Greville MacDonald

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from Reminiscences of a Specialist, 1932
Greville MacDonald

Greville MacDonald (Bolton, 1856 – 1944), was the son of influential fantasy writer George MacDonald and his wife Louisa (née Powell). He has provided some interesting insights into his father's life and circle of friends. Greville was a notable ear, nose and throat doctor. In later life Greville became involved in the Peasant Art movement in Haslemere.


Greville is famous for having read ‘Uncle Dodgson’s’ (Reverend Charles Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll) Alice in Wonderland when he was wondering whether to publish it. Greville’s mother read the book to the children to gauge its worth if published, and Greville remembers his ‘braggart avowal that I wished there were 60,000 volumes of it’.[1] Carroll had been uncertain as to its potential for publication, until he tried the manuscript with the MacDonald children and had an enthusiastic reception.

Alex Munro used Greville as a model for his sculpture in Hyde Park of a boy with a fish. Greville attributes his understanding of Latin to Octavia Hill (who became a co-founder of the National Trust in 1895, along with Haslemere’s Sir Robert Hunter) who joined the family on holiday in 1867 at Bude, and became a lifelong friend of Greville.[1]

Greville went to King's College School and then went to train at Kings College Hospital. Despite suffering from partial deafness which degenerated with age, Greville became an ear, nose and throat doctor of some distinction, becoming President of the British Medical Association's nose division. He resided at 85 Harley Street and he retired from medical practice in 1904. In 1919 he moved to Wildwood, Weydown Road, Haslemere. Greville’s autobiography describes him as a ‘consulting physician to Kings College Hospital’ and ‘Fellow and Emeritus Professor, King's College, London’.[1] Greville married his wife Elizabeth Phoebe Winn in 1887, they had no children, but from a dedication in one of his books, it would appear that he adopted a girl, ‘Mollie Gamble’.

Greville helped keep his father's memory alive by arranging the publication of new editions of his works, and by publishing the painstakingly-researched biography George MacDonald and his Wife (1924).

Greville wrote a number of books on widely varied subjects, including a biography of his father and mother ‘George MacDonald and his Wife’, some complex works such as ‘The Sanity of William Blake’, ‘The Religious Sense in its Scientific Aspect’, and fairy tales such as ‘Count Billy’ and ‘The Magic Crook Or the Stolen Baby’.

Greville was no stranger to Haslemere, in 1900 Greville’s parents moved to St George’s Wood, Grayswood Road, Haslemere, into a house that he had had built for them, designed by his architect brother, Robert Falconer MacDonald, where his frail father spent his final few years. What Greville describes as his ‘best friends’ Joseph King (MP), Maude Egerton King, Godfrey Blount and Ethel Blount lived in Haslemere too, and he had visited and stayed with them often. Greville and Joseph King were cousins. In 1913 Greville’s wife ‘lost a leg’ and that seems to be part of the reason behind his move to the country. Greville describes his involvement in the Peasant Arts movement as ‘happy that I might possibly help them, I soon assigned my scanty leisure, along with some too easily earned money, to the support of their Society.’[1]

It was Greville who negotiated the purchase of the Museum of Peasant Arts from Reverend Gerald Davies in 1908, ‘at a price well below its value, but on the condition that it should never be displayed in any City Museum, where, he thought, its beauties might be swamped, and its materials damaged by smoke. Realizing the national worth of the collection I put it, by Trust Deed, in the hands of the Founders of the Peasant Arts Guild for the public benefit, thus protecting it against any possible mishap to the Guild’. Greville describes himself as launching The Vineyard Magazine in 1910,[2] this was edited by Maude Egerton King

FRA GIOVANNI, Letter To A Friend: A Letter to the Most Illustrious the Contessina Allagia Dela Aldobrandeschi, Written Christmas Eve Anno Domini 1513 (193?)

The British Museum stated in 1970 that it had “proved impossible” to identify Fra Giovanni, the purported author of this letter. This was published, probably in the 1930s, “with Christmas Greetings” from Greville MacDonald, son of novelist George MacDonald, and Mary MacDonald.


Greville's works varied widely from a few medical books, to ethical issues and fairy tales.

  • On the Respiratory Functions of the Nose and Their Relation to Certain Pathological Conditions (1889)
  • Tree in the Midst: A Contribution to the Study of Freedom (1904)
  • The Religious Sense in its Scientific Aspect (1904)
  • The Child's Inheritance: Its Scientific and Imaginative Meaning (1910)
  • The Sanity of William Blake (1920)
  • The North Door: A Romance (1920)
  • George MacDonald and his Wife (1924)
  • Children and the Stress of Life (co-authored with Helen Gibb, 1929)
  • Reminiscences of a Specialist (1932)
  • The Ethics of Revolt
  • How Jonas Found His Enemy
  • A Treatise on Diseases of the Nose and Its Accessory Cavities

Fairy tales:

  • Count Billy
  • The Magic Crook Or the Stolen Baby (1911)
  • Trystie's Quest or Kit, King of the Pigwidgeons (1912)
  • Jack and Jill (1913)


  1. ^ a b c d MacDonald, G. (1932), Reminiscences of a Specialist, London, George Allen and Unwin
  2. ^ Swanton, E. W. (1947) A Country Museum, Haslemere Educational Museum


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