Macdonald, George, 1824-1905

Alternative names
Birth 1824-12-10
Death 1905-09-18

Biographical notes:

MacDonald was British poet and novelist.

From the guide to the George MacDonald papers, ca. 1851-1905., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

MacDonald was a British poet and novelist.

From the description of George MacDonald papers, ca. 1851-1905. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 612373115

This Scottish children's author and novelist was the son of a weaver who attended Aberdeen University before training as a Congregational minister. His stories "At the Back of the North Wind" and "The Princess and Curdie," demonstrate a blend of Christian symbolism and mystical imagination.

From the description of Correspondence and Manuscript, 1863-1893. (Temple University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 122468154

George MacDonald, Scottish-born minister and writer, was the author of a large number of popular regional novels, children's books, and poetry collections.

From the description of George MacDonald Collection, (1822-1946). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702132895

George MacDonald--poet, novelist, fantasy writer, and minister--was born in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on December 10, 1824, one of six children of George and Helen Mackay MacDonald. Educated locally, MacDonald attended King's College, Aberdeen, taking his M. A. degree in 1845. Brought up in a strict Calvinist environment, MacDonald, after a brief stint as a tutor, prepared for the ministry, attending Highbury Theological college in 1848 and accepting a ministerial post at Trinity Congregational Church at Arundel in 1850.

In 1851 he married Louisa Powell, and the next year the first of their eleven children was born. MacDonald's first real publication was a privately printed translation of Twelve of the Spiritual Songs of Novalis, distributed only to close friends. After resigning his position at Arundel and moving to Manchester in 1853, tutoring and giving lectures on English literature to pay for room and board, he turned increasingly to writing. After contributing poems, articles, and brief stories to the Monthly Christian Spectator, he achieved his first publishing success in 1855 with the appearance of Within and Without, a long dramatic poem in blank verse with the strong religious overtones that were to characterize all of his subsequent publications.

Although he never held another full-time pastorate after his post at Arundel, MacDonald remained active in the ministry for the rest of his life, preaching sermons on call as an independent to a wide audience. Except for a brief position as a lecturer in literature at Bedford College in London (1859) and a short term as editor of Good Words for the Young (1869-1872), a popular juvenile publication, he was forced to depend on his writings and his lecture tours for income to support his large family. Never in good health, MacDonald faced a continuous series of afflictions that impeded his productivity and his ability to support his family, although he managed to publish some fifty works of poetry, fantasy fiction, tales of simple Scottish life, essays, sermons, and children's books.

MacDonald's reputation as a writer and a speaker earned him the admiration and patronage of Lady Noel Byron, sister of the poet, and gained him a profitable American lecture tour in 1872, where he met and became friends with most of the famous literati in the country, especially the editor and poet Richard Watson Gilder.

Constantly plagued by health and money problems (even after being awarded a Civil List Pension by Queen Victoria in 1877), MacDonald was often forced to relocate his family to take advantage of good climate and whatever economic opportunities were present; thus the family moved from Manchester to Hastings (1857), to London (1859), to Hammersmith (1867), to Bournemouth (1875), and finally to Bordighera, Italy (1880), a move necessitated by the poor health of MacDonald and several of his children. By 1877 the family found it necessary to help meet expenses by presenting amateur theatrics to a paying audience, an activity that eventually involved the whole family and several neighbors.

George MacDonald has retained some reputation as an author of fantasy fiction and annals of Scottish life. Most popular among his novels and fantasy stories are Phantastes (1858), David Elginbrod (1863), Robert Falconer (1868), At the Back of the North Wind (1871), The Princess and the Goblin (1872), Sir Gibbie (1879), and Lilith (1895). He has been credited with influencing the work of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and other modern practicers of fantasy.

After suffering a serious stroke in 1898 that incapacitated him both mentally and physically, MacDonald needed constant care. He died on September 18, 1905 at age 80 and was buried at Bordighera.

From the guide to the George MacDonald Collection, (1822-1946), (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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  • Family--Religious life--19th century
  • Amateur plays
  • Religious fiction
  • Children's literature
  • Poetry, Modern--19th century
  • Religious poetry
  • Spiritual life
  • Preaching
  • Sermons
  • English poetry--19th century
  • Scottish literature--19th century
  • Religion in literature
  • English fiction--Scottish authors
  • English literature--19th century
  • Religious thought--19th century
  • Fiction--19th century
  • English literature--Illustrations
  • Scottish fiction
  • Essays
  • Fantasy fiction, English


  • Authors--Great Britain
  • Poets--Great Britain
  • Collector
  • Novelists--Great Britain
  • Priests--Great Britain


  • Scotland (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Scotland (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Italy (as recorded)
  • Italy (as recorded)
  • Bordighera (Italy) (as recorded)
  • Scotland (as recorded)
  • Bordighera (Italy) (as recorded)