Beyond the Brownings–George MacDonald (1824-1905)

MacDonald at ABLCourtesy of the Armstrong Browning Library

Written by Melinda Creech, Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

George MacDonald, Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister, was a leading figure in the field of fantasy writing for children, influencing many other authors such including W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit, and Madeleine L’Engle. MacDonald is best-known for his fantasy novels,  Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, At the Back of the North Wind, and Lilith, and his fairy tales, “The Light Princess”, “The Golden Key”, and “The Wise Woman.” He mentored Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Carroll was encouraged by the enthusiastic reception of the Alice stories by MacDonald’s eleven children.

The Armstrong Browning Library holds five letters written by George MacDonald, one manuscript, and over fifty books, eleven volumes from MacDonald’s personal library, three presentation volumes, and many first editions.

MacDonald-to-Paton-2-1webMacDonald-to-Paton-2-2webLetter from George MacDonald to Joseph Noel Paton. 31 December 1867.

MacDonald makes an appointment with Paton, assuring him of the importance of the meeting by saying

Let the 16th be as a law of Medes and Persians which altereth not. No lecture shall be permitted to intrude upon the consecrated hours.

MacDonald-to-Paton-1web MacDonald-to-Paton-2webLetter from George MacDonald to Joseph Noel Paton. [January 1868].

MacDonald consoles Paton at the loss of a friend, reminding him that his

 …friend was of more value than the sparrow that cannot fall to the ground without our Father. Macdonald-to-Rooker-1webMacdonald-to-Rooker-2webLetter from George MacDonald to John Rooker. 21 July 1895.

MacDonald makes an appointment with Rooker, reminding him that

We—that is the old ones of us—are too tired, by not of life, now to make what you call a long day of it. But we shall have time for something of a talk.


George MacDonald. 29 October 1872. “The lightning & thunder. They go and they come;” In the Whittier Autograph Album.

This album, once the property of Elizabeth Whittier Pickard, niece of John Greenleaf Whittier, contains letters, autographs, and inscriptions from Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Julia Ward Howe, J.T. Fields, Phoebe Cary, U.S. Grant, Emily Faithfull, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry W. Longfellow, Daniel Webster, William Cullen Bryant, P.T. Barnum, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others, and includes this inscription by George MacDonald  and an autograph by Louisa MacDonald. George MacDonald’s inscription is from a poem called “A Baby-Sermon,” published in The Poetical Works of George Macdonald. London: Chatto & Windus, 1893.

The lightning & thunder

         They go and they come;

But the stars and the stillness

         Are always at home.

 MacDonald-The-Vicar's-Daughter-1web MacDonald-The-Vicar's-Daughter-2webGeorge MacDonald. The Vicar’s Daughter. An Autobiographical Story. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1881.

 This presentation copy is inscribed by the author to his son-in-law.

MacDonald-A-Threefold-Cord-1webMacDonald-A-Threefold-Cord-2webMacDonald-A-Threefold-Cord-3webGeorge MacDonald. A Threefold Cord: Poems by Three Friends. London: Mr. W. Hughes, 1883.

This volume contains the author’s signature. The dedication to his son, Greville Matheson MacDonald, reads: “…I give this book,/ In which a friend’s and brother’s verses blend/ With mine.” The poems in the volume were written by George MacDonald, John MacDonald, and Greville Matheson.