The Vision Began To Bring George MacDonald Back Into Print
by Michael Phillips
from the Preface to the 1982 edition of The Fisherman's Lady
It was with great interest that I procured a copy
of The Marquis Secret…Naturally it
is with great delight that myself and the members
of the Society greet any re-issue of a GMD book…I
would of course be interested to know of any future
plans that you have for out of print MacDonald books.
I hasten to add my grateful thanks for your literary
Phil Streeter, Chairman
I first heard of George MacDonald ten or twelve years ago when
a friend read me the following quote from an old out-of-print
book he was reading: "Anyone who has enjoyed the writings of
C.S. Lewis will quite naturally want to move on eventually to
My first reaction was very near shock.
"How dare she say - even hint! - that anyone
can compare with C.S. Lewis?" I said to myself. "Not to mention
the implication that this MacDonald, whoever he is, could have
produced writings beyond his; why, the thing's preposterous!"
I was a totally committed C.S. Lewis devotee - still am! I was
jealous of any insinuation threatening Lewis's position in my
mind as the greatest writer of all time. And to say you could
"move on" from Lewis to someone else - implying Lewis to be
the lightweight, MacDonald the heavyweight - that was a premise
I could never allow, no matter who MacDonald was!
Yet somehow I couldn't get that quote out of my head.
And eventually I had to find out who George MacDonald was and
what he had written.
When I found MacDonald's two Princess and Curdie fairy
tales in our local library, my Narnian appetite for top-notch
fairy stories coupled with Christian allegory was quite naturally
aroused. And upon completion I did have to admit, "Hmm, these
are pretty good - a definite addition to the Narnian tradition."
“My good friend DP has forwarded your letter
to me and requested that I send it along to Dr.
Lyle Dorsett, Curator of the Marion E. Wade Collection,
Wheaton College, My successor in that position.
I am pleased to do so.
As for myself, I continue to have a real interest
in your work and should be glad to go on your mailing
list…I do believe that MacDonald is undergoing
a ‘revival’ just now and am glad for
—Clyde S. Kilby, 1984
I continued to seek out other MacDonald works, for by now I
could see that he held definite promise. I found Gibbie
and North Wind and enjoyed them as well. I was discovering
in MacDonald the very thing that had always made Lewis so special
- the ability to include insightful principles and profound
wisdom in a top-flight, well-written, compelling story. And
MacDonald seemed to share Lewis's wide-ranging gifts and abilities
as a writer. He was not limited to one or two particular styles
or genres. I found adult fantasies, children's fantasies, adult
novels, children's novels, realism, allegory, short stories,
daily devotions, poetry, sermons, essays, translations and history.
And in whatever he did I sensed the same wisdom coming forth,
the same penetrating spiritual perception concerning intensely
It was a pleasure meeting you…you are doing
an important work. I pray God will bless these efforts,
that more people will read MacDonald, and that ultimately
people will know our Savior.
—Lyle Dorsett, Curator
The Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton.
After reading the few MacDonald's I could find, my curiosity
was kindled to learn what I could about the man. And what should
I discover first but that he had been Lewis's favorite author!
He was to C.S. Lewis what Lewis had always been to me. So highly
did Lewis feel indebted to him, in fact, that he compiled an
anthology of selections from MacDonald's works, in the forward
of which he made the statement: "I have never concealed the
fact that I regarded him as my master." And, indeed, wherever
I went in the writings of Lewis from that time on, I began to
find hints of this very thing: His letters often mention various
MacDonald books he was reading at the time. In his autobiography,
Surprised by Joy, Lewis credits MacDonald's Phantastes
with starting him on the road toward conversion to Christianity,
and in The Great Divorce Lewis has MacDonald act as his
guide through heaven. I wondered how I could have missed all
Clearly, though MacDonald had been dead for three quarters
of a century, he was nevertheless a literary force to be reckoned
with; his books seemed to have a profound influence wherever
they were read. Yet as I began to delve more deeply into the
life of this nineteenth-century Scotsman, I quickly discovered
that though he had written over fifty volumes, less than ten
were currently in print or available.
So I began a long search - through old bookstores dealing
in used books, out-of-print search services, obtaining copies
from other loyal fans - and gradually unearthed many more of
MacDonald's books which I had not read. What I discovered was
that his most common form of writing was the lengthy Victorian
novel, much like those of his friend and contemporary Charles
Dickens. Though none of his full-length adult fiction was then
in print, it had been by far MacDonald's most frequently used
who likes MacDonald owes you, Mr. Phillips, some
thanks. Through your edited versions he has become
my favorite author.”
And as I began to read these novels, something very similar
to the aura surrounding the Narnian tales settled upon me. But
it was different. I was transported, not to a make-believe fairy
world, but to the solid reality of Scotland, where the raw force
and beauty of nature - the peat moors, the rugged seascape,
the high mountains, the icy streams - and the simple, strong
and passionate natures of the Scottish people of MacDonald's
creation captured my heart and fancy just as thoroughly as had
the talking beasts, the green meadows and the ocean's warm salt
spray of Aslan's Narnia.
books will assuredly be read yet again when the
world has grown wise enough to appreciate their
writer’s singleness of vision and the open
road between him and God.”
—Greville MacDonald, 1924
Great writers have the gift of creating a world in the imagination
of their readers. Tolkien has given us middle earth; for his
readers Lewis brought Narnia, Malacandra and Perelandra to life.
MacDonald's contribution is a Scotland where the heroes are
as real and captivating as Sam, Frodo, Caspian or Lucy. Who
could meet David Elginbrod, wee Sir Gibbie, Donal Grant's mentor
- old Andrew, or the piper Duncan and be the same afterward?
Because the fairy-tale allegory is in such high vogue today
is no reason to overlook the traditional novel as being able
to yield equal fruit in the imagination. For though MacDonald's
created world is solid and real - an actual place - it is nonetheless
powerful to move our hearts and change our lives. Surely his
heavy impact on the writing and ideas and created worlds of
Tolkien and Lewis and others speaks for itself.
were hooked on George MacDonald. I could not understand
how I ever missed him all these years…Like
a breath of fresh air, so full of nuggets of wisdom,
so rich in spiritual lessons and insights.”
It is my hope to introduce you to the world of George MacDonald's
fiction. This is, in my opinion, one of MacDonald's most pleasurable
novels. It is a thriller in every sense of the word. Yet, as
you will see, it contains far more than mere plot.
I can truthfully say that if you enjoy fiction, and
especially if you enjoy the writings of C.S. Lewis, you will
want to move on to George MacDonald - not because MacDonald
is necessarily better than Lewis, but because he offers more
of the same. What is great in Lewis is also great in MacDonald.
Snuggle up cozily to a warm fire, let your mind drift
off across the miles to MacDonald's homeland, and allow that
man of wisdom and spinner of yarns to envelope you in his tale.
I hope you enjoy your journey into MacDonald's world as much
as I have!
RELEASE, JUNE 1999
BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS AUTHOR NEWS
House Publishers is pleased to announce that sales for their
books by Michael Phillips have reached the four million books
mark. A multi-talented author with a particular involvement
in the history and legends of Scotland and the British Isles,
Phillips is well known for his layered plots, his compelling
characterization, and the unique spiritual aspects that he brings
to all of his works.
from original myths in the tradition of C.S. Lewis-The Garden
at the Edge of Beyond-to historical fiction in the tradition
of George MacDonald, Phillips has written or co-authored over
twenty books including the popular historical fiction series,
"The Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall" and "The Stonewycke Trilogy"
and "The Stonewycke Legacy." He is also the biographer of George
MacDonald and the editor of "The George MacDonald Classics"
series. His most recent work includes a new historical series,
"Caledonia," which traces the ancient heritage and history of
his beloved Scotland. We congratulate him for this fine achievement
and thank all of the readers who have immersed themselves in
the worlds he has created.