09 May 2019, The Tablet

The devil was so frisky in one young woman that her mother-in-law had to sit on her


The devil was so frisky in  one young woman that her  mother-in-law had to sit on her
 

One redeeming element of the new film about J.R.R. Tolkien – which has underwhelmed everyone apart from the Tolkien family, who dissociated themselves from it – is that it features one of the most important people in the young Tolkien’s life, his guardian, Fr Francis Morgan. And, unusually for contemporary film, a Catholic priest does not feature either as abuser or autocrat.

Fr Morgan came into the life of Tolkien and his brother Hilary after their widowed mother’s death from diabetes at the age of 34. Mabel Tolkien had converted to Catholicism four years earlier, to the indignation of her and her husband’s family; her brother-in-law promptly cut off all financial help. But she found support and kindred spirits among the Birmingham Oratorians, and when she moved house it was to a village near the community’s country estate where she and her boys could keep in touch with Fr Morgan, who was often to be seen “smoking a cherrywood pipe on the ivy-grown verandah” and taking his dog, Lord Roberts, for walks on the estate.

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