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George MacDonald was a prolific novelist. He is now known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy works, and their influence on later authors, such as W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, 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."
Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by MacDonald.
'MacDonald grew up in the Congregational Church, with an atmosphere of Calvinism.He took his degree at the University of Aberdeen, and then went to London, studying at Highbury College for the Congregational ministry.
George MacDonald 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." MacDonald also published some volumes of sermons, the pulpit not having proved an unreservedly successful venue.
'MacDonald also 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.
'MacDonald was acquainted with most of the literary luminaries of the day; a surviving group photograph shows him with Tennyson, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Trollope, Ruskin, Lewes, and Thackeray. While in America he was a friend of Longfellow and Walt Whitman.
'MacDonald's use of fantasy as a literary medium for exploring the human condition greatly influenced a generation of such notable authors as C. S. Lewis (who featured him as a character in his The Great Divorce), 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.'