Biography of George MacDonald
Fiction by George MacDonald
Books Related to George MacDonald and His Works
Web Sites Related to George MacDonald and His Works
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George MacDonald was born in 1824 in Huntly, a town in the Northeast of Scotland, Northwest from Aberdeen. His family had, in the recent past, been quite prosperous, running a linen mill, thread-spinning and bleaching works, and a bank, however, various factors, including increasing competition from mills in the South of Scotland, technological change, and a flood in the town, devastated the family fortune, and George was to know poverty for most of his life. His grandmother and schoolmaster tried to inculcate their extreme flavour of Scottish Calvinism, but, like many in the mid-19th century, MacDonald rejected this school of thought. (Although he did not, as so many others of the time did, either reject Christianity or start his own religion.) At the age of 15, he went to Aberdeen to attend King's College, where he worked his way through school, graduating with a Master of Arts in 1845. He moved to London to take up a tutoring position, and while there, he met Louisa Powell, whom he married in 1851. In 1848, MacDonald decided that he should go into the ministry, and began study at Highbury College in London, graduating in 1850. After graduation, he was called to Trinity Congregational Chapel in Arundel, near Brighton. However, he had barely begun work before being felled by a near-fatal bout of tuberculosis, a scourge which which stalked his whole family during his lifetime, striking parents, siblings, and children.
Nevertheless, it was MacDonald's unorthodox views which brought his ministry at Arundel to an end. His first publication, a translation of 12 spiritual songs by a German mystic known as Novalis, gained him respect in literary circles, but caused some to doubt MacDonald's faithfulness to proper Calvinist doctrine. In 1853, MacDonald resigned the pastorate in Arundel, and moved North to try his luck in Manchester. He made ends meet through tutoring, supply preaching, writing for magazines, tutoring, and giving lectures in a rented room. In 1855, his narrative poem Within and Without was published to great critical acclaim, beginning his literary career in earnest. However, in that same year, he was nearly killed by another bout of tuberculosis. Fortunately, Lady Byron had been impressed by his poem, and offered to pay his way to winter in Algiers, setting up a pattern of migration which prolonged his life considerably past others of his family. In 1857, MacDonald followed up with a volume of poems, and then in 1858, he published Phantastes, the first of his fantasies.
MacDonald's popularity began to grow, until he was outselling contemporaries such at Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens, however, much of the sales of his works were "pirated" editions, and even the publishers who did pay him royalties paid flat fees, rather than a percentage, so he did not reap the fruits of his popularity. Even a lecture tour of the United States at the height of his popularity barely paid his costs. Still, though assorted ventures and the generosity of friends and admirers, George and Louisa managed to maintain and extensive household. (They had enough children to form their own theatre troupe, although several of the children predeceased them.) George suffered a stroke in 1899 which robbed him of his ability to speak and write. Louisa died in 1902, and George died on September 18th, 1905.
NOTE: MacDonald published dozens of books during his lifetime. This list includes only his fantastic works.
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