By Owen Cox
Hillsdale College graduate Benjamin Boyle delivered a speech on Tolkien’s early education titled “Honor, Competition, and Academic Devotion: Tolkien’s Education and King Edward’s.”
Boyle’s speech primarily concerned his belief that Tolkien’s classical education was the source of Tolkien’s success as a writer and academic.
Tolkien attended King Edward’s Grammar School, which had a similar curriculum to public schools of the time.
At King Edward’s, Boyle claimed, Tolkien received a rigorous education in arithmetic, scripture, grammar and literature.
Boyle quoted Tolkien as saying that the writer “‘was brought up in the Classics, and first discovered the sensation of literary pleasure in Homer.’”
Boyle claimed that this classical education gave Tolkien a solid foundation in which to frame his work. Tolkien’s school, according to Boyle, delivered a solid grammatical foundation in English, Latin and Greek.
Tolkien’s activities in the school, according to Boyle, were “a source of his prowess.”
Boyle said that Tolkien took part in the school’s debate society. This was a major part of the school, as the institution was seen as a “competitive, rhetorical school,” in the words of Boyle.
Boyle said that Tolkien’s love of languages “was able to be pursued as part of the school’s curriculum” because the school had well-established Latin and Greek curriculums. Tolkien also won a first-place prize for his abilities in German, according to Boyle.
Boyle’s talk was part of a larger conference held by Franciscan University titled “A Long Expected Party: A Semicentennial Celebration of Tolkien’s Life, Works, And Afterlife.”
“The significance of the conference’s title and dates will not be lost on Tolkien fans. [The conference] falls on September 22, the shared birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, principal characters in Tolkien’s two most beloved books,” according to the University’s description of the event.