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George MacDonald

George MacDonald George MacDonald[1†]

George MacDonald (1824–1905) was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister, renowned for pioneering modern fantasy literature. His allegorical fairy tales, cherished by both children and adults, remain his legacy. Beyond fantasy, MacDonald wrote Christian allegories and mentored Lewis Carroll. Notable works include "Phantastes" (1858), "The Princess and the Goblin" (1872), and "Lilith" (1895), leaving an enduring impact on the genre[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

George MacDonald was born on December 10, 1824, in the western part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland[3†][1†]. His parents were George MacDonald and Helen McKay[3†]. MacDonald grew up in an unusually literate environment, with one of his maternal uncles being a notable Celtic scholar and collector of fairy tales and Celtic oral poetry[3†][1†].

At sixteen, MacDonald won a scholarship to the University of Aberdeen[3†][4†]. He embarked upon a scientific curriculum, studying subjects like Chemistry and Natural Philosophies from 1840-41 and 1844-45[3†]. He was awarded prizes for these subjects[3†]. However, in 1842, he ran out of money and had to leave school to accumulate some savings[3†][4†].

After saving enough money, MacDonald moved to London, where he studied at the Independent College, Highbury, for three years[3†]. Here, he studied for the Congregationalist Ministry[3†]. This period of his life was marked by struggles with matters of faith and deciding what to do with his life[3†][1†].

Career Development and Achievements

After completing his education, MacDonald became a Congregational minister[1†][2†]. However, his unorthodox views led to his dismissal from a ministerial position at Arundel[1†][5†]. This event marked a turning point in MacDonald’s life, as he then decided to make literature his profession[1†][2†][5†].

In 1855, MacDonald published a poetic tragedy, "Within and Without"[1†][2†]. This marked the beginning of his prolific literary career, during which he wrote over 50 books[1†][5†]. MacDonald’s works spanned various genres, but he is best known for his contributions to fantasy literature and Christian allegories[1†][2†].

MacDonald’s fantasy works, such as “Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women” (1858) and “Lilith” (1895), are considered good examples of his literature for adults[1†][2†]. His children’s books, including “At the Back of the North Wind” (1871), “The Princess and the Goblin” (1872), and its sequel, “The Princess and Curdie” (1873), are his most enduring works[1†][2†].

MacDonald’s influence extended beyond his own works. He served as a mentor to Lewis Carroll, another renowned author[1†]. His impact on the field of modern fantasy literature was significant, and he is recognized as a pioneering figure in this genre[1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

George MacDonald’s literary career was marked by the publication of numerous works that have had a lasting impact on the field of fantasy literature[1†]. Here are some of his main works:

Each of these works showcases MacDonald’s unique blend of fantasy and spirituality, and they have all contributed to his lasting legacy as a pioneer of the fantasy genre[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

George MacDonald’s work has had a profound impact on the field of fantasy literature[7†][1†]. His unique blend of fantasy and spirituality, as seen in his fairy tales and novels, has been influential in shaping the genre[7†][1†].

MacDonald’s fiction, both fantasy and non-fantasy, has been re-evaluated over time[7†]. His works are seen as the spiritual soil out of which the faith of C.S. Lewis, another renowned author, emerged[7†][8†]. MacDonald’s novels, fantasies, and fairy tales provide the imaginative foundation for Lewis’s later writings, including The Chronicles of Narnia[7†][8†].

MacDonald’s style is characterized by the use of allegory and symbolism to explore spiritual and moral themes[7†][1†]. His works often feature characters who undergo a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth[7†][1†]. For instance, in the novel “The Princess and the Goblin”, the young princess must learn to trust in something she cannot see (her grandmother’s magical thread) in order to save her friend from the goblins[7†][1†].

MacDonald’s works have been praised for their depth and complexity, and for their ability to appeal to both children and adults[7†][1†]. His stories are not just simple tales, but are layered with meaning and can be read on multiple levels[7†][1†].

In terms of his place in history, MacDonald is recognized as a pioneer of the fantasy genre[7†][1†]. His innovative use of fantasy to explore deep spiritual themes paved the way for later authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis[7†][1†][8†].

Personal Life

George MacDonald was married to Louisa Powell in 1851[1†]. The couple had a large family, with six sons and five daughters[1†][9†]. MacDonald’s mother died when he was very young, so he lived with his father and uncle[1†][10†]. These two men loved all kinds of stories and literature[1†][10†].

MacDonald’s personal life was marked by his strong Christian faith. He grew up in a strongly Calvinist environment, which provided him with a solid foundation of Bible stories[1†][10†]. Despite facing financial difficulties and health issues, MacDonald remained dedicated to his family and his faith[1†][10†].

In 1902, Louisa Powell, MacDonald’s wife, passed away[1†][9†]. This was a year after their golden wedding anniversary[1†][9†]. MacDonald himself, after a long illness, died at Ashtead in England in 1905[1†][9†]. His remains were cremated and taken for burial to Bordighera, where his wife had been interred[1†][9†].

Conclusion and Legacy

George MacDonald’s influence extended far beyond his lifetime. His writings led C.S. Lewis out of atheism into Christianity, and MacDonald’s remarkable legacy continues in our own time[11†]. He was read and revered by an impressive gallery of well-known figures, both in his own time and in the years since[11†]. A few of these include G.K. Chesterton (who called him “one of the three or four greatest men of the 19th century”), W.H. Auden (who said that MacDonald was “one of the most remarkable writers of the 19th century”), Oswald Chambers, and most notably C.S. Lewis[11†].

Two decades after his death, his books were pivotal in leading C.S. Lewis to Christianity[11†][8†]. MacDonald is also known as the “Father of the Inklings,” a group of writers, scholars, and friends who met regularly at Oxford University to discuss literature and ideas[11†][12†]. This group included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, among others[11†][12†].

Despite the decline in his reputation in the 20th century, MacDonald’s work remains an important part of juvenile classics[11†][3†]. His son, Greville MacDonald, also became an author and wrote a biography of his father’s life[11†][3†].

MacDonald’s legacy is a testament to the enduring power of his ideas and the depth of his imagination. His work continues to inspire and influence readers around the world[11†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - George MacDonald [website] - link
  2. Britannica - George Macdonald: British author [website] - link
  3. Victorian Era - Biography of George Macdonald [website] - link
  4. Father of the Inklings - A Brief Biography of George MacDonald [website] - link
  5. Goodreads - Author: George MacDonald (Author of The Princess and the Goblin) [website] - link
  6. Goodreads - Author: Books by George MacDonald (Author of The Princess and the Goblin) [website] - link
  7. St Andrews Research Repository - A swipe at the dragon of the commonplace : a re-evaluation of George MacDonald's fiction [website] - link
  8. The Works of George MacDonald - Overview [website] - link
  9. The Victorian Web - George Macdonald: Biography [website] - link
  10. Christianity.com - 10 Things You Need to Know about George MacDonald [website] - link
  11. MacDonaldPhillips.com - George MacDonald - A Brief Biography [website] - link
  12. Father of the Inklings - None [website] - link
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