Dust wrapper of first edition
|Publisher||George Allen & Unwin|
|5 May 1977|
J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, written by Humphrey Carpenter, was first published in 1977. It is called the "authorized biography" of J. R. R. Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings It was first published in London by George Allen & Unwin, then in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Company. It has been reprinted many times since.
The Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey writes that even though the biography came out before most of the posthumous publications edited by Christopher Tolkien, "it has worn very well", telling of Tolkien's "sad and traumatic youth", and providing good coverage of his dealings with C. S. Lewis and his publishers. The book was reviewed by August J. Fry for Christianity & Literature. Anthea Lawson reviewed the book for The Observer in 2002.
Charles E. Lloyd reviewed the book for the Sewanee Review in 1978, writing that Carpenter "reveals an affecting remarkable life without interposing between reader and subject personal predilections or self-advertisement." Lloyd states that the effect is to present Tolkien as a "very ordinary, even obscure, professor". He cites, too, Carpenter's mention that Tolkien "disapproved of biography as an aid to literary appreciation", agreeing that this may have been correct, with the two famous works telling what readers most need to know about Tolkien, but adding that it is helpful to know that Tolkien liked ordinary working men, like the batmen who served officers in the First World War trenches. Lloyd finds Carpenter's account of Tolkien's youth "gripping and astounding", and extremely good on his friendships and Catholicism.
- "Tolkien Bibliography: 1977 - Humphrey Carpenter - J.R.R. Tolkien: a biography". The Tolkien Library. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Shippey, Tom (29 November 2001). "Tom Shippey's top 10 books on JRR Tolkien". Retrieved 1 August 2020.
- Fry, August J. (1977). "Book Review: J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography". Christianity & Literature. SAGE Publications. 27 (1): 32–32. doi:10.1177/014833317702700114. ISSN 0148-3331.
- Lawson, Anthea (24 November 2002). "Review: Tolkien: A Biography". The Observer. Observer Review Pages, page 18.
- Lloyd, Charles E. (1978). "Review: Tolkien and the Ordinary World". The Sewanee Review. 86 (1 (Winter 1978)): xi–xiv. JSTOR 27543325.