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A Secret Vice

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  28 reviews
A Secret Vice is the title of a lecture written by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1931, given at a conference. Some twenty years later, Tolkien revised the manuscript for a second presentation.

It deals with constructed languages in general, and the relation of a mythology to its language. Tolkien contrasts international auxiliary languages with artistic languages constructed for aest
Hardcover, 157 pages
Published April 7th 2016 by Harper Collins
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Sean Barrs
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Let’s just face the facts people, Tolkien was a genius. He was the inventor of languages and mythology; he was the designer of races and cultures: he was the creator of worlds. He created modern fantasy. So here’s a book that gets right down to the nitty-gritty of Tolkien’s wonderful world; it explains the logic, and the success, behind his imagination: the language itself.


Tolkien’s essay “A Secret Vice” is replicated in here. Certainly, the essay is available, along with many others, in editio
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins’ 2016 publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “A Secret Vice” in a critical form is very welcome. A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Language is a beautifully designed edition in the HarperCollins Middle-earth series, and includes critical texts with extensive notes of two of Tolkien’s connected lectures, “A Secret Vice” and “Essay on Phonetic Symbolism.” They also publish a number of related manuscript notes in Bodleian Tolkien MS. 24 which would only be available to peo ...more
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction

Although I'm always excited about a new Tolkien book, I was hesitant about spending money on A Secret Vice since the essay that forms the core of the book is published in The Monsters and the Critics, which I already own.  Ultimately, I do think A Secret Vice is an engaging critical edition, and the editors made a good call to republish the essay as a standalone book with additional supporting material (including an introduction, another essay on phonetic symbolism, a look at the various
Sarah Lorenowich
Aug 01, 2020 rated it liked it
super interesting, gives lots of references so i can do more digging on this topic if i choose to, has reignited my desire to learn tolkien’s languages
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was browsing the shelves of a bookshop when my eye was caught by a book that was about to placed between thematically similar volumes. Its beautifully coloured cover seemed to call my attention just like the One Ring did — coincidentally, the cover is designed like the One Ring. Fortunately, I didn't spot any Gollums near, intent on taking back this precious gem.

As a huge Tolkien fan and as a linguist I highly appreciate the efforts the editors made, in order to show us the creative process of
Carlye Krul
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I never thought I would have enjoyed a collection of essays on the creation of languages so interesting.
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Tolkien ve Diller.
Ya da İcat Edilmiş/Yaratılmış Diller.
Her dil -teknik olarak- yaratılmamış mı zaten?

Dikkat!: İncelemede bahsedilen çoğu kaynak İngilizce dilindedir.

Tolkien'i sadece legendarium'ı ile tanımak yetmez; onun bu efsaneyi yaratmasıyla sonuçlanan mesleki merakını da anlamak gerekir. Bildiğiniz üzere Tolkien bir filolog. Kendi mitolojisini ve dilini yaratan bir filolog. *Burada diğer kurgu yazarlarına ASLA diss atılmamıştır.*

A Secret Vice, Tolkien'in A Hobby for the Home adında bir
Scott Hayden
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kirk Person
Recommended to Scott by: Becky B
Shelves: language, myth
There are so many editorial notes, explanations, introductions, and appendices that by the end I forgot that the main text was by Tolkien himself. The editors set two of Tolkien's essays in context. In "A Secret Vice" Tolkien's tone is almost one of confession that he is an inventor of languages just for the fun of it. And almost as a side note, but of interest to those of us who mainly feast on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, we glimpse the idea that a language needs a people to speak it, ...more
Matthijs Krul
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, this work contains a manuscript edition of Tolkien's best known reflection on languages and their aesthetics: his lecture on language invention titled "A Secret Vice". Beyond an annotated version of the various versions of this lecture, it also contains the first time publication of an additional talk or essay on the subject, the "Essay on Phonetic Symbolism". Finally, Fimi and Higgins provide a lengthy introduction to both texts and a short coda with r ...more
Dave Maddock
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: language, criticism
Drs. Fimi and Higgins have done Tolkien fans a real service with this new volume. In addition to the key essay giving the book its title, they have uncovered several interesting addenda including a previously omitted section of the Vice essay, details on when the paper was delivered to an audience, and a related piece on phono-aesthetics.

The meaty introduction does a great job of synthesizing the relevant data on how Tolkien invented his languages. As a half-hearted Esperantist myself, I appreci
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am extremely interested in lang. and the creation of new languages (although I was a lit. student). Informative introduction that explained the beliefs of Tolkien's contemporaries on language development and forms. This was very helpful as it has been a while since I took a class on this subject. Tolkien's essay was a great read and suitable for anyone who is into the subject of inventing (fantasy) languages, even when you are not so much into The Lord of the Rings or other Tolkien works. The ...more
May 28, 2016 added it
“Tolkien would attempt to invent a hypothetical Germanic language from which Gothic supposedly emerged, Gautisk, which also would have been the language of the Geats, the people of Beowulf. He would use the same notebook he would later use to start work on his Qenya language in early 1915 (see Smith 2006, pp. 272-4).”

... may be the most Tolkienian reference ever.
Dana Paxson
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Although J. R. R. Tolkien is not the originator of the field of invented languages, his globally-read works on his fantastic world of Middle-earth caused a huge flowering of popular attention to making new languages for entertainment and art, and gave us insights into how we can frame our communication and our world. This book opens up for the reader the works Tolkien produced for explaining and detailing his thinking on the subject.

Beginning with his varieties of Elvish and other written and sp
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A language is not merely aesthetic and symbolic sounds grouped together to form a signifying point or message, but it is also the cultural and mythological history that is entrenched within every vowel and consonant.

The nerd in me comes out.

This is a great introduction into the world and art of creating languages. And, it is jammed with information that any language nut will find interesting.

It is easy to read, easy to follow, and short enough to read leisurely. Plus, Tolkien's writing style
Tommy Grooms
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Secret Vice is an important essay of Tolkien’s that discusses invented languages, in which Tolkien first publicly acknowledged his own. Originally published in the essay collection The Monsters and the Critics, this edition makes the essay more accessible by offering context of Tolkien’s work and legacy, and with invented languages generally. It includes another essay by Tolkien on phonetic symbolism, and draft material.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this on the flight back from a conference and loved it. As a conlanger, it was interesting to revisit the historical origins of the West's most well known one and learn more about his thoughts. I have always been more into understanding Tolkien's creative process than in LotR, and the Introduction was good and focused, totally accessible to a linguistics-minded person who has only read LotR once.
Morphé Soui
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Frenchman passionate about Tolkien, I had the delicious pleasure of diving into the writings of this book, which I find extra and very well written. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to venture into the Lands of Knowledge of Tolkien's Elven Languages in depth! Just like Arda Sub-Creating !
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
*review to come soon*
Knox Merkle
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Super fun and interesting
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tolkien, 2017
Review originally published 26 May 2017 at Falling Letters.

The title A Secret Vice refers to a talk that J.R.R. Tolkien originally gave in 1931. He discussed the joys of inventing language and the significant role language has to play in mythology creation.

I had previously read parts of Tolkien’s essay back 2013, when I fulfilled a years long dream of writing about Tolkien for my undergrad degree. The paper I wrote was titled “Retaining Meaning: Translating Tolkien’s Middle-Earth”, and it dealt
Becky B
I started reading The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams , was partway through the first chapter on Tolkien when they started to mention his language development and his speech “A Secret Vice.” I had this book sitting on my shelf waiting to be read as well, so I paused reading The Fellowship and decided this was a perfect time to dive into A Secret Vice. This book starts off with an over 60 page introduction about the se ...more
Michael Joosten
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you already have The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, and that version of "A Secret Vice" seemed satisfactory, this new volume will not add a lot to your library. If it left you acutely wanting more, however, Fimi and Higgins do their best to supply it here, with the full textual analysis and apparatus regarding the history of the essay and its context, as well as a related, less developed paper on the same subject that may have been the forerunner to "A Secret Vice."
Clearly more interesting if you have an actual passion for linguistics. I just find them mildly entertaining and like the maths behind them. I would have enjoyed watching someone give the lecture more.
Juan Sebastian Quintero Santacruz
The relations between Tolkien and Esperanto are stronger that I had thought!
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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English

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“It could be argued that at 9 pm on 29 November 1931, Tolkien revealed to the world the ‘coeval and congenital’ arts of world-building and language invention – the crux of his creative endeavours and literary success.” 0 likes
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