poniedziałek, 12 listopada 2018

James Kenneth Tolkien (1881–1925) about his roots

And now, that I have concluded these concise remarks with reference to my ancestry, I leave it to those who read, to decide my position as regards nationality. I may sing out the "Marseillaise," or the "Wacht am Rhein," and still be patriotic, or, for a variety, chant the "Rule Britannia," "The Maple Leaf Forever," the Holland "Vaderland," the Scotch "Scots Wha Hae" and "The Star Spangled Banner" enjoying with each that inspiring enthusiasm that causes an electric current to vibrate in the spinal column that patriots, only, are capable of feeling. I may love all men, and sympathize with them in their thoughts, feelings and desires, provided that such are founded on justice and goodness to all mankind.
 –James Kenneth Tolkien



About an American poet, James Kenneth Tolkien (1881–1925) I have already written on my blog (see here). James Kenneth was a distant cousin of J. R. R. Tolkien (both were descendants of two Tolkien brothers from Danzig/Gdańsk, Poland who emigrated to London in c. 1770) and the Professor had a correspondence with this branch of the Tolkien family living in the USA. Let us see a fragment of the introduction  ("Snapshots of early days") to the collection of his poems entitled The Poetical Works. Specially interesting are the adventures of his great-grandfather, Major and Doctor James Tolkien who lived a life of a "Robinson Crusoe" in West Indies for a short time. We can also find the source of J. R. R. Tolkien's theory about his Lorraine ancestry. We know from the letters that J. R. R. T. found his distant American cousins and that he had a correspondence with them concernin the ancestry of the Tolkien family.

"On my father's side. I am descended from an old Alsace-Loraine family (Note 1). Nearly two centuries ago two brothers, Daniel and Henry Tolkien (Note 2), left the land of their fathers and settled in London, England, with a fairly good start, financially. Daniel chose, for his investment, the fur business, while Henry fancied he could get more notes out of the music business (Note 3). Report has it that both made good, however, and today there is a piano in England bearing the name of Tolkien. But, we'll stay by Daniel, as he is in direct line, being my great-grandfather. He married into an English family. His wife presented him with several children (Note 4), one of whom was James Tolkien, who grew to manhood and entered the British Navy as Surgeon (Note 5). After many adventures on sea and land he was finally cast on one of the West Indies, the cruiser on which he had sailed having been totally wrecked. The natives greeted him a little too warmly for his liking and he did not altogether relish the way in which they scrutinized him. He related afterwards that it was undoubtedly their intention to make a meal of him. Their superstition, however, was his safety; for, being a physician of no mean reputation among those of his own nation, and, with the experience he had acquired among sailors and soldiers afflicted with fevers or maladies peculiar to those tropical regions he was enabled to cure many of the natives who were stricken at that time. Seeing the results of his skill and the speedy recovery of those whom they had believed lost, they immediately hailed him as a great healer and a divinity. Dr. Tolkien was at last picked up by a passing schooner and delivered once more into civilization. Soon afterwards he received his release of honor from the Navy and entered a detachment of the standing Army which was sent to Canada at the time of the Rebellion of '37 (Note 6). He was among those stationed at Kingston, Upper Canada.

Twenty miles distant lived one, Miss Bell, whom he chanced to meet when on a professional call. Miss Bell was of Scotch and Holland descent. Her mother's family, the Van Valkenbergs, are traced to that portion of the Eastern States made famous by the Knickerbockers. They were U. E. Loyalists and emigrated to Canada shortly after the Revolution. At the termination of the Rebellion Dr. Tolkien and Miss Bell renewed their acquaintance, which resulted in his leaving the Army and becoming a married man at the age of thirty-eight. He made a home in Bath, Ont.[ario], where he worked up a practice as physician and surgeon, but afterwards moved to Sydenham, a few miles distant, in which village my father, Daniel Tolkien, was born (Note 7). My father's parents died when he was very young, and, at an early age, he went to live with an uncle, from whom he obtained his knowledge of farming, which occupation he followed until shortly after my birth.

My mother, whose maiden name was Shurtleff, is a descendant on her father's side, from an old English family, the original name being Shire-cliffe , but which has become vastly changed by time. They were a proud people, but I do not believe they were haughty, for they were of that English type whose pride was based on honor and good name, rather than station. On her mother's side we have, in the family of Miles, a direct descent from the Pilgrim fathers, and later American Revolutionists upon which fact my great-grandfather, Rev. Stephen Miles, was never inclined to keep silent. And here I cannot resist going briefly into his history, for he and his son, Elijah, were the only printers in the family, with the exception of myself. Rev. Stephen Miles was born in Royalton, Vt., October 19th, 1789. He bound himself out to Mr. Nahum Mower, proprietor and publisher of The Postboy and Vermont and New Hampshire Federal Courier, at Windsor, Vt. In 1807 he went with Mr. Mower to Montreal, Canada, and in May of that year assisted him in establishing the Canadian Courant there. In the year 1810 Mr. Mower made him a present of enough material for a printing plant, so he proceeded to Kingston, U. C., the journey from Montreal to that place then occupying twelve days, and, in September, issued the first newspaper printed in Kingston and the third in Upper Canada, called the Gazette, of which he became editor. In 1813 the two other existing printing establishments in Upper Canada, one at Newark and the other at York, were destroyed by fire, the papers ceased publication, and Mr. Miles' paper, the Gazette, remained the only journal published to the west of Montreal up to 1816. In 1818 he disposed of the office and the good will of the paper, and after serving on one or two other journals, commenced in 1828 the Gazette and Religious Advocate, of which he continued editor and proprietor until 1830. He then undertook the management of the Canadian Watchman, and in the following year moved to Prescott, where he founded and edited the Grenville Gazette, the first paper published in that place. In 1833 he disposed of that paper, returning to Kingston, where, after some slight connection with one of the papers, he was, in 1835, received into the Methodist Church as a traveling minister, the duties of which he discharged until he was superannuated. At this time he was considered the oldest living journalist in Canada. He was finally overtaken by old age and blindness, and in December, 1870, was borne to his last resting place. 

And now, that I have concluded these concise remarks with reference to my ancestry, I leave it to those who read, to decide my position as regards nationality. I may sing out the "Marseillaise," or the "Wacht am Rhein," and still be patriotic, or, for a variety, chant the "Rule Britannia," "The Maple Leaf Forever," the Holland "Vaderland," the Scotch "Scots Wha Hae" and "The Star Spangled Banner" enjoying with each that inspiring enthusiasm that causes an electric current to vibrate in the spinal column that patriots, only, are capable of feeling. I may love all men, and sympathize with them in their thoughts, feelings and desires, provided that such are founded on justice and goodness to all mankind.

My career in my birthplace was of very short duration, my people moving to Camden East when I was but two years of age. Camden East was, and still is, a very small village, or, perhaps, hamlet would be a name more appropriate, its most pretentious edifices consisting of a two-roomed schoolhouse, two churches, a general store and an inn. From the time when I was susceptible of impression, up to the age of eight, my life in this little place was one short, sweet dream of green meadows, running brooks, marshland and forest, where I lived in Nature’s embrace and wandered alone as my young heart willed, or in company with my sisters, who were older than I. It was here that the chord of rhythm and rhyme was sounded and the music thereof stored away on the recorder of my mind to be reproduced in later years. Thus we find in my early work, "The Inn of Gahnobway”
and in the incidental verses of "Florence" and "The Veteran Farmer" a picture of the old place, although, at the time they were written I did not realize that such was the case, attributing their production to inspiration of imagination. It used to be a characteristic of mine, at times to choose quiet and even melancholy nooks in my roamings, the old churchyard preferably, on account of its seclusion, no doubt, and the assurance I felt that, within that resting-place of the departed, I was safe from intrusion, and could dream away, unmolested by any foreign element. At the age of eight, after my first year's schooling in the village classroom, I bade farewell to all the old haunts in picturesque Camden, the birthplace of my younger and only brother. My father’s connection with governmental work took us to the city of Toronto in the spring of 1890, and thus commenced a new epoch in my life, to which change it took a long time for me to become accustomed. Instead of my favorite road, beside the green banks of the winding river, there ran the straight, harsh thorough fare of cobble stone or the smooth, hard surface of asphalt, on which reckless vehicles, of all dimensions and descriptions, rattled out tunes that were foreign, indeed, to the class of music that I enjoyed. Instead of my old, stone gristmill and plane mill, there loomed before my vision, buildings of a thousand windows with tops that seemed to meet the heavens. They even took my ancient red bridge, from which I used to angle, and replaced it with one of railroad tracks, built over a monstrous, dark, rattling subway, a poor substitute for the gentle, flowing river of my early acquaintance. And the people —the throng—the multitude of people—they also rattled. They looked rattled. Their feet rattled. Their tongues rattled, and, I believe to this day that their brains rattled. They even caused me to be rattled, for I nearly lost my way. But, enough of this. Let us pass on there is no poetry there. Suffice it to say that I completed my schooling in Toronto, and caught an occasional ray of sunshine while on little excursions of my own to quiet places, where nature still possessed it originality, far from the bungled artifice of a man-made world. But, as many a ray of sunshine is followed by a cloud, so it was in two instances, at least, in my life, while residing in Toronto, for there I lost two of my beloved sisters, Florence, the eldest, and Helen, the youngest, who entered into eternal rest at the respective ages of twenty-one and nineteen. My memory of them will always be associated with the sweetness of a garland of roses, and they will still live on with me in spirit, if not materially. At the year 1893 I entered, as an apprentice, the printing office of The Faithful Witness, and for three years enjoyed the novelty of that high and exalted position and title of "printer's devil," through which I passed safely and without a sign of disfiguration, although, while in one of my dreamy moods, and unconscious of my surroundings, it was not an uncommon occurrence to be awakened from my reveries by the receipt of a boquet of no soft substance, well aimed at my cerebrum. In the third year of my apprenticeship a strike occurred in that office which developed into a lockout, and, being in sympathy with the union printers, I left of my own accord, shortly afterwards, and went sailing, during the summer months, on a passenger boat propelling between Hamilton and Montreal. This offered a deviation and I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom found in a life of that character. Prior to my vacation (for such I called it), business again had taken my parents to another place of abode; this time to Montreal, in which city, after I had had a sufficient amount of sailing, I also lived, under my father's roof. I resumed my trade, on the Montreal Herald, until within a year of becoming a journeyman, when I left to take a position in the employ of the McAlister Bros. There I stayed but a short period, when I was offered a situation, by the Benallack Lithographing & Printing Co., at standard union wages. Here I completed my five-yeai term of apprenticeship and lost no time in becoming a union printer. The five years which I spent in Montreal was, in my opinion, very satisfactory. I enjoyed the companionship of many, among whom were poets, artists, doctors and actors, whose talent was of genuine merit and which had been, on more occasions than one, justly complimented by the leading periodicals of the community. I was connected with the Philotechnic institute, during my residence there, and derived much benefit from it, not only from a technological standpoint, but in the opportunities afforded by the companionship of men with minds as great as theirs were reputed to be. But from the many acquaintances I selected just a few with whom I felt I could exchange confidences. Jean Eugene Marsouin, a little French poet, was my constant companion in the literary element. It is with extreme pleasure I recall that little bundle of nerves. How, with his gestures during exciting arguments, he would deliver his explosions. He was real—every atom of his being—honest; and a heart—one would wonder how so petite a body could contain so large a heart. He was imaginative, witty, inventive, and his power of description entertaining as it was odd. There was not a nook or corner of merit on Mount Royal that he and I did not find. We scoured the hills of Cote de Neiges, Westmount and the sublime valley in which reposed the ruins of Ville Marie. We traversed both roads to Lachine, feeding our eyes on ancient landmarks, each offering material for historical discussion. Yes, we took in everything of any account on the island—just we two—back there in those good old days. Cl must also mention four others who were no less my confreres—W. J. Graham, Everett Wood, Avery Argue (and he could argue) and Benton Twigley, another poet of rare ability. These four made up my regular company at home and I look back on their visits as an enjoyable dream that tarried only a moment, then passed on. Cln the year 1904 I left the land of my birth and came to make my future home on American soil. I landed in Rochester, N. Y., and soon procured a position with Vredenberg Co. In this office I worked until I was politely discharged, for being too closely connected, I believe, with the union. But that didn’t bother me in the least, for in three days’ time I was anchored on The Post Express, where I enjoyed prosperity until I walked out with the boys in the eight-hour strike. The first two years of this strike I enjoyed no less than the happiest moments of my life. In the first six months of its duration I entered into a matrimonial compact with my life-mate, and we enjoyed together the many months of recreation which followed. ln the meantime my parents immigrated to the United States, leaving my trail at Rochester, N. Y., and choosing the windy city of Buffalo in which to pitch their tent. After the strike had become more or less settled throughout the country, my wife and I left my aunt's hospitality in Rochester and made a whirlwind trip to the Middle West, where I visited my old friend, W. J. Graham, to whom I had become attached in the old days on the Montreal Heraldy in which office we had worked together. While in Dubuque, Iowa, I worked on the Telegraph-Herald and spent leisure moments with my camera, taking pictures of that grand scenery along the Mississippi. Just previous to the holidays at Christmas we returned East, stopped off at Buffalo, in which city we finally decided to make our home. I commenced to "sub" on The Evening Times, with which paper I have been connected ever since. I have had my share of trouble and sickness, but the happiness within me causes such trivial trials to vanish as vapor. Some have said to me, “the Devil certainly has it in for you,” but I tell them, not so, for I accept nothing from that Prince of Evil. I take all the sickness, the little trials, the sorrows, as well as the health, the good fortune and the joys, and I take them gladly, from none other than my Father who is in Heaven, for I know in Whom I have believed. 

JAMES KENNETH TOLKIEN.

Notes 
Note 1. In fact the Tolkiens are of Prussian ancestry and two generations of James Kenneth Tolkin's (and J. R. R. Tolkien's) family lived in Danzig (Gdańsk) before they moved to London. The oldest known ancestors of these two writers lived in the village of Globuhnen near Kreuzburg in the Kingdom of Prussia (today in the Kaliningrad Oblast).

Note 2. In fact Daniel's brother was Johann (John) Benjamin Tolkien (1752 Petershagen, Danzig – 1819 London), whose son George had a son Henry, a music seller in London.

Note 3. In fact John Benjamin Tolkien was first a watch- and clockmaker (Gravell & Tolkien manufacturers) and finally before his death he was a china and glass seller.

Note 4. Daniel Gottlieb Tolkien's (1746, Petershagen, Danzig – 1813, Shoreditch, London) and Ann née Austin's children were: Maria, Daniel George, Ann, Martha, Charles, Henry, John Henry, Charlotte, James and Elisabeth. 

Note 5. I have find him in the The Sporting Magazine (November 1831, vol IV, no. XIX, p. 57, see here) where we can read about the meeting of the Royal Sailing Society. During the meeting the Secretary of the Society proposed to enrol the name of a Major Tolkien among the Honorary Members of this Institution. "He therefore proposed that Major Tolkien, Mayor of Teignmouth who had saved the crew of a French brig bound from Bordeaux to Dunkirk when in imminent danger of perishing should become an Honorary Member of the Society" (see here).

Note 6. About the Rebellions of 1837-1838 in Canada see here.

Note 7. He was Daniel Witherspoon Tolkien (1846, Sydenham, Canada – 1925, Buffalo, New York, USA).

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