While It Is Day

An Autobiography

© 1974  Elton Trueblood

Harper & Row: New York, New York


1. Trueblood, David Elton, 1900-1994.
BX7795.T75A37 || Dewey: 289.6'092'4 || LC:  7318680 || OCLC: 799585 || 170 p.

While It Is Day by Elton Trueblood is presently held by 487 libraries including the University of Southern California and Harvard University.

Table of Contents

Preface       ix

1. Child       1

2. Student       19

3. Teacher       38

4. Author       61

5. Minister       84

6. Yokefellow       104

7. Father       125

8. Rambler       144

Index       164


   Every man's life, thought Dr. Samuel Johnson, may be best written by himself.  However difficult it may be to achieve objectivity, each person possesses information hidden from any outside observer. Though the difficulties of autobiographical writing are both immense and obvious, the advantages are correspondingly great because the ultimate evidence is that of witness.

   During nearly all of my adult life I have been consciously grateful to many who have provided firsthand testimony concerning their own lives. Starting with student days I have valued works of this type, believing with Leslie Stephen that autobiography is "the most fascinating type of literature." Ever since the time when I shared in a famous Harvard course in seventeenth-century religious prose, the classics in this field have been my prized possessions. Among these are the memoirs of Richard Baxter, George Fox, and many others of their century, but I have not limited my reading of such works to this flowering period. I have also been drawn to the autobiographical writings of Benjamin Franklin, John Woolman, John Stuart Mill, and many more.

   Any person who understands his own imperfection is naturally

Page x

hesitant to write about his own life, but serious thought will make him realize that this is no absolute deterrent, since each one has something worth sharing. Here Dr. Johnson's wisdom applies: "I have often thought," wrote Johnson, "there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful." If the Rambler was right, no elaborate justification is required. Every life is short, and the best of human knowledge is slight, but there is great merit in trying to tell what has actually transpired. The most artful tale, once it is known to be false, cannot compete in interest with the faithful report of an actual life, no matter how modest it may be.

   Of autobiographies produced in our own century, the one that has appealed to me most is Pilgrim's Way by Lord Tweedsmuir. This book has provided me something of a model, demonstrating the possibility of an autobiography that is primarily topical. I soon saw that my own life could best be understood with reference to the different vocations which I have pursued simultaneously. Consequently, in the book which I have written, there is no attempt at a strict chronological order.

   To tell what he has tried to do, and how he has tried to think, may be the most important service which one person can render to another. As we all walk essentially the same path, we stumble the less if our predecessors have left a few markers. It is the duty of each person who has profited from some guidance to leave a few markers of his own. That is why this book has been written. It is an effort to pay my toll on a road which others have constructed.

   In his famous opening, dated 1580, Montaigne wrote, "I am myself the matter of my book." Much as I admire Montaigne, I cannot say the same about my own book. It has of course been impossible to avoid the use of the first person singular, but, as I have written, I have been thinking chiefly of those who have helped me. Therefore, this is not really a book about one person,

Page xi

but about many persons. There have been numerous forks in the road, but at each of these there has been someone to point the way. Thus this book is fundamentally a record of my indebtedness. Though most of those to whom I am indebted are now beyond my power to repay, I can at least acknowledge what it is that I owe and try to make payment in the only coin that is available.


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From the Back Cover and Jacket

   "Life is lived best," says Elton Trueblood, elder statesman and dean of American religious writing, "when it is lived in chapters." The chapters in Dr. Trueblood's life comprise a warm and nostalgic, sincere and moving story of one man's spiritual and intellectual pilgrimage. Dr. Trueblood's memoirs are reminiscent of both Dr. Samuel Johnson and C.S. Lewis. He attempts that "judicious and faithful narrative" so prized by the Rambler, and Lewis' gift of drawing deeply from the bubbly springs of practical wisdom echoes throughout these pages.

   While It Is Day is unembarrassed, unglossed personal history. Author of thirty books on a host of subjects including the humor of Christ, the commitment of the Christian, and the spiritual character of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Trueblood also composed a playful limerick for his wife Virginia:

My wife's a fabulous beauty,
And even in age she's a cutey;
She sits in the sun,
And thinks it is fun,
To be far, far away from her duty.

   The minister who was called to celebrate the funeral of President Hoover and to serve as an adviser in the United States Information Agency under President Eisenhower knows too "that there is really nothing wrong with sitting on the terrace just being quietly thankful." And, after a successful tenure at Stanford University, Dr. Trueblood found himself equally at home, perhaps more so, at tiny Earlham College in Indiana and wrote a widely circulated article for Reader's Digest to prove it.

   But Dr. Trueblood's self-portrait paints a larger picture on a broader canvas. His story is at the same time the story of religion in America for the past three quarters of a century. An eighth-generation Quaker with English roots, Dr. Trueblood's life has ecumenical dimensions and the religious pluralism so characteristic of America has had its effect upon him. He describes himself as an "evangelical Christian" and yet has been influenced by Harvard's Willard L. Sperry, Reinhold Niebuhr, Edith Hamilton, and Arthur O. Lovejoy, among others. Ministry has meant preaching in the churches of all the denominations and directing study conferences for ministers of many faiths. And as founder and President of Yokefellows International, he has translated his dream of "the small fellowship" into Christian reality and provided a creative, postdenominational, uniquely American possibility for spiritual growth and development.

   While It Is Day is an autobiography of accomplishment from someone with a special magic and charisma. In it Elton Trueblood pays his toll on a road which others may have constructed but on which he has left his own, indelible "finger-posts," in the words of John Baillie.

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"We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day . . . " — John 9:4

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