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George MacDonald - Timeline

1824-1905

Influences

  • Huntly Missionary Church, an independent chapel
  • Grandmother, Isobel MacDonald (Robert Falconer's Grannie)
  • Father, George MacDonald, Sr.
  • Poets: Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Novalis, Herbert, Milton
  • German fairy tales ("Undine" by Motte Fouque)
  • King's College, Aberdeen - M. A. (science, math, literature)
  • Rev. John Kennedy, Congregational Church in Aberdeen (evangelical Calvinist with special concern for the poor)
  • Highbury College, a Congregational Seminary
  • Prof. A. J. Scott
  • Frederick Denison Maurice
  • Wife, Louisa Powell MacDonald
  • Friends: John Ruskin, Lewis Carroll, Lady Byron, Octavia Hill
  • Poor health, many bouts with tuberculosis
  • 4 children and one grandchild died during his lifetime
  • Poverty

Life

  • 1824 Born Dec. 10 in Huntly, Scotland
  • 1832 Mother dies
  • 1839 Father remarries
  • 1845 M.A. King's College
  • 1850 Theological degree from Highbury
  • Pastor, Trinity Congregational Church in Arundel
  • 1851 Marries Louisa
  • 1852-1867 Eleven children (5 girls and 6 boys)
  • 1853 Resigns pastorate and never has a steady full time job, supports his family by lecturing, writing, teaching, editing a children's magazine, gifts from friends
  • 1855-1899 Publishes 31 novels plus many volumes of fairy tales, poetry, sermons, and essays
  • 1872-73 Successful U.S. lecture tour
  • 1905 Died Sept. 10

Works

For bibliography, see Quotations From George MacDonald

Major Themes:

  • God as a loving father (tough love)
  • Importance of obedience
  • Obedience as a path to knowledge of God
  • Study of the Gospels to learn about Jesus
  • Love and humility

People Influenced by MacDonald

G. K. Chesterton:

The Princess and the Goblin is the "most real, the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase, the most lifelike of any story I have ever read."

C. S. Lewis:

  • "I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him."
  • "I know nothing that gives me such a feeling of spiritual healing, of being washed as to read G. MacDonald."
  • "He seems to know everything and I find my own experience in it (Diary of an Old Soul) constantly."
  • "So many clever writers strike one as quite childish after MacDonald: they seem not to understand so many things."

W. H. Auden:

  • "George MacDonald is pre-eminently a mythopoeic writer."
  • "In his power to project his inner life into images, events, beings, landscapes which are valid for all, he is one of the most remarkable writers of the nineteenth century."

Madeleine L'Engle:

"He (MacDonald) has come to my rescue many times, has said to me just what I needed to have said in a moment of doubt or confusion.... I loved George MacDonald, beginning with The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie. Like all great fantasists, he has taught me about life, life in eternity rather than chronology, life in that time in which we are real."

Some Critical Evaluations

"Unquestionably, the master of the Victorian fairy tale was George MacDonald. His stories ... were moral yet more symbolic than didactic or allegorical, as were many of his contemporaries' efforts." ~Michael Patrick Hearn in the introduction to The Victorian Fairy Tale Book.

"George MacDonald's supreme and unique gift was his ability to blend holiness with magic. Morality had long been present, indeed over-emphasized in children's literature. However, the essence of goodness, which is true holiness, and the joy which is part of sanctity, had not been known." ~Marion Lochhead in The Renaissance of Wonder in Children's Literature.

"It can now be safely said, however, that there is not a writer in the English language who has beautified the intrinsic worth of the common child better than did George MacDonald. Someday his genius may yet be fully discovered." ~Glen Edward Sadler in the introduction of The Gifts of the Child Christ.

Favorite Quotations

  • "God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy."
  • "I believe that to be the disciple of Christ is the end of being, and that to persuade men to be His disciples is the end of teaching"