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George MacDonald in the 1860s
10 December 1824|
Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
|Died||18 September 1905
Ashtead, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Minister, writer (poet, novelist)|
|Notable works||Lilith, Phantastes, David Elginbrod, The Princess and the Goblin, At the Back of the North Wind|
George MacDonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905) was a Scottish author, poet and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors, including W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit and Madeleine L'Engle. C. S. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master": "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later", said Lewis, "I knew that I had crossed a great frontier." G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had "made a difference to my whole existence".
Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie, "It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling."
Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by him. Christian author Oswald Chambers wrote in his Christian Disciplines that "it is a striking indication of the trend and shallowness of the modern reading public that George MacDonald's books have been so neglected".
In addition to his fairy tales, MacDonald wrote several works on Christian apologetics.
George MacDonald was born on 10 December 1824 at Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. His father, a farmer, was one of the MacDonalds of Glen Coe, and a direct descendant of one of the families that suffered in the massacre of 1692.
MacDonald grew up in an unusually literate environment: one of his maternal uncles was a notable Celtic scholar, editor of the Gaelic Highland Dictionary and collector of fairy tales and Celtic poetry. His paternal grandfather had supported the publication of an Ossian edition, the controversial Celtic text believed by some to have contributed to the starting of European Romanticism. MacDonald’s step-uncle was a Shakespeare scholar, and his paternal cousin another Celtic academic. Both his parents were readers, his father harbouring predilections for Newton, Burns, Cowper, Chalmers, Coleridge and Darwin, to quote a few, while his mother had received a classical education which included multiple languages.
MacDonald grew up in the Congregational Church, with an atmosphere of Calvinism. However, his family was atypical, with his paternal grandfather a Catholic-born, fiddle-playing, Presbyterian elder; his paternal grandmother an Independent church rebel; his mother was a sister to the Gallic-speaking radical who became moderator of the disrupting Free Church, while his step-mother, to whom he was also very close, was the daughter of a Scottish Episcopalian priest.
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MacDonald was appointed minister of Trinity Congregational Church, Arundel, in 1850, but his sermons—which preached God's universal love and the possibility that none would, ultimately, fail to unite with God—met with little favour and his salary was cut in half. Later he was engaged in ministerial work in Manchester, leaving that because of poor health. After a short sojourn in Algiers, he settled in London and taught for some time at the University of London. MacDonald was also for a time editor of Good Words for the Young.
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George MacDonald's best-known works are Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, At the Back of the North Wind, and Lilith, all fantasy novels, and fairy tales such as "The Light Princess", "The Golden Key", and "The Wise Woman". "I write, not for children," he wrote, "but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five."[full citation needed] MacDonald also published some volumes of sermons, the pulpit not having proved an unreservedly successful venue.
He would go on, after his literary success, to do a lecture tour to significant acclaim, in the United States, in 1872–1873.
MacDonald served as a mentor to Lewis Carroll (the pen-name of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson); it was MacDonald's advice, and the enthusiastic reception of Alice by MacDonald's many sons and daughters, that convinced Carroll to submit Alice for publication. Carroll, one of the finest Victorian photographers, also created photographic portraits of several of the MacDonald children. MacDonald was also friends with John Ruskin, and served as a go-between in Ruskin's long courtship with Rose La Touche. While in America he was befriended by Longfellow and Walt Whitman.
As hinted above, MacDonald's use of fantasy as a literary medium for exploring the human condition greatly influenced a generation of notable authors, including C. S. Lewis, who featured him as a character in his The Great Divorce. In his introduction to his MacDonald anthology, C. S. Lewis speaks highly of MacDonald's views:[when?][full citation needed]
This collection, as I have said, was designed not to revive MacDonald's literary reputation but to spread his religious teaching. Hence most of my extracts are taken from the three volumes of Unspoken Sermons. My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help—sometimes indispensable help toward the very acceptance of the Christian faith. ...
I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continually close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself. Hence his Christ-like union of tenderness and severity. Nowhere else outside the New Testament have I found terror and comfort so intertwined. ...
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.[page needed]
Others he influenced include J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L'Engle. MacDonald's non-fantasy novels, such as Alec Forbes, had their influence as well; they were among the first realistic Scottish novels, and as such MacDonald has been credited with founding the "kailyard school" of Scottish writing.
In 2016 Phantastes was retold in modern English by Rev Dr Mark Worthing for the benefit of modern readers wishing to enjoy this classic work.
In 1877 he was given a civil list pension. From 1879 he and his family moved to Bordighera, in a place much loved by British expatriates, the Riviera dei Fiori in Liguria, Italy, almost on the French border. In that locality there also was an Anglican church, which he attended. Deeply enamoured of the Riviera, he spent 20 years there, writing almost half of his whole literary production, especially the fantasy work. MacDonald founded a literary studio in that Ligurian town, naming it Casa Coraggio (Bravery House). It soon became one of the most renowned cultural centres of that period, well attended by British and Italian travellers, and by locals, with presentations of classic plays and readings of Dante and Shakespeare often being held.
Personal life, and death
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MacDonald married Louisa Powell in Hackney in 1851, and had eleven of a family: Lilia Scott (1852), Mary Josephine (1853), Caroline Grace (1854), Greville Matheson (1856-1944), Irene (1857), Winifred Louise (1858), Ronald (1860-1933), Robert Falconer (1862-1913), Maurice (1864), Bernard Powell (1865-1928), and George Mackay (1867-1909?).
His son Greville became a noted medical specialist, a pioneer of the Peasant Arts movement, wrote numerous fairy tales for children, and ensured that new editions of his father's works were published. Another son, Ronald, became a novelist.[full citation needed] His daughter Mary was engaged to the artist Edward Robert Hughes until her death in 1878. Ronald's son, Philip MacDonald (George MacDonald's grandson), became a Hollywood screenwriter.
George MacDonald died on 18 September 1905 in Ashtead, (Surrey). He was cremated, and his ashes buried in Bordighera, in the English cemetery, along with his wife Louisa and daughters Lilia and Grace.
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MacDonald appears to have never felt comfortable with some aspects of Calvinist doctrine, feeling that its principles were inherently "unfair"; when the doctrine of predestination was first explained to him, he burst into tears (although assured that he was one of the elect). Later novels, such as Robert Falconer and Lilith, show a distaste for the idea that God's electing love is limited to some and denied to others.
MacDonald rejected the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement as developed by John Calvin, which argues that Christ has taken the place of sinners and is punished by the wrath of God in their place, believing that in turn it raised serious questions about the character and nature of God. Instead, he taught that Christ had come to save people from their sins, and not from a Divine penalty for their sins: the problem was not the need to appease a wrathful God, but the disease of cosmic evil itself. MacDonald frequently described the Atonement in terms similar to the Christus Victor theory.[clarification needed] MacDonald posed the rhetorical question, "Did he not foil and slay evil by letting all the waves and billows of its horrid sea break upon him, go over him, and die without rebound—spend their rage, fall defeated, and cease? Verily, he made atonement!"
MacDonald was convinced that God does not punish except to amend, and that the sole end of His greatest anger is the amelioration of the guilty. As the doctor uses fire and steel in certain deep-seated diseases, so God may use hell-fire if necessary to heal the hardened sinner. MacDonald declared, "I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem his children." MacDonald posed the rhetorical question, "When we say that God is Love, do we teach men that their fear of Him is groundless?" He replied, "No. As much as they were will come upon them, possibly far more. ... The wrath will consume what they call themselves; so that the selves God made shall appear."
However, true repentance, in the sense of freely chosen moral growth, is essential to this process, and, in MacDonald's optimistic view, inevitable for all beings (see universal reconciliation). He recognised the theoretical possibility that, bathed in the eschatological divine light,[according to whom?] some might perceive right and wrong for what they are but still refuse to be transfigured by what he perceived to be the fiery operation of God's love, but he did not think this likely.
In this theology of divine punishment, MacDonald stands in opposition to Augustine of Hippo,[according to whom?] and in agreement with the Greek Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and St. Gregory of Nyssa[according to whom?]—although it is unknown whether MacDonald had a working familiarity with Patristics or Eastern Orthodox Christianity. MacDonald states his theological views most distinctly in the sermon "Justice", found in the third volume of Unspoken Sermons.[full citation needed]
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The following is a list of MacDonald's published works in the genre now referred to as fantasy:[according to whom?]
- Phantastes: A Fairie Romance for Men and Women (1858)
- "Cross Purposes" (1862)
- The Portent: A Story of the Inner Vision of the Highlanders, Commonly Called "The Second Sight" (1864)
- Dealings with the Fairies (1867), containing "The Golden Key", "The Light Princess", "The Shadows", and other short stories
- At the Back of the North Wind (1871)
- Works of Fancy and Imagination (1871), including Within and Without, "Cross Purposes", "The Light Princess", "The Golden Key", and other works
- The Princess and the Goblin (1872)
- The Wise Woman: A Parable (1875) (Published also as "The Lost Princess: A Double Story"; or as "A Double Story".)
- The Gifts of the Child Christ and Other Tales (1882; republished as Stephen Archer and Other Tales)
- The Day Boy and the Night Girl (1882)
- The Princess and Curdie (1883), a sequel to The Princess and the Goblin
- Lilith: A Romance (1895)
The following is a list of MacDonald's published works of fiction.[according to whom?] Noted alongside the original publications from MacDonald's hand, in parentheses, are modern adaptations in American English, targeted for general and young readers, most edited by Michael R. Phillips, many from the publisher Bethany House (see for instance, the entry for Sir Gibbie).
- David Elginbrod (1863; republished in edited form as The Tutor's First Love), originally published in three volumes
- Adela Cathcart (1864); contains many fantasy stories told by the characters within the larger story, including "The Light Princess", "The Shadows", etc.[verification needed]
- Alec Forbes of Howglen (1865; edited by Michael Phillips and republished as The Maiden's Bequest; edited to children's version by Michael Phillips and republished as Alec Forbes and His Friend Annie)
- Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood (1867)
- Guild Court: A London Story (1868; republished in edited form as The Prodigal Apprentice)
- Robert Falconer (1868; republished in edited form as The Musician's Quest)
- The Seaboard Parish (1869), a sequel to Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood
- Ranald Bannerman's Boyhood (republished in edited form as The Boyhood of Ranald Bannerman) (1871)
- Wilfrid Cumbermede (1871)
- The Vicar's Daughter (1871), a sequel to Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood and The Seaboard Parish
- The History of Gutta Percha Willie, the Working Genius (1873; republished in edited form as The Genius of Willie MacMichael), usually called simply Gutta Percha Willie
- Malcolm (1875)
- St. George and St. Michael (1876; edited by Dan Hamilton and republished as The Last Castle)
- Thomas Wingfold, Curate (1876; republished in edited form as The Curate's Awakening)
- The Marquis of Lossie (1877; republished in edited form as The Marquis' Secret), the second book of Malcolm
- Sir Gibbie (1879): Sir Gibbie, Volume 1. London: Hurst and Blackett. 1879. With simultaneous publication of Vol. 2 and Vol. 3, each of ca. 300 pages. Also issued by Lippincott in America in a single volume set in two columns in smaller font, in 210 pages, Sir Gibbie: A Novel. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott. 1879. The entirety of the original text is available with a Broad Scots glossary by its digitizer, John Bechard, see "Sir Gibbie". 1879 – via Gutenberg.org. Republished in edited form as MacDonald, George (1990). Phillips, Michael R., ed. Wee Sir Gibbie of the Highlands. George MacDonald Classics. Bethany House. ISBN 1556611390. Also as The Baronet's Song.[clarification needed]
- Paul Faber, Surgeon (1879; republished in edited form as The Lady's Confession), a sequel to Thomas Wingfold, Curate
- Mary Marston (1881; republished in edited form as A Daughter's Devotion and The Shopkeeper's Daughter)
- Warlock o' Glenwarlock (1881; republished in edited form as Castle Warlock and The Laird's Inheritance)
- Weighed and Wanting (1882; republished in edited form as A Gentlewoman's Choice)
- Donal Grant (1883; republished in edited form as The Shepherd's Castle), a sequel to Sir Gibbie
- What's Mine's Mine (1886; republished in edited form as The Highlander's Last Song)
- Home Again: A Tale (1887; republished in edited form as The Poet's Homecoming)
- The Elect Lady (1888; republished in edited form as The Landlady's Master)
- A Rough Shaking (1891; republished in edited form as The Wanderings of Clare Skymer)
- There and Back (1891; republished in edited form as The Baron's Apprenticeship), a sequel to Thomas Wingfold, Curate and Paul Faber, Surgeon
- The Flight of the Shadow (1891)
- Heather and Snow (1893; republished in edited form as The Peasant Girl's Dream)
- Salted with Fire (1896; republished in edited form as The Minister's Restoration)
- Far Above Rubies (1898)
The following is a list of MacDonald's published poetic works:[according to whom?]
- Twelve of the Spiritual Songs of Novalis (1851), privately printed translation of the poetry of Novalis
- Within and Without: A Dramatic Poem (1855)
- Poems. Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts. 1857. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- "A Hidden Life" and Other Poems (1864)
- "The Disciple" and Other Poems (1867)
- Exotics: A Translation of the Spiritual Songs of Novalis, the Hymn-book of Luther, and Other Poems from the German and Italian (1876)
- Dramatic and Miscellaneous Poems (1876)
- Diary of an Old Soul (1880)
- A Book of Strife, in the Form of the Diary of an Old Soul (1880), privately printed
- The Threefold Cord: Poems by Three Friends (1883), privately printed, with Greville Matheson and John Hill MacDonald
- Poems. New York: E. P. Dutton. 1887. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- The Poetical Works of George MacDonald, 2 Volumes (1893)
- Scotch Songs and Ballads (1893)
- Rampolli: Growths from a Long-planted Root (1897)
The following is a list of MacDonald's published works of non-fiction:[according to whom?]
- Unspoken Sermons (1867)
- England's Antiphon (1868, 1874)
- The Miracles of Our Lord (1870)
- Cheerful Words from the Writing of George MacDonald (1880), compiled by E. E. Brown
- Orts: Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare (1882)
- "Preface" (1884) to Letters from Hell (1866) by Valdemar Adolph Thisted
- The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: A Study With the Test of the Folio of 1623 (1885)
- Unspoken Sermons, Second Series (1885)
- Unspoken Sermons, Third Series (1889)
- A Cabinet of Gems, Cut and Polished by Sir Philip Sidney; Now, for the More Radiance, Presented Without Their Setting by George MacDonald (1891)
- The Hope of the Gospel (1892)
- A Dish of Orts (1893)
- Beautiful Thoughts from George MacDonald (1894), compiled by Elizabeth Dougall
In popular culture
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- Christian celtic punk band Ballydowse have a song called "George MacDonald" on their album Out of the Fertile Crescent. The song is both taken from MacDonald's poem "My Two Geniuses" and liberally quoted from Phantastes.
- American classical composer John Craton has utilized several of MacDonald's stories in his works, including "The Gray Wolf" (in a tone poem of the same name for solo mandolin – 2006) and portions of "The Cruel Painter", Lilith, and The Light Princess (in Three Tableaux from George MacDonald for mandolin, recorder, and cello – 2011).
- Contemporary new-age musician Jeff Johnson wrote a song titled "The Golden Key" based on George MacDonald's story of the same name. He has also written several other songs inspired by MacDonald and the Inklings.
- Jazz pianist and recording artist Ray Lyon has a song on his CD Beginning to See (2007), called "Up The Spiral Stairs", which features lyrics from MacDonald's 26 and 27 September devotional readings from the book Diary of an Old Soul.
- A verse from The Light Princess is cited in the "Beauty and the Beast" song by Nightwish.
- Rock group The Waterboys titled their album Room to Roam (1990) after a passage in MacDonald's Phantastes, also found in Lilith. The title track of the album comprises a MacDonald poem from the text of Phantastes set to music by the band. The novels Lilith and Phantastes are both named as books in a library, in the title track of another Waterboys album, Universal Hall (2003).
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- Wolfe, Gary K. (1985). "George MacDonald". In Bleiler, E. F. Supernatural Fiction Writers: Fantasy and Horror. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 239–246. ISBN 0684178087.
- Bentinck, Anne (2001). Romantic Imagery in the Works of Walter de la Mare. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press. p. 345. ISBN 088946927X.
- Macdonald, Greville (1924). George Macdonald and his wife. New York: MacVeagh. p. 9. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2007.
- Chambers, Oswald (1934). Christian Disciplines. 1.[full citation needed]
- Raeper, William, George MacDonald (1987), pp. 15-17.
- For more information on this massacre, see Anon. "The Massacre of Glen Coe". Scottish History: The making of the Union. BBC. Retrieved 6 November 2012. For more information on the site of the event, see "Site Record for Glencoe, National Trust For Scotland Glencoe Visitor Centre". Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
- Johnson, K.J. (2014). "Rooted Deep: Discovering the Literary Identity of Mythopoeic Fantacist George MacDonald". Linguaculture. University of Iasi Press. 2: 27f.[full citation needed]
- MacDonald, George. A Dish of Orts: Chiefly Papers on the Imagination, and on Shakespeare. Retrieved 6 October 2016.[full citation needed]
- Reis, Richard H. (1972). George MacDonald, pp. 25–34. Twayne Publishers, Inc.
- Lindskoog, Kathryn Ann (2001). Surprised by C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald & Dante: An Array of Original Discoveries. Mercer University Press. p. 72. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
- C. S. Lewis, Ed. (1947). George MacDonald: An Anthology.[full citation needed]
- Sutherland, D. "The Founder of the New Scottish School." In The Critic, Volumes 30–31, 15 May 1897, p. 339. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- See, for instance, MacDonald, Ronald (1900). The Sword of the King. Retrieved 15 March 2017.[full citation needed]
- Phillips, Michael R. (1987). George MacDonald: Scotland's Beloved Storyteller. Minneapolis: Bethany House. p. 209. ISBN 0871239442. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- Yamaguchi, Miho (2007). George MacDonald's Challenging Theology of the Atonement, Suffering, and Death. Wheatmark. p. 27. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- Johnson, Joseph (1906). George MacDonald: A Biographical and Critical Appreciation. Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd. p. 155. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- Phillips, Michael R. (1987). George MacDonald: Scotland's Beloved Storyteller. Minneapolis: Bethany House. p. 202. ISBN 0871239442. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- At least an indirect influence is likely, because F. D. Maurice, who influenced MacDonald, knew the Greek Fathers, especially Clement, very well.
- "Unspoken Sermons Third Series - Christian Classics Ethereal Library".[full citation needed]
- "George MacDonald - George MacDonald Biography - Poem Hunter". www.poemhunter.com. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
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- Ankeny, Rebecca Thomas. The Story, the Teller and the Audience in George MacDonald's Fiction. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000.
- Wingfold. A journal "Celebrating the works of George MacDonald". Published by Barbara Amell
- Thomas Gerold, Die Gotteskindschaft des Menschen. Die theologische Anthropologie bei George MacDonald, Münster: Lit, 2006 ISBN 3-8258-9853-9 (A study of MacDonald's theology).
- Gray, William N. "George MacDonald, Julia Kristeva, and the Black Sun." Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 36.4 (Autumn 1996): 877–593. Accessed 19 May 2009.
- Rolland Hein, George MacDonald: Victorian Mythmaker. Star Song Publishing, 1993. ISBN 1-56233-046-2
- Lewis, C. S. Surprised by Joy.
- McGillis, Roderick, ed. For the Childlike: George MacDonald's Fantasies for Children. Metuchen, NJ, and London: The Children's Literature Association and the Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992.
- Greville MacDonald, George MacDonald and his Wife, London: *George Allen & Unwin, 1924 (republished 1998 by Johannesen ISBN 1-881084-63-9
- George MacDonald Selections From His Greatest Works, compiled by David L. Neuhouser, published by Victor Press 1990. ISBN 0-89693-788-7
- William Raeper, George MacDonald. Novelist and Victorian Visionary, Tring, Herts., and Batavia, IL: Lion Publishing, 1987
- Robb, David S. George MacDonald. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1987.
- Wolff, Robert Lee. The Golden Key: A Study of the Fiction of George Macdonald. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961.
- Worthing, Mark W. Phantastes: George MacDonald's Classic Fantasy Novel. Northcote Victoria: Stone Table Books, 2016. ISBN 9780995416130
- Worthing, Mark W. Narnia, Middle-Earth and the Kingdom of God: A History of Fantasy Literature and the Christian Tradition. Northcote Victoria: Stone Table Books, 2016 ISBN 9780995416116
|Library resources about
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: George MacDonald|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George MacDonald.|
- Mark Twain, George MacDonald's Friend Abroad, at GeorgeMacdonald.info
- North Wind. A Journal of George MacDonald Studies. The Journals of the George MacDonald Society
- George MacDonald Society
- The George MacDonald Informational Web
- George MacDonald on The Victorian Web
- Mark Twain and George MacDonald: The Salty and the Sweet
- Life and Works of George MacDonald
- Free audio recording of "The Golden Key" at librivox.org
- The Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends – Taylor University at taylor.edu
- George MacDonald at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- The Marion E. Wade Center – George MacDonald research collection at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
- Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women at Wikisource
- Works by George MacDonald at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about George MacDonald at Internet Archive
- Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- Extracts from Scribner's Monthly, etc. containing a few poems and translations of Novalis (Cornell University's "Making of America" Journal Collection)
- Several Works at Penn State University's Electronic Classics (pdf format)
- Alec Forbes of Howglen. (Ebook/PDF format)