Our Own Dear John Ronald: Start to Finish

J.R.R. Tolkien would have turned 128 this past Saturday. A toast!

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On 4 January 1892 Arthur Tolkien wrote [from Bloemfontein, RSA] home to Birmingham:

My dear Mother,

I have good news for you this week.  Mable gave me a beautiful little son last night (3 January).  It was rather before time, but the baby is strong and well and Mable has come through wonderfully.  The baby is (of course) lovely.  It has beautiful hands and ears (very long fingers) very light hair, ‘Tolkien” eyes’ and very distinctly a ‘Suffield’ mouth.  In general effect immensely like a fair edition of its Aunt Mabel Mitton.  (…)  The boy’s name will be ‘John’ after its grandfather, probably John Ronald Reuel altogether.  Mab wants to call it Ronald and I want to keep up John and Reuel…

Mabel_Suffield_Christmas_Card
Family group, Bloemfontein, November 1892.  Left to right: Arthur Tolkien; a servant; Mable Tolkien (seated); Isaac the houseboy; nurse holding Ronald Tolkien aged 10 months.  The handwriting around the photograph is that of Mabel Tolkien. (photo colored)

(…)

The end was swift.  On Thursday he joined in celebrations to mark Mrs. Tolhursts’ birthday, but he did not feel well and would not eat much, though he drank a little champagne.  During the night he was in pain, and next morning he was take to a private hospital where an acute bleeding gastric ulcer was diagnosed.  It so happened that Michael was on holiday in Switzerland and Christopher in France, and neither could have reached his bedside in time, but John and Priscilla were able to come down to Bournemouth to be with him.  At first the reports on his condition were optimistic, but by Saturday a chest infection had developed, and early on the Sunday morning, 2 September 1973, he died, aged eighty-one.

last pic of JRRT
The last photograph of Tolkien, taken next to one of his favorite trees (Pinus Nigra) in the Botanic Garden, Oxford, 9 August 1973.

~ Humphrey Carpenter: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography.  1977.

 

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