Apparently there is some confusion floating around about Michael Drout’s involvement in the forthcoming publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf translation by Chris Tolkien.
(Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary will be published on May 22. You can pre-order your hardcover copy now from Amazon by going here.)
Here Drout sets the record straight. Thanks to Ringer Bokkie for the heads-up.
The Tolkien Estate recently announced that J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf will be released in May. Since there seems to be a little bit of incorrect information floating around the web (thanks in part to some careless work by more than one reporter for British newspapers), I figured I should clarify things.
First, I have nothing to do with this edition. I did work on Tolkien’s Beowulf translation about ten years ago and was putting together an edition along the same lines as the one the Estate has described, but the Estate withdrew permission for that project and I have done no new work on it since then.
Second, I did not “discover” the Beowulf translation, not even in the sense that I found it in the Bodleian Library. This claim is a conflation of a story about one manuscript with information about a totally different text.
The real story is not quite as exciting.
I went to the Bodleian Library in 1996 to finish up my dissertation research, which included work on the evolution of Tolkien’s 1936 lecture “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” From the catalogue in Modern Papers I knew that there were notes and drafts of that lecture in MS Tolkien A26. What I did not know was that not only did the box of manuscripts contain marked-up carbon typescripts and proofs of the British Academy lecture, but also two substantial handwritten texts that were Oxford lectures about Beowulf written in the 1930s. These lectures were obviously preparatory to “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” and were quite a bit longer and more elaborate than that text. These were what I “discovered”, not Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf (which I actually did not examine).