1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Macdonald, George
MACDONALD, GEORGE (1824–1905), Scottish novelist and poet, was born at Huntly, Aberdeenshire. His father, a farmer, was one of the Macdonalds of Glencoe, and a direct descendant of one of the families that suffered in the massacre. Macdonald’s youth was passed in his native town, under the immediate influence of the Congregational Church, and in an atmosphere strongly impregnated with Calvinism. He took his degree at Aberdeen University, and migrated thence to London, studying at Highbury College for the Congregational ministry. In 1850 he was appointed pastor of Trinity Congregational Church, Arundel, and, after resigning his cure there, was engaged in ministerial work in Manchester. His health, however, was unequal to the strain, and after a short sojourn in Algiers he settled in London and adopted the profession of literature. In 1856 he published his first book, Within and Without, a dramatic poem; following it in 1857 with a volume of Poems, and in 1858 by the delightful “faerie romance” Phantastes. His first conspicuous success was achieved in 1862 with David Elginbrod, the forerunner of a number of popular novels, which include Alec Forbes of Howglen (1865), Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood (1866), Robert Falconer (1868), Malcolm (1875), The Marquis of Lossie (1877), and Donal Grant (1883). He was for a time editor of Good Words for the Young, and lectured successfully in America in 1872–1873. He wrote admirable stories for the young, and published some volumes of sermons. In 1877 he was given a civil list pension. He died on the 18th of September 1905.
Both as preacher and as lecturer on literary topics George Macdonald’s sincerity and moral enthusiasm exercised great influence upon thoughtful minds. His verse is homely and direct, and marked by religious fervour and simplicity. As a portrayer of Scottish peasant-life in fiction he was the precursor of a large school, which has benefited by his example and surpassed its original leader in popularity. The religious tone of his novels is relieved by tolerance and a broad spirit of humour, and the simpler emotions of humble life are sympathetically treated.