Visiting Tolkien’s Desk, Lewis’s Pen, and the Narnian Wardrobe

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Inklings
 
This past weekend, I visited the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. Wheaton, located right outside of Chicago, is the country’s flagship Evangelical university. It’s the school Billy Graham attended and brought to fame. But the Wade Center, hidden in a plain neighborhood, on outskirts of the campus, has become a pilgrimage site for Protestants and Catholics alike.

In the 1950s, Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, an English professor at Wheaton College, began a correspondence with Lewis. They eventually met and became friends, and after Lewis’s death, Kilby began “The C.S. Lewis Collection” to honor the great writer’s legacy.

It included manuscripts, letters, and artifacts belonging to Lewis, and over the years, the collection expanded to include items from Lewis’s Inkling friends, and then from other people who influenced them. The resulting group included seven British authors: Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Owen Barfield, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Charles Williams.

In 1974, friends and family of Marion E. Wade, a local businessman and himself a C.S. Lewis aficionado, established an endowment to support the collection, which was then renamed “The Marion E. Wade Collection.”

For years, the collection moved between various buildings on Wheaton’s campus, but then in 2001, it found a permanent home in the newly constructed Wade Center. Built out of limestone and fashioned after an English manor house, the facility is a haven for Inkling scholars and fans of Narnia and Middle Earth. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that it features C.S. Lewis’s famed wardrobe, the one which likely inspired his Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Walking through the Wade Center museum and library was an incredible treat for this Inkling devotee. Here were some of the highlights:


 
First look into the Wade museum.

First look into the museum.


 
The seven honrees. Top (left-to-right): Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams. Bottom (left-to-right): G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien.

The seven honorees. Top (left-to-right): Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and Charles Williams. Bottom (left-to-right): G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, and J.R.R. Tolkien.


 
Me standing in front of C.S. Lewis' wardrobe. I peeked my head in the back, but was afraid to climb all the way in because.....

Me standing in front of C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe. I peeked my head in the back, but was afraid to climb all the way in, because…..


 
....of this sign.

….of this.


 
Beautiful portrait of C.S. Lewis, my favorite author.

Beautiful portrait of C.S. Lewis.


 
An elegant bust of Lewis.

An elegant bust of Lewis. He would have been so embarrassed to know someone fashioned this.


 
C.S. Lewis desk, where most of his non-fiction, Space trilogy, and Narnia stories were composed.

C.S. Lewis’s desk, where most of his non-fiction, Space trilogy, and Narnia stories were composed.


 
Engraved plate on Lewis' desk.

Engraved plate on Lewis’s desk.


 
C.S. Lewis' pen.

C.S. Lewis’s pen. I wonder what brilliance poured from that tip.


 
Lewis' teapot, which he used during tea with his brother, Warnie, and friends like J.R.R. Tolkien.

Lewis’s teapot, which he used during tea with his brother, Warnie, and friends like J.R.R. Tolkien.


 
I loved this portrait of Aslan.

I love this portrait of Aslan.


 
On November 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, Westminster Abbey will be unveiling a memorial stone to Lewis in Poets’ Corner. A two-day conference and a thanksgiving service will be part of the memorial project. Learn more here: http://bvogt.us/1a81P5c.

On November 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, Westminster Abbey will be unveiling a memorial stone to Lewis in Poets’ Corner. A two-day conference and a thanksgiving service will be part of the memorial project. Learn more here: http://bvogt.us/1a81P5c.


 
Beautiful afghan crocheted by Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis wife.

Beautiful afghan crocheted by Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis’s wife.


 
Next to the wardrobe, this was my favorite piece in the museum: J.R.R. Tolkien's writing desk where he composed most of The Lord of the Rings.

Besides the wardrobe, this was my favorite piece in the museum: J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing desk. It’s where he composed much of The Lord of the Rings and all of The Hobbit.


 
Engraved plate on Tolkien's desk.

Engraved plate on Tolkien’s desk.


 
Tolkien's pen, given to him by Humphrey Carpenter, who has authored excellent biographies of many of the Inklings.

Tolkien’s pen, given to him by Humphrey Carpenter, who has authored excellent biographies of many of the Inklings.


 
A hand-typed letter from Tolkien explaining the origins of the Inklings.

A hand-typed letter from Tolkien explaining the origins of the Inklings. Click to zoom in and read.


 
Treebeard artwork.

“You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”


 
A nice display dedicated to Oxford, where most of these authors lived and wrote.

A nice display dedicated to Oxford, where most of the authors lived and wrote.


 
Middle Earth diorama with a flying, red Smaug.

Middle Earth diorama with a flying and fiery Smaug.


 
I'm sure this Inkling pipe saw many smoke rings.

This Inkling pipe probably saw many smoke rings in its time.


 
Dorothy's famed spectacles.

Dorothy Sayer’s iconic spectacles.


 
They had a nice display dedicated to Chesterton's mystery stories.

A nice display dedicated to Chesterton’s Fr. Brown mystery stories.


 
And this is G.J. Chesterton.

One of the strangest displays was a set of seven baby pictures, each of one of the seven honorees. It was strange because they all looked like girls! For instance, this is C.S. Lewis.


 
And this is C.S. Lewis..

And this is G.K. Chesterton.


 
And on the right, this is J.R.R. Tolkien.

And the one on the right is J.R.R. Tolkien.


 
The Wade Center's Reading Room is like heaven for inkling fans. It contains every book written by The Seven, along with almost every secondary title in print.

The Wade Center Reading Room is like heaven for Inkling fans. It contains every book written by The Seven, along with almost every secondary title ever printed.


 
A look at the other side. I. Want. To. Live. Here.

A look at the other side. I. Want. To. Live. Here.


 
The entire Chesterton Collected Works from Ignatius Press.

The entire Chesterton Collected Works from Ignatius Press.


 
Many Tolkien books.

Many Tolkien books.


 
Beautiful collection of Hobbit artwork.

Beautiful collection of Hobbit artwork.


 
This book, titled C.S. Lewis vs. the New Atheists, looked really interesting. I bought a copy once I arrived home. Two of my great interests: Lewis and atheism.

This book looked really interesting, titled C.S. Lewis vs. the New Atheists. I bought a copy after arriving home. Two of my great interests: Lewis and atheism.


 
This one also looked good: C.S. Lewis and the Blessed Virgin Mary : Uncovering a "Marian Attitude". However, it's out of print and used copies are very pricey.

This one also looked good: C.S. Lewis and the Blessed Virgin Mary : Uncovering a “Marian Attitude”. However, it’s out of print and used copies are very pricey.


 
Chesterton books in many different languages.

Read Chesterton in your language of choice.


 
You can even read The Chronicles of Narnia in Japanese!

You can even read The Chronicles of Narnia in Japanese!


 
This sign, posted at the exit of the Reading Room, sums up my experience there.

This sign was posted at the exit of the Reading Room, and it sums up my experience there.

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  • http://www.jzh-text.info/JZH_home.html Johan Herrenberg

    Wonderful post!

  • likeasaint

    Excellent! Need to get some of these!

  • http://carpeveritatemcatholic.blogspot.com.au/ Monica

    I’m surprised you hadn’t gone here already!

  • Peter Brennan

    Very interesting indeed. I did not know that JRRT used a dip pen. Shelby Foote also used a dip pen to write the 3,000,000 or so words of his legacy as he wanted nothing mechanical between him and the work (e.g., fountain pen). With the Professor’s disdain of the modern I can see the same logic.

  • Karen Pansegro

    I haven’t been able to find my book with the photo of Chesterton as a baby/small child, but I could SWEAR it was the one you have labelled as C.S. Lewis. It pleased me to see Chesterton’s good-natured personality apparent already at such a young age. I did find this, for what it’s worth: http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/learning/getwritingni/popups/wh_lewis_gallery/lewis_wh_gallery.shtml

    Thank you for sharing all of this, btw. I lived much nearer to Wheaton College for most of my life, but am now on the east coast. If I ever make it back that way, I hope I get to visit the Center. What a delight!

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      You’re so right, Karen! I got them mixed up. It should be correct now.

      • Karen Pansegro

        It amused me to see that photo shortly after my puzzled husband had commented on baby Prince George’s christening gown, and I had described to him that precise photo of Chesterton.

  • Skyfall

    Awwweeesommmmeeee..

  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy