A long-term marriage has to move beyond chemistry to compatibility, to friendship, to companionship.
As Newbery Medal winner Madeleine L’Engle describes a relationship characterized by compassion, respect, and growth, as well as challenge and conflict, she beautifully evokes the life she and her husband, actor Hugh Franklin, built and the family they cherished.
Beginning with their very different childhoods, L’Engle chronicles the twists and turns that led two young artists to New York City in the 1940s, where they were both pursuing careers in theater. While working on a production of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, they sparked a connection that would endure until Franklin’s death in 1986. L’Engle recalls years spent raising their children at Crosswicks, the Connecticut farmhouse that became an icon of family, and the support she and her husband drew from each other as artists struggling—separately and together—to find both professional and personal fulfillment.
At once heartfelt and heartbreaking, Two-Part Invention is L’Engle’s most personal work—the revelation of a marriage and the exploration of intertwined lives inevitably marked by love and loss.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Madeleine L’Engle including rare images from the author’s estate.
About the Author
Date of Birth:January 12, 1918
Date of Death:September 6, 2007
Place of Birth:New York, NY
Place of Death:Litchfield, CT
Education:Smith College, 1941
Read an Excerpt
The Story of a Marriage
By Madeleine L'Engle
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1988 Crosswicks, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
Crosswicks is a typical New England farmhouse, built sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century, so it is well over two hundred years old. Its square central section has been added to haphazardly over the years, white clapboard somehow tying it all together, so that the house rambles pleasantly and crookedly. A dropped ball will roll right to the central chimneys, and the bookcases we've built in are masterpieces of nonalignment.
Crosswicks is a symbol for me of family and community life, of marriage in general and my own marriage in particular. It stands staunchly on the crest of one of the Litchfield hills in the northwest corner of Connecticut and through the centuries has withstood the batterings of many storms — blizzards, hurricanes, even a tornado — of love, anger, birth, death, tears, laughter.
Perhaps it is a particularly potent symbol for me because, until the house came to us over forty years ago, I had never lived in a real house, much less had one of my own. I was born on the asphalt island of Manhattan and lived for my first twelve years in an apartment. I had my own small back bedroom, its one window looking onto a court, where the stories of other city dwellers were sometimes enacted for me behind unshaded windows or on the rooftop of a building lower than ours. I was an only child, with an ailing father, and lived a solitary life. My parents had dinner at eight o'clock in the evening, and I had my meal on a tray in my room and ate happily, with my feet on the desk and a book on my chest.
It was a totally different childhood from that of my husband, Hugh Franklin, who had a much more typically American upbringing, growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a comfortable, unpretentious house on a pleasant, tree-lined street of similar houses filled with professional father, stay-at-home mother, and many other children on the block to play with.
How different were Hugh's and my early years; each of us was given different treasures, different sorrows. I grew up in a world of books, music, theatre, a small world where the artist was the norm, rather than the odd one out.
Hugh grew up in a world where artists were thought to belong to a half-world of permissiveness and promiscuity. His father was a distinguished lawyer, and there were books in the house, though not many, according to the standards of my parents. The First Baptist Church was central. Regular churchgoing was compulsory. To be a "Christian" was essential.
My mother and father were Episcopalians, but being a "Christian" was secondary (if it was thought about at all) to being a good and faithful singer, or painter, or writer.
Totally different worlds.
My father was a writer, a journalist and foreign correspondent and news analyst, though mustard gas in the trenches of World War I stopped much of his traveling. My parents' friends were painters, sculptors, singers, actors, composers. The world of the nineteen-twenties seemed a world of parties. A terrible war had ended. People played almost frantically. Mother and Father were either dressing to go out to a party or the theatre or the opera or they were preparing to have friends come in.
I was on the fringe of that world, a child isolated in my own room, but aware of and taking for granted the music, the laughter, the conversation going on in the rest of the apartment.
My parents had been married for nearly twenty years when I was born, and although I was a very much wanted baby, the pattern of their lives was already well established and a child was not part of that pattern. So I had my own, with which I was well content, reading and rereading, writing stories and poems; illustrating my stories with pencil and watercolors; playing the piano; living far too much in an interior dream world. But that interior dream world has stood me in good stead many times when the outer world has seemed to be collapsing around me.
After my childhood in New York came a time of wandering about Europe, trying to find air clean and pure enough for my father's damaged lungs. World War I, which had little place in Hugh's early life, remained paramount in mine, along with the fear of war.
What I, overprotected by my solitude rather than my parents' design, did not realize was that the terrible Wall Street crash of '29 had affected everyone's lives. More imminent was the fact that my father was in the hospital with pneumonia, that my mother could not hide that she was frantic with anxiety. Then the crisis was over and he was home, but nothing was the same.
We were moving, leaving New York and moving to Europe. The doctors had recommended a sanatorium in Saranac, but after the crash, with its consequent Depression, my parents could not afford Saranac. The standard of living in the French Alps, where the air was clean and clear, was much lower than the standard of living in the United States. The Depression had closed down most of the great resort hotels. There were no "beautiful people" and the world was a war away from the jet set. Most of the available pensions around the emptied resort hotels had no indoor plumbing and no running water. But the air was the clean, dry air the doctor had recommended. If we stayed in New York my father would be prone to another attack of pneumonia, which might well be lethal. We had to move away from everything I had known.
How my parents must have missed the opera, the theatre, the parties that had been so much a part of their lives in New York. But they shielded me in their Olympian way from feelings which must have bordered on desolation.
Our first home after we sailed from New York was, strangely enough, a château. My parents were planning to have the summer in the French Alps with another family, also devastated by the crash. Mother told me later that the real-estate agent resisted even showing them the château, it was in such terrible condition, but they insisted, and fell in love with its ancient charm. And it was cheap — cheap because nothing much had been done to it since the eleventh century. Well, there was an ancient, pull-chain water closet, but I remember the water for the day being brought to the bedrooms in big china pitchers which had matching washbowls. There was a strange bathroom with an enormous bathtub set in a mahogany base. Under the tub was a firebox by which the water was heated. Of course, the firebox made the tub too hot to sit in, so we used it only for occasional cold baths.
Two young women from the village helped out, accustomed to cooking with no running water, no refrigerator, nor, for that matter, a stove. There was a fireplace with a spit suitable for roasting an ox. It is impossible for me to understand what total dislocation this must have represented for my parents. They had not been rich, but they had been surrounded and nourished by the richness of New York's artistic community. Suddenly to be totally uprooted and set down in a tiny provincial village without even a radio for music must have been shocking.
I spent the summer dreaming and wandering through the dusty rooms of the château. The great day for the grownups was Friday, when the horse-drawn fish cart clattered across the cobblestone streets of the village. Not only would there be fish for dinner, but the fish were kept fresh on ice, and my parents were given enough ice so that on Friday evenings they had dry martinis before dinner.
Meanwhile, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my as-yet-undreamed-of husband was experiencing the Depression in a very different way. His lawyer father was counsel for one of the big oil companies. Like many others in those plush days before the crash, he had been buying stocks on the margin, for himself, and for friends. The Franklin family lived comfortably, and Hugh's older brother and sister were sent to college. Hugh, much younger, was still at home, about to enter high school, when the crash came. His father lost everything. Unlike some businessmen, he did not jump out his office window or declare bankruptcy. Instead, he spent the next quarter of a century working, and at the time of Hugh's and my marriage in 1946 he had just finished paying back to his friends and acquaintances every penny he had lost in investing for them in the stock market. A man of great integrity and honor.
But while Hugh was growing up, there was no money. Only a summer ago Hugh told of his humiliation in going to the junior prom in a brown suit. He was the only boy in his large class at Tulsa Central High who could not afford to rent a tuxedo. The girl he was taking to the prom made excuses to leave early. After all these years, the memory still caused him deep pain.
Certainly, no adolescence is lived through without pain.
The summer of the château, my twelfth summer, came to an end and I was sent to my first boarding school, this one in Switzerland. My parents moved through a succession of rented villas, pensions, and small hotels. My father's lungs did not improve; my mother's health was delicate. During school holidays I stayed with them wherever they were, and it was their presence, rather than place, which gave me a sense of home.
The closest we came to living in a house was when we returned to the United States and, after my grandmother's death, went to live in her beach cottage, perched atop a dune in north Florida. I adored it, although I was never there for more than a few weeks at a time. In the summer I was sent off to camp; in the winter I was in boarding school, Ashley Hall, in Charleston, South Carolina. My parents were not trying to "get rid" of me. I knew that they unqualifiedly loved me. But life was hard enough for them without the added needs of a lonely teenager. And they were trying to protect me from their own pain. My father was dying. My mother was emotionally and physically drained.
We all loved the old beachhouse. It was built for summer, with the house open, back and front, to the breeze, and with a wide veranda wrapped all the way around to provide shade. In the winter it was bitter cold. North Florida is not like Miami or Palm Beach. It has the beautiful and ancient trees that south Florida does not have — the water oaks, the live oaks, the camphor trees, the tall pines. It also has a raw northeast wind, and my parents (and I, during the holidays) wore layers of clothes as though we were at a ski resort. But there was always the beauty of the ocean, with the wide white beach in front of the house, with the lagoon and jungle behind. And I had my own room, my first real room to myself since leaving New York. I had an old cherrywood desk that had belonged to my great-grandmother Madeleine L'Engle, and mahogany bookcases with sliding glass fronts which protected the books at least a little from the damp.
My father finally died from pneumonia when I was seventeen, the autumn of my last year in boarding school. My mother sold the house at the beach — I was too full of grief even to weep, or to understand that she had no choice. When I went home for Christmas, it was to an apartment in Jacksonville. My mother was to live there the rest of her long life. The great blessing of the apartment was the view of the St. Johns River — St. Johns Bay, it was called when she was young. The river curved about the spit of land on which the apartment was built, and she could see the sun both rise and set over the water.
I graduated from Ashley Hall and went on to Smith College, with my mother never for a second making me feel that I "ought" to give up my own life and take care of her. She was a woman remarkably capable of taking care of herself.
Hugh grew up on one street in one house — the same house where his sister and brother-in-law now live.
One December we had the amazing experience of going to their golden wedding celebration in the house where their parents had had their golden wedding anniversary on a street that has not changed. Extraordinary, in this day and age.
Hugh's brother-in-law has completely renovated the house and it is beautiful and comfortable. But when Hugh was growing up, there was no money for anything but the barest essentials, and he was able to go to college only because he won a full scholarship to Northwestern University's famous School of Speech. Though he couldn't afford to rent that tux for the high school prom, he was president of the Honor Society, had leads in all the school plays, and by his junior year had been picked out by a talent scout for Northwestern.
Tulsa was a "one-night stand" for touring theatrical companies, and one evening Hugh was taken to see the legendary Walter Hampden in Cyrano de Bergerac. From that evening on, acting was not just an extracurricular high school activity; it was his life.
My own high school and college years were a mixture of joy and pain. I loved Ashley Hall, where for the first time I was happy in school. In the lower grades I was a non-achiever. At Ashley Hall I found my stride and was appreciated and a leader — except at the school dances. Most of the Southern boys who went to those dances were considerably shorter than I. There is nothing more mortifying than having your partner's head below your neck. But these school dances came only once or twice a year. Far worse were the debut parties I had to attend during the holidays when I took the train down to Florida. I was the outsider in a closely knit group of young people who had grown up together in Jacksonville, gone to school together, would marry one another. Because my mother had been born and reared in this Southern city, I was invited to the dances and coming-out parties and dates were arranged for me. "Arranged" is right. I don't think I ever had a young man call me on his own in Jacksonville until I was ready to graduate from college. There may be something to be said for arranged marriages; there is little to say for arranged dates.
Seafood was frequently served at the dinner parties, and I assumed that the reason I often had to excuse myself and hurry to the bathroom to throw up was my inadequacy as a social butterfly. I did not know how to make small talk, and large talk was discouraged. Despite lessons, I was clumsy on the dance floor. I stepped on my partner's toes or tripped over my own feet. I hated every minute of these debutante parties and threw up a good many dinners. Years later I discovered that I am allergic to bivalves, to the very oysters, clams, and scallops that were so popular. The combination of the double allergy was abysmal. I couldn't wait to go back to school.
When I graduated from college and started to work in the theatre, I was able to manage my visits South at times other than the debutante season. I am grateful that Hugh and I didn't meet until we had both learned at least a little more about other people and about ourselves than we knew during those early years of painful growth.CHAPTER 2
After college I headed like a homing pigeon for New York. It was the place of my birth. It was where I would find music and art, theatre and publishing; it was where I belonged.
When I came to New York in the early autumn of 1941, the glamorous world my parents had known during the twenties had long been gone. We were heading toward the destruction of Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into World War II. The rest of my known world was already at war. For me that war had started when I was still at Ashley Hall and heard that Mussolini had marched his troops into Ethiopia. I still remember my stark feeling of terror as I realized that yet another ghastly war could not be averted.
But ordinary life kept on. My college roommate and I found an apartment on Ninth Street in Greenwich Village. In order to cut expenses, we shared it with several other aspiring young artists. A few blocks away, Hugh was living in an equally crowded apartment, and was beginning to get roles on Broadway. But we were not to meet for several years more.
I provided the furniture for the Ninth Street apartment, cherishing the few pieces my parents had not given away but had put into storage. There was only one bed, a lovely French mahogany bed with the wood curved into swans' necks. We bought a double-decker bed, and a sofa bed for the living room. My mother loved the apartment; it was for her a reminder of the old happy days, and she helped us decorate it. The little room with the French mahogany bed was hers, and though we sometimes let a temporary roommate use it, it was vacated and cleaned whenever Mother came.
Excerpted from Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle. Copyright © 1988 Crosswicks, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
- Cover Page
- I Prelude
- II Two-Part Invention
- A Biography of Madeleine L’Engle
- Copyright Page
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Madeleine L'Engle has been one of my favorite authors since I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was about nine or ten. This memoir of her marriage is poignant, moving, and profound. L'Engle's story time-travels between past and present: she remembers the challenges of weaving two artistic careers into the fabric of family life--or maybe vice-versa; and she tenderly and painfully relates the last chapter of her marriage during her husband's illness. L'Engle's spiritual insights and reflections on love and life add value beyond the telling of the story of a remarkable marriage.
The story of her 40 year marriage to Hugh Franklin, Madeleine L'Engle describes her feelings and actions when it is discovered that her beloved has cancer. She remembers her early life and how she met him. This is a very honest portrayal of grief, loss, pain, love and faith.I don't know if I agree with all of her conclusions about God, but I think her pondering on the will of God, the purpose of God and the consequences of our actions are spot on. I thank God she was able to write this story.
L'Engle writes in her own beautiful style the story of her marriage. Her husband is an actor whom some may recognize as the gentlemanly doctor on a soap opera. Now deceased, the actor and the real husband are delightful and kind souls, both ideal husbands. Easy in this autobiography to further know and appreciate the adult books of Madeleine L'Engle.
This book sensitively chronicles the life and enduring love of the beloved author Madeleine L'Engle and her husband Hugh Franklin. However, it is not only am autobiography, but also a thought-provoking treatise on love, marriage, losing, grieving, and life in general. In her many novels, L'Engle has thematically voiced her philosophy of living. Similarly, L'Engle uses this book to ask hard questions that people have pondered for centuries i.e. What is the meaning of suffering? Is there something beyond this life? What is the place of humankind in the overall life of planet earth? An excellent book that encourages the reader to examine his or her own purpose for being. Well worth the time.