William and Daniel Downey of London and Newcastle
A carte-de-visite portrait of George MacDonald (1824-1905), children’s author, novelist, poet and Christian minister.
Though no longer well known, his works (particularly his fairy tales and fantasy novels) have inspired admiration in such notables as W.H. Auden and J.R.R. Tolkein, while C.S. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his ‘master.’ Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day in a train station he began to read. ‘A few hours later,’ wrote Lewis, ‘I knew I had crossed a great frontier.’ G.K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had ‘made a great difference to my whole existence.’ Even Mark Twain, who initially despised MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain too was influenced by MacDonald.
The son of a Scottish weaver, MacDonald was educated at Aberdeen University before training as a Congregational minister. Finding his own individualistic views unacceptable to his parish, he gradually turned to literature, producing original fairy-stories shot through with an unmistakable blend of Christian symbolism and mystical imagination. His most famous story, At the Back of the North Wind (1871), describes a little cabdriver’s son called Diamond, who ventures forth each night from his bedroom in the company of the North Wind, pictured as a beautiful lady, to travel over the world. Subsequent classics include The Princess and the Goblin (1872), a powerful allegory of good and evil, and The Princess and Curdie (1883), in which the miner’s son Curdie has to brave dangers from goblins in order to save the princess. MacDonald’s adult fiction – the allegorical Phantastes (1858) and Lilith (1895), and novels such as David Elginbrod (1863) – is less well remembered, but his powerful imagination has influenced many authors.
MacDonald was also a friend of the Reverend Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who was also a keen amateur photographer of children. MacDonald’s children Mary, Lily, Irene and Greville all sat for Dodgson on various occasions, as indeed did MacDonald himself.
Photographed by William and Daniel Downey of London and Newcastle
Condition: the print presents a few small imperfections and a slight loss of tone in the area of the background but is otherwise in excellent condition, as is the mount.