Category Archives: Special Collections

Ray Bradbury: Prophet of Joy

Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2012, stirred deep wells of wonder among his readers for over seventy years, writing poetry, novels and short stories. Titles such as Dandelion Wine and Fahrenheit 451 continue to inspire and provoke. His influence is enormous, extending from literature to film and television, as he occasionally functioned as creative consultant to such entertainment pioneers as Walt Disney and Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone. From time to time Bradbury’s cosmic reach extended to the world of Evangelicalism, Wheaton College in particular.

Muriel Fuller, author, prominent editor and 1925 Wheaton grad, corresponded with Bradbury in 1950. In his reply, archived at Wheaton College Special Collections (SC-87), Bradbury thanks Fuller for her positive feedback regarding his short stories and encouragement that he should consider collecting them, which he had already recently done with The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man.

A notable Christian commentator on Bradbury’s themes is Calvin Miller (SC-24), former pastor, current Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry at Beeson Divinity School, poet and author of several fantasy novels, whose papers are archived at Wheaton College. Miller argues that Bradbury, claiming no specific beliefs, nonetheless stimulates intuitive feelings that allow for the development of a rich, expansive faith. The following excerpts are derived from Miller’s essay, “Ray Bradbury: Hope in a Doubtful Age,” included in Reality and the Vision: 18 Contemporary Writers Tell Who They Read and Why (1990):

Sometime in seminary Bradbury first fell into my world (or perhaps I fell into his). The scholarly tedium of learning how to be “truly spiritual” can coat all things bright and beautiful with dullness, and somewhere between hermeneutics and apologetics I needed something to wake my imagination to wonder…And Bradbury, while not often explicit about the content of his faith, professes a glorious, self-declaring confidence in God. I have scarcely heard Pentecostals be more rapturous than was Bradbury’s exuberant declaration on that tenth anniversary of the Apollo landing…My own concept of God can never remain static after coming into contact with the fictional output of a man driven by such near-spiritual forces, a writer with such a dynamic view of the God who leads man toward scientific maturity. Bradbury, at his best, is not only a prophet for a depressed people; he is a kind of deliverer, awakening our sensibilities…But hope is the real stuff of Bradbury. A Christian positivism pervades his works and that quality, more than anything, marks his work as distinctively Christian in tone. In the glorious finale to Something Wicked This Way Comes, Jim Nightshade is brought back to life by a father and son dancing and singing “Camptown Races.” Joy is the only cure for every monstrous evil work…We never “get to” the future — it beckons us, never to receive us. But it is always there and it is a place of hope! Such is the insight we need in order to get up in the morning. This insight, which I sucked from the very marrow of Bradbury’s bones, is also the ultimate promise of Christ. Christ is alive — His Living Being is the transforming Easter news! But Jerusalem — made new — is descending: this living vision is the hope that guarantees our future.

In 2007, staff from Wheaton College conducted a phone interview with Bradbury from his home in Los Angeles, inquiring about a possible connection between him and C. S. Lewis, whose papers are archived at the Wade Center. Both men wrote about the planet Mars, publishing in American pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s. In one book and two unpublished letters, Lewis commends Bradbury as “the real thing” as opposed to less gifted pulp hacks, speaking highly of his “poetic” style. However, Bradbury, stating that he “took Lewis’s Screwtape Letters everywhere I go,” had not read any of the Oxford professor’s other books, nor had he met or corresponded with him.

The papers of Calvin Miller and Muriel Fuller, located in the Special Collections on the third floor of the Billy Graham Center, are available to researchers.

Mission Opinion

Guest posting by Special Collections staff member

Mission Opinion was a controversial publication edited and published by Kenneth and Margaret Landon in 1934 and 1935, from their missionary post at Trang, Siam. It was a strictly in-house magazine for the missionaries of the Presbyterian Mission, with which the Landons served at the time. Its aim was to facilitate “expressions of opinion by members of the Siam Mission on matters relating to the policies and practices of the Mission.”

The impetus for the magazine was a perceived lack of adequate communication among members of the Mission. The Landons took initiative in starting the publication and financed the printing of Mission Opinion out of their personal funds. They duplicated it in Trang on a mimeograph machine Kenneth had procured from Bangkok. From the outset it was understood that they would publish for “a trial period of twelve months.” A total of 10 issues were produced over the year running from May 1934 to April 1935, ranging in length from 30 to 60 pages.

The Mission leadership may not have been ready for the open exchange of views made possible by such a publication. They are not likely to have welcomed even honest questioning of their policies and discussions concerning the overall direction of the Mission. Mission Opinion included frank discussion of what should be cut from the budget given the decline in the Mission’s financial and human resources in the midst of the Great Depression. The term ‘mission station’ is a throwback to a bygone era whose approach appears to twenty-first century eyes hopelessly entangled with colonialism; yet, a major challenge faced by the Presbyterian Mission in the Landons’ time concerned precisely whether to continue staffing their existing stations, whether to close some, or whether additional ones ought to be established.

Margaret said, “Let’s put out a little magazine of our own.”

Another burning question, to which the bulk of two issues was devoted, was ‘intensive’ vs. ‘extensive’ evangelism. Could they simply nurture those who had made some kind of profession, relying on biological growth as the faith was transmitted from parent to child? Or was it rather necessary to deliberately and incessantly push beyond the boundaries of the fledgling Thai church to the ninety-nine percent of the population who remained outside? Rev. Paul Eakin, the Mission’s executive director, gives his opinion concerning the evangelism controversy in the January/February 1935 issue. He believed that shoring up earlier gains ought to take priority over concerted proclamation in broad swaths of the country which remained virtually untouched by the gospel. History, however, seems to have vindicated the Landons and others who favored a more aggressive outward thrust.

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The Margaret and Kenneth P. Landon Papers are housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections and are available for research.

Why They Left

Guest posting by Special Collections staff member

Kenneth Landon graduated from Wheaton in 1924, just ahead of his wife-to-be Margaret (Class of ’25). Newly married and full of hope, they set out in 1927 for a lifetime of ministry in Southeast Asia with the Presbyterian Mission. For most of their decade of service in Siam, they were stationed at Trang, 500 miles south of Bangkok.

The Landons had considered their call into mission to be life-long. How then did it come about that just ten years into their work in Thailand, they came home on furlough never to return as missionaries? As you might imagine, multiple and complex issues were involved. The fact that their resignation letter, dated October 9, 1940, runs twenty one typed, double-spaced pages attests to that.

The letter, written after three years away from Thailand and a year after they formally severed ties with the Mission, details their reasons for leaving. There had been serious conflict between the Landons and the leadership of the Presbyterian Mission in Thailand. Yet the Landons alleged that the problems pre-dated their arrival in Thailand. On page two of the letter, we read: “The inharmoniousness of the Mission was clearly evident when we joined it in 1927.”

The lightning rod for their criticisms was the Mission’s Executive Secretary, the Rev. Paul Eakin. Writing in 1940, the Landons decried the fact that “strifes, jealousies, and antagonisms are worse now than they were thirteen years ago.” The Landons’ enumeration of Eakin’s alleged misdeeds runs the entire length of the letter. Chief among their concerns were a “policy of secrecy”–poor communication within the Mission, together with personal animosity and slander on the part of Eakin toward themselves.

But there were wider issues as well. The Landons did not agree with the overall emphasis of the Mission at that time. It was a period of growing institutionalism; evangelistic efforts were being curtailed in favor of educational and medical work. The Landons charge in the letter that “Mr. Eakin has openly opposed the work of evangelistic missionaries like…ourselves.”

Kenneth, looking back at the situation decades later, asserted (in The Landon Chronicles) that the Mission had been “absolutely backward and without vision,” and that the Mission people were “not raising up a national church, as they should, and were failing to do the obvious things to create an indigenous, Thai church.” It is interesting to compare the substance of the carefully-worded 1940 letter with Kenneth’s less-guarded comments forty years later. In the latter account there is no mention of Eakin; he speaks only against “the Mission.” Perhaps time had faded or healed the memories and it was no longer personal; the passage of forty years certainly had given him a broader perspective.

The Landon family in 1937, just before they left Thailand

The Landons’ exit from Siam in 1937 is a case study in missionary attrition. The cause of Christ in Thailand lost two sharp and passionate minds–at least as far as their presence on the ground as missionaries. No doubt they continued to engage in the spiritual battle, helping the fledgling Thai church through their prayers in the ensuing decades. They also maintained a number of relationships with Thai friends–Christians and non-Christians alike. Both Kenneth and Margaret distinguished themselves in other pursuits following their resignation from the Presbyterian Mission. Kenneth worked for the government as a specialist in Southeast Asian affairs. Margaret became a notable author, best known for her work Anna and the King of Siam, upon which the Broadway hit The King and I is based. Yet, what might their talents and drive have contributed to the mission to reach the Thai people in the 1940’s and beyond?

The Landons’ resignation letter is part of a larger body of material that had been restricted until 2010.

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The Margaret and Kenneth P. Landon Papers are housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections and are available for research.

Wheaton College and the Union League Club of Chicago

One of the venerable institutions of the Windy City is the Union League Club, whose stately, 23-story clubhouse is located on Jackson Blvd. This brief description from their website encapsulates its history and mission:

Established in 1879 to uphold the sacred obligations of citizenship, promote honesty and efficiency in government, and support cultural institutions and the beautification of the city, the Club has been a contributing partner in the growth and development of Chicago. Through the efforts of its dynamic membership, the Club has been a catalyst for action in nonpartisan political, economic and social arenas – focusing its leadership and resources on important social issues.

Laying the groundwork for various philanthropic projects, the prestigious Club was instrumental in persuading the United States Congress to choose Chicago as the location for the 1893 Colombian Exposition. Honorary members included Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower. Its influential resident membership played vital roles in establishing cultural landmarks such as Orchestra Hall, the Field Museum and the Harold Washington Library. Aside from its civic pursuits, the Club has significantly interacted with Wheaton College and contributed, though indirectly, to the establishment of one other evangelical institution.

Wallace Heckman, serving as the twenty-fourth president of the Union League Club in 1904, was the law partner of Cyrus Blanchard, brother of Charles Blanchard, second president of Wheaton College and son of its founder, Jonathan Blanchard. Heckman’s summer retreat on the Rock River in Oregon, Illinois, provided a hospitable attraction for the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony, consisting of Chicago writers, painters, actors and sculptors seeking refuge from the blistering city heat.

Victor F. Lawson, founder, editor and publisher of the Chicago Daily News, donated Lawson Field, where Wheaton College baseball players and other student athletes still practice. Lawson was a member and heavy financial contributor to the Club. Harold “Red” Grange and other proment football players from the 1920s were invited by the Club to a luncheon in 1953 as the “All-American Eleven.” Grange grew up in Wheaton and his papers (SC-20) are archived in the Special Collections at Wheaton College.

Brothers Herman and Raymond Fischer, longtime trustees and graduates of Wheaton College, were members of the Union League Club, as was alumn and publisher Robert Van Kampen. War hero W. Wyeth Willard, chaplain and assistant to president Dr. V. Raymond Edman, was a member. Edman’s brother, Elner, was also a member. Charles Blanchard Weaver, vice-president of the Northern Trust Company, college trustee and great-grandson of Jonathan Blanchard, served as president of the Union League Club from 1962-3. In 1983, Dr. Richard Chase, the sixth president of Wheaton College, was asked by Jerry Rose, president of Chanel 38, to deliver a lecture to the Club, speaking on any topic. Chase chose, “The Marks of an Influential Man.”

William Akin of Evanston, chairman of the library committee and librarian for the Union League Club, wrote book reviews for the Club’s magazine, Union League Men and Events. He dedicates one page in the March, 1950, issue to Wheaton College authors, discussing The Soil Runs Red by Matthew S. Evans, Uninterrupted Sky by Paul Hutchens and Never Dies the Dream by Margaret Landon. “Wheaton scores again,” writes Akin, “literally and spiritually…” Reviewing in the October, 1950, issue, Akin praises W. Wyeth Willard’s Fire on the Prairie, writing, “…When I reread certain passages I blush with shame for the plush manner in which I secured what education I did and I am certain some professors and instructors in many of our present-day colleges, if they would only read this history of Wheaton College, would regard their efforts a sham.” Akin is supremely complimentary about Willard: “He is closer to seven feet tall than six feet…Personally, I would hate to tangle with him but having met him I hate to be away from him.” William Akin, avid collector of rare books, donated his personal collection (SC-01) to Wheaton College as a memorial to Dr. Edman after the beloved president died in 1967.

The Club intersects with the development of another Christian school – not west of Chicago like Wheaton, but located on the West Coast. During the mid-1940s, radio evangelist Charles E. Fuller, host of The Old Fashioned Revival Hour, purchased land near Pasadena, California, realizing his dream of establishing a Christian college. Searching for capable faculty, Fuller invited Wilbur Smith, professor of English Bible at Moody Bible Institute, who donated thousands of volumes, providing the nucleus for Fuller’s library; and Harold Ockenga, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (SC-113), to serve as head the school. According to Fuller’s biography, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice, Ockenga, returning to Boston from an NAE meeting in Omaha, convened with Fuller and Smith in Chicago:

The historic meeting was held in a private room at the Union League Club of Chicago. Wilbur Smith wanted to know what position Harold Ockenga would occupy in the seminary. He would be president in absentia for the time being, Harold Ockenga replied. He would work to recruit the charter faculty and map out the curriculum. Then they agreed that if three faculty members, besides Wilbur Smith, would be willing to start teaching by that next September, they would then go ahead with this earlier date. They also agreed to meet again a month hence in Chicago in the offices of Herbert J. Taylor’s Christian Workers’ Foundation in the Civic Opera Building.

Thus began Fuller Theological Seminary, organized in the private, luxurious confines of the Club.

And so the Union League Club, rigorously elitist, joins hands with Wheaton and Fuller, proponents of the faith described as “the most exclusive club in the world of which anyone can be a member.”

Speechless

Bible translators bear a serious responsibility in conveying the proper meaning of God’s Word in the various languages of humankind. Is it possible that mistranslation, deliberate or accidental, invokes God’s judgment?

In 1989 evangelist Dr. Sam Gipp appeared before a studio audience on the John Ankerberg Show with Dr. Joseph Chambers and Dr. Thomas Strouse, defending the King James Bible and the Byzantine family of manuscripts from which it is translated. They claim that modern translations, based on a separate family of ancient Alexandrian manuscripts, dilute or distort key Bible doctrines, such as the deity of Christ. Opposing the KJV-only position were Dr. Kenneth Barker, head of the New International Version (NIV) translation committee, Dr. Art Farstad, head of the New King James Bible committee and Dr. Don Wilkins, who worked on the New American Standard (NAS). During the exchange Ankerberg mentions the rumor, widely used by KJV advocates, that several editors serving on these committees had “…died, gone insane or lost their voices.” To verify, Ankerberg first asks Barker, who denies the allegation; the question is then posed to Farstad, who also denies it; finally he asks Wilkins, who says, “No, John, nobody lost their voice –” as he speaks, his voice suddenly constricts, at which point he rasps, “I’ve lost my voice!” Ankerberg immediately orders the cameras to stop rolling, back up and re-record, erasing this brief segment of the taping as Wilkins sips water and recovers. Once the cameras are rolling, Ankerberg again asks the question of Wilkins, who calmly responds, “I’ve obviously not lost my voice.” At this statement the audience can be heard giggling, as only minutes before he had been struggling to speak. Since Wilkins’ original reply was erased, only the broadcast response remains. Evangelist Gipp discusses the incident in several YouTube videos.

A similar phenomena is seen in the life of Dr. Kenneth Taylor, author, founder and president of Tyndale House Publishers. During the mid-1960s Taylor decided to recast the formal language of the Bible in modern language, paraphrasing the Gospels with thought-for-thought equivalency. In a chapter called “Voice Problems” from his autobiography My Life: A Guided Tour (1991), Taylor recounts his excitement at seeing the first installments of The Living Bible published. During this time while travelling in Europe, Taylor’s voice began faltering. Sitting in a hotel room in Jerusalem, he wondered whether he ought to complete his translation of the Bible, moving onto difficult sections of the Old Testament and the Epistles. After meeting with Emporer Haillie Selassie of Ethiopia about allowing the Bible to be translated into various Ethiopian languages, Taylor’s voice worsened until he was forced to consult vocal specialists.

After trying various sprays, lozenges and even attending Charismatic healing sessions, he consulted a Jewish psychiatrist, who suggested that the mysterious laryngitis, diagnosed as spasmodic dysphonia, was the result of Taylor’s subconscious guilt for “tampering with the Word of God.” At some level, said the doctor, Taylor felt that God was punishing him.

“Not a few saw my affliction as a blessing in disguise,” he writes, “because it enabled me to concentrate on paraphrasing the rest of the Bible during the next nine years. I continued to pray for healing all of that time and hoped that with the completion of The Living Bible the ‘blessing in disguise’ would be removed. It wasn’t.” For the remainder of his life Taylor tried various experimental treatments, but his voice, reduced to a gravelly whisper, never returned to its vigor.

Translation notes for The Living Bible and the New International Version (NIV) are archived at Wheaton College Special Collections.

A Vibrant Chord in the Abundant Life

The following article details the life of teacher, performer and author Elizabeth Green ’28. The interview was featured in the Wheaton College Alumni Magazine in June 1987 and is transcribed below.

A Vibrant Chord in the Abundant Life
by Jean Harmeling ’78

Elizabeth Green’s zeal for life and learning has blended harmoniously with a distinguished music career full of surprises. At the age of nine, she announced emphatically that she “would never teach.” More than 70 years later, she is recognized as one of the most important and highly esteemed teachers of stringed instruments and conducting in America. Her books are used in classrooms in major universities, and her associations with some of the greatest violinists and conductors in the world still put her in high demand as a lecturer.

“Well,” she comments ironically, her voice always sparking with laughter, “I guess the Lord knew differently.”

Elizabeth Green ’28 never questioned her love for the violin, however. Taught by her father, Albert Green, Wheaton Conservatory’s first director, she gave her first public performance at age five. By the time she reached high school, “she was playing rings around me,” remembers lifelong friend, Leslie Blasius, a Conservatory graduate in 1923. “She had outstanding, remarkable technique at such an early age.”

Elizabeth remembers her years at Wheaton as being “the strongest influence of my life,” not only as a teacher and writer, but in her faith as well. “I owe the depth of my religion to Wheaton.”

After a fire destroyed her family’s home in 1922, she moved into Williston dorm. There she became seriously ill with the flu and nearly died. A prayer meeting was held outside her door all night, and the next day she began to recover. “I believe those prayers saved my life,” she recalls.

Bouncing right back, Green finished her music degree requirements at Wheaton before she finished high school. She was allowed to “walk down the aisle” for the 1923 graduation ceremonies, but since she hadn’t completed the academic requirements for her degree, she stayed on at Wheaton until 1928 when she received a B.S. in philosophy with a minor in physics. Her continued musical studies included viola with Clarence Evans, principal violist with the Chicago Symphony, and violin with Jacques Gordon, concertmaster, also with the Symphony.

After Wheaton, Elizabeth took on the formidable task of teaching stringed instruments in the Waterloo, Iowa, public schools and organizing the Waterloo Symphony in which she also performed. By 1939, she had also completed her master of music degree from Northwestern University.

Impressed with the awards her students were winning at state and national orchestra festivals, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor presented Green with a new challenge. In 1942 she was invited to teach the orchestral program for the Ann Arbor public schools. Accepting the challenge, Green transformed the Ann Arbor High School “orchestra” from a struggling nine-member group into a 60-piece symphony, then left the public schools in 1954 to teach full-time at the University for the next 20 years.

Her performance career expanded as well as soloist and concertmaster with the Ann Arbor and Saginaw Symphonies, experiences she looks back on with special joy. She performed and conducted for numerous other symphonies from around the country, but never gave up her desire for learning more.

From 1949 to 1956, Green spent her summers studying violin with world-renowned Ivan Galamian. During this time, she also helped him write his book Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching (1962). Today, Green is considered a leading authority on Galamian’s methods of violin pedagogy.

Her writing skills were also called upon to finish the late Nicolai Malko’s book The Conductor and His Score (1971). Green had a long association with the great Russian composer. In 1965, four years after his death, the Nicolai Malko Memorial International Competition for Young Performers was established, and Green was invited to be a guest lecturer at the first competition in Copenhagen.

Green’s writing proficiency has produced some of her own books. The Modern Conductor (1961) is now in its fourth edition and already considered a classic. The Dynamic Orchestra was published this year [1987], and Green hopes to add a third volume about her views and experiences as a teacher.

“It’s 50-50,” she says when asked what has given her greatest satisfaction, teaching or performing. She has enthusiastically given her all to both.

“Don’t ever teach an assignment that you yourself are bored with,” is her philosophy of teaching. “When you walk into a classroom, you’re walking onto a stage and the class is your audience.”

Green retired from that stage in 1974. With a little time on her hands, she decided to pursue a lifetime love of painting and earned a fine arts degree from Eastern Michigan University. Now that she’s finally checked that dream off her list, she’s considering slowing down a bit.

But there is that book to write. And pictures to paint. And students still come knocking on her door. “I’ve never been very articulate about my religion,” she says, “but students have always sensed it. They’ve always felt free to come to me with their problems.”

Her advice is both encouraging and practical. “Go after your goal in life, but be prepared to make a living.” Her greater lesson, though, seems to be the vibrant chord of the abundant life that echoes so wonderfully about her.

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Elizabeth Green died September 4, 1995. The Papers of Elizabeth Green are housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections and are available for research.

Royalty in Our Midst

Guest posting by Special Collections staff member

The current King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, is known as a stern and tough Monarch. Though his authority is not absolute, he continues to wield considerable influence within his country and beyond. In line with past Kings and Queens of Thailand, he is known for having those who criticize him jailed for 3-15 years under Thailand’s lese-majeste laws. He has been on the throne longer than any living Monarch–since 1946.

It is not as widely known that both the King’s mother (Sangwan Talapat) and father (Prince Mahidol) lived and studied in the United States prior to their marriage in 1920. Sangwan had received a scholarship to study nursing and Prince Mahidol was studying public health at Harvard at the time. This candid photo, dated 1919, shows the Prince and his wife-to-be in front of the home of Mrs. Strong in Hartford Connecticut. Sangwan lived with the Strong family for several months in 1918 and 1919, prior to her engagement and eventual marriage to the Prince. It was apparently Sangwan’s first time to see snow. The photograph is part of the Margaret and Kenneth Landon Collection.

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The Margaret and Kenneth P. Landon Papers are housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections and are available for research.

50th Anniversary of “A Wrinkle in Time”

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of “A Wrinkle in Time”, this Newbery Award-winning novel written by Madeleine L’Engle has over 10 million copies in print. The following article was written by the author at the novel’s 25th anniversary.

It’s been twenty-five years since the publication of A Wrinkle in Time, and longer than that since I wrote it, and it is hard to believe that more than a quarter of a century has passed.

When I wrote Wrinkle, I was in a state of transition. We had been living in northwest Connecticut for nearly a decade, and were ready to move back to New York City. When we left the frustrations and stresses of Manhattan and decided to raise our family in the protected environment of a small, dairy-farm village where there we more cows than people, my husband thought he had left the theater forever. But forever (to my joy) was over, and Hugh was going back to the theater, and this move was going to be what is now called “culture shock” for our children. So we bought a tent and five sleeping bags and set off on a cross-continent camping trip.

As we crossed the North American continent I continued the thinking that had begun a few months earlier when I had stumbled across a book of Einstein’s and discovered that for me higher math is easier than lower math. My background in science was nil, and in any case the new sciences that excited me weren’t being taught when I was in school and college.

There’s nothing like marriage, children, leaving home (I was born in Manhattan) to start one asking all the old questions: What does life mean? Does it matter? What is the universe like? Is there a pattern and a plan? And am I a part of it?

The old philosophies left me unsatisfied. The religious establishment made the mistake of answering the great questions to which there are no answers, only new questions. I would walk the dogs at night, looking at the incredible sweep of stars above me, and philosophies and theologies centered only on his planet, and usually on only a small segment of the population, seemed totally inadequate. They left me hungry for something more marvelous.

We left on our cross-country trip in the early spring of 1959 and the first idea for Wrinkle came to me as we were driving across the Painted Desert. The names Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which simply popped into my head. I turned around in the car and said, “Hey, kids, I’ve just thought of three great names, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. I’ll have to write a book about them sometime.” And so the names of the three cosmic bag ladies went into the subconscious creative slow cooker. In the evenings, in the tent, I read from the box of books I had brought with me: more Einstein; Planck, and his quantum theory; books on the macrocosmic world of astrophysics; books on the microcosmic world of particle physics. There I found ideas about the nature of being which stimulated and fascinated me. When we got home, my husband went right into a play, and I sat down at the desk and typed out, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and the book poured out of my fingers. Evenings, I would read to my children what I had written during the day, and they would say, “Oh, Mother, go back to the typewriter!” (They didn’t always say that.)

When I finished the manuscript, I was drained and excited. I believed it to be not only totally different from my six previously published books but by far the best thing I had ever written. My children loved it; my husband loved it; my agent loved it. I hope that its publication would end a decade during which I had received countless rejection slips for more traditional books, half a dozen of which are still in typescript upon my shelves.

Well, I was kept hanging for two years, by many different publishers.
“What is it?” I would be asked. “Is it fantasy or science fiction?”
“It’s a book.”
“But who is it for? Is it for children, or adults?”

Over and over again, I received nothing more than the formal, printed rejection slip. These cold, impersonal rejections hurt. I began to doubt myself. Didn’t any of what I saw in the book get onto the typewritten page?

I had written Wrinkle beginning in the late summer of 1959 and finished in early 1960. The world was still in chaos. While my husband was reestablishing himself in the theater, the children and I stayed in the country. War with Russia seemed imminent. At school, the children were taught to crouch under their little wooden desks, their hands over their heads, in case an atom bomb fell on the school. What insanity! Some of my feelings about this insanity are expressed in Wrinkle. In it, I was trying to write about my own questions, my own affirmation of meaning despite seeming chaos.

(After Wrinkle was published, I was frequently asked if Camazotz didn’t represent Soviet Russia. Interesting: nobody asks that anymore.)

We moved back to New York, which no longer seemed more insane than the rest of the world. Air-raid sirens going off every day at noon, signs for air-raid shelters, for closed highways “in case of enemy attack,” seemed no more realistic than crouching under a desk.

And the rejection slips continued. How could they seem important against a background of a planet gone mad? They did. My book was a candle in the dark for me, and a hope.

A form rejection slip came on the Monday before Christmas 1961. I was sitting on the bed, wrapping Christmas presents and trying to feel brave, and thinking I was succeeding. After Christmas, I discovered that I had sent a necktie to a three-year-old girl and a bottle of perfume to a bachelor uncle. I called my agent. “Send it back. It’s too different. Nobody’s going to publish it. It’s too hard on my family. Every time it’s rejected, I bleed all over the living room rug.”

He sent it back, and that ought to have been the end of it. But my mother was with us for Christmas, and I gave a party for some of her old New York friends, and one of them happened to belong to a small writing group led by John Farrar, co-founder of Farrar, Straus and Company. She insisted that I meet him. I was, at that moment, not particularly interested in meeting any publisher. But she set up an appointment, and I took the subway down to Union Square, bearing my very battered manuscript.

John had already read my first novel, The Small Rain, and had admired it. I told him that Wrinkle was very different, but he was eager to read it. In two weeks I heard from my agent that he had read it, and really liked it, but was afraid of it. My heart sank. I had been so hopeful, after leaving John’s office, that the long wait might be at an end.

John and Hal Vursell (who was to be my editor from then on until his death) sent the worn manuscript to a librarian for assessment. She wrote back, “I think this is the worst book I have ever read. It reminds me of The Wizard of Oz.”

I’m not sure how many more weeks it was before John called me to tell me that he was going to publish the book. I went back downtown to have lunch with him and Hal, and they warned me, “Now, dear, we don’t want you to be disappointed, but this book is not going to sell. It’s much too difficult for children. We’re publishing it as a self-indulgence because we love it, and we don’t want you to be hurt.”

And then, in the spring of 1962, A Wrinkle in Time was published, and it took off like a skyrocket.

The problem wasn’t that it was too difficult for children. It was too difficult for adults.

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The Papers of Madeleine L’Engle are housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections and are available for research.

Robert E. Webber

One of the more controversial professors at Wheaton College was Dr. Robert E. Webber, who influenced a generation of students and a large segment of evangelicalism. Raised in a Baptist church in Pennsylvania, he attended Bob Jones University in the late 1950s before enrolling at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, finishing in 1960 his graduate education at Covenant Theological Seminary. He began teaching theology at Wheaton College in 1968. Youthful, energetic and sympathetic to the concerns of students, he was a popular and highly effective lecturer. As he studied ecclesiastical history, its variable trends and moods, Webber perceived that vital practices had been ignored or recklessly tossed aside during the Reformation.

In 1978 he published Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, a collection of autobiographical essays by Webber and former evangelicals who gradually adopted Anglo-catholic or Catholic forms of worship. When released the book generated considerable heat among evangelicals who felt that Webber had betrayed the Protestant faith. Eventually, however, it was recognized that his pioneering research opened doors for fresh approaches to church life, whether liturgical expressions were adopted or not. Closely studying the permutations of Christian worship, Webber wrote or edited several additional books dealing with the history and function of liturgy, including Worship is a Verb, Blended Worship and the seven-volume Complete Library of Christian Worship. During his later career he concentrated on the writings of the Church Fathers, attempting to draw from their treatises insights for contemporary contexts. This interest is reflected in the Introduction to Journey to Jesus: “The model of evangelism proposed in this book is a resurrection of the seeker model…that originated in the third century…It speaks particularly to the current search for an effective style of evangelism in a world dominated by postmodern thought, a church living in a post-Constantinian society, and the challenge to overcome the resurgence of pagan values.” Webber was Director of the Institute for Worship Studies. At the time of his death in 2007, he was the William R. and Geraldyn B. Myers professor of ministry at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois.

Pearl S. Buck

In recent days a collection of four Pearl Buck manuscripts have been placed on deposit at the Wheaton College Special Collections. These include a hand-written “Son of Fate” manuscript, “Cultural Contacts of the West with the Far East”, a typed speech given to the Cooper Union on February 1, 1944, and a signed autograph manuscript of her “Asia Column” from 1940. The featured “Asia Column” is five pages on 8.5 x 11″ three-ring paper with heading in Buck’s hand, and includes Buck’s signature, with cross-outs and rewrites by the author. In April of 1935, Buck took charge of the “Asia Book-Shelf” column for Asia Magazine, assigning books for review and writing many of the notices herself. In this five-page manuscript she choose four books for review that were incredibly significant and have been reprinted and still available since first published in 1939: In Stalin’s Secret Service (Krivitsky), British Diplomacy in China, 1880-1885 (Kiernan), A Japanese Village (Embree), and Five Miles High (Bates).

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), author and activist, was an ardent feminist and multi-culturalist. The first American woman to win a Nobel Prize for literature, she was acknowledged by most of her peers as one of the leading authorities on China and Asia. She had gone to China with her missionary parents at age three months in 1892. She was educated in the United States but returned to China afterward. Upon her return to the United States in the 1930’s, Buck found a country isolationist in thinking and parochial in world-view. With a characteristic energy, Buck and her second husband Richard set about making east and west better known to each other. Her work at Asia Magazine went a long way to assist in that task. (Conn, Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography, p.181).