[The radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was discussed on the BBC programme 'The Critics'; and on 16 November, W. H. Auden gave a radio talk about the book in which he said: 'If someone dislikes it, I shall never trust their literary judgement about anything again.' Meanwhile Edwin Muir, reviewing The Return of the King in the Observer on 27 November, wrote: 'All the characters are boys masquerading as adult heroes .... and will never come to puberty. .... Hardly one of them knows anything about women.']
I agreed with the 'critics' view of the radio adaptation; but I was annoyed that after confessing that none of them had read the book they should turn their attention to it and me — including surmises on my religion. I also thought Auden rather bad – he cannot at any rate read verse, having a poor rhythmical sense; and deplored his making the book 'a test of literary taste'. You cannot do that with any work – and if you could you only infuriate. I was fully prepared for Roben Robinson's rejoinder 'fair-ground barker'. But I suppose all this is good for sales. My correspondence is now increased by letters of fury against the critics and the broadcast. One elderly lady – in part the model for 'Lobelia' indeed, though she does not suspect it – would I think certainly have set about Auden (and others) had they been in range of her umbrella. ....
I hope in this vacation to begin surveying the Silmarillion; though evil fate has plumped a doctorate thesis on me...
Blast Edwin Muir and his delayed adolescence. He is old enough to know better. It might do him good to hear what women think of his 'knowing about women', especially as a test of being mentally adult. If he had an M.A. I should nominate him for the professorship of poetry – a sweet revenge.
Letter to Rayner Unwin
8 December 1955