Women Writers of Children's Literature

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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Madeleine S'Eng
b. 1918

MADELEINE LENGLE CAMP was born shortly after the end of World War I, on November 29, 1918, in New York City. Her father, Charles Wadsworth Camp, was a foreign correspondent and writer who had been gassed during the war; LEngle recalls subsequently "watching [her] father dying for eighteen years." Her mother, Madeleine Barnett Camp, was a talented pianist who chose not to pursue her potential career as a concert pianist. Madeleine's parents raised her in the British fashion, with a nanny and a governess, so, when her brother died in his infancy, much of her childhood was isolated. She spent her time writing stories, drawing, learning to play the piano, and reading. The books she prized most were those of George MacDonald, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Edith Nesbit.

Because Charles Camp was susceptible to pneumonia, the family moved to Switzerland, where the air would be less irritating to his lungs. LEngle recalls enjoying her life in the chateau the Camps rented, but her recollection of the Swiss boarding school she attended is less idyllic, for she was mocked for being lame and was mistakenly considered dull-witted by her teachers. Once she entered a poetry contest at the school and won the competition, but when her teachers discovered that she had won, they questioned the authenticity of her poem. In Madeleine's defense, her mother showed her teacher "the mass of poems, novels and stories" she had written, and it was conceded that Madeleine could indeed have written the prize poem.

At 14, Madeleine was sent to live with her maternal grandmother in Florida because both her parents were unwell. L'Engle's sense of alienation from the Floridean culture made her subsequent life in a Charleston, South Carolina, girls' boarding school a relief in contrast. Her last year at school seems to have been a happy one: she was busy acting in the school's plays and writing for and editing the literary magazine. That same year, however, her father died.

LEngle graduated from Smith College in 1941, and, rather than return to the South to join her ailing mother, she moved to New York City to enter the theater. For the next five years, she was busy acting and writing; her first book of fiction, The Small Rain, was published in 1945. During a rehearsal for Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, Madeleine met the actor Hugh Franklin, whom she married in January of 1946.

The couple left the theater and moved to Goshen, Connecticut, where they ran the local general store and raised three children. Even


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Women Writers of Children's Literature


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