Featured Artifact: Owen Barfield’s Chess Set, by Owen A. Barfield

Owen A. Barfield, the grandson of Owen Barfield, joins “Off the Shelf” for this post featuring his grandfather’s chess set, currently displayed in the Wade Center’s Museum. The Wade Center is grateful to Mr. Barfield for sharing his memories with us and our readers.


Owen Barfield's chess set and pipe, displayed in the Wade Center's Museum area.

Owen Barfield’s chess set and pipe in the Wade Center’s Museum.

Chess was a much loved game in Grandfather’s family, played at home and in tea shops in the City of London, where the family firm was located. In fact, my great-grandfather, Arthur Edward Barfield (Owen’s father), preferred a more complex variant of the game played over two boards. This enthusiasm was fostered by his own father, John, creator of the first Congolese-English dictionary in 1883.

Owen Barfield as a young man playing chess, ca. 1914. Photo courtesy of Owen A. Barfield.

I’m not entirely sure how Grandfather came by this set, but I’ve always been under the impression that it was given to him by his father. In any case, the set remained with Grandfather all his life; and he was always glad to have the opportunity of a game.

Unusually, the pieces are coloured red and white. There is evidence to suggest that some of the very earliest chess pieces were coloured so, as opposed to the modern black and white. I’m thinking here of the Lewis Chessmen, of which Grandfather had two large museum reproduction pieces. These fascinating medieval chess pieces, discovered on a remote Hebridean island in 1831, were carved from walrus ivory or whale teeth. Some were stained red, suggesting that the original colour combination of the pieces was red and white.

"Polarity" oil painting by Owen A. Barfield.

“Polarity” oil painting by Owen A. Barfield, 2014. See http://www.owenbarfield.org/oil-paintings/ for more details.

I can see why this appealed to Grandfather: Red and white are the polarity colours in nature – as seen in the white spring blossom and red autumnal berries of the hawthorn tree. And polarity is the theme that so fully occupied much of Grandfather’s thought and that of his guide, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I enjoyed playing many games with Grandfather on this very chess set over the years. Our conversations on such occasions were limited (on my side, anyway, and mainly by the need to concentrate on the game), but wide-ranging. For instance, we might cover questions about the Eucharist (is the sacramental bread “really” the body of Christ?), before veering off to discuss the benefits of computer chess – I think Jeffrey [Jeffrey Barfield, son of Owen Barfield] had recently set up a programme for him, hooked up to his old portable, black and white, television screen.

Unsurprisingly, Grandfather never really took to computer games, and I assumed that the technology was simply too alien and too great a barrier. However, I’ve recently wondered if that was, in fact, the reason behind his lack of interest. After all, Grandfather was never one to be put off by intellectual challenges – he relished them, and would interrogate me on the workings of computers to a degree far beyond my level of competence!

Detail of the pieces from the chess set belonging to Owen Barfield.

Detail of the pieces from the chess set belonging to Owen Barfield.

No, perhaps the reason why Grandfather stuck to his old chess set lies in his response to my other question that day regarding communion bread. Typically, his answer was both simple and complex, and I should confess that I didn’t fully understand it at the time. Fortunately for me, he expanded on his reply in a letter, dated 29 November 1983 (a copy of which is in the Wade). In it, he relates the subject matter to words and meanings (which he described as the ‘insides’ of words). Like words, everything in nature has an inside and an outside: trees, flowers, bread, human beings – and the incarnated body of Christ:

“… the body of Christ also had an inside and the first few verses of St John’s Gospel point out that that Inside was not just like yours or mine. It was at the same time the Inside of the whole world, or the whole of Nature.”

As mere humans, we don’t contain the whole world or all of Nature within ourselves, but when we come together over a chess board to share something of the insides of ourselves with each other, we more closely approximate the divine. It is that sharing or communion that I think Grandfather missed when playing against a computer. And this is essentially why this particular set is special to me: Having been the physical conduit through and over which so much creative and imaginative play took place between connected souls, I believe it retains something of Grandfather, of myself, and of all the many friends with whom Grandfather ever shared a game.


Owen A. Barfield, Virginia coast, August 2014

Owen A. Barfield, August 2014

Owen A. Barfield is the Trustee of the Owen Barfield Literary Estate, and grandson of author and philosopher Owen Barfield. He is also an artist, and has overseen the publication of many of his grandfather’s books in a series of modern editions.

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 (MP3 audio file)
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!

January Artifact of the Month: 1977 Video of Barfield and Kilby

Continuing the celebration of our 50th Anniversary year, we are featuring a video of Clyde S. Kilby, founder of the Wade Center, and Owen Barfield recorded at Wheaton College on November 3, 1977.

The video is an edited version of the full 37-minute recording by Lord & King Associates, which is held at the Wade Center under call number: CSL-Y / VR-16.

In the video, Kilby begins by showing Barfield the Wade’s recently acquired Lewis Family Wardrobe on display in the Wade Center’s Reading Room, which at that time was housed on the 2nd floor in the Nicholas Wing of Wheaton College’s Buswell Library. Although Kilby states that the maker of the wardrobe is uncertain, it was later confirmed that this wardrobe was handmade by Richard Lewis, C.S. Lewis’s paternal grandfather sometime in the 1800s. The wardrobe stood for many years in the Lewis family home of Little Lea in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and was later transported to C.S. Lewis’s adult home, “The Kilns,” in England.  Along with Lewis’s writing desk, chair, and dining table, the wardrobe was purchased at auction in Banbury, England, on October 30, 1973 after Warren Lewis’s death.

Kilby then shows Barfield a copy of The Silver Trumpet, Barfield’s fairy tale for children that was enjoyed by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tolkien’s children. The story rests on the fate of the Silver Trumpet, the symbol of hope and the vibrancy of life for a kingdom and its inhabitants.

After being seated by the Reading Room fireplace, Barfield and Kilby discuss Barfield’s decades long friendship with C.S. Lewis. The video concludes with a brief excerpt from the beginning of Barfield’s lecture, titled “C.S. Lewis: Truth and Imagination,” which was given later that evening in Edman Chapel on Wheaton College’s campus. Barfield’s talk, the third annual Wade Lecture, is available on sound recording at the Wade Center, call number: OB-V / SR-11.

Owen Barfield visited Wheaton College several times between 1964 and 1977, and was the only one of the seven Wade authors to come to Wheaton and see the Wade’s collection. The many interesting connections between Barfield, the Wade Center, and Wheaton College are outlined in a chronology on the Wade Center’s website. The Wade also has three Oral History interviews with Barfield recorded between 1983 and 1985.

As we begin the commemoration of our 50th year, we are delighted to share this video and the intriguing glimpse it gives into the Wade Center’s past. To watch the recording in full, or use any of the other recordings mentioned in this post, please visit our Reading Room. We would love to see you!

Need Summer Reading Ideas?

Reading in the Wade’s English garden.

Visitors to the Wade Center often ask: “Where do I start if I want to read books by the Wade authors?” This post will hopefully help in beginning to answer that question, and also give you some ideas to add to your summer reading list. Our seven authors wrote in a variety of genres, but the focus of this list will be on works of fiction. If you want to see lists of other books our authors wrote, the names below link to bibliographies available via the Wade’s website, so check those out too.

OB-SilverTrumpet

THE SILVER TRUMPET by Owen Barfield

Owen Barfield: The Silver Trumpet

A fairy tale for children enjoyed by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tolkien’s own children. Lewis recounts in a letter to Barfield dated June 28, 1936 that the Tolkien children liked the story so much they were reluctant to return the book to Mr. Lewis, who had lent it to them. The story rests on the fate of the Silver Trumpet, the symbol of hope and the vibrancy of life for a kingdom and its inhabitants.

 

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton

FATHER BROWN: THE ESSENTIAL TALES by G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton: The Father Brown Stories

Chesterton’s detection short stories featuring sleuth (and Catholic priest) Father Brown are hailed as classics in detective fiction, and have been adapted into several television productions over the years. They appeared in five original volumes, the first of which is The Innocence of Father Brown, and are available today in various editions. Father Brown: The Essential Tales is a good overview volume to start with to get a taste of the tales. If you are a reader of mystery stories (or even if you are not!), you need to meet Father Brown.

 

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

TILL WE HAVE FACES by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis: Till We Have Faces

Did you know Lewis wrote other works of fiction besides The Chronicles of Narnia? Lewis considered this novel one of his finest books, and wrote it in collaboration with his wife, Joy Davidman. It is a dramatic re-telling of the Greek myth “Cupid and Psyche,” and explores the nature of love in human relationships. If you are looking for a thought-provoking and rewarding read, this is your book.

 

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN by George MacDonald

George MacDonald: The Princess and the Goblin

George MacDonald wrote many fairy tales for children, and this is one of his most well-known and loved. This novel-length tale features Princess Irene, Curdie the miner’s son, and their fight to protect the kingdom from some wicked goblins. The book was a particular favorite of G.K. Chesterton and stands as a classic in the fairy tale tradition.

 

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

GAUDY NIGHT by Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night

Sayers is one of two Wade authors who wrote detective fiction (the other being G.K. Chesterton), and she also made a name for herself in the craft with twelve detection novels featuring her aristocratic detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. In Gaudy Night (book 11 of the Wimsey books, and book 3 of the 4 books featuring Harriet Vane), Harriet returns to her Oxford college to help solve a series of unfortunate events. This book has love, crime, and academia all in one volume.

Want more detective fiction resources? Audio recordings from an earlier detection book group at the Wade Center are available on our website.

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit

Tolkien’s classic tale for children and adults alike, and a wonderful introduction to his world of Middle-earth. 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. Even if you have read this book before, why not get a refresher read in before the third and final Hobbit film comes out in December 2014?

 

The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams

THE PLACE OF THE LION by Charles Williams

Charles Williams: The Place of the Lion

One of Williams’s seven novels described as “supernatural thrillers” by T.S. Eliot. 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.

Remember, these books (and all the others the Wade authors wrote) are available for reading at the Wade Center in the beautiful surroundings of the Kilby Reading Room. Is there a particular edition you are looking for? There is a good chance we have it. Let us know, and we will be happy to pull it for you. Stop by and visit us this summer, either in person or via our online resources.

Happy reading!