George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish preacher and teacher as well as an author of 30 novels, numerous fairy tales, poetry, essays, and sermons. He was one of the most original of nineteenth century thinkers.
MacDonald's writing and lecturing brought him great recognition and introduced him into the company of many of the leading Victorians of the time. His friends included many of the English pre-Raphaelites, social reformers such as Octavia Hill, radical churchmen such as F.D. Maurice, and, across the Atlantic, Emerson, Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Mark Twain.
MacDonald's writing has outstanding imaginative power, largely influenced by the German and English Romantics. Through his visionary theology, MacDonald has made his greatest contributions in the realms of fantasy and children's literature. His fairy tales for children and his two fantasies for adults are his best literary achievements. At the Back of the North Wind, The Princess and The Goblin and The Princess and Curdie have found a permanent place on children's bookshelves. A number of writers of children's literature refer to him as the greatest writer of fantasy for children.
George MacDonald's Phantastes is recognized as a classic of adult fantasy writing. It was Phantastes which C.S. Lewis read as a teenager that initiated his extraordinary imagination. Other well known authors besides Lewis who have been influenced by MacDonald include G.K. Chesterton, W.H. Auden, and Madeleine L'Engle.
MacDonald's novels were popular in his day, but then fell out of favor, partly because of his didacticism, and were out of print for many years. His novels have some of the finest Christian teaching. Two of his major themes are the loving (tough love) nature of our Father God and the importance of obedience in our Christian growth.
The impact of many of his novels is being rediscovered, particularly in Scotland and the United States. His influence on both John Ruskin and Lewis Carroll was profound and his influence upon 20th century literature has been far-reaching, mainly through other writers. The works of C. S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton and W.H. Auden bear a witness to the power of MacDonald's imagination, a power which remains undiminished for the reader of today.
Since the formation of the George MacDonald Society in 1981, there has been an upsurge of interest in MacDonald, and his literary works.
The George MacDonald part of the Brown Collection contains more than 400 volumes including first edition books, biographies, critical works, books with inscriptions and annotations by MacDonald and Lewis, nineteenth century periodicals, and Ph.D. dissertations, as well as microfilm of manuscripts and contemporary articles, books by and about friends of MacDonald (especially Lewis Carroll), manuscripts, letters, photographs, paintings, and other documents and artifacts.