OPINIONS & VIEWSnInventing Lost Worlds by E. Christian Kopffn”It is to be all made of faith andnservice . . .nIt is to be all made of fantasy. “n—William ShakespearenAs You Like ItnJ. R. R. Tolkien: The Monsters andnthe Critics and Other Essays;nHoughton Mifflin; Boston.nJ. R. R. Tolkien: The Book of LostnTales: Part One; Houghton Mifflin;nBoston.nThe American tourists were innRome for the first time and askednthe owner of their pensione where tonvisit. He urged them not to miss thenRoman Forum. When they returnednfor lunch, they were quiet and grimmouthed.nFinally, he asked themnwhy, and the man burst out, “Wennever dreamed that you Italians werensuch chauvinists. We ask a polite queshonnin good faith and you send us tonsome place we bombed during thenwar.”nIt is sometimes hard for the reader ofnthe daily newspapers to remember thatnthere are ruins about that were notncreated by the 20th century. Amongnthose wrecks, no tourist is likely to seenthe broken ideal of the doctus pacta, asnthe Romans called him, the scholarpoet.nThat ideal of humanely assimilatednknowledge and creative forcengave birth to Virgil’s Aeneid, for instance,nand Dante’s Comedy, the lifeworksnof Milton and Tasso. Today’snuniversity provides refuge to few poetsnand those hired as token “creativenwriters.” If the occasional first-ratenscholar writes an important or evenninteresting literary work, his colleaguesnand his fans undervalue one side of hisnE. Christian Kopff is professor ofnclassics at the University of Coloradonand an editor of Classic Journal.n6/CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnachievement or the other.nA. E. Housman is a good example.nRecent years have seen several wellreceivednbiographies, each of whichnconcentrates on the few months ofnpoetry writing and his pihable lovenhfe. His many volumes of scholarlynwork which rescued English classicalnstudies from provincialism and mediocritynare viewed as a parergon, somethingnto fill in the years betweennpoems. The tone was set by EdmundnWilson, who sneered at Housman’snscholarship: you see, Housman editednthe Silver Latin poets Juvenal andnLucan, and refused to publish an editionnof the Augustan love poet, Propertius.nWith such taste, no wonder hisnverse fails to satisfy the whole man. Fornthis sort of obscurantism, the crackerbarrelnliterary critic who does not understandnthe centrality of Juvenal thenSatirist for modern culture, the importancenof Lucan and Roman libertas,nwins not scorn but celebrity as America’snforemost man of letters.nWilson had his innings at J. R. R.nTolkien as well. The literary critic readnin the publisher’s press release thatnthe professor of English and former professornof Anglo-Saxon had describednThe Lord of the Rings as originatingnin his “secret vice” of inventing languages,nlanguages which then neededna mythology and history to grow andndevelop as historical languages do.nWilson was aghast. A narrative thatngrew from a desire to root an inventednlanguage in story and folklore, whatncould it ever be but, well, “a philologicalncuriosity.”nTo give us a taste of what thatnphilology was, Christopher Tolkiennhas edited seven of his father’s lec­nnntures. Significance for understandingnthe Rings is one criterion for inclusion,nand so we see the essay on “AnSecret Vice,” “On Fairy-Stories,” andneven “English and Welsh,” sincenWelsh was used as a model for some ofnthe names in the Rings. Even the htlenessay, “Beowulf The Monsters and thenCritics,” may have been included becausenin it Tolkien explains how anChrishan writer could create a powerfulnpicture of a world before the knowledgenof Christ. The Hobbit-lover noticesnthat the lecture was deliverednbefore the British Academy in 1936nand published the next year, the samenthat saw the publication of The Hobbit.nHe will find it worth his while tonread it.nIt is scarcely too much to say thatnthis one essay changed forever thenstudy of a major work in the canon ofnEnghsh literature, that it establishednBeowulf as a major literary work,nwhereas before it had been treated asnlittle more than “a philological curiosity.”nTo appreciate the importance ofn”The Monsters and the Critics” therenis no substitute to working slowlynthrough the poem in FriedrichnKlaeber’s great edition, shll in printnafter more than 60 years, one of thengreatest works of scholarship to emergenfrom the American university system.nWith all Klaeber’s indispensable aidnfor understanding the poem’s roots innetymology and comparative folklore,nhe discusses its narrative structure onlynonce, in a famous paragraph on itsn”lack of steady advance.” How muchnmore efficiently Icelandic sagas did inntheir monsters! Subsequent criticismn(like R. W. Chambers’s Beowulf AnnIntroduction) concentrated almost exclusivelynon historical, rather than literarynquestions. In 1936 Tolkien foundnthat “Beowu/f has been used as a quarrynof fact and fancy far more assiduouslynthan it has been studied as a work ofnart.”n”The Monsters and the Critics” isnfar more than the literary Pharisaismnthan the last sentence suggests. In fact.n