.
 This even though in the next seventy years it has become one of the most perennially successful children’s books in the English language with translations into more than forty languages. (Douglas Anderson, The Annotated Hobbit.)
 J.R.R Tolkien served as WWI British infantry officer and survived the first day of the first Battle of the Somme. Tom Shippey, Shaun Hughes, and I argue that Tolkien’s World War WI experience marked the rest of his life and work.
 The incident to which Tolkien refers in the is letter is famous in British circles since Rayner Unwin was the nine- year-old son of Stanley Unwin, Chairman of The Board of Allen and Unwin, and later went on to chair the firm until it was bought out by a multinational conglomerate in the 1990’s. Rayner Unwin received a half shilling reader’s fee for his recommendation to publish The Hobbit. This makes one think a bit about the movie 1980’s Movie Big in which Tom Hanks plays a little transported into adult hood, who then can give really authentic evaluations to product development people.
 Tolkien was not treated well at Oxford University nor was his son and literary executor and whose approval was necessary for inclusion of any of The Letters included when The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien was published in 1981. What it seems to have broken down to is this: that shortly before Tolkien wrote this letter he found that he would be retiring on one-quarter rather than half salary.
 In a sense J.R.R had positioned himself as a professor of a national literature, that is to say Anglo Saxon which up until not much before his time had been treated more as artifact than literature until he presented his essay on Beowulf
The Monster and The Critic, which thought to treat Beowulf as poem rather than an artifact. What Tolkien seemed to have wanted to do is write literature like that in his own invented languages if possible in this sense he fits in with at least some of William’s, on the emerging and evolving nature of literature and literary study, Marxism pp. (45-54)
 Unwin, Rayner “Publishing Tolkien,” Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, Kebel College, Oxford, 1992. p 24.
 Eric Rucker Eddison (November 24, 1882 – August 18, 1945) was an English civil servant and author. He received the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1924 and the Order of the Bath in 1929 for public service with the Board of Trade. He is best known, however, for his early romance The Worm Ouroboros (1922). He is important in that he is thought to be one of the writers like Tolkien who produces high fantasy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Worm_Ouroboros
 I would that during this same seventeen year period Tolkien produced an number things for small and academic presses which found commercial publication after the success of Lord of The Rings and even know to quote Rayner Unwin books about Tolkien do not sell as well as books by Tolkien.
Cantor, Norman. Inventing the Middle Ages. NY: W. Morrow, 1991.
Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. (Oxford: Unwin, 1977).
Eddison, R. R. The Worm Ouroboros. NY: Ballantine, 1967 (1962).
Puzo, Mario. The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions. NY: Putnam, 1982.
“Raymond Williams,“Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Vincent B. Leitch, ed. NY: W.W. Norton & Co, 2001. 1565-1567.
“From Marxism and Literature, Part 1, Chapter 3.” Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.” Vincent B. Leitch, ed. NY: W.W. Norton & Co, 2001. 1567-1575.
Hammond, Wayne G. and Christina Scull. J.R.R. Tolkien Artist & Illustrator, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.
Jameson, Fredric. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on postmodernism 1983-1898. London: Verso, 1998.
Shippey, T.A. Road to Middle Earth. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1983.
_____. Tolkien: Author of the Century. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2001.
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_____. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
_____. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Carpenter, Humphrey and Christopher Tolkien , eds. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1981.
Unwin, Rayner. “Early Days of Elder Days,” Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth. Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter, eds. Westport, CT. Greenwood Press, 2000. 3-6.
_____. “Publishing Tolkien,” Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, Kebel College, Oxford, 1992. Patricia Reynolds and Glen H. Goodknight, eds. Altadena, CA: Mythopoeic Society, 1995. 26-29.
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_____. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1977.