Authors: Madeleine L’Engle

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and memoirist

Author Works

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

And Both Were Young, 1949

Meet the Austins, 1960 (part of the Austin Family series)

A Wrinkle in Time, 1962 (part of the Time Fantasy series)

The Moon by Night, 1963 (part of the Austin Family series)

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas: An Austin Family Story, 1964 (part of the Austin Family series)

Camilla, 1965

The Arm of the Starfish, 1965 (part of the Cannon Tallis Mystery series)

Prelude, 1968 (adaptation of her novel The Small Rain)

The Young Unicorns, 1968 (part of the Cannon Tallis Mystery series)

Intergalactic P.S.3, 1970

A Wind in the Door, 1973 (part of the Time Fantasy series)

Dragons in the Waters, 1976 (part of the Cannon Tallis Mystery series)

A Swiftly Tilting Planet, 1978 (part of the Time Fantasy series)

A Ring of Endless Light, 1980 (part of the Austin Family series)

The Anti-Muffins, 1981 (part of the Austin Family series)

The Sphynx at Dawn, 1982

A House Like a Lotus, 1984 (part of the Time Fantasy series)

Many Waters, 1986 (part of the Time Fantasy series)

An Acceptable Time, 1989 (part of the Time Fantasy series)

Troubling a Star, 1994 (part of the Austin Family series)

Miracle on Tenth Street, and Other Christmas Writings, 1998

A Full House: An Austin Family Christmas, 1999 (short story)

The Other Dog, 2001

Long Fiction:

The Small Rain, 1945

Ilsa, 1946

Camilla Dickinson, 1951

A Winter’s Love, 1957

The Love Letters, 1966

The Other Side of the Sun, 1971

A Severed Wasp, 1982 (sequel to The Small Rain)

Certain Women, 1992

A Live Coal in the Sea, 1996

Nonfiction:

A Circle of Quiet, 1972 (autobiography; part of Crosswicks Journals)

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, 1974 (autobiography; part of Crosswicks Journals)

The Irrational Season, 1977 (autobiography; part of Crosswicks Journals)

And It Was Good: Reflections on Beginnings, 1983

Dare to Be Creative, 1984

Trailing Clouds of Glory: Spiritual Values in Children’s Books, 1985 (with Avery Brooke)

A Stone for a Pillow: Journeys with Jacob, 1986

Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage, 1988 (autobiography; part of Crosswicks Journals)

Sold into Egypt: Joseph’s Journey into Human Being, 1989

The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth, 1993

Glimpses of Grace: Daily Thoughts and Reflections, 1996

Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols, 1996

Wintersong: Christmas Readings, 1996 (with Luci Shaw)

Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation, 1997

Friends for the Journey: Two Extraordinary Women Celebrate Friendships Made and Sustained Through the Seasons of Life, 1997 (with Shaw)

A Prayerbook for Spiritual Friends: Partners in Prayer, 1999 (with Shaw)

Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life, 2001 (Carole F. Chase, editor)

Edited Text:

Spirit and Light: Essays in Historical Theology, 1976 (with William B. Green)

Biography

Madeleine L’Engle (lehng-EHL) became known as one of the most popular children’s authors in twentieth century America. By her own count she published more than forty novels, plays, and collections of poetry, but she probably became best known for her award-winning children’s book A Wrinkle in Time.{$I[AN]9810001709}{$I[A]L’Engle, Madeleine[LEngle, Madeleine]}{$I[geo]WOMEN;L’Engle, Madeleine[LEngle, Madeleine]}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;L’Engle, Madeleine[LEngle, Madeleine]}{$I[tim]1918;L’Engle, Madeleine[LEngle, Madeleine]}

Madeleine Camp was the only child of the journalist and playwright John Wadsworth Camp and the pianist Madeleine Camp, both of whom were older parents. When she became a writer, she used her mother’s maiden name, L’Engle, to avoid any favoritism from her father’s acquaintances in the publishing world. The child was frequently left to the care of her nanny so that they could participate in the cultural life of New York. In 1931 the family moved to the French Alps for the sake of her father, whose lungs had been severely damaged by mustard gas during World War I. L’Engle was sent to boarding school in Switzerland. She did not have much privacy there and consequently learned to ignore distractions around her while writing in the journals she had begun at the age of eight.

When L’Engle’s grandmother became ill the family returned to the United States, and L’Engle was enrolled in boarding school in South Carolina. During her senior year her father died of pneumonia. L’Engle continued her education at Smith College, where she won several literary awards and enthusiastically participated in the drama program. After graduating with honors she returned to New York and found employment in and around Broadway; she took any small acting part or understudy position whenever it was offered.

The summer after taking part in her first out-of-town tour, L’Engle completed her first novel, The Small Rain; upon publication the work met with critical acclaim. It was while writing this book–about a youthful heroine who plays the piano and must cope with the death of a parent–that L’Engle first allowed herself to mourn the death of her father.

On her next acting tour she met Hugh Franklin, a handsome young actor who soon became her husband and lifelong companion. In Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage L’Engle chronicles her life with Hugh, who had a distinguished television, stage, and film career and also toured with L’Engle as a cultural representative for the U.S. Information Agency until his death in 1987. When L’Engle became pregnant with their second child the family decided to live permanently at Crosswicks, a rambling farmhouse in Connecticut. They bought the local general store and significantly increased its productivity over the next nine years. While at Crosswicks Madeleine and Hugh adopted the orphaned seven-year-old child of friends. Raising three children gave L’Engle excellent material for Meet the Austins, which she claims could just as easily have been called Meet the Franklins. The farm Crosswicks itself is frequently mentioned in L’Engle’s memoirs, especially in The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, her chronicle of four generations of L’Engle women living together in the farmhouse.

During the 1950’s L’Engle was unable to place most of her writing, and she received hundreds of rejection slips, including one on her fortieth birthday. She almost vowed to renounce writing forever, but realized that even if she never sold another book, she could not stop being a writer. One of the many novels she composed in that difficult period was A Wrinkle in Time, which was turned down by nearly thirty publishers before it was accepted by Farrar and Straus. No one expected the book to do particularly well, but to nearly everyone’s surprise A Wrinkle in Time went on to win the Newbery Medal, the Sequoyah Children’s Book Award, and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. Although it was originally considered too difficult for children, since it contained complex scientific concepts and lessons on morality, individuality, and love, the widespread critical acclaim quickly established L’Engle’s international reputation.

In the early 1960’s Hugh Franklin returned to acting and the family moved back to New York. There L’Engle founded and became the director of the children’s Christmas pageant, held in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. In the course of her work for the pageant she at first encountered difficulties in collaborating with Canon West, who later became a dear friend and whom she eventually immortalized in several novels as the character Canon Tallis. L’Engle credited the canon, by his acts of kindness during a time of great need, with strengthening her faith in Christianity.

L’Engle stated that until that time she was a Christian agnostic, but her writings show that her thinking was deeply spiritual from the start. Despite its Christian component, however, L’Engle’s work is frequently difficult to categorize. A case in point is the 1993 book The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth, whose narrative shifts from autobiography (focusing on her near fatal 1991 car accident), to Bible study, mythology, and observations on the human spirit. Some critics have faulted L’Engle’s writing for being trite, elitist, or overly religious, but her work has been praised by critics and readers from a wide nondenominational spectrum. L’Engle’s writing appeals particularly to those readers who enjoy intelligent and literate stories that seek answers to life’s more spiritual mysteries.

BibliographyChase, Carole F. Suncatcher: A Study of Madeleine L’Engle and Her Writing. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Innisfree Press, 1998. A guide to L’Engle’s fictional worlds, including an outline of the interrelationships among her books, charts outlining relationships between characters, a bibliography, and a guide to Web sites dedicated to L’Engle and her work.Hettinga, Donald. Presenting Madeleine L’Engle. New York: Twayne, 1993. Focuses on L’Engle’s young adult works, offering a short biography, critical overviews of her major works, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.Shaw, Luci, ed. The Swiftly Tilting Worlds of Madeleine L’Engle. Wheaton, Ill.: Harold Shaw, 1998. A collection of essays on the Christian aspects of L’Engle’s writing.
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