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Essay on George MacDonald


 

George MacDonald:  Scottish Poet, Preacher and Novelist

by Daniel Koehn

 

Introduction

 

   George MacDonald has not been particularly widely known in the 20th century.  The revival of interest in his writings has come mostly through the influence of such writers as C. S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkein, who have pointed to his writings as a source of peculiar inspiration.  Many have, upon being introduced to his writings, felt as though they had stumbled upon some hidden treasure.   This was genuinely the case with C. S. Lewis.  He came upon MacDonald quite unexpectedly when, in his late teens and becoming increasingly interested in fantasy, he purchased a copy of Phantastes and soon after experienced what he called a “baptism” of his imagination as he journeyed through the volume.  MacDonald was perhaps the most important key through which Lewis was drawn from the darkness of atheism into the light of Christ.  In his middle age, Lewis compiled an anthology of MacDonald’s writings: short readings for every day of the year.  In the preface to this book Lewis wrote, “In making this collection I was discharging a debt of justice.  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.  But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation.  Honesty drives me to emphasize it.”[1]  An endorsement of this kind ought to provide ample motivation for taking at least a brief look into the life of George MacDonald, the Scottish poet, preacher, and writer.  This essay, then, will introduce George MacDonald by first laying out a very brief biography,[2] perhaps more of a timeline, of his life from beginning to end, and then exploring some of the major influences on his faith and thinking.

 

Brief Biography

 

       George MacDonald was born in Huntly, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on December 10, 1824.  He was the second of six sons, only four of whom survived to adulthood.  His father, George Sr., and his mother, Helen MacKay MacDonald, were considered by all to be a quite handsome couple.  George Sr. ran a bleaching business with his brother, and was considered in the community and in the workplace to be a godly man.  Helen died of tuberculosis when George was eight years old, and seven years later George Sr. remarried.  Memories of his years in Huntly in Aberdeenshire were dear to George Jr. all his life, and his writing reflected it.  His cousin C. Edward Troup later wrote about him, “I do not know any other writer the scenes of whose boyhood were so deeply impressed on him and are so closely associated with his best work.  In his English novels he wrote, of course, of English country scenes, but never, I think, with the same love as of Scotland; and when he writes of Scotland, one almost always feels it is Aberdeenshire.”[3] 

            MacDonald entered King’s College at Aberdeen in 1840.  Funds ran low and he had to sit out of school for the 1842-43 session.  During this time he accepted a job cataloguing the personal library of a large estate in the north of Scotland.  This experience greatly influenced him, and libraries make a notable appearance in several of his novels.  MacDonald returned to college and received his M.A. degree in 1845. 

            While tutoring the daughters of the Powell family, MacDonald fell in love with one of the daughters, Louisa.  He began to attend Highbury Theological College in London in 1848, and that same year George and Louisa became engaged. 

            In 1850 George, eager to be able to soon support a wife, accepted a call to the pastorate of a Congregational Church in Arundel, Sussex, England.  In 1851 George privately published his first work, a translation from the German entitled Twelve of the Spiritual Songs of Novalis.  He and Louisa were married that same year, and their first daughter was born the year after.  Problems developed for the young family as some of the elders of the church grew uncomfortable with MacDonald’s preaching, feeling it to be heretical.  The greatest concerns had to do with MacDonald’s suggestion that animals would participate in the resurrection and that humans may have the opportunity to repent after death.  In 1853, when the situation became unendurable, MacDonald resigned from the pastorate.  At this time George and Louisa were expecting their second child.

            The young family moved to Manchester. A mentor of MacDonald’s, A.J. Scott, was living in Manchester at the time.  MacDonald had difficulty finding work, and income was very scarce.  He planted his own church, but it did not grow in numbers, nor could it support his family.  MacDonald supplemented his meager income giving lectures on English literature and tutoring private students in mathematics.

            In 1855 MacDonald’s first poetic venture, a long poem entitled Within and Without, was accepted by a publisher.  It was a “vigorous search for a balance between intellectual aspiration and filial duty” within the context of marriage.[4]  The poem struck a deep note in the heart of Lady Byron, wife of the famous poet, and she became MacDonald’s patron for the remainder of her life.  In 1856 she took care of the expenses to send George and Louisa and one of their daughters to spend the winter in Algiers because of the health problems that plagued MacDonald’s lungs.  MacDonald was of a weak and delicate constitution, often suffering from such discomforts as headache, toothache, pleurisy, eczema, asthma, and bronchitis.[5]

 The MacDonalds moved to Hastings, England, in 1857, and MacDonald’s first prose, a book-length fairy tale entitled Phantastes, was published the next year.  It was not well received by the critics or the public.  In that same year, 1858, when MacDonald was 34 years old, his father died.  In 1859 the MacDonalds moved to Regents Park in London and George accepted the post of Chair of English Literature at Bedford College in London, which he held until 1867. 

           MacDonald’s first realistic novel, David Elginbrod, in which he portrayed his own father in the title role, was published in 1863.[6]  For the next 30 years he published prolifically, averaging more than a volume per year.  Over the course of his career he published 53 books, including some 30 realistic novels of several hundred pages each.  Also included were a dozen literary essays, over 400 poems, 25 short stories, and several fairy tales and fantasies.[7]  MacDonald also, having begun giving lectures during his days at Manchester,[8] often on English Literature, came to lecture extensively throughout Great Britain during his career.[9]

            The MacDonalds relocated to Hammersmith, London in 1867 where they moved into a house called The Retreat.  In that same year, George and Louisa’s eleventh and final child was born.  A year later MacDonald received from Aberdeen University the L.L.D. degree, the highest literary distinction they could confer.  In 1869 MacDonald became the editor of a magazine entitled Good Words for the Young.

         MacDonald’s novels had begun to bring him some popularity in America, and in 1872, George, Louisa, and Greville embarked on an American tour.  MacDonald’s lectures were received with great warmth, especially in the eastern states, where he was best known.  His health troubled him considerably during the tour, and several lectures had to be cancelled. MacDonald lectured most on the Scottish poet Robert Burns, and the Shakespearean tragedies of Hamlet and Macbeth.  One of his biographers, William Raeper, notes that immediately after MacDonald’s first American lecture, “James Fields [an editor and one of the MacDonalds’ hosts] rushed up to him and clasped him by the hand, his eyes full of tears, saying that there had been nothing like it since Dickens, and Redpath [MacDonald’s lecture promoter] followed, angrily snarling, ‘…Why didn’t you say you could do this sort of thing?  We’d have got 300 dollars a lecture for you!’”[10]  One critic reported, “In the others we have known the force of great minds, but in him the glow of a great soul.”[11]  Greville MacDonald records the following response from the Boston weekly journal:  “There is something indescribable about the man which holds the audience till the last word.  It is not eloquence or poetry, nor is there any straining for effect, but it is the man’s soul that captivates.  You love the man at once….”[12]

            In 1877 the MacDonalds put on their first family performance of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.  At first it was just a means of entertaining guests, but it became of means of income when income was scarce, and the family actually went on tour.  The MacDonalds moved to Bordighera, Italy, in 1880 and lived there for the rest of their lives. 

            The MacDonalds were not strangers to loss and grief.  Tuberculosis took the lives of many of George’s family throughout his life, including four of his own children, and he even came to refer to the disease as ‘the family attendant.’[13]  The last and most difficult of these losses was the death of their eldest, Lilia Scott.  She had selflessly nursed a contagious and terminally ill friend, and just after the friend died, Lilia was diagnosed with the disease.

            MacDonald’s masterpiece, Lilith, published in 1895, was one of his final works.  It is the only one of his works about which he felt that the impulse to write it was a direct mandate from God.[14]  It is a dark fantasy in which he explores his own “dark night of the soul.”  It is indeed a powerful picture of redemption.

            MacDonald suffered a stroke in 1898 in which he lost his ability to speak.  Louisa cared for him until her death in 1902.  George followed her in 1905.

 

Major Influences

 

Clan and Religious Heritage

 

            The MacDonald clan traced its ancestry and name back to Donald the grandson of Somerlad, King of the Isles of western Scotland in the 1100s.  Through Donald’s descendent Ranald came the tribe of the MacIains, a tribe known throughout the Highlands for their bards and pipers.  It was even said that no man could truly be a MacIain of the Clanranald if he could not express himself in rhyme.[15]  It was an honor to be gifted in such a way.  Michael Phillips writes that “the clan poet…was as essential to life in the community as the priest himself, and represented the intellectual as well as the imaginative gifts of the Celtic race.  His Gaelic songs and chants could be at once tender, wild, historic, and mystical….[It was a position] of high rank in the clan and sometimes passed from one generation to the next by heredity as did that of the chieftain.”[16]  George MacDonald came into the world with the influence of such a heritage.  He had a deep love for the countryside that surrounded him, and grew up with that sensitivity to Nature and the listening ear that is characteristic of the poet.

          Scotland had been Roman Catholic until the endeavors of John Knox (1505-1572) had converted the country to the Protestantism of John Calvin.  The north of Scotland, in which was Huntly, MacDonald’s place of birth and childhood, had withstood the conversion longer than the south, but was eventually subdued.  George’s family line had in fact remained Roman Catholic until George’s grandfather Charles converted.[17]  Nearly 250 years had passed between Scotland’s conversion to Protestantism, primarily Presbyterianism, and the birth of George MacDonald.  During those years the climate of the church had grown increasingly severe and narrow.  The picture that MacDonald’s biographers paint of the religious climate of his youth is not a positive one.

 

Grandmother MacDonald

 

 George MacDonald was a thoughtful child and youth, and was of a melancholy temperament.  We can see something of this in a verse of prayer he would later write:

Me thou hast given an infinite unrest,

A hunger—not at first after known good,

But something vague I knew not, and yet would—

The veiled Isis, thy will not understood;

A conscience tossing ever in my breast;

And something deeper, that will not be expressed,

Save as the Spirit thinking in the Spirit’s brood.[18]      

           The religious climate that permeated his homeland with its severe Calvinism planted seeds of distress and confusion in the sensitive child.  One of the largest influences of this kind was George’s paternal grandmother, Isabella MacDonald.  George was the second of six brothers (only four of whom survived to adulthood) and their mother had died of tuberculosis when George was only eight years old.  Isabella lived in a house adjoining the MacDonald’s home (with an adjoining door between the two houses) and, being of an unusually strong temperament, surely exerted her influence quite purposely over the family.  Though her intentions were not evil (in fact, in her own eyes, they were the very picture of godliness), the extreme religious zeal that characterized her entire life was misguided.

The foundation of Isabella’s theology, and indeed the theology being imbibed by most of Scotland, was the wrath of God.  Escape from hell was the fundamental motivation for everything.  Sermons played heavily on the parishioners’ sense of fear and guilt, for God was watching to see where men went wrong and rejoiced to reveal his justice and power by condemning them.  The God Isabella worshipped was to be understood primarily in the context of anger toward sinners and punishing them for their sins.  This view of God of course affected her own outlook toward herself and others.  She was severe, given to offense, and devoted to correcting the wrongs she saw in those under her authority and influence.  C. S. Lewis describes her as “a truly terrible old woman.”[19]  At one point she burned a cherished violin belonging to one of her sons because she saw the instrument as a snare of the devil.[20]  Isabella was undoubtedly the catalyst through which MacDonald’s family had come into the Calvinist tradition.  Until the decision of MacDonald’s grandfather Charles to convert to Presbyterianism (which he did under the influence of his new bride Isabella), MacDonald’s ancestry had been Roman Catholic.  Isabella was intensely opposed to Catholicism and burned the MacDonald family records because they were Catholic, to the great regret of her descendents, who could not now prove their descent beyond her father-in-law.[21]

           MacDonald portrayed his grandmother in the character of Mrs. Falconer in his novel Robert Falconer.  We can see his own struggle in the following passage:

 

There was no escaping her.  She was the all seeing eye personified—the eye of God of the theologians of his country, always searching out the evil and refusing to acknowledge the good.  Yet so gentle and faithful was the heart of Robert that he never thought of her as cruel.  He took it for granted that somehow or other she must be right.  Only what a terrible thing such righteousness was![22]

           Like Robert, the tenderhearted young MacDonald did not consider his grandmother cruel.  He respected her devotion to her beliefs, and though her beliefs stirred up a troublesome storm of apprehensions in him, he nonetheless feared that in the end, the terrors aroused in his heart would be revealed to be true.  Not until years later was MacDonald mature enough to discern the error that mingled itself with religion in his grandmother’s heart.  In one of his novels he wrote insightfully: “There are centuries of paganism yet in many lovely Christian souls—paganism so deep, therefore so little recognized, that their earnest endeavor is to plant that paganism ineradicably in the hearts of those dearest to them.”[23]  This was surely the case with Isabella MacDonald.

 

Rev. Colin Stewart

 

            The struggle that formed in the heart of young George MacDonald was further aggravated by the influence of his first schoolteacher, Rev. Colin Stewart.  There were two schools in Huntly when George was a boy.  One was connected with the Parish Church, which was Presbyterian, and the other, called the “Adventure School,” with the Missionary Church, which was Congregational.  Rev. Stewart, a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, taught at the Adventure School, which young George and his brothers attended.       

MacDonald saw a different side of the Calvinist God through Rev. Stewart than he had through his grandmother.  Though his grandmother was stern, she was not cruel.  In his schoolmaster young George met the cruelest man he had ever known.  Like Isabella MacDonald, though, Rev. Stewart also saw his behavior as being in the likeness of the God he served. 

            The school curriculum included Greek, Latin, and Math.  Saturday mornings were set aside for learning the Shorter Catechism.  If the memory work had been done and recited correctly, the children would be set free at noon, but if it was not correct, students would be kept in to spend the afternoon studying the catechism.  The penalty to a student for stumbling in a reading or answering a question incorrectly was as physically painful as it was humiliating.  MacDonald portrayed Rev. Stewart in the character of Murdoch Malison in his novel Alec Forbes of Howglen.  Malison, about which MacDonald’s son Greville later affirmed that “the character, almost incredible to us, was not overdrawn,”[24] wielded an instrument called the tawse, which was a leather whip that “had been prepared by steeping in brine, cut into fingers at one end and then hardened in the fire.”[25]  William Raeper reports that “once Stewart imprisoned nineteen boys for failing to learn their Shorter Catechism and forgot to come back for them—so they let themselves out by escaping through the classroom window.  On the following Monday he flogged them all till the strap was covered with blood—so covered that he had to send little James Spence out to wash it.”[26]  MacDonald and his fellow students believed that the death of James MacDonald, George’s younger brother, who died at the age of eight, was due to the cruelty of Colin Stewart.[27]       

            In MacDonald’s view, Stewart’s behavior was completely in line with the Scottish Calvinism of his day.  MacDonald writes in Alec Forbes:

 

There could not be found a more thorough impersonation of his own theology than a Scottish schoolmaster of the rough, old-fashioned type.  His pleasure was law, irrespective of right or wrong.  He had his favorite students in various degrees, whom he chose according to inexplicable directions of feeling.  These found it easy to please him, while those with whom he was not primarily pleased found it impossible to please him.[28] 

           Of course the schoolmaster’s cruelty and arbitrary favor confused the young MacDonald.  Was God really like Rev. Stewart?  Could it be that Rev. Stewart was the model of God’s elect?  The inner storms continued to gather in MacDonald because of the influence of Rev. Stewart, and perhaps he had the same experience during such impressionable childhood years as did his character Annie Anderson, for whom “Murdoch Malison became for a time inseparably associated with her idea of God.”[29]  Fortunately in 1835, when MacDonald was ten or eleven, Rev. Stewart moved to Australia and was replaced by a kind man, Alexander Millar, who was a recent graduate and only twenty years old at the time.  MacDonald began to thrive under his teaching and was soon tutoring his classmates.[30] 

 

George MacDonald, Sr.

 

In spite of the confusing religious influences, MacDonald’s childhood was essentially a happy one.  The stabilizing element was his father, George Sr.  The very presence and person of his father brought equilibrium to the growing youth.  George Sr. was well loved and respected in the community.  Greville MacDonald relates that it was said about his grandfather that “he was as fine a man as might be seen in four parishes.”[31]  He was in general a quiet man, putting his faith into action more than into words.  He was a tall man, and regarded as quite handsome.  MacDonald describes him in the title character of his novel David Elginbrod:

His carriage was full of rustic dignity, and a certain rustic refinement; his voice was wonderfully gentle, but deep; and slowest when most impassioned.  He seemed to have come of some gigantic antediluvian breed: there was something of the Titan slumbering about him.  He would have been a stern man, but for an unusual amount of reverence that seemed to overflood the sternness and change it into strong love.[32]

 

  George Sr. was the farthest thing from a tyrant, yet he had complete command of his growing sons.  His grandson Greville writes about the upbringing of his father and uncles, “Sufficient discipline ruled the home.  A look of displeasure from the beloved father was punishment for any sin, while his rebuke was awful indeed.  Any complaints against their wild escapades, unless involving disobedience, he would smile at, though he might warn and restrict.”[33]  George Sr. was a man of great strength and fortitude[34] and also possessed a disarming sense of humor.  It was to his father that the young boy and growing youth would turned for help and company as he wrestled with questions about the nature of God and Christian faith.  It is not an insignificant detail that MacDonald’s theology centers around the fatherhood of God.  This fact represents a great struggle and baptism in MacDonald’s religious and intellectual life—the crossing over from a primarily legal approach to salvation into a familial approach.  In his Unspoken Sermons he writes, “The refusal to look up to God as our Father is the one central wrong in the whole human affair; the inability, the one central misery:  whatever serves to clear any difficulty from the way of the recognition of the Father, will more or less undermine every difficulty in life.”[35]  MacDonald had experienced this for himself.  Lewis’s assessment is that MacDonald enjoyed an almost perfect relationship with his father.[36]  This relationship with his earthly father did more to shape MacDonald’s understanding of the character and nature of God than did his grandmother or schoolmaster, or “that monstrosity of a monarch”[37] that he heard preached from the pulpit.  His father was the one in whom young George could confide and to whom he could tell anything.  He felt a sense of complete security with him.  Throughout his life, MacDonald wrote fairly often to his father whenever the two were apart.  Of his preserved letters, the earliest to his father was when he was but nine years of age, and the last was just months before his father’s death in 1859.  Through these letters we catch a glimpse into the intimacy of this father-son relationship. They shared with each other the most mundane details and the most profound questions and insights.  This excerpt of a letter from George Sr. to his son gives a taste for the kind of exchange of ideas they shared:

Your long letter yesterday gave me something of a variety to think about which pleased me, notwithstanding that part of it was rather too philosophical for the case of my mind; but in so far as I am able to see, the views of both of us are very much alike….Like you, I cannot by any means give in to the extreme points either of Calvinism or Arminianism, nor can I bear to see that which is evidently gospel mystery torn to pieces by those who believe there is no mystery in the scriptures and therefore attempt to explain away what it is evidently for the honor of God to conceal.  I see so much mystery in nature, and so much of it in myself, that it would be proof to my mind that the scriptures were not from God were there nothing in them beyond the grasp of my own mind.  As to the responsibility of man and his power of choice, I think there can be no doubt.[38]

Another glimpse of George’s relationship with his father can be seen in the following passage of a letter from George to his wife, Louise  (the long beard he wore being no more fashionable in his day than in our own):

 

My uncle offered me a guinea for my moustache tonight, seriously though funnily.  If he knew how bitterly hurt his own son was at his compelling him to shave, he would not have risked it.  If fathers knew how liberality makes their sons love them, they would exercise it oftener.  But my noble old father told me that for his part I might let it grow till I stuffed it in my trousers![39]

             From such a relationship with his father, George gained not only earthly comforts, but also theological treasures.  To the question “What is God like?” the joyful answer eventually dawned, “He is your Father.”  From such a model as he had, MacDonald learned to be an admirable father to his own children.  One of his daughters, Mary, once wrote to him as a teenager while he was on a lecture tour.  She was troubled spiritually because she did not feel a love for God, and she wanted to know how she might love Him better.  MacDonald wrote back to her with tender and wise counsel, closing the letter with these words: “I am very glad you asked me, my child.  Ask me anything you like, and I will try to answer you if I know the answer.  For this is one of the most important things I have to do in the world.”[40]  Surely it was from his own father that MacDonald learned this.  In later years George Jr. would pen the following words about the father who had laid such an important foundation for him:

           Thou has been faithful to my highest need;

             And I, thy debtor, ever, evermore,

             Shall never feel the grateful burden sore.

            Yet most I thank thee, not for any deed,

             But for the sense thy living self did breed,

Of fatherhood still at the great world’s core.[41]

 

Continued on Page 2


[1] C.S. Lewis, preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology, comp. C. S. Lewis (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1947), xxxii.

[2] Of particular help in this brief biography have been the “Significant Dates and Events” listings offered in Glenn Edward Sadler, ed., An Expression of Character: The Letters of George MacDonald (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), 4, 48, 141, 186, 267, 334. 

[3] Michael Phillips, George MacDonald: Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1987), 46, quoting C. Edward Troup, “Notes on George MacDonald’s Boyhood in Huntly,” The Deeside Field (Aberdeen, date unknown), 63.

[4] Glenn Edward Sadler, “The Fantastic Imagination in George MacDonald,” in Imagination and the Spirit: Essays in Literature and the Christian Faith presented to Clyde S. Kilby, ed. Charles A. Huttar (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 224.

[5] Rolland Hein, “George MacDonald: A Portrait from His Letters,” Seven 7 (1986): 10.

[6] MacDonald based much of his writing on people and places that he knew.  His novels are highly autobiographical.  In fact, it was his wish that no biography would be written about his life because he felt that his books contained all he had to say to the world, and the rest was insignificant. 

[7] Michael Phillips, introduction to George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, comp. Michael Phillips (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1990), 11.

[8] Kathy Triggs, The Stars and the Stillness (Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 1986), 54. 

[9] William Raeper, George MacDonald (Tring, England: Lion Publishing, 1987), 285.

[10] Ibid., 291.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Greville MacDonald, George MacDonald and His Wife (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1924; reprint, Whitethorn, CA: Johannesen, 1998), 436 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

[13] Ibid., 25.

[14] Ibid., 364.

[15] Phillips, Storyteller, 22.

[16] Ibid., 21.

[17] Charles married the zealously Protestant Isabella Robertson of Huntly, and most likely converted as a result of her influence.  Triggs, Stars and Stillness, 3. 

[18] George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul: 366 Writings for Devotional Reflection, Augsburg Fortess ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1994), 65.

[19] C.S. Lewis, preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology, comp. C. S. Lewis (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1947), xxiii.

[20] Triggs, Stars and Stillness, 4. 

[21] Ibid.

[22] George MacDonald, The Musician’s Quest, ed. Michael Phillips (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1984), 115.

[23] George MacDonald, The Highlander’s Last Song, ed. Michael Phillips (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1986), 77, quoted in George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, comp. arr., ed. Michael Phillips (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1990), 142.

[24] Greville MacDonald, MacDonald and Wife, 60.

[25] George MacDonald, The Maiden’s Bequest, ed. Michael Phillips (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), 37.

[26] Raeper, George MacDonald, 30.

[27] Ibid.

[28] MacDonald, Maiden’s Bequest, 102.

[29] Ibid., 104.

[30] Raeper, George MacDonald, 31.

[31] Greville MacDonald, MacDonald and Wife, 30.

[32] George MacDonald, David Elginbrod, vol. 1 (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1863), 160-161, quoted by Raeper, George MacDonald, 22.

[33] Greville MacDonald, MacDonald and Wife, 54.

[34] One of the most remarkable stories about him is that in 1825, within a year of the birth of George Jr., George Sr. had to have his left leg amputated above the knee because he had tuberculosis in his knee, which he had been fighting for a few years.  It was then before the days of chloroform, but George Sr. refused “the customary stupefying dose of whisky.”  He even refused to have his face covered, because he wanted to watch the operation.  Greville relates the surgeon’s testimony that “only for one moment, when the knife first transfixed the flesh, did he turn his face away and ejaculate a faint, sibilant ‘whiff!’” Ibid., 34.

[35] George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Series II (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1885; reprinted in Unspoken Sermons, Series I, II, III in One Volume, Whitethorn, CA: Johannesen, 1999), 276 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

[36] Lewis, preface to MacDonald Anthology, xxi.

[37] George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Series I (London: Alexander Strahan, 1867, reprinted in Unspoken Sermons, Series I, II, III in One Volume, Whitethorn, CA: Johannesen, 1999), 15 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

[38] An Expression of Character: The Letters of George MacDonald, ed. Glenn Edward Sadler (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), 34.

[39] Ibid., 91.

[40] Ibid., 171, also quoted in Rolland Hein, “George MacDonald: A Portrait from His Letters,” Seven 7 (1986): 13.

[41] George MacDonald, The Poetical Works of George MacDonald, vol. 1 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1893), 134, quoted by Triggs, Stars and Stillness, 10.