Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Arrivals (Chris Mitchell memorial)

So, last week's mail brought two new books I'd ordered: CHRIS REMEMBERED and TOLKIEN'S REQUIEM.

The first is a collection of memorial tributes to Chris Mitchell, former head of the Wade Center, who died in the summer of 2014. Hard to believe that's been almost three years ago now. A number of such tributes (including mine) were posted to the Wheaton website at the time. Those and many more have now been collected into a book, the full title of which is CHRIS -- REMEMBERED: REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF CHRISTOPHER W. MITCHELL, complied by Julie Mitchell, his widow.

Among the many, many contributors of pieces both brief and long are Tolkien scholars such as Marjorie Burns, Verlyn Flieger, Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull, and Richard West; Lewis scholars such as James Como, Bruce Edwards, Diana Pavlac Glyer, Douglas Gresham, Rolland Hein, Don King, Andrew Lazo, Colin Manlove, Peter Schakel, Michael Ward, and Walter Hooper; Inkling scholars such as David C. Downing, Sorina Higgins, as well as colleagues such as Laura Schmidt, Jerry Root, Marjorie Mead; family, friends, students, fellow teachers, and members of his local church.

My own contribution does not begin to scratch the surface. It's available on the Wade tribute site, and on pages 25-26 of this book, but I'd like to share it here as well:

I was surprised and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Chris Mitchell, former director of the Wade. I'd known Chris for going on twenty years, ever since he first came to Wheaton. I didn't see him often, usually once or twice a year -- during what had become yearly visits to do research in the Wade on various projects, and also (most years) at a yearly gathering where we would get together, along with several other like-minded folk, and exchange notes about our respective current projects.

In his public persona, Chris did a great job as Director of the Wade, shifting the earlier emphasis from collecting to making the material already there more accessible. By temperament a peacemaker, he smoothed over a long-standing feud among factions of Lewis scholars. I sometimes think that we, as Christians, put forward an unappealing face to the world: angry, intolerant, judgmental. Chris was the sort of person comfortable in his own beliefs who felt no need to attack the beliefs of others; a man who lived his religion, setting a good example to us all. He genuinely liked people and enjoyed
meeting new people. This made him a good representative for the Wade; it also made him a person people enjoyed spending time with.

Over time he grew tired of administration: being the public face of the Wade left little time for his own scholarship (he had  solid background in theology, with a special interest in Jonathan Edwards, from his beloved St. Andrews) and he also wanted to return to teaching. Given that he could explain C. S. Lewis's ideas rather better than Lewis himself could, I was very much looking forward to the works he would have produced, given time. I'm glad he got the chance to make the change, and it was clear to see how much he was enjoying new life on the West Coast, closer to his beloved Pacific Northwest. I'm only sorry he didn't have more time: to enjoy teaching, to write more books on Lewis (and Lewis & Tolkien, et al), to hike and fish and enjoy the great outdoors he loved so much.

He was a good man. A born teacher. A scholar with things to say. I'm glad I got to know him. I'll miss him.

rest in peace.
--John R.


William of Baskerville said...

Thanks. What about REQUIEM?

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Wm o' B.
My briefer follow-up post on the Carswell book(let) is now up.
Thanks for the query.
--John R.

David Bratman said...

I put mine at the time here.