Monday, February 29, 2016


Love and Curiosity

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), "Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford," in J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in Memoriam (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), pp. 16-32 (at 19):
But all fields of study and enquiry, all great Schools, demand human sacrifice. For their primary object is not culture, and their academic uses are not limited to education. Their roots are in the desire for knowledge, and their life is maintained by those who pursue some love or curiosity for its own sake, without reference even to personal improvement. If this individual love and curiosity fails, their tradition becomes sclerotic.

There is no need, therefore, to despise, no need even to feel pity for months or years of life sacrificed in some minimal enquiry: say, the study of some uninspired medieval text and its fumbling dialect; or of some miserable 'modern' poetaster and his life (nasty, dreary, and fortunately short) — NOT IF the sacrifice is voluntary, and IF it is inspired by a genuine curiosity, spontaneous or personally felt.
Also in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984), pp. 224-240 (at 226-227).

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