Tucked away on a quiet street in Wheaton, Illinois is a place called the Marion E. Wade Center. A research goldmine for those studying seven world-renown authors: George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Owen Barfield; J.R.R.Toikien; Charles Williams; Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis. The place has a library room where scholars can peruse dozens of books written by them and about them. The library includes dissertations about the various authors, letters and private papers.
And although the “museum” part of the Center is small, it contains some fascinating pieces including C.S. Lewis’ teapot and Dorothy Sayer’s glasses. The three centerpieces of the collection, however, are the actual wardrobe that inspired Lewis to write The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, his desk and also Tolkien’s desk where he sat to write The Hobbit.
Their lives often intertwined and the collection includes letters they wrote to each other. You might have read their books, but did you know these facts?
- Dorothy Sayers (author of several classic mysteries including The Nine Tailors and several non-fiction books about her Christianity) credits Chesterton with saving her faith.
- Lewis encouraged Tolkien to finish the Lord of the Rings. He also wrote reviews of Toilien’s work (a great marketing tool).
C.S. Lewis stated: “Though it seems like a kindness to wrap a child in cotton-wool, it is in the end unwise, for the child must learn to stand on his or her own feet one day. The longer that day is needlessly delayed, the likelier it is that the child will be overwhelmed when it finally comes.”
- All the authors were open about their Christianity at a time when the world saw Christianity as a belief system scorned by the intellectuals and only adopted by the superstitious.
- Lucy, in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” was dedicated to Owen Barfield’s daughter, Lucy.
- Lewis had a habit of losing his hat and when finding it (no matter how soggy from being left out all night), putting it on his head and continuing to wear it.
- Tolkien did not like The Chronicles of Narnia.
- Four of the authors were part of a group of Lewis’ friends called “The Inklings.” They met once a week to challenge and encourage each other – often in a pub called The Eagle and Child near Oxford University which is still open today. (Wouldn’t it be fun to go there for lunch?)
The Wade Center isn’t huge and exhibits cover only a large room – but if you enjoy reading or learning about seven authors who wrote about their faith at a time when doing so was not popular (is it ever popular?) you will enjoy a visit here.