The cessation of Tolkien's frequent meetings with Lewis in the 1950s marked the end of the 'clubbable' chapter in Tolkien's life, which started with the T.C.B.S. at school and ended with the Inklings at Oxford.
His friendship with Lewis was nevertheless renewed to some degree in later years. As Tolkien was to comment in a letter to Priscilla after Lewis' death in November, 1963:
So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age - like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.
W. H. Auden was also a frequent correspondent and long-time friend of Tolkien's, initiated by Auden's fascination with The Lord of the Rings: Auden was among the most prominent early critics to praise the work. Tolkien wrote in a 1971 letter:
I am […] very deeply in Auden's debt in recent years. His support of me and interest in my work has been one of my chief encouragements. He gave me very good reviews, notices and letters from the beginning when it was by no means a popular thing to do. He was, in fact, sneered at for it.
Retirement and old age
During his life in retirement, from 1959 up to his death in 1973, Tolkien received steadily increasing public attention and literary fame. The sale of his books was so profitable that he regretted he had not chosen early retirement. While at first he wrote enthusiastic answers to reader inquiries, he became more and more suspicious of emerging Tolkien fandom, especially among the hippie movement in the United States. In a 1972 letter he deplores having become a cult-figure, but admits that:
... even the nose of a very modest idol [...] cannot remain entirely untickled by the sweet smell of incense!
Fan attention became so intense that Tolkien had to take his phone number out of the public directory and eventually he and Edith moved to Bournemouth on the south coast.
Tolkien was awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on 28 March 1972.
Edith Tolkien died on 29 November 1971, at the age of 82. Tolkien had the name Lúthien engraved on the stone at Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.
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