The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

XIII. Lesser Novelists

§ 15. George Macdonald

Other writers, familiar by their birth with various types of Scots character and dialect, are George Macdonald and William Black, early members of the “kail-yard” school. The county of Macdonald’s birth, Aberdeenshire, his fixed belief in human and divine communion, his transition from Calvinism to a less forbidding religious faith and his wide reading in writers such as Crashaw, Boehme, Wordsworth and others of a mystical trend in their interpretation of nature, are the shaping influences upon his work. The farmers, doctors, shepherds and ministers of the Moray country he portrays with most sureness, and especially simple souls such as David and Margaret Elginbrod, deeply taught in scriptural wisdom, and given to an intense practice of piety. Characterisation is freer and more objective than is usual with Macdonald in Robert Falconer (1868). The sensational elements with which his stories are eked out are what Swinburne called “electrified stupidity.” His powers are best revealed in his various fairy tales, in which he shows a fertile invention and a deft poetical handling of the inverted causes and sequences and proportions of that world. Phantastes (1858), much influenced by Novalis, presents, in allegory, a mode of escape from the material world, by means of mystical powers in nature; as, in another way, does a later romance, Lilith (1895).