“Those Who Lived to see Such Times”: Suggested Readings from the Wade Authors during Times of Uncertainty

C.S. Lewis at RAF Chaplaincy School, 1944

C.S. Lewis at R.A.F. Chaplaincy School, 1944. Image in the public domain. Original print at R.A.F. Chaplaincy Branch Archive, R.A.F. Museum, Hendon, London.

The world is currently experiencing a unique and unsettling time with the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). As you are aware, most businesses have closures or limited services, cultural and social centers such as libraries and museums (including the Wade Center) are closed to the public, large public events have been cancelled, and individuals are being encouraged to keep their distance for safety in order to prevent the spread of the virus. This isolation is hard, and it has made many fearful. However, our current circumstances are very reminiscent of what five of the seven Wade authors experienced while living in 20th century Britain through some of the most difficult periods in modern history. During this time, they witnessed both world wars, and four of them (Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and J.R.R. Tolkien) lived to see the unsettling days of nuclear weapons. Rationing was also a problem during these war years, as supplies were limited, certainties rare, and little luxuries or meaningful moments with loved ones all the more precious.

Dorothy L. Sayers during World War II

Dorothy L. Sayers during World War II in her Air Raid Warden attire. Image property of the Wade Center. From the Muriel St. Clare Byrne Collection archive.

During weeks of nightly bombings in Britain during World War II, Sayers and Tolkien served as Air Raid Wardens, helping to enforce public safety measures and watch for bomb threats. C.S. Lewis served in the Home Guard in and around Oxford. He was also writing weekly newspaper installments that later became The Screwtape Letters and traveling regularly to speak to Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) servicemen and chaplains. In addition, Lewis gave radio talks on the BBC that encouraged listeners and shared basic truths of Christianity to homes all across Britain, pointing people to God and to eternal things beyond the chaos of war. These radio talks were later published as Mere Christianity. Tolkien was writing letters to his son serving in the R.A.F., and steadily penning The Lord of the Rings. Sayers’s war work was prodigious. In addition to her radio dramas on the life of Christ, The Man Born to be King, she gave a number of broadcast talks designed to encourage the British people during the hardships of war. She also worked on several writing projects including a collaboration with other writers on works that, they hoped, would help rebuild society once the war was over.

Apart from their war work, all seven of the Wade authors, and the works they produced for the audiences of the past, still have much to offer us today, particularly in this unprecedented moment of history. There is good reason why these particular books are still available as their words hold power to instruct and encourage us now as they have done for thousands of other people over the decades. In this regard, both fiction and non-fiction works are valuable in the different ways that they interact with the human mind, heart, and soul. Let your preferences direct what you read. In other words, select books that you enjoy and also what you feel would be most helpful.

The Wade Center staff has selected a number of titles for recommended reading, with a brief description of each. Please share this information with others in need of good reading resources. While library and business closures may make some of these works harder to obtain, there are also digital methods of purchase and access that will be highlighted. We also encourage readers to continue to enjoy these titles once the Coronavirus emergency has ended as they are applicable for all seasons, and life will continue to have future challenges. There is no expiration date on the nourishment that good words give.

For those of us living to see such times as these, we leave the last words to Gandalf the wizard from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings:

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1, Chapter 2

C.S. LEWIS – Recommended Readings

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity: One of Lewis’s most famous works of apologetics providing an overview of the tenets of faith held in common by all Christians. This is a compilation of the talks Lewis gave over B.B.C. Radio during World War II. Available in a variety of print formats, on Kindle, and audiobook.

“Learning in War-Time”: This pivotal essay was first given by Lewis as a sermon in St. Mary the Virgin Church in Oxford on December 22, 1939, and was originally published as “None Other Gods: Culture in War Time.” It is Lewis’s defense for the value of the practice of learning, and the necessity of maintaining life-giving pursuits, even in the midst of war. Available in the book The Weight of Glory in a variety of print formats, on Kindle, and audiobook.

“On Living in an Atomic Age”: First published as an article in 1948, this essay by Lewis discusses how to think and live in the era of uncertainty with the coming of the atomic bomb. The piece appeared three years after atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Available in the book Present Concerns in print or Kindle formats.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Lewis’s beloved seven-book series of tales and adventures that take place in the magical world of Narnia. A favorite choice for both children and adults, the Narnia series is available in a wide variety of editions including print, Kindle, and audiobook. There is also a dramatized version produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre and adapted by Paul McCusker; this is available for purchase and digital download.

For more resources on C.S. Lewis, see his author resources page on the Wade Center’s website. It includes a bibliography of works organized by genre.

J.R.R. TOLKIEN – Recommended Readings

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s epic fantasy tale which takes readers to Middle-earth, the home of elves, dwarves, hobbits, and many other inhabitants. In this story, Frodo the hobbit and his companions embark on a perilous quest to destroy the One Ring and defeat the Dark Lord Sauron. Available in a variety of print editions, on Kindle, and audiobook. A B.B.C. Radio full-cast dramatization, adapted by Brian Sibley, is also available for digital download.

The Hobbit: The prelude to The Lord of the Rings in which Bilbo the hobbit, a band of dwarves, and Gandalf the wizard set off to recapture stolen treasure from Smaug the dragon. Available in a variety of print editions, on Kindle, and audiobook. A B.B.C. Radio full-cast dramatization is also available for digital download.

“On Fairy-Stories”: Tolkien’s famous essay defending and explaining the genre of fairy tales and fantasy literature. This work is included in the following titles, all available in a variety of print formats: Tree and Leaf, The Tolkien Reader, Tales from the Perilous Realm. Audiobook and Kindle versions are available for Tales from the Perilous Realm, which also includes several short stories by Tolkien, and is read by Derek Jacobi.

For more resources on J.R.R. Tolkien, see his author resources page on the Wade Center’s website. It includes a bibliography of works organized by genre.

DOROTHY L. SAYERS – Recommended Readings

The Man Born to be King by Dorothy L. Sayers

THE MAN BORN TO BE KING by Dorothy L. Sayers

“Why Work?”: In this essay by Sayers, she defines vocation as purposeful, creative, and a sacred act in that it glorifies God. The famous quote: “The only Christian work is good work well done” comes from this essay. You can find it in Letters to a Diminished Church, discussed below.

Letters to a Diminished Church: In this title, Sayers brings doctrines of the church to life, showing how they are applicable today, and ways in which they are incorporated with science, literature, and history. In addition to the “Why Work” essay discussed above, other recommended essay titles include: “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged,” “The Triumph of Easter,” and “Creed or Chaos?” Available in print and Kindle formats. Many of the same essays are also available in an earlier anthology, The Whimsical Christian.

Lord Peter Wimsey detective stories: Sayers is a masterful detective fiction writer. Her detective, the  aristocrat Lord Peter Wimsey, is featured in a number of novels and short stories. A listing of the novels is available on the Wade Center’s website. Titles are available in a print, Kindle, and audiobook formats.

The Man Born to be King: A twelve-play cycle based on the life of Christ. These religious dramas were originally broadcast as radio plays on B.B.C. Radio and are now available in book form. C.S. Lewis read this play cycle annually as part of his Lenten devotions. The current in-print version is available in paperback or Kindle edition.

For more resources on Dorothy L. Sayers, see her author resources page on the Wade Center’s website. It includes a bibliography of works organized by genre.

GEORGE MACDONALD – Recommended Readings

Since the works of George MacDonald are now entirely in the public domain, you can find most of them free and available online.

Project Gutenberg: This free e-book site offers a wide variety of the works of George MacDonald and many other authors.

LibriVox: For those who enjoy audiobooks, LibriVox offers a vast assortment of audiobook material from books in the public domain, including works by George MacDonald. These audio recordings are made by volunteer readers from around the world, and vary in quality of reading, but are a great way to explore various works of literature. You may also find that different chapters in a book have different readers.

Amazon Kindle: Kindle users will also be able to find many of MacDonald’s works available at very low prices, such as the Complete Works currently selling for $0.99. 

Individual Recommended Titles by George MacDonald

The Wise Woman by George MacDonald

THE WISE WOMAN by George MacDonald

The Wise Woman: A fairy tale of two spoiled children, a princess and a shepherd’s daughter, their choices, and their dealings with a kind but firm guardian, the Wise Woman, who is determined to save them from themselves. Alternate titles for this work are: The Lost Princess and A Double Story.

Unspoken Sermons: Three volumes of essays by George MacDonald on theological topics. Recommended titles: “The Consuming Fire,” “Light,” and “The Truth in Jesus.”

Fairy Tales: The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie are novel-length fairy tales, and are enjoyable for readers of all ages. Try reading them aloud with your family. Other recommended shorter fairy tales are: “The Golden Key,” “The Light Princess,” and “The Day Boy and the Night Girl” (alternate title: “The Romance of Photogen and Nycteris”).

Sir Gibbie: One of MacDonald’s most beloved realistic fiction novels. The story is set in the highlands of Scotland and centers on an orphan boy who cannot speak, but whose life is full of love and generosity.

For more resources on George MacDonald, see his author resources page on the Wade Center’s website. It includes a bibliography of works organized by genre.

G.K. CHESTERTON – Recommended Readings

Many of the works of G.K. Chesterton are in the public domain and available free online.

Project Gutenberg: This free e-book site offers a wide variety of the works of Gilbert Keith Chesterton and many other authors.

LibriVox: For those who enjoy audiobooks, LibriVox offers a vast assortment of audiobook material from books in the public domain, including works by G.K. Chesterton. These audio recordings are made by volunteer readers from around the world, and vary in quality of reading, but are a great way to explore various works of literature. You may also find that different chapters in a book have different readers.

Amazon Kindle: Kindle users will also be able to find many of Chesterton’s works available at very low prices, such as The G.K. Chesterton Collection (50 books) currently selling for $1.99. 

Individual Recommended Titles by G.K. Chesterton

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

ORTHODOXY by G.K. Chesterton

Orthodoxy: G.K. Chesterton’s highly regarded work of apologetics and his spiritual autobiography. This work forms the core of all that is Chesterton. If you only read one book by G.K. Chesterton, let it be this one.

Father Brown detective stories: Father Brown is Chesterton’s brilliant detective who also happens to be a Catholic priest. There are five collections of short detective stories, the first one titled The Innocence of Father Brown.

The Man Who Was Thursday: What is often described as a “metaphysical mystery thriller” and one of Chesterton’s finest novels. The setting of Edwardian era London forms the backdrop to the investigation of Gabriel Syme, poet and amateur police detective, who is on assignment to uncover the truth behind a ring of anarchists – arriving upon conclusions no one could have foreseen.

The Everlasting Man: A history of humanity, Christ, and Christianity which serves to some extent as a rebuttal of H.G. Wells’s The Outline of History. This book greatly influenced the faith of C.S. Lewis and was listed in his top ten list of influential books.

Manalive: A novel about not taking life for granted, and seeing the world through eyes of wonder. Follow the exploits of Innocent Smith, and judge for yourself just how “innocent” he really is.

For more resources on G.K. Chesterton, see his author resources page on the Wade Center’s website. It includes a bibliography of works organized by genre.

OWEN BARFIELD – Recommended Readings

This Ever Diverse Pair by Owen Barfield

THIS EVER DIVERSE PAIR by Owen Barfield

This Ever Diverse Pair: An autobiographical novel which explores the divergence between a man and his professional persona, personified as two co-workers in a law office who know just the right pressure points to annoy each other in a number of humorous and poignant scenarios. Barfield wrote this book at a time when his practice of the law felt to be stifling his creativity as a writer and thinker. Available as a paperback edition.

Poetic Diction: A study of the metaphors, style, and vocabulary used in poetic language with additional commentary on myth and the origins of language. This work was influential for both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Available as a paperback edition.

For more resources on Owen Barfield, see his author resources page on the Wade Center’s website. It includes a bibliography of works organized by genre.

CHARLES WILLIAMS – Recommended Readings

Descent of the Dove by Charles Williams

THE DESCENT OF THE DOVE by Charles Williams

Descent of the Dove: A non-fiction work outlining the history of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Available in paperback and Kindle editions.

The Place of the Lion: One of Williams’s seven novels described as “supernatural thrillers.” In this story, archetypes are embodied as gigantic animals roaming the earth, such as the Lion of Strength and the Butterfly of Beauty. Their interactions in the world cause havoc, but also produce engaging insights into the hearts of the humans they encounter. This book was highly admired by C.S. Lewis when he first read it in February 1936, and helped start the friendship between Lewis and Williams. Available in print and Kindle editions.

Image of the City and other Essays: A selection of essays by Williams which serves as an introduction to the diversity of his work as well as providing great insight into his thought and the various recurring themes in his works. Available in print and Kindle editions.

For more resources on Charles Williams, see his author resources page on the Wade Center’s website. It includes a bibliography of works organized by genre.

The Wade Authors in the Blogosphere

Blogs come in a variety of topics and formats. They invite in-depth looks at a multitude of topics, as well as glimpses into the lives and interests of people from around the world. In the case of the Wade authors, there are a number of scholars, enthusiasts, and organizations dedicated to the study of their lives and works that offer some helpful resources delivered via blogs; including the Wade Center (as is evident to you, our readers).

In this post, we will take a look at some of the blogs where the Wade authors are studied and appreciated. This is by no means a comprehensive list! We hope it will serve as a useful starting point to whet your appetite for continued exploration and as a means to learning more about the seven authors of the Wade Center and related subject areas. The following details were gathered from the blogs directly, so if you manage one of the blogs below and have additional or updated descriptions, please contact us.

Have other suggestions for intriguing Wade related blogs? Post them in the comments below!

*Note that we are not including podcasts or general websites in these lists; rather, we are defining a blog as a regular series of textual, date-stamped posts.

 

Along-the-Beam

Image from: alongthebeam.com

BROAD TOPICS & MULTIPLE WADE AUTHORS

These blogs discuss multiple Wade authors and/or related topics.

Diana Pavlac Glyer blog: A blog of intermittent posts from Lewis, Tolkien, and Inklings scholar Diana Glyer. She is Professor of English at Azusa Pacific University.

“I Have An Inkling” blog by Mark Sommer: Posts about news, books, and other topics relating to the Inklings, which included 4 of the 7 Wade authors (Barfield, Lewis, Tolkien, Williams).

“Islands of Joy”: A blog focused on the theme of “Sehnsucht” (meaning joy or longing), which C.S. Lewis wrote about; this deep sense of desire is most often evoked by art, poetry, literature, music, or nature. Several writers contribute to this blog.

“Kalimac’s Corner” by David Bratman: Personal blog of Bratman, a scholar who specializes in Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings.

“Letters from the Edge of Elfland” by David Russell Mosley: David has a PhD in theology from Nottingham University and writes posts (“letters”) about theology, creativity, and their places in everyday life. His posts can include content on Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton.

“Transpositions”: A blog on theology, imagination, and the arts managed by The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) at the University of St. Andrew’s, Scotland. Several writers contribute to this blog.

 

BLOGS FROM SOCIETIES AND ORGANIZATIONS

C.S. Lewis Foundation: Interviews with C.S. Lewis scholars, information about the Foundation, and words of encouragement. The C.S. Lewis Foundation is based in Redlands, CA.

C.S. Lewis Society of Chattanooga, Tennessee:  Contains news on the Society, and Lewis-related topics and information. Moderated by Rev. David Beckmann.

George MacDonald Society Blog: Posts include Society news and events notices, book announcements, and MacDonald related topics. Moderated by Mike Partridge. The George MacDonald Society is based in the United Kingdom.

Tolkien Society: Publishes Society news and a wide variety of Tolkien related topics. This blog has multiple authors. The Tolkien Society is based in the United Kingdom.

 

BLOG ON GEORGE MACDONALD

“Works of George MacDonald” by Michael Phillips: A website that maintains several “blog” resources under its “Regular Features” and other tab sections, including MacDonald Q&A, information on MacDonald rare book editions, daily devotionals, prayers, blessings, and poems, etc. Phillips is the author of George MacDonald, Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller (Bethany House, 1987), and has adapted MacDonald’s works for contemporary readers.

 

BLOG ON CHARLES WILLIAMS

“The Oddest Inkling” by Sørina Higgins: A blog dedicated to exploring the life, works, and ideas of Charles Williams. The earlier posts on the blog are particularly helpful for an overview of Williams’s ideas and biography. Higgins is in the process of posting overviews of works by Charles Williams in publication order. She serves as Chair of the Literature & Language Department at Signum University’s Mythgard Institute, and is currently a doctoral student at Baylor University.

 

BLOGS ON C.S. LEWIS

“Along the Beam” by Rebekah Valerius: Posts on Lewis and integrated approaches to Christian apologetics. Valerius is a graduate student studying apologetics at Houston Baptist University.

Crystal Hurd blog – Hurd is an educator and Lewis scholar from Virginia. She is currently researching the parents of C.S. Lewis, Albert and Flora Lewis, and her posts focus on books, Lewis, and related topics.

“Dangerous Idea” by Victor Reppert: The personal blog of Reppert contains posts on C.S. Lewis in the areas of reason, science, and philosophy, as well as other topics of interest. Reppert also manages a blog titled “Dangerous Idea 2” and a blog study guide of Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Reppert is the author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (InterVarsity Press, 2003).

David Beckmann blog: Personal blog of Rev. David Beckmann and dedicated to helping others learn more about the life and works of C.S. Lewis, with an emphasis on spiritual topics. Beckmann is the founder and moderator of the C.S. Lewis Society of Chattanooga, TN.

“Essential C.S. Lewis” by William O’Flaherty: Provides daily quotes by C.S. Lewis, and includes links to other Lewis-related resources (podcasts and scholar interviews).

“The Lamppost: C.S. Lewis, Narnia, and Mere Christianity” by Will Vaus: Provides information on Vaus’s books, travels, and a variety of Lewis-related topics particularly in the area of theology. Vaus is a pastor, public speaker, and the author of several books about C.S. Lewis and his works.

Mark Neal blog: Personal blog with topics relating to C.S. Lewis, particularly on the function and life of the imagination. Neal is co-author of the book The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis with Dr. Jerry Root (Abingdon Press, 2015).

“Mere C.S. Lewis” by Ken Symes: Covers topics relating to Lewis and politics, apologetics, ethics, and evangelism.

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” by Brenton Dickieson: A blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis and the worlds he touched, including children’s literature, apologetics, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, and writing, as well as the work of his fellow Inklings J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. Dickieson is a university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada.

 

BLOGS ON J.R.R. TOLKIEN

Dimitra Fimi blog: Personal blog of Fimi, who is Senior Lecturer in English at Cardiff Metropolitan University and co-editor of the book A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages (HarperCollins, 2016).

“The Flame Imperishable” by Jonathan McIntosh: A theology blog on Tolkien, St. Thomas Aquinas, and related topics. McIntosh is a Fellow of Humanities at New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho, and teaches courses on the Great Books, medieval thought, Tolkien, and other areas.

John Garth blog: Personal blog on a variety of Tolkien topics, particularly World War I. Garth is a freelance writer, researcher and reader, and a widely-acclaimed Tolkien and World War I scholar. He is the author of Tolkien and the Great War (Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

“Lingwë – Musings of a Fish” by Jason Fisher: Tolkien scholar Jason Fisher provides the following list describing his blog topics: “J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, the Inklings, J.K. Rowling, and fantasy literature in general; language, linguistics, and philology; comparative mythology and folklore.” He is the editor of Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays (McFarland, 2011).

LOTR Project by Emil Johansson: Blog relating to the creative and ambitious web project dedicated to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, including an extensive Middle-earth genealogy, a historical timeline of Middle-earth, and statistics of the population of Middle-earth. Johansson is a Chemical Engineering student currently living in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“Parma-kenta” by Troels Forchhammer: This blog is maintained by a Danish Tolkien scholar, and contains lists to many Tolkien resources & headlines, as well as posts of varied Tolkien-related topics. A key feature is “Tolkien Transactions” – a review of online Tolkien content that Forchhammer has deemed interesting enough to share with his blog readers.

“Sacnoth’s Scriptorium” by John D. Rateliff: Personal blog of Rateliff, who is an independent Tolkien scholar and author of The History of the Hobbit (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).

“Tolkien and Fantasy” by Douglas A. Anderson: The blog defining itself as “musings on Tolkien and modern fantasy literature.” Anderson is the editor of the books The Annotated Hobbit (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), Tales Before Tolkien (Del Rey / Ballantine Books, 2003), and Tales Before Narnia (Del Rey / Ballantine Books, 2008).

“The Tolkienist” by Marcel R. Aubron-Bülles: Contains a wide variety of Tolkien-related topics by Aubron-Bülles, who is a German freelance journalist and translator.

“Too Many Books and Never Enough” by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull: Personal blog of Tolkien scholars Hammond and Scull on a variety of topics relating to Tolkien studies. Hammond and Scull are known for their in-depth reference books on Tolkien’s life and works, Tolkien bibliography, books on Tolkien’s artwork, and their work editing Tolkien’s books. Christina is the former librarian of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, England. Wayne is Chapin Librarian in the special collections department of the Williams College Libraries in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

“Wormtalk and Slugspeak” by Michael Drout: A personal blog featuring various Tolkien topics, Anglo-Saxon and medieval studies, and the study of language patterns in literature. Drout is Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of the Medieval at Wheaton College, Norton, MA where he teaches Old & Middle English, medieval literature, fantasy, science fiction and writing. He is the editor of Tolkien’s Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics and the Tolkien Studies journal.

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien

SnowyThe Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (alternate title: Letters from Father Christmas) is a delightful volume for personal or family reading during the Christmas season. With Tolkien’s skillful storytelling abilities and charming illustrations, the book can quickly become a holiday favorite. In this post we will explore some of the historical context for the letters and provide a brief overview of the book.

Each year in the Tolkien household from 1920 until 1943, Tolkien’s four children John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla could expect a letter delivered to them from Father Christmas (the name for Santa Claus in England), complete with news about the happenings at the North Pole over the past year and accompanying illustrations. Each letter was carefully written in the shaky handwriting of Father Christmas (for he was over 1900 years old after all), and bore an “authentic” North Pole stamp. Sometimes the letter would appear in the home dusted with snow or with snowy footprints across the floor; other times it would be delivered by the postman, making the arrival seem very official. The children’s own letters to Father Christmas would likewise disappear from the fireplace and make their way magically to the North Pole with their own news and Christmas present requests. When the elder children stopped writing to Father Christmas, all family members encouraged the younger ones to keep up the correspondence, maintaining the delight of the holiday ritual.

Blue

HarperCollins 1999 edition

The content of the letters varied over the years as Father Christmas moved house, had several adventures, and gained more members of his household and the North Pole community. Characters mentioned include Snow-elves, Snow-men, Red Gnomes, Cave-bears, Goblins, and Father Christmas’s personal secretary, an Elf named Ilbereth. One character who maintains a consistent presence in the letters is Father Christmas’s assistant, the North Polar Bear. Some of the most memorable letters include stories of how Polar Bear’s foibles and curiosity often, while trying to be helpful, lead to accidents and disasters. These include causing the North Pole to break and fall on Father Christmas’s home, falling down a staircase with a pile of gifts, letting the bath water overflow, and setting off two years’ worth of northern lights all at once. These accidents sometimes account for deficiencies in the gifts Father Christmas has brought the Tolkien children, and in other cases are meant solely for comedic and dramatic purposes. Polar Bear offers his own commentary with his distinctive angular script in the letter margins, with occasional contradictions of some of Father Christmas’s accounts of how the accidents happened.  Polar Bear proves very helpful in later North Pole events, however, when he battles invading Goblins. His nephews, cubs Paksu and Volkotukka, also join Father Christmas’s household in later letters.

GreenAnd with every letter, Tolkien’s accompanying artwork brings the story to life in enchanting ways. As many readers may already know, Tolkien created a great deal of artwork for his writings such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and other tales he wrote for his children like Mr. Bliss and Roverandom. He studied art from an early age with his mother and it remained part of his creative expression throughout his life. Seeing Tolkien’s depictions of the Aurora Borealis blaze in full color over the North Pole horizon, or Polar Bear in the thick of a goblin battle, adds greatly to the reader’s enjoyment of the tales, as the illustrations must have done for the Tolkien children as well.

Several editions of The Father Christmas Letters have been published over the years, and a few of those are shown here. The most complete collection to date is the HarperCollins 1999 edition (blue cover above) with a cover depiction of Polar Bear after toppling down the staircase with a trail of crushed gifts in his wake. Variant editions with a unique aesthetic appeal include the HarperCollins 1994 edition consisting of three miniature volumes in a boxed set; and the CollinsChildren’sBooks / Houghton Mifflin 1995 edition, featuring facsimile envelopes with individual letters to pull out and read.

Whichever edition finds its way to your home, the Wade Center recommends sharing it with loved ones and having a ready supply of hot cocoa to accompany the reading sessions. We’ll let Father Christmas have the last word:

“A merry Christmas to you from North Polar Bear.
And love from Father Christmas to you all.”

– Letter dated December 20, 1926

The Ken and Jean Hansen Lectureship

Last November the Wade Center welcomed a new era of public programming and scholarship with the launch of the Ken and Jean Hansen Lectureship. The lectureship is an annual faculty lecture series named in honor of former Wheaton College Trustee Ken Hansen and his wife Jean, and endowed in their memory by Walter and Darlene Hansen. Each academic year three lectures will be presented by a Wheaton College faculty member on one or more of the Wade Center authors. The 2015-2016 lectureship series features Wheaton College President Philip G. Ryken and the topic: The Messiah Comes to Middle-earth: Images of Christ’s Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings.

HansenLogo

At the inaugural lecture on November 12, 2015, Walter Hansen shared how some of the works of the Wade authors influenced the life of his family:

“While I was still in college, [my parents Ken and Jean] took an evening course on Lewis and Tolkien with Clyde Kilby. The class was limited to nine students so that they could meet in Dr. Kilby’s living room. Martha served tea and cookies. My parents were avid readers, collectors and promoters of the books of the Inklings. They hosted a book club in their living room led by Dr. Kilby to read and discuss the books of the Inklings. When they moved to Santa Barbara in 1977, they named their home Rivendell. … Our family treasures memories of our times at Rivendell, highlighted by storytelling. Our conversations were often laced with images and quotes from the stories of the Inklings. … The purpose of the Hansen Lectureship is to enjoy the great literature of the Seven so that we can escape from the prison of our self-centeredness, see with other eyes, feel with other hearts, and be equipped for practical and heroic deeds in real life.”

Walter & Darlene Hansen with Dr. Jennifer McNutt (faculty respondent) and President Philip G. Ryken on the night of the second Hansen lecture, February 4, 2016.

Walter & Darlene Hansen with Dr. Jennifer McNutt (faculty respondent) and President Philip G. Ryken on the night of the second Hansen lecture, February 4, 2016.

It is the hope of the Wade Center as well that these lectures will serve as a new way to connect others with the works of our seven authors. For those unable to attend in person, lecture content is available on the Wade Center’s YouTube channel, and each series will also be published in book form.

President Ryken’s three talks for the 2015-2016 lecture series are:

Through each lecture Ryken examines how the personhood and nature of Christ’s three offices (prophet, priest, and king) are manifested in the characters and storyline of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He commented on this approach in his second lecture:

281A8664“To see images of the Messiah in Middle-earth is one way to see the significance of The Lord of the Rings, and we can do this without mistakenly treating the novel as an allegory. … If Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn remind us in various ways of Jesus Christ, it is not because the novelist had this explicitly in mind. It is rather because the biblical worldview so thoroughly penetrated his imagination that inevitably it pervaded his literary art. So when, for example, Tolkien had a character bear a heavy burden for the sake of a kingdom, it was only natural for him to have that burden shared by a fellowship of love that reminds us of the priesthood of all believers.”

A look over the crowd at the February 4, 2016 lecture.

A look over the crowd at the February 4, 2016 lecture.

Following each lecture, a Wheaton College faculty respondent shares a brief reflection on the lecture and then, along with Dr. Ryken, facilitates a question and answer session with the audience. The faculty respondents for the first lecture series are:

Dr. Sandra Richter, President Ryken, and Walter Hansen following the November 12, 2015 Hansen Lecture.

Dr. Sandra Richter, President Ryken, and Walter Hansen following the November 12, 2015 Hansen Lecture.

These responses provide an opportunity for a conversational approach to the lecture material, often from a different field of expertise, and allow for additional points of dialogue and perspective. The first two lectures and faculty respondents have provided enjoyable and stimulating evenings with the Bakke Auditorium full of attenders; between 130 and 150 people were in attendance at each talk.

In the next few years, we look forward to the following Hansen lecture series with Wheaton College faculty:

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Dr. Timothy Larsen will present three lectures on George MacDonald for the 2016-2017 Hansen Lectureship.

  • 2016-2017: Dr. Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College. Topic: “The Rose Fire: George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles”
  • 2017-2018: Dr. Christine Colón, Associate Professor of English, Wheaton College. Topic: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • 2018-2019: Dr. Jerry Root, Associate Professor; Director of Wheaton Evangelism Initiative, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Wheaton College. Topic: C.S. Lewis

If you would like to be notified of upcoming Hansen lectures, and other Wade Center events, you may sign up for email announcements on our contact page.

We hope you will join us for our last Hansen lecture by President Ryken on March 31 at 7pm: “The Coronation of Aragorn Son of Arathorn” with faculty respondent Dr. William Struthers, Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College.


Photos used in this post are courtesy of Maas Photography.

The Seven Literary Sages Christian History Issue: A closer look with Jennifer Woodruff Tait

ChristianHistory_2015The “Seven Literary Sages” Christian History issue 113 was released early in 2015 in honor of the Wade Center’s 50th anniversary, features the seven authors of the Wade Center, and highlights their continuing relevance to significant issues facing our world today. We have heard from many readers how much they enjoyed the issue, including  Dr. Leland Ryken, Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College, who comments: “This issue of Christian History is the best brief introduction to the Wade authors that exists. Its photographs are a feast to the eyes.  The accumulated information and insights are a treasure trove.”

Jennifer Woodruff Tait, managing editor of Christian History and Wade author enthusiast, graciously offers “Off the Shelf” readers some of her reflections on the “Seven Literary Sages” issue and its significance in her own life. Our thanks also go to Jennifer for the editorial expertise and creative work she contributed to make this issue such a success.


On November 22, 2013, C.S. Lewis was formally “installed” into Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, gaining a memorial stone there along with such luminaries of British literature as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Dickens, Austen, the Brontë sisters, T.S. Eliot, and W.H. Auden. The service was dignified; the organ thundered; the choir sang. I was there. My husband, kids, and I spent the days before the service joining fellow Lewis enthusiasts at a meeting of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, a tour of the Kilns (Lewis’s home, now a museum), and a symposium on Lewis’s works and worth.

On the way home, we visited Dublin, Ireland and attended the Sunday morning worship service at Trinity College. There I met a woman who became interested in our trip to the Lewis memorial. She obviously knew of Lewis’s status as a British author and had seen the movie Shadowlands. But she was puzzled by my being there on behalf of a Christian magazine. “Was Lewis particularly religious?” she asked.

And I wondered: Though Christians have valued his work for decades, how much did Lewis and his friends and mentors change the society around them? What legacy did they leave to the modern secular world?

That question was part of the reason I was in Oxford and London. I was covering the memorial celebration for issue 113 of Christian History magazine, which was dedicated to the seven authors whom the Wade Center collects. Released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Wade Center, we called the magazine “Seven Literary Sages: Why We Still Need Their Wisdom Today.” It told the story of how those “Seven Sages” took on secularists, materialists, and modernizers with their weapon of choice: the pen.

With the assistance of the Wade we assembled a lineup of knowledgeable scholars: Suzanne Bray, Matthew Dickerson, Crystal and David Downing, Colin Duriez, Brian Horne, Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Alister McGrath, Michael Ward, Ralph Wood, and Edwin Woodruff Tait. They explained to our readers in fresh and entertaining ways how the Seven Sages expressed a vision for society in areas ranging from economics to education to the environment; a vision for Christian literature in their powerfully moving treatments of goodness and self-sacrifice; and a vision for discipleship in their pictures of love in community. They also emphasized how millions read their books and by those books were inspired, by the help of God’s grace, to create art, practice goodness, and seek the truth. (I am one of them: from Prince Caspian to Lord of the Rings to Gaudy Night to The Greater Trumps to Orthodoxy, the logical arguments and poetic visions of the Seven Sages have enriched my Christian discipleship for decades.) And we were able to illustrate the entire issue with a range of gorgeous photographs, many from the Wade’s own collection.

The magazine has turned out to be one of our runaway best-sellers since Christian History returned to publication by Christian History Institute in 2010. It’s by far our most popular issue judging by the number of online readers as well as requests for print copies. I’m personally thrilled to have been part of introducing so many new readers to authors who, in many cases, I have known and loved since childhood. But, not wanting to neglect others who have known and loved these authors for years as well, I commend the issue to you. Read, marvel, and enjoy!


TaitJennifer Woodruff Tait (Ph.D., Duke University) is managing editor of Christian History magazine, managing editor of the Patheos Faith and Work Channel, a candidate for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, and author of The Poisoned Chalice and Histories of Us.  From 2004-2013 she was the recording secretary for the New York C.S. Lewis Society. She lives in Richmond, KY on an 8-acre farm with her husband (who proposed to her on the bridge in London where G.K. Chesterton proposed to Frances), her two daughters (both of whom love Narnia and Middle-earth), and her in-laws.

New books for your Summer Reading List

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Summer is here! As we did last year with our summer reading ideas, we put together a few suggestions of some exciting new books for your summer reading list. This year there are an exceptional amount of new and innovative titles covering the works and lives of the Wade authors and those who knew them. For each title below, we list a summary of the book, its expected publication date, and several published titles on related subjects. We hope you find these suggestions engaging, and learn something new. Happy summer (and fall and winter) reading!


Inklings-ZaleskiTitle: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
Authors: Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski
Release date and Publisher: June 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Summary: A look into the lives and writings of members of the literary discussion and writing group, The Inklings. An impressive research effort with the final product just over 650 pages, this book is a great read for the invested reader who wants to look deeper into the realm of Inklings scholarship.
Other related works:
The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter
The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer


Inklings-DuriezTitle: The Oxford Inklings: Their Lives, Writings, Ideas, and Influence
Author: Colin Duriez
Release date and Publisher: March 2015 by Lion Hudson
Summary: Another contribution this year to Inklings studies, this title by British scholar Colin Duriez. This volume is shorter than the Zaleski work (less than 300 pages), and has less biographical information, focusing on the group itself and accessible for the more casual reader.
Other related works:
The Inklings Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Lives, Thought, and Writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and their Friends by Colin Duriez and David Porter
The Inklings of Oxford : C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their Friends by Harry Lee Poe, photography by James Veneman


BedeviledTitle: Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien and the Shadow of Evil
Author: Colin Duriez
Release date and Publisher: April 2015 by InterVarsity Press
Summary: Duriez explores how C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and other Inklings identified modern warfare as a powerful image of the deeper battle between good and evil. He also considers the ways in which their own experiences in war shaped their writings.
Other related works:
Author talk of Duriez at the Wade Center from April 30, 2015
Tolkien and The Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth by John Garth
A Morning after War: C.S. Lewis and WWI by K.J. Gilchrist


CSL-poemsTitle: The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis: A Critical Edition
Author: C.S. Lewis, ed. Don W. King
Release date and Publisher: January 2015 by Kent State University Press
Summary: A new collection of Lewis’s poetry, including many previously unpublished poems, together in a single volume. Includes indices of titles and first lines.
Other related works:
C. S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse by Don W. King
– “‘Making the Poor Best of Dull Things’: C.S. Lewis as Poet”
by Don W. King in VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review Volume 12 (see also: volumes 22, 23, 29 for other articles by Don W. King)


a-naked-treeTitle: A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C.S. Lewis and Other Poems
Author: Joy Davidman, ed. Don W. King
Release date and Publisher: May 2015 by Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Summary: A collection of poetry by C.S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman, published for the first time. These poems come from the Joy Davidman Papers archival collection at the Wade Center. The Wade also owns all of the books authored by Davidman.
Other related works:
Out of My Bone: The Letters of Joy Davidman ed. by Don W. King
– “Fire and Ice: C.S. Lewis and the Love Poetry of Joy Davidman and Ruth Pitter”
by Don W. King in VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review Volume 22 (see also: volumes 12, 23, 29 for other articles by Don W. King)


JoyTitle: Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis
Author: Abigail Santamaria
Release date and Publisher: August 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Summary: An in-depth, critical biography of the life of Joy Davidman Gresham Lewis. Santamaria has spent over a decade conducting comprehensive research on Joy, and this book will be a sizable contribution to the realms of both Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis scholarship.
Other related works:
A Love Observed: Joy Davidman’s Life & Marriage to C.S. Lewis by Lyle W. Dorsett


Lindop-editedTitle: Charles Williams: The Third Inkling
Author: Grevel Lindop
Release date and Publisher: December 2015 by Oxford University Press
Summary: Another in-depth biography, this one on the life of Charles Williams. Lindop has spent many years tracing biographical sources and this will be an indispensable volume for those wanting to understand the life of Charles Williams.
Other related works:
Charles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work by Alice Mary Hadfield
An Introduction to Charles Williams by Alice Mary Hadfield
To Michal from Serge: Letters from Charles Williams to His Wife, Florence, 1939-1945


PilgrimsRegressFinally, for another good summer read, if you haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the Wade Annotated Edition of C.S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress edited by David C. Downing, now is the perfect time!

March Artifact of the Month: Correspondence between Clyde Kilby, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

Today the Wade Center holds an abundance of resources, but the collection’s beginnings were modest and its future acquisitions rested on some key connections established by founder Clyde S. Kilby. Two of these relationships were with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The correspondence they shared with Kilby remains at the heart of the Wade Center’s materials and represents some of our earliest accessions. The March “Artifact of the Month” highlights these two letter collections, and continues the celebration of the Wade’s 50th Anniversary year with a look back at these remarkable documents and the relationships they illustrate.

KILBY AND LEWIS

Clyde S. Kilby first encountered the work of C.S. Lewis around 1943 in a book titled The Case for Christianity, which contained content from some of Lewis’s BBC Radio talks later brought together under the title Mere Christianity in 1952. Kilby reflects in his personal history of the Wade Center on that first reading: “I bought the book and read it right through feeling almost from the first sentence that something profound had touched my mind and heart.” After reading more books by Lewis and becoming greatly interested in them, Kilby decided to write to Lewis on December 17, 1952 asking if he could schedule a visit with him during his upcoming trip to England in the summer of 1953. Lewis accepted Kilby’s request, and they met at Lewis’s rooms in Magdalen College, Oxford on July 1, 1953.

Envelope from Lewis to Kilby, sent February 11, 1957.

The memorable visit with Lewis is recalled by Dr. Kilby in Wheaton College’s Kodon magazine (December 1953, Vol. VIII, pp. 11, 28, 30). They discussed sixteenth-century literature, the Renaissance, and the relation of Christianity and art, which was, in Kilby’s words: “one of the main questions I wished to ask Mr. Lewis.” When asked if Lewis had any plans to visit America, he said he had no intention of doing so until his retirement (Lewis never did visit the United States). Kilby summarizes his time with Lewis at the end of the article by saying: “in all his talk there is an incipient good humor and genuineness that makes a conversation with him a real pleasure.” (28, 30)

Kilby continued his conversation with Lewis through a series of letters between 1953 and 1962. These fourteen letters, and Kilby’s article, are available for viewing in the Wade Center Reading Room; they include a discussion, amongst other topics, of Lewis’s book Till We Have Faces; scripture; recommendations of reading material; and news of Joy’s health, Lewis’s wife who was battling cancer. One memorable quote from Lewis’s February 10, 1957 letter to Kilby begins:

Dear Professor Kilby — An author doesn’t necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else, so I give you my account of TWHF [Till We Have Faces] simply “for what it’s worth.” …

Intrigued yet? Visit the Wade Center to read more, or find the letter in volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis edited by Walter Hooper.

Following Lewis’s death in 1963, Kilby maintained a lively correspondence and friendship with Warren H. Lewis, C.S. Lewis’s brother, which lasted until Warren’s death in 1973. Warren willed a variety of materials to the Wade Center, including his own personal diaries, excerpts from which were later edited and published by Clyde S. Kilby and Marjorie Lamp Mead in the book Brothers and Friends.

KILBY AND TOLKIEN

Clyde Kilby’s first visit with Tolkien was late in the afternoon of September 1, 1964, on one of his many trips to England from 1953 to 1979. Kilby had read, and duly admired, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and was keen to try and meet its author. After receiving encouragement from Dr. Robert E. Havard, Tolkien’s personal physician and fellow member of the Inklings, Kilby walked up to Tolkien’s front door and received a warm and cordial greeting. They shared two enjoyable visits in 1964 before Kilby’s return to the United States.

Envelope from Tolkien to Kilby, sent December 3, 1967.

After this first meeting, a correspondence between the two professors began, with the first letter from Tolkien written on November 11, 1964, and the last written on March 8, 1973. The Wade Center has fourteen letters from Tolkien to Kilby, only a few of which have been partially published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

The correspondence covers a wide range of topics, including notes on Tolkien’s work; comments on Tolkien’s The Smith of Wootton Major manuscript; discussion on the health of Edith Tolkien, Tolkien’s wife; and one of the most exciting events of Kilby’s friendship with Tolkien: a visit in the summer of 1966 to assist in the writing of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Tolkien had worked for years on the content of what later became The Silmarillion, and Tolkien enthusiasts, including Kilby, eagerly anticipated its publication. The work required to get it into a publishable form was substantial, however, and Kilby knew of the difficulty of the task. In a letter dated November 19, 1965, Kilby wrote to Tolkien to offer him any assistance he could provide in helping to prepare The Silmarillion for publication. Among his applicable skills he states that he is “1) a good typist, 2) a bit of a literary critic … 3) an enthusiast for your writings.” Tolkien responds on December 18, 1965:

TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION by Clyde S. Kilby. Wheaton, IL: Shaw, 1976.

TOLKIEN AND THE SILMARILLION by Clyde S. Kilby. Wheaton, IL: Shaw, 1976.

I was deeply touched by [your letter], indeed overwhelmed by your generosity in offering to sacrifice your precious time (and holiday) in helping me. … [Y]our offer under heads 2) and 3) are extremely attractive. … If I had the assistance of a scholar at once sympathetic and yet critical, such as yourself, I feel I might make some of it publishable.  It needs the actual presence of a friend and adviser at one’s side, which is just what you offer.

The experience with Tolkien over the summer of 1966 is recorded in Kilby’s book: Tolkien and the Silmarillion, which is available along with the Tolkien and Kilby letters in the Wade Center Reading Room. The Silmarillion was published in 1977 by Christopher Tolkien after his father’s death. The third chapter of Kilby’s book was removed before publication at Christopher’s request to avoid revealing too much of the subject matter from the then unpublished Silmarillion. Kilby had also made some factual errors in the chapter given that his source material was based on his memory of oral communication with Tolkien. The third chapter has since been published in its entirety in volume 19 (2002) of VII, the Wade Center’s journal.

These letter exchanges give a unique view into the early days of the Wade Center and the important personal connections established with the authors (and their family and friends) now collected, studied, and celebrated here. They are a wonderful reminder of the past as we look into the future. Come read and enjoy them yourself!