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Recommended Reads: George MacDonald

Written by Chris Routledge, 8th January 2008

Mary Weston manages the Merseycare Reads Project, teaches in Continuing Education, works as a counsellor, runs open house for asylum seekers, failing relatives and homeless teenagers, exercises a bordercollie, stage mothers, sings mezzo-soprano and writes fiction.

George MacDonald

I’m not sure it’s fair to recommend books that are out of print, especially if they are so old and unpopular you would need access to a university library to find them [Yes it is, Ed.], but if you can get hold of anything by George MacDonald, they are worth looking at, especially if you read for moral and psychological wisdom, and are prepared not to be too finicky about style.

There are fairy tales for children (The Princess and the Goblin, At the Back of the North Wind) and for adults (Phantastes, Lilith), and then there are a number of very long, more or less realistic novels, which I started exploring last year. Robert Falconer has been my favourite so far. But here are some quotes from Sir Gibbie, which have some relevance for Get into Reading and The Reader organisation:

How much Gibbie even then understood of the lovely eerie old ballad, it is impossible for me to say. ... Certainly it was the beginning of much. But the waking up of a human soul to know itself in the mirror of its thoughts and feelings, its loves and delights, oppresses me with so heavy a sense of marvel and inexplicable mystery, that when I imagine myself such as Gibbie was at the hour before he heard the ballad, I cannot imagine myself coming awake....When by slow filmy unveilings, life grew clearer to Gibbie, and he not only knew, but knew that he knew, his thoughts always went back to that day in the meadow with Donal Grant as the beginning of his knowledge of beautiful things in the world of man.

It is a ruinous misjudgement? Too contemptible to be asserted, but not too contemptible to be acted on, that the end of poetry is publication. Its true end is to help first the man who makes it along the path to the truth: help for other people may or may not be in it; that, if it become a question at all, must be an after one. To the man who has it, the gift is invaluable; and, in proportion it helps him to be a better man, it is of value to the whole world; but it may, in itself, be so nearly worthless, that the publishing of it would be more for harm than good. Ask any one who has had to perform the unenviable duty of editor to a magazine: he will corroborate what I say? That the quantity of verse good enough to be its own reward, but without the smallest claim to be uttered to the world, is enormous.

George MacDonald has quite a following online. This site is one of the oldest, while Victorian Web is impressive as always. There is also the George MacDonald Society.

By Mary Weston

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