- Mar 27, 2016
HLotR 4 p. ix/ It would be interesting to know if the Inklings were aware that Tolkien had, evidently, after seven years or so of labor, set aside LotR and had been deep into the writing of a new novel (The Notion Club Papers), and, if they were, what their thoughts were. Lewis in particular must have been dismayed. CJRT writes of an hiatus "that lasted through 1945 and extended into 1946., The Return of the King being then scarcely begun." The Notion Club Papers is, at a rough estimate, nearly as long as Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and by around the time of Tolkien's tools-down on LotR, Lewis had written his complete cosmic trilogy.
Here's a comment on Tolkien's emotional situation around this time -- I don't endorse it; it's speculative.
The Notion Club Papers - an Inklings blog: JRR Tolkien's nervous breakdown
I expect I'm not that well-informed on these matters, but I'd assumed that Lewis and the others were well aware that Tolkien was writing The Notion Club Papers. The break in writing the LOTR may well have been helpful in that the subsequent chapters flowed fairly easily when he resumed writing.
Re the "nervous breakdown": as Bruce Charlton acknowledges, the term nervous breakdown is not the greatest. In my own terminology, I've appreciated that there were times when Tolkien suffered significant stress, to the extent that he felt unable to cope with the pressures of work/life and needed to take a break. This is clear from the Letters. (Before I began reading around him three or four years ago, I'd always assumed his life had been pretty easy with plenty of time to muse about the LOTR!). The transfer of responsibilities from Pembroke to Merton must have meant a greatly increased workload for some months. I'm not sure there would be too much to be read into his wife going to Brighton for ten days while JRRT and Christopher decamped to the Bear Hotel. If I remember correctly (not a given), Edith used to go away fairly regularly for a break/rest, and staying at the Bear would have meant no home cooking. It's well known that the marriage had "its difficulties" and this must have been hard for both of them.