Featured Artifact: Wooden Chest and Bookshelves belonging to Charles Williams

The Wade Center owns a number of artifacts that were once in the personal possession of one of our seven authors. Our featured artifacts for this blog post are a set of bookshelves and chest from the home of Charles Williams. These handsomely carved wooden pieces can be viewed in the main hall near the museum displays as you enter the Wade.

The bookshelves stood for more than thirty years in the Williams’s flat at 23 Antrim Mansions, Belsize Park, London; they were given to the Wade Center in August 1979 by Michael Williams (son of Charles and Florence “Michal” Williams). The bookcases were originally used to hold Wade reference volumes and related office materials, but once relocated to our current building, the bookshelves were put to practical use displaying items in our sales area – which they still do to this day. The bookshelves measure 26 inches wide, 9.5 inches deep, and 41.5 inches high. We do not have any additional information on who made the shelves or how they came into the possession of the Williams family.

In January 2016, a beautiful carved wooden chest arrived at the Wade Center from England. It also originally belonged to Charles Williams, and was later passed on to his son, Michael, who used it to store various editions of his father’s books. Upon Michael’s death in 2000, the chest was given to his friend Terry Drummond and his family: wife Lynda and son Matthew, who later kindly donated it to the Wade Center.

The chest measures 14 inches wide, 20 inches high, and 3 feet long. Along with the bookshelves, it is now on display in the main hall of the Wade Center where each of these Williams artifacts can be enjoyed by our thousands of visitors.

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A sign describing the chest’s history which reads: “This carved wooden chest originally belonged to Charles Williams and was donated to the Wade Center in January 2016 by Terry, Lynda, and Matthew Drummond. Charles Williams’s son, Michael, inherited the chest after his parents’ deaths. He used it to store various editions of his father’s books as well as works by T.S. Eliot. Upon Michael Williams’s death in 2000, the chest was given to his close friends the Drummonds, for whom Michael served as an honorary grandfather to their son, Matthew.”

Revd. Drummond has graciously provided the memories below of his family’s close friendship with Michael Williams, including details on the wooden chest.

Wade hallway

The hallway in the Wade Center where the chest and bookshelves are displayed. The bookshelves (not visible in this photo) are near the front windows on the right.

Michael Williams (1922-2000): A Reflection on a Friendship

It was a cold March Sunday in 1976 when my wife Lynda and I first met Michael Williams. We had arrived at the closed door of the church of St. Botolph’s Aldgate, where I was joining the staff to work with the single homeless. Standing at the door was Michael, and we had a brief conversation before the doors opened.

I later discovered Michael’s anticipated impressions of us when he had heard the previous week that a Captain (that is a Church Army Captain) and Mrs Drummond were joining the staff on the following Sunday. He had thought that this would be of no concern to him; Captain Drummond would be in his mid-50s and Mrs Drummond would most likely be of a similar age and he would have little contact with either of them.

During the Eucharist he realised that the Drummonds were the same young couple he had met earlier at the door (I was 25 years of age). This was a surprise given his preconceptions.

Our next contact was on a Monday lunch time for mid-day prayers. These were led by the Lady worker, a German Jew who had escaped Hamburg with her father when the Nazis came to power. Trudie was tiny and very Germanic, her prayers included something along the lines of ‘we pray for Mr. Brown, Mrs. Brown and the baby Browns’. I looked up from my stall and caught Michael’s eyes and from that point a friendship developed.

The coming weeks and years led to a deep and close friendship. At an early stage I discovered that Michael was the son of author Charles Williams. I had read all Williams’s novels and was of course pleased to get to know his son.

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Charles Williams, 1935 (Wade Photo Collection, CW / P-3)

One Saturday we went to lunch at his flat in Belsize Park. It was at this lunch that he showed us the wooden chest (now in the Wade Center) which was filled with first editions of various of his father’s books, along with some of the works of T.S. Eliot — including signed first editions of each of the four poems eventually comprising the Four Quartets.

As our friendship deepened it became clear that Michael had no great love of the memory of his father, and could become quite angry as he recalled their relationship. He was never happy talking about him, and when for instance he met Humphrey Carpenter who was researching his book The Inklings I was present to offer support.

On other occasions visitors would come to talk about Charles. For instance Wade founder Clyde Kilby was always welcome; his relationship with Michael was a close one. Others were also welcomed though he could become irritable with those he thought were ignoring him and trying to be close to his father.

In 1978, our son Matthew was born, and from the very beginning Michael became an honorary grandfather! This may seem like an unusual designation, but it was one that Michael loved. He was also Godfather to his friend Hilary’s two boys, and in many ways our two families became his extended family.

At the beginning of our relationship, his Aunt Edith (Edith Williams, sister of Charles) was living in St. Alban’s in the family home. I visited her with Michael on one occasion and it seems that I was one of the few people who had ever seen the inside of the house. When Edith died in July 1977, Michael inherited the estate, though in those days this was not as large a sum as it would be in the years that followed when inflation increased the value of properties.

The inheritance allowed Michael to buy a flat in Bethnal Green for the now inconceivable sum of £11,000; a flat today in the same area would cost 25 times more. The flat was his home for the rest of his life; a place in which he was happy and felt that at last he could settle into a life of his own.

In the biography of Charles by Greville Lindop (Charles Williams: The Third Inkling. Oxford UP, 2015) there is a suggestion that Michael had less of a life because he lived in the shadow of his father. It is certainly true that the shadow was ever-present. It is also the case that Michael built a life of his own when he moved to Bethnal Green in East London; he made friends with a neighbour and they spent a lot of time together. The neighbour was an East Ender through and through, and had no idea about the Williams family.

Michael also developed other friendships; one of which was with my mother who lived in Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast. He would book a taxi and be driven to stay with her. It must be said that this horrified my mother who thought the cost of a taxi was far too much, especially when he could have travelled by train. I believe that for Michael the cost was not important; his friendship with my mother and her friends was what mattered. He would share evenings with them playing bingo in what is called a Working Men’s Club. The culture there was very different from the one in which he had been brought up.

Michael was a good friend and a generous one. He, like so many of us, had his demons which I believe were banished by the friendships that came later in his life. The three boys, that is the two godchildren and Matthew, and their parents were for him a new family.

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Michael Williams with his mother Florence “Michal” ca. 1967. (Wade Photo Collection: CW-F / P-8)

Whilst he had difficulties with his father, his love for his mother Michal was total. Following Michael’s death, Hilary and her husband travelled with Lynda and the three boys to take his cremated ashes to Oxford where they were buried in the grave of his parents.

Many years ago, Michael Williams donated some bookshelves to Wheaton College that had also belonged to the Williams family; I saw them on a visit I made in the 1980s to the Wade Center. The shelves were being used to hold a mix of papers; to be honest they were cluttered! The librarian asked me what ‘Mr William’s would think if he had seen the shelves being put to such daily life use’. I could only respond that ‘Mr Williams would think it was the best use they could have’! A view that was affirmed when I told him the story.

I started this remembrance with Michael’s expectation that Captain and Mrs Drummond would be nice 55-year olds who would have no effect on his life; how wrong he was! That cold March Sunday when we first met led to a friendship that lasted until his death.

Revd. Terry Drummond

Wade Collection ca. 1980s

Wade Collection ca. early-mid 1980s. The Williams bookshelves are visible in the background behind Wade staff member Evelyn Brace. Lewis’s wardrobe is on the left. (Wade History Archive Photos Collection)

Memories from the Wade Center’s 50th Anniversary

Wade Center's 50th Anniversary Program

The program for the 50th Anniversary of the Marion E. Wade Center and dedication of the Bakke Auditorium, October 29, 2015.

Last year marked an important milestone as the Marion E. Wade Center celebrated its 50th anniversary and completed construction of the Bakke Auditorium. 2015 provided a unique opportunity to look back on memories from the past 50 years, celebrate current achievements, and look ahead to future goals as we continue the Wade Center’s legacy of promoting engagement with the works of our seven authors.

As the 50th anniversary itself now becomes part of the Wade Center’s history, we wanted to share some memories made during that time as friends both old and new came to celebrate the event with us.  Our 50th anniversary website has been updated to include videos and documents from the October 29th program, and we are also pleased to share on our website a selection of photos taken during the event. Photos are courtesy of Maas Photography.

Program participants

Program participants (l to r): G. Walter Hansen, Philip G. Ryken, Lisa Welchert, Lyle W. Dorsett, Marjorie Lamp Mead, Jerry Root, Luci Shaw, Jeannette Bakke, Carolyn Hart, Stan Bakke, William Phemister.

Leading up to the October 29th event the Wade Center sent out a request for shared  memories and reflections of our past 50 years and the influence of our authors. The responses received were numerous, and came from around the world. We have, with the gracious consent of the contributors, posted selections from these tributes on our website to serve as testament to the lives touched already, and as an encouragement as we anticipate the future stories yet untold.

We are thankful for all those who have joined us along the way, and look forward to  continuing the journey with you.

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The Wade Center on the evening of the 50th Anniversary program, October 29, 2015.

50th Anniversary Celebration Videos

We are pleased to share these two videos, the event program, and a commemorative poem from the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Marion E. Wade Center, and the dedication of the Bakke Auditorium, which took place on October 29, 2015. We enjoyed marking this milestone event with many friends of the Wade Center, and are glad we can provide these items here to all who were not able to join us in person for the program – or those who would like to see them again. Enjoy.

Program with Speaker Biographies

“The Space Inside” original poem by Luci Shaw

Video of the event:

 

 

 

Commemorative video shown during the event:

 

The 50th Anniversary of the Marion E. Wade Center

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Today is a special day. The Marion E. Wade Center celebrates its 50th anniversary (1965-2015), and the dedication of the Bakke Auditorium. You can watch the event live at 7pm Central Time via WETN (online or via mobile device). If you are in the Wheaton area, the local cable stations below will also be broadcasting the event:

  • Wheaton channel 72
  • West Chicago channel 10
  • Warrenville and Winfield channel 17
  • Channel 4.1 on Wheaton College campus televisions

We hope you can join us! A recording of the presentation will be made available online as soon as possible following the event.

And please also sign the Wade Center’s 50th Anniversary Guestbook. We would love to hear from you, and this is a great way to celebrate with us.  Thank you to all who have supported the work of the Wade Center over our past 50 years. We are very grateful for you.

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!

Celebrating 50 Years of the Wade Center: 1965-2015

The Seven Wade Authors

Happy New Year to all! This is an especially exciting year at the Marion E. Wade Center as we are celebrating our 50th Anniversary.

The story of the Wade began with Wheaton College English professor Clyde S. Kilby. Greatly impacted by the books of C.S. Lewis, Kilby began a correspondence with Lewis in the 1950s. Following Lewis’s death in 1963, Kilby was inspired to begin “The C.S. Lewis Collection,” a repository that eventually would include not only Lewis items, but also materials from six other like-minded British writers. Kilby’s proposal for the collection was accepted by the Wheaton College Library Committee in 1965, and thus began our now 50 years of history filled with wonderful relationships, life-changing literature, and pivotal acquisitions. All of these have helped form the world-class research collection—along with a museum and various educational endeavors such as publications and programming—that the Wade has become today.

Clyde S. Kilby, founder of the Wade Center

Clyde S. Kilby, founder of the Wade Center

Over 50 years, the Wade Center has moved house a number of times between Wheaton College’s Buswell Library, the English Department in Blanchard Hall, and then into our current facility in 2001. In 1974, friends and family members of Christian businessman and C.S. Lewis enthusiast Marion E. Wade began an endowment following Mr. Wade’s death in 1973. The Lewis Collection was then renamed “The Marion E. Wade Collection,” and the name changed officially to “The Marion E. Wade Center” in 1987 to reflect our broader purpose.

Wade Center Reading Room in Buswell Library. You can see the Lewis Family Wardrobe, and off to the right, C.S. Lewis's dining room table.

Wade Center Reading Room in Buswell Library, ca. 1975. You can see the Lewis Family Wardrobe, and off to the right, C.S. Lewis’s dining room table — then serving as a as a table for researchers (it can now be viewed in the Wade Center’s museum).

Our annual journal, VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review, started in 1980 under the guidance of Barbara Reynolds of Cambridge, England, Clyde S. Kilby, founder of the Wade Center, and Beatrice Batson, at that time Chair of the Wheaton College English Department. The journal has just released its 31st volume, and continues to produce in-depth and lively discussion on the seven Wade authors through peer reviewed articles, news and events, and book reviews.

To date, the Wade Center has had three Directors: Clyde S. Kilby, Lyle W. Dorsett, and Christopher W. Mitchell. Associate Director Marjorie Lamp Mead has been here supporting all three directors, and continues to serve at the Wade Center today along with the rest of the Wade’s dedicated staff members. We look forward to continuing the legacy of helping others to enjoy and benefit from the writings and thoughts of our seven authors by building relationships, offering programming and educational opportunities featuring the lives and works of our authors, and supporting research and scholarship on these seven significant writers.

Anniversary Year Items of Note:

  • Construction on the Wade’s 100-seat auditorium has begun! Work started on December 15th, and the Bakke Auditorium is expected to be complete by the fall of 2015. Construction photos available on our Facebook page.
  • Watch for a display commemorating the 50 years of the Marion E. Wade Center in the Wade’s Museum.
  • A special issue of Christian History magazine to be published in 2015 on the seven Wade authors.
  • We have some exciting events planned as well. Stay tuned to this blog, and the Wade’s website and Facebook page for upcoming notifications of these events! Please contact us if you would like to be added to our email list.
Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

We leave our readers with a poem by Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner, Professor of English and Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. The poem was commissioned by the Wade Center in celebration of the opening of its new building in 2001, and was written while Dr. Baumgaertner was at Oxford with the Wheaton in England program in the summer of 2001. She reflects on the poem’s composition:

The poem begins with one of my earliest memories: my grandmother teaching me to read at age 3. I was asked to write a poem about a building holding the collections of the Inklings, but the poem was about much more than a building or the Inklings. It was about the experience of reading through the years—eventually tied intimately to the Wade Center in its early sites and later in the elegant home of its current housing. Then I reached forward, Whitmanesque, imagining the Wade Center in the future—maybe one hundred years from now. All of this because literature is timeless, and we are made custodians of all that is precious in written language.

The poem appeared in Dr. Baugaertner’s recently published book: What Cannot Be Fixed (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014), and she has graciously allowed it to appear here as a wonderful reflection back on the Wade’s history and legacy, and as an appropriate look ahead to our 50th anniversary year and beyond.

Where Words Regain Their Meaning

 I.

Florida: 1951

The child you once were
sits on the porch swing in the heat
weighted with summer rain.
Grandmother points to each word.
You repeat, “Good morning, Baby.
Good morning, Baby Ray.”
And the longing is unlatched,
the hunger for words that transcend
the world locked into the safety
of Mother’s lunches,
of Father’s Saturday mornings,
of Grandmother’s books stacked
beneath her bed or behind glass doors.

Behind the barriers of ciphers
marching across a page the mysteries
are revealed with your first mouthing
of consonants crisped by unfamiliarity
and vowels forcing the syllables
into language which becomes more than speech.
This is your first transcendence.

 II.

Buswell Library: 1995

Books from the Wade's collections.

Books from the Wade’s collections.

The pleasant mustiness of old books,
the stiffened bindings of the new
and the smell of ink, paper, glue,
and you have found your way again.
The college stacks, the secluded
carrels, the whisper-squeak
of the librarian’s cart.

Up the back stairs into the room
called Kilby, quiet with the hush
of study, the scratch of pen, the click
of laptop keys, a muffled rattle of ideas.

This is the place where words regain
their meaning, the books —Tolkien,
Chesterton — packed in like bricks —
Sayers, Lewis, MacDonald —
and parked on tabletops — Barfield,
Williams. Occasionally, a spray
of dust-moted sun
and through the windows a glimpse
of the unwritten world outside these words.

You have missed entire seasons
inside such spaces (the ripening of summer,
the blazing of fall), besotted with words,
breaking print into patterns,
tracing images, wrestling language
amidst the undiscipline of marginalia
in rooms like this filled with the whisperings
of words, not words that fall back inside
themselves like ice on a thawing pond,
but words that disperse to fill a space,
like breath that weaves the pliant silence
into the warp and woof of music.

 III.

The Wade Center: 2001-2101

The Marion E. Wade Center, September 2001

The Marion E. Wade Center, September 2001

After the months of cement-pouring,
the raising of walls, the bracing
of floors with book-supporting trusses.
After the roofers carefully treading
the sloped surfaces. After the sawdust,
the construction trailers parked behind Edman
in the snow, the temporary front door,
the chimney pots on order, the blueprints
spread on saw-horsed plywood,
the staircases without railings.
After the packing and unpacking of files,
the book boxes stacked six feet high,
the paths between them like a garden maze,
we wander new spaces, pristine,
not yet redolent of concentrated reading,
not yet filled with the rustled silence
of scholars, the children’s corner a mere outline,
Aslan’s portrait leaning against a wall,
Lewis’s bust stashed in a safe corner.

You who follow, you yet unborn,
you will know these spaces for the first time,
too. You will grow familiar, as will we,
with the patterns formed by sunlight
through this glass, with the heft
of the door, with books now older,
their pages brittled by the years.

Think back on us, the new millennium
handed to us like an unproofed book.
You will supply it with words as yet unfleshed,
correcting what we discerned
as mere glimmers and flashes.

Yet you, too, will have your blindnesses.
That “chaos of stark bewilderment” Sayers
saw one Ash Wednesday in the middle
of a century of bones, you will know, too.

Wade Center garden, July 2008.

Wade Center garden, July 2008.

Direct your gaze to the garden,
which to us is no more than the promise soil holds.
There in the nodding daffodils of early spring,
the sweet pea, the day lily, the delphinium
of summer, the phlox and cleome,
the sudden arbor, the rose, the boxwood hedge
precisely trimmed, there you will find
a partial answer to disorder,
the rupture in the stem opening to blossom.

Tum back now to the books before you.
Find there in the uncharted
middle of your life the deep woods
of the Word. You must not hesitate.
Step inside.

– Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner, Professor of English and Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College, September 8, 2001 for the Dedication of The Marion E. Wade Center

Merry Christmas from the Wade Center

Wade Center staff, volunteers, family members, and student workers at our Christmas party.

From the warm glow of the Wade Center in all its Christmas splendor, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

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Wade Center Christmas tree

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Wade Center Reading Room

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Grabbing a seat next to the Reading Room fireplace during the cold winter months is a must-do!

THE HOUSE OF CHRISTMAS

By G.K. Chesterton in The Spirit of Christmas: Stories, Poems, Essays. London : Xanadu, 1984.

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

This happy little G.K. Chesterton Christmas ornament just arrived in the Wade Center's shop! You can also pick up one via the American Chesterton Society.

This happy little G.K. Chesterton Christmas ornament just arrived in the Wade Center’s shop! You can also pick up one via the American Chesterton Society.