Smith of Wootton Major - Signed by J.R.R. Tolkien
London, England: George Allen & Unwin (1967). Smith of Wootton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien. First Edition. Small 8vo.
Presentation Copy Inscribed to life-long friends - George and Moira Sayer. "George from J.R.R.T. With best wishes to you and Moira".
Illustrations by Pauline Baynes. Original pictorial boards, some rubbing to board edges. The inscription 6is on a piece of card laid-down to the front paste-down. The recipients are George and Moira Sayer, friends of both Tolkien and fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis; it was at their house in the Malverns that Tolkien recorded readings and songs from The Hobbit and the as yet unpublished The Lord of the Rings (it was the first time the author had used a tape recorder). Extracts from these recordings were commercially released in 1975.
George Sydney Benedict Sayer was born on June 1, 1914 at Bradfield in Berkshire, England. He was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, in Perthshire, Scotland, and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was tutored by C. S. Lewis. He joined the staff of Malvern College in 1945 after having been a Captain in the British Army Intelligence Corps on account of his fluent German.
George was head of the English Department at Malvern College, Worcestershire, from 1949 until 1974, was a pupil, and later close personal friend, of C.S. Lewis during his undergraduate years. Sayer wrote the memoir and biography “Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times”. Lewis and Sayer became close friends to the extent that Lewis sought Sayer's advice when considering marrying Joy Gresham. On Lewis's death, Sayer was made a trustee of the Lewis estate.
In August 1947 Sayer also befriended J.R.R. Tolkien, and would remain life-long friends afterwards. In addition to their involvement in the genesis of the “Lord of the Rings”, the Sayers were close friends, and letters sent back and forth refer to Tolkien's delight in his visits to their home in Malvern.
In August of 1952, having just finished the manuscript of “The Lord of the Rings”, Tolkien took a vacation in Worcestershire, where he stayed with his friends George and Moira Sayer, an English Master at the local college. To entertain his guest one evening, Sayer pulled out an early portable tape recorder. Although the technology had been around for some time, it was only just becoming commercially available and Tolkien hadn’t seen one before. Intrigued by how it worked, he joked that he “ought to cast out any devil that might be in it” by recording himself reading the Lord’s Prayer in his beloved ancient Gothic language. The result delighted him, and he went on to read from his own work.
The recordings were later issued on long-playing gramophone records. In the liner notes for J. R. R. Tolkien Reads and Sings his “The Hobbit” & “The Fellowship of the Ring”, George Sayer wrote that Tolkien would relive the book as they walked and compared parts of the Malvern Hills to the White Mountains of Gondor.
Sayer's first wife, Moira Casey died in 1977 following a long illness. In 1983 Sayer married Margaret Cronin. George passed away on October 20, 2005.