Buchman returned home from the Far East in April 1919. Instead of playing down what had happened there, he wrote to Mott that the Christian effort in Asia was doomed to failure unless there was 'a radical reversal of direction from diffusion over the many to a deep penetration of the few'.1 Of his own role, he wrote, 'If the policy of the Foreign Department... is to be first and last the Propagation of Life then you may be sure I am ready to pay the price that we have all got to pay if such a policy is to be followed. On any other basis I cannot honestly give my time and strength to the Association.'2 He also wrote to Sherwood Day from Allentown, where he had gone to give his mother some sorely-needed help, 'I am perfectly willing that there should be a break with Hartford. That wouldn't be any particular wrench.'3
Nevertheless, after a good deal of soul-searching, he accepted Hartford's renewed offer. The arrangement was a generous one: it gave Buchman freedom to travel for nine months in the year, and only required him to give a series of lectures on the 'how' of personal evangelism at times agreed with President Mackenzie and Dean Jacobus.
Buchman considered that the purpose of a seminary was thoroughly to convert its students and then to send them out as skilled 'fishers of men'. If it did not serve those ends, theological scholarship became irrelevant. One of Buchman's students, Edward Perry, later described what it was like to study under him: 'His lectures were totally unlike any others in that sedate institution. Mostly they consisted of stories of people whose lives had been changed by God's power working through him. It was fascinating, up-to-date, real...His picture of a real ministry was not a matter of eloquent sermons and well-organized parish activities, but of meeting people's deepest needs one by one...
'He did not feel that his job was just to teach us about his subject, in this case the changing of people, as in other classes. He also felt responsible to see that we ourselves changed, for he recognized that no amount of technique or knowledge could make us effective "fishers of men" unless we found for ourselves the victory in Christ that must be our message for others.'
After describing the period when he recognised his own spiritual need and rebelled against the thought of asking for help - during which Buchman made no approach on a personal level, although they did have one game of tennis 'which neither of us played very well' - Perry continues: 'I asked him for "an interview". There, in his office, for the first time in my life I told another person what I was like inside - at least as far as I understood myself. He was not in the least shocked ... About all that he said was, "What you need is to surrender your life completely to Jesus Christ...." It was almost an insult. Was I not studying for the Christian ministry? But I knew what he was talking about was something far more than I had yet done. My earlier decisions had been sincere, but they had not been complete. I had decided to do certain things for God. What Buchman asked was that I turn over the management of my life to God.'4
Buchman's relationship with senior Hartford was somewhat uneasy almost from the beginning. The reasons are not far to seek. For one thing, there as in China, Buchman made no secret of his conviction that the more traditional approach was inadequate. 'The seminary today', he wrote to a friend, 'is an expensive luxury for propagating theology which is often- times wholly divorced from life.'5 Another cause of friction was that Buchman wanted freedom to move wherever he felt the Spirit was leading him. Since he often seemed to feel led away from Hartford even when he was expected to be there, this fitted ill with the seminary's assumption that his prime obligation was to them.
The trouble was caused by the demand for Buchman from other colleges and later from abroad. The fact that Douglas Mackenzie retained him on the staff for so long says a great deal for Mackenzie's large- mindedness.
Mackenzie's position was difficult. He was conscious that although 'there were divided opinions among the professors, some of whom preferred the ivory-tower conception of academic life', Buchman 'won his way magnificently with the students'. In fact, he 'only knew of one or two of the students who did not confess that they had received personal help from his work'.6
All through this time Buchman was burdened by a sense that if the Protestant churches as a whole were to fulfil his idea of their calling, they must change their approach. Organised religion, he told his students, too often meant 'efficiently doing what is not the way'; the Church, he warned, might well tremble 'lest it be abandoned as a deserted city where buildings are standing and all the machinery of human life is silent'.7
Back from missionary service six months after the end of the war, he saw the symptoms of its aftermath everywhere in the victorious America to which he had returned. While President Woodrow Wilson was in Paris attempting to 'dictate a new world order under a League of Nations pledged to universal peace' and his Secretary of State was privately noting in his diary that his master was 'making impossible demands on the Peace Conference ... what misery it will cause'8, emotions held in check by war were bursting out at home. The closing of the munitions factories, a cut-back in the working week, a slump in the price of crops which for four years had poured into the granaries of the Allies, aggravated the situation. Veterans who had been promised homes found only suburban boxes at extravagant rents. Labour, which had been willing to forfeit the right to strike, now felt free to press very real grievances, in the face of employers who had done well out of the war and were flaunting their riches outrageously. An ugly witch-hunt against supposed Bolshevists and the black population got under way.
Buchman observed with concern the triumph of an atheist regime in Russia after the recent revolution, but he was much more disturbed by the deterioration in his own country. A radical reawakening of faith was, he believed, the only long-term answer. Convinced by now that a vast and progressive moral disintegration was beginning to take place not only in his own country but in the world - 'a breakdown of civilisation' - he saw that it would have to be a reawakening on a world-wide scale. He seems immediately to have assumed that this demanding undertaking was his responsibility, and to have launched into it alone: 'I was convinced after my time in Asia that God meant to bring a moral and spiritual reawakening to every country in the world, and I personally felt called to give my whole time to that work.'9
Among the legacies he inherited from his work with Mott was the belief that the place to look for leadership for this awakening was in the universities. It would take the energy and idealism of which young people were capable. They must be won, individually, to the most radical obedience to God. Young Americans, back from the war, were anxious to study again in Europe, and especially in Britain. As a genuine rebirth of life appeared in one place, he believed it would spread to others. Yale would kindle Cambridge; Princeton and Harvard men would be used to revive religion in Oxford and Cape Town. From the great universities, the influence would spread to the newer and smaller colleges, and then to communities, churches and the professions. The final outcome, the regeneration of the whole Church, could in turn affect governments.
He saw this as happening through 'peripatetic evangelism' - a world- wide movement by small bands of completely committed, disciplined, carefully trained men and women from different countries. As in the Acts of the Apostles, they would move through the world, bringing new life to individuals and binding them into close-knit fellowships. Contagion would be borne from group to group.10
The drab red-brick buildings of Hartford Seminary might seem an unlikely place from which to start such a movement, and a lone man of 41 at least optimistic, if not naive and presumptuous, to think that he could bring it off. Nevertheless, as a first step he conceived the idea of a conference at Hartford, drawing in students from different colleges in the Eastern states. Mackenzie and Jacobus strongly backed the venture, although, as in China, there were a few misunderstandings about the agenda, misunderstandings which were this time settled ahead of the occasion.11 Invitations went to Yale, Harvard, Williams, Amherst and Cornell, among other colleges. After the first conference, demands came for return visits, and each time Buchman took men from Hartford or other colleges with him.
So Buchman sallied forth from Hartford, returning each week to give his lectures. He received a salary ($3,000, plus $500 expenses), but his resources for this rapidly expanding work were slender and he must have hoped for more substantial backing. Indeed, Dean Jacobus frequently mentioned the need for him to gain outside support. In 1920 he was approached to create and lead a movement financed by John D. Rockefeller and others, which would, in its initiators' phrase, 'use all the genius of American industry to carry Christ's message to the laymen of the world'.12It was being planned on a big scale and would have large resources behind it.
Remembering what had happened in China, however, Buchman turned down this offer and, apparently, others which he felt would cramp his work into an organisational framework. He wrote Sherwood Day of his 'hunger to get away for a deeper message, more time alone. I feel my own need ... It is more of Christ for me. I feel about all these offers for next year great dangers. My thought from above is - "wait and see what God hath wrought". We need to sweep the decks clear. And travel with light baggage.'13 When he refused one of these offers, he was warned that he could expect no money for his own work from them, or, it was hinted, from similar sources. 'My answer', he explained later, 'was, "Well, I will starve, because that particular work is not 'of the Spirit'."' It was becoming clearer and clearer to him that he was meant to find and follow an independent road.
Buchman's initial campaign from Hartford received a notable stimulus at the Northfield Conference in the summer of 1919. By then, he had taken his mother for a much-needed holiday and arranged for his father, who had suffered a stroke the previous autumn, to be cared for at a nursing home close to his own lodgings at Hartford.
At Northfield Buchman had a profound effect on the lives of some of the Princeton delegation. The result was that they decided to launch a much more vigorous programme and they suggested to the Princeton President, John Hibben, that he appoint Sam Shoemaker, now an active colleague of Buchman, as Secretary of the Philadelphian Society, the university's student Christian association. Hibben, who was also a Presbyterian minister, was entirely in favour of the idea. He had been greatly impressed by the results of a visit Buchman had paid to the campus in 1915. William T. Ellis, the author and journalist, reports him as saying that he had never known the student body so interested in personal religion.
That winter and the following spring, Buchman visited Princeton almost once a month. Each time, a steady stream of undergraduates came to talk to him. 'I spent last Sunday at Princeton in interviews from nine o'clock in the morning until one o'clock at night,' he reported to Hartford towards the end of the year. 'The men insisted I return this Sunday and I am taking two men from Hartford with me.'14 On another visit, he had only five hours' sleep in three days. Nor was Princeton unusual. At Yale, he conducted interviews until three in the morning on three successive nights in November 1919.
For whatever reason, men were frank with him about matters they had never spoken of to anyone else. 'It is to be accounted a remarkable thing', wrote a student from Princeton Theological Seminary, 'when a man tells another in the first half hour of their personal acquaintance anything which he had withheld from every other being... Yet that is what I did to Mr Buchman, and it was all done with such a frankness and calmness that there could be no doubt of the vital reality of it all.'15
The young men who had begun to use Buchman's approach were also hard at work in Princeton even when he himself was not there. 'How grateful I have been that you taught me some things about reaching men!' wrote Sam Shoemaker early in 1920. 'Two magnificent opportunities yesterday and today, and two miracles in consequence.'16
Not all Buchman's young friends were quite so self-confident. Henry van Dusen, then studying at Princeton, wrote of two whom he felt he had failed, the first because of 'talking religious instead of moral difficulty' and the second because he seemed unable to help him to become free of past memories of various kinds. 'I don't feel I have given him a bit of help and, frankly, I don't know how to.' For himself, he added, he would not have missed the last six months for all his other twenty-one and a half years. Van Dusen also reported that, after attending a meeting where students trained by Buchman spoke, 'The Dean said it was the manliest thing he had ever seen a group of Princeton men do.'17
Buchman had clearly taken considerable risks in encouraging a group of inexperienced young men to confront problems which older heads had seldom had the courage or insight to tackle. But his work at Princeton soon had marked results. Considerable numbers of young men, who had not been thinking of the church as a profession, took the cloth because of contact with him. In May 1920 twenty Princeton men who entered the ministry in that year presented Buchman with a pair of gold cuff-links and their grateful thanks. In 1934 van Dusen, who had by that time distanced himself from Buchman, wrote that 'of the fifty ablest Ministers on the Atlantic seaboard to-day, somewhere near half were directed into their vocation through his influence at that time'.18
At the same time Buchman was accused by a few of an abnormal and morbid emphasis on sex and of conducting an unwarranted inquisition into men's private lives. Stories of alleged sexual confessions went round the campus and there was talk of emotionalism and even hysteria. Robert P. Wilder, a senior Director of the Philadelphian Society, came to the conclusion that those who opposed Buchman did so because 'Frank strikes too close to them.'19 By the spring of 1920 van Dusen had begun to think that Princeton would not stand for what he called 'apostolic work'. Buchman disagreed. So did Shoemaker. 'They talk about emotion,' he wrote to Buchman. 'I don't believe in working it up for its own sake but no man can come to the profoundest decision of his life without its having an emotional reaction afterwards which stirs him to the depths.'20
Shoemaker was equally definite about the accusation that there was an undue emphasis on sexual indulgence. 'Of the sins which root in the flesh, any fool knows that sexual sins are likely to insinuate themselves into the first place in people's minds. They are common. Men want help there where the battle rages and there we must help them if we have anything to help with. We emphatically do not believe that it is the basic trouble. The basic trouble is always the pride of trying to get along without God.'
On 3 July 1920 Buchman sailed for Europe, taking with him two students from Yale. They joined up with some of his Princeton friends who were in Britain on an athletics tour. The peripatetic fellowship was on the move. They attended an evangelical conference in England and travelled round Europe, and were shown something of each country's art and architecture, as well as meeting Buchman's friends.
In Lucerne he took them to a hotel to meet Queen Sophie of Greece. She, with her husband and their son, Prince Paul, were visiting Switzerland with their German relations, the Hesse family: Sophie's cousin, Princess Margaret, and her two sons, Richard and Christopher. This was the first time Buchman had met the Hesses, but he seems to have rapidly won their confidence. 'For us young people coming from a Germany impoverished as a result of the First World War, these were very dazzling and tempting surroundings, and Mother, with her keen instinct for the inner worth of a man, viewed them with real mistrust,' wrote Prince Richard nearly forty years later. 'Only in the case of Frank was it a quite different matter. He moved around in that atmosphere without being contaminated or influenced by it, which gave us great confidence in him.' What he chiefly remembered was Buchman's 'infectious laughter' which 'revived everyone's spirits just to hear it'.21 Thereafter, Buchman and his friends became regular summer visitors at Kronberg, the Hesse home near Frankfurt; so regular, indeed, that in the family it became known as 'the Buchman season'.
The two Yale students returned to college. In his luggage one of them found a reproduction of Andrea del Sarto's 'John the Baptist' with the note: 'John the Baptist was simple in life and dress, fearless in utterance and uncompromising with the shame and superficialities of his day. He was the forerunner of a new age. Yale needs a man like that, and I believe you are one who will pay the price and have the power.'22
In Rome Buchman received news that Dan, not quite 24, had died two days earlier in Paris. Although Dan had only come to live with the family after he had left to take up parish work, Buchman always said that, next to his mother and father, he loved Dan more than anyone in the world. Although, or because, he was good-looking and charming, life was always difficult for him, and Buchman had felt constantly responsible for him. His correspondence with Dan was continuous, even at his busiest times, and often included gifts of money, as well as advice to get his teeth fixed, obey the doctor, wear his overcoat and buckle down to studies. After Dan's failures at the Taft School and the technical school, he had enlisted in the army in 1917, where he developed what, at his death, was discovered to be a tubercular infection.
After demobilisation, an abortive job and a failed marriage, he wrote his brother in April 1920, 'I am leaving the United States to try my luck in a foreign country. I am sick and disheartened... I did not realise the money you gave me last summer represented your only reserve supply. I mean to pay it all back and more, so I must strike out.' He shipped as a merchant seaman to France and made three crossings. On the last of them he fell ill, and collapsed with double pneumonia in Paris.
In July Buchman wrote an affectionate letter to Dan in Paris, suggesting he come to be his secretary at Hartford - perhaps with the idea of finally spending enough time with him to be able to help him to find the faith they had so often corresponded about. He made a rendezvous with him at Thomas Cook's in Paris.23 Hurrying to Paris from Rome on receipt of the news, he found his letter uncollected at the poste restante.
Buchman grieved but was not surprised. In October 1919 he had written, 'Dan is dying by inches. He will not live long.' He co-officiated at the funeral in the American Church, and Dan was buried in the cemetery at St Germain. Mrs Buchman wrote from Allentown, sending a poem which she had found among Dan's papers. Buchman later put the first two stanzas on his parents' gravestones, and chose the third stanza for his own:
He lives! In all the past,
He lives! Nor to the last
Of seeing him again will I despair.
In dreams I see him now
And on his angel brow
I see it written, 'Thou shalt meet me there.'
On the day of Dan's funeral, a telegram arrived from Prince Paul of Greece saying that, following their talks in Lucerne, he would like to come to America with Buchman and attend college there. Buchman postponed his own return to wait for him, only to hear, some time later, that the plan had been cancelled because the Greek people had voted for the return of the monarchy. In the interval, Buchman went to Cambridge to fulfil a promise made in China to Bishops Moloney and White to visit their sons. He also found several Princeton friends there.
President Mackenzie, hearing he was going to Cambridge, had recommended Buchman to his old fellow-pupil, Professor John Oman, a University lecturer based on the Presbyterian seminary, Westminster College. There Buchman was received as part of the Senior Common Room. He attended Oman's lectures, but his main interest was the university men he met. 'I often had three breakfasts,' he told friends later, 'one with the working crowd, then the next with the non-workers and then with the Indian princes.' Soon he was writing his Princeton friends that 'it would be ruinous to leave at this time'24 and to Dean Jacobus explaining that he must stay, or 'if my stay embarrasses you, I should sever my connection with Hartford if that is a way out of the difficulty'.25
President Mackenzie, plainly annoyed at this extra absence and reasonably so, replied that he did not want the connection to break, but that if Buchman offered his resignation he would be compelled to recommend it.26 The situation was, however, patched up once more.
Buchman, in fact, did not return till just before Christmas, for which his parents joined him at Hartford. It was their last Christmas together. His father died in the Hartford nursing home on 7 March 1921. The doctor's telegram reached Mrs Buchman too late for her to leave Allentown to see him. Buchman, who had been summoned from Boston, wired her: 'Father's home-going was peaceful. Wonderful crossing the bar. He felt you here ... I arrived in time for him to know me and he died holding my hand. Your letter was God-timed. Love, affection. We must be brave. Frank.'27
He wrote to a friend, 'I never knew death could be so wonderful. It was a glorious end and I spent the last two hours and a half with him. He was so happy to have me near.'28 And when, many years later, a student in Australia asked Buchman why he believed in life after death, he said, 'Because I saw my father die.'
Meanwhile, in January 1921, Buchman had invited three evangelical Cambridge undergraduates - Godfrey Buxton and the brothers Godfrey and Murray Webb-Peploe - to join him in America. Godfrey Webb- Peploe was prevented from going by a war wound, but the others had what his brother, a medical student, describes as 'a fascinating three months ... in the eastern universities - mainly Harvard, Yale and Princeton, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and our experiences of God's presence with us in the war'. Those weeks, he adds, 'were to convince us of the three fundamental and practical facts concerning the leading of God: that God does guide; that where he guides, he also provides; and that he works at the other end, confirming and preparing the way.'29
From America he wrote to Buxton's fiancée, 'I have learnt more in the last ten days than in all my life about this game. ... This work has convinced me more than ever of the amazing truth of the Bible, every part of it, and of one's belief in what it teaches, but I have been seeing, I think, that I have been allowing my Christian doctrines to be a barrier between me and the man who needs a Saviour and a surgeon. I have been getting down to where men live, and sharing with them the mess I have been in and the temptations that come every day. ... By this sharing one gets "cross-sections" of men's lives ... in a way one never did before. Men seem to open up right away and one can ask plain questions and they like it when they realise we are both just plain sinners.. . . If one may generalise, though it is always dangerous to do so, we in England who are evangelical are getting our air and food - prayer and the Bible - but are short on exercise; really getting down to where men live and diagnosing a man's trouble - "getting his history" as we say in medicine.'30
Buxton recalled later, 'Buchman had an amazing gift for personal work - for leading individuals to Christ. He certainly based what he said on the Bible, but he rarely spoke from it directly or spoke holding one - he said it might put off worldly people. I don't think, however, that he used the Bible as realistically as Murray and I had learnt to do. He tended to specialize in converting the influential and the rich - the "up-and-outs" as he called them. He reckoned they were harder to reach than the down-and-outs, through having less sense of need.'31
The pair evidently underwent something of a cold douche from some of their evangelical friends on their return to Cambridge, but Murray, in particular, held on to what he had learnt and helped Buchman in Oxford later in the year.
In May Buchman was in Cambridge. On the first evening fifty people turned up to see him. He began to have the sense that God was calling him to a wider task. One moonlight night, as he was bicycling down Petty Cury, a sudden thought struck him: 'You will be used to remake the world.' This thought so staggered him that, as he used to recall, he almost fell off his bicycle. It seemed so preposterous that he was reluctant to acknowledge it.* Contrary to his custom, he did not write it down and told no one about it for several days. But the idea kept recurring. 'I wondered then - and I still wonder - why God should take a little runt of a fellow like me and pitchfork me into the world and tell me to do the impossible,' he said, relating the experience some years later.
(* It was not, however, an entirely unusual concept at that time. The campaign card which the evangelist Billy Sunday asked converts to sign in 1915 declared, 'God helping me, I dedicate myself to the task of rebuilding the world according to Christian ideas.’ Buchman had on occasion worked with Sunday.)
From now on this sense of specific mission was always with Buchman. Its very impossibility prevented his considering it a personal crusade with himself as heroic leader; its size gave him the nerve to proclaim his purpose in season and out of season, and to try to enlist every likely and unlikely person who would take it on with him. This made him at times bewildering and even unattractive to people who did not discern his underlying motive. It gave him, as well, an unflagging impetus which made of him what can only be described as a revolutionary personality, with all the effect of creative discomfort which this implies.
From Cambridge he went to Oxford, filling a gap in the Westminster College tennis team as a chance to visit some of the Princeton graduates who had gone there as Rhodes Scholars. One, a Southerner called Alex Barton, was at Christ Church and, through Barton, Buchman met Loudon Hamilton, a handsome, humorous Scot who had fought on the Somme and at Passchendaele and was now reading philosophy and playing rugby intermittently for the university.
At a loss as to how to entertain him, Hamilton invited Buchman to his rooms that evening for a meeting of a college society known familiarly as the 'Beef and Beer Club'. Ninety per cent of the gathering, according to Hamilton, were ex-officers, veterans of twenty-one or twenty-two with rows of medals which they would never have dreamed of talking about. A number, like Hamilton and his room-mate 'Sandy', had been wounded; some were deeply embittered by their experiences. A future Chancellor of the Exchequer was there, together with future High Court judges and the sons of landed gentlemen. It was a slice of the Establishment in the making.
Buchman seemed hopelessly out of place. 'He looked rather like a prosperous business man,' said Hamilton, 'a bit on the stout side, with a dark suit and rimless glasses, and he was wearing those fancy American shoes, made of white goat-skin and brown leather.'
The discussion - a typical Oxford one on how to put the world to rights - went on until well past eleven o'clock and still the visitor had said nothing. The chairman asked whether he would care to say a word. Buchman, Hamilton recalled, 'ignored the violently contradictory opinions which had been expressed, and remarked that "any real change in the world had to start with a change in people". He didn't use words like "conversion'' but he did talk about God and he told us about young men very like ourselves who'd become different. Everybody there knew exactly what he was talking about. A sort of hush fell. People took their pipes out of their mouths. Everybody was thoroughly uncomfortable. The whole thing really narked us because we liked things kept academic and impersonal, and he'd had the courage to make it very personal.' Buchman had offended against one of the most important canons of contemporary British good taste: he had raised the subject of religion on an unscheduled occasion.
'There was a terrible silence,' recalled Hamilton, 'but then the clock struck midnight and that saved the day. Most of the people made a very hasty exit, but to my horror and astonishment my room-mate, who was an atheist, suggested that we invite Buchman to breakfast the next morning.'
Hamilton ordered a gargantuan meal - cereals, fish, eggs and bacon, toast and marmalade, strawberries and cream - with the idea of keeping Buchman as quiet as possible. 'We covered the weather, Henley, the Varsity match,' said Hamilton, 'and I thought, "Surely he's going to start to fire off soon." Then he told the story of a Chinese headmistress of dowager status who had complained that one of her girls was stealing money. Buchman had asked the headmistress, "When did you last steal yourself?" and when she replied, "When I was thirteen," Buchman had asked why she didn't tell that to the girl.'
'Suddenly,' Hamilton went on, 'Sandy said, "I haven't always been honest about money", and there was a simplicity and an honesty in his voice that I'd never heard before. Buchman just nodded. He didn't ask any direct personal questions, but it suddenly occurred to me that I'd been to the New College Commem Ball without paying for the ticket. I didn't say anything, but I spent the rest of breakfast wondering who I could borrow the money from if I did decide to pay it back.'
By now, Buchman had evidently begun to feel thoroughly at home in England. 'Dearest Mater,' he wrote, on Christ Church Boat Club paper, 'God is very good, oh so good. It is marvellous, wonderful! Here I have many old and new friends and one meets at every turn grateful ones whose lives have been changed.'32
Hamilton, in any event, was interested enough to want to get to know Buchman better. In August he went to a 'house-party' at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, arranged by Robert Collis, a young Irish rugby international whom Buchman had helped with personal problems.
The house-party, which became a characteristic feature of Buchman's work, was a way of bringing together an assortment of people for several days in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere where they might be able to take fundamental decisions for their lives. It had much the flavour of the contemporary social house-party but the same essential purpose as a religious retreat: the main difference was in the sort of people whom Buchman invited. Many, as Hamilton discovered, were 'thorough-going pagans' like himself.
'There were,' according to Robert Collis, 'old Rugbeian Blues, Etonian rowing men, Presidents of the Oxford Union, Firsts in Greats,* Naval officers, Americans, a British colonel, Indians, Chinese, a famous American lawyer and a well-known English MP. The two latter arrived rather drunk but rapidly sobered down.’33
(* The traditional Oxford Degree of Philosophy and Ancient History.)
Buchman had in fact brought the lawyer and the Member of Parliament from London himself, in a Rolls hired by the MP. The lawyer, who was distinctly the worse for wear, kept complaining that there was a creak in the car, to which Buchman drily retorted that there was a creak, but not in the car.
This house-party, which lasted five days, began with Buchman asking everyone to say who they were and why they had come. Hamilton said candidly that he had slipped a stitch in life and that he knew he would get nowhere until it was picked up. Soon, he recalled, the atmosphere had become so relaxed that 'you were talking to people to whom you'd not even been introduced'.
'Buchman,' wrote Collis, 'not only succeeded in harmonising this gathering, but by the end genuine friendliness replaced the strain intensely felt through the first meetings . .. Each had come wearing his mask ... By the end of the house-party the masks had disappeared from each face...To describe the house-party as a success would be to understate the facts of the case. It was a very tour de force.’34
The theme, according to Hamilton, was what changes would be involved in people's lives if they decided to give themselves to God. After breakfast each day, one or two of Buchman's friends - people like Charles Haines, a rowing man from Princeton - would talk about their experiences, and Buchman himself spoke from time to time. Hamilton remembered him telling the story of Bill Pickle - 'forty minutes which seemed like ten'.
'It was all so real,' he said, 'and it was related to the world I understood. I felt great confidence in Frank. In the accepted sense of personal magnetism, he didn't have it - and he was a cautious man in many ways, absolutely the opposite of the blustering evangelical type. What attracted me was the reality and conviction with which he spoke and got others to speak, and the relationship between the people around him. They called each other by their first names, which aroused suspicion in our circles, but there was no affectation. Previously, religion had seemed a rather gloomy business, but this was different.' On the Sunday Hamilton decided to stop 'teetering around on the diving board' and to give his life to God 'come what may'.
By the time Buchman sailed for America in November 1921 it had become clear to him that he would have to part company with Hartford. He approached the decision with a trepidation natural in a man over forty who had no other means of support. It finally crystallised one night when he was travelling to Washington to meet delegates to the current Disarmament Conference.* 'Resign, resign, resign,' the rhythm of the train's wheels seemed to say, and he jotted down, 'Resign on principle. Don't worry about finances. You must make an untried experiment. Step out alone.'
(* 20 December 1921. Colonel David Forster, who was on the British Delegation, had invited the conference delegates to meet Buchman; thirty came.)
On 25 January 1922 he asked Mackenzie if he could give more periods of practical instruction to balance the weight of academic theological teaching in the curriculum. Mackenzie refused, saying that there were other courses which were 'vital' to personal conduct and inner life and that other professors were quite as anxious about that side of the work as Buchman. When rumours were later spread that Buchman had been asked to resign, Mackenzie commented, 'On the contrary, I did everything in my power to persuade Frank to stay.'35 On 1 February Buchman sent in his formal letter of resignation, thanking Mackenzie and Jacobus for their 'many known and unknown courtesies and kindnesses to me'. At the same time he wrote his mother, 'Don't worry about things. Worry killed the cat and I have a peace which passeth all understanding... The best is yet to be.'
Never again was he to hold any paid position.
1 Buchman to Mott, July 1919.
2 ibid., 2 June 1919.
3 Buchman to Sherwood Day, 21 April 1919.
4 Edward Perry, January 1958, unpublished MS. Perry went to Hartford in the autumn of 1921.
5 Buchman to Shoemaker, 24 November 1922.
6 Douglas Mackenzie to Hermann Hagedorn, 10 April 1934.
7 Perry, Hartford notes, pp. 3, 7.
8 Alistair Cooke, America (BBC, 1973), p. 305.
9 Loudon Hamilton, unpublished MS.
10 See Henry P. Van Dusen, 'Apostle to the Twentieth Century', Atlantic Monthly, ]uly 1934, pp. 1-2.
11 Douglas Mackenzie to Buchman, 5 March 1920.
12 Ray Foote Purdy, unpublished MS, who states the movement was to be called 'The Interchurch World Movement'.
13 Buchman to Sherwood Day, 14 June 1920.
14 Buchman to Douglas Mackenzie, winter 1919.
15 H.S., written from Princeton Theological Seminary, 1 November 1922.
16 Shoemaker to Buchman, 14 January 1920.
17 Van Dusen to Buchman, 11 June 1920.
18 Van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly, July 1934.
19 Van Dusen to Buchman, 13 January 1920.
20 Shoemaker to Buchman, 21 November 1919.
21 Prince Richard of Hesse, 'Recollections of Dr Frank Buchman', February 1958, unpublished.
22 Buchman to unknown Yale student, 19 August 1920.
23 Buchman to Dan, 3 July 1920.
24 Buchman to Shoemaker et al., 27 October 1920.
25 Buchman to Dean Jacobus, 15 November 1920.
26 Douglas Mackenzie to Buchman, 23 November 1920.
27 Buchman to mother, 8 March 1921.
28 Buchman to Miss Angélique Contostavlos, 24 March 1921.
29 Katharine Makower: Follow My Leader, a biography of Murray Webb-Peploe (Kingsway, 1984), p. 59.
30 ibid., p. 62.
31 ibid., p. 59.
32 Buchman to mother, 5 May 1921.
33 Robert Collis: The Silver Fleece (Nelson, 1936), p. 107.
34 ibid., pp. 108-110.
35 Perry, unpublished MS.