The House That Jack Built
George Sayer, a pupil and biographer of C.S. "Jack" Lewis, wrote of the intimidating experience of entering the don's office at Oxford:
"The tutorial was a formal occasion. Wearing a gown, a pupil would stand outside the tutor's door and wait until the clock struck to before knocking. Jack's door, like all the doors in New Buildings, was thick, but, through it, one could easily hear the strong, booming voice say, 'Come in.' The room was adequately, but rather shabbily, furnished. On one side of the lovely eighteenth-century fireplace in which a coal fire would be burning during cold weather, there was a sofa upon which he sat; on the other side, there was an armchair for the student."
I thought of this description when I walked into the new Wade Center facility at Wheaton College this week. The center houses Wheaton's Lewis collection, including his desk, dining table, and (most importantly) wardrobe, so visiting its rooms is probably as close as one can come on this side of the pond to entering by the thick door Sayer described—though the building also features much that Lewis would not recognize.
The Wade Center is not shabbily furnished. Gifts from Mary Wade, daughter of the center's original patron, Marion E. Wade, and from an anonymous donor assured that the 10,000-square-foot building would be appointed with the latest and finest. All of the tables in the reading room are wired for laptops, and the "smart classroom" has slick audio-visual capabilities as well. Glass in the windows and bookcases blocks UV rays that could damage fragile manuscripts. The carpet is thick, the ceilings are high, the woodwork is dark, and the stonework outside evokes an English manor house, charmingly out of place in the Chicago suburbs. ...