George MacDonald was one of the most respected authors of his generation in 19th century Scotland. He wrote over fifty books, nearly half of them novels for adults, along with some theological studies, several volumes of essays & criticism, a few volumes of poetry, and three best selling children's novels accompanied by a couple more volumes of fairytales. He wrote in nearly every literary genre. Although today much of his poetry and adult fiction would be considered rather prosaic, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, it was fantasy that he really excelled in. His only two fantasy novels written for adults--Phantastes and Lilith--are often spoken of as two of the best novels ever written in the English language. His three fantasy novels for children, The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and the Curdie, and At the Back of the North Wind are so strange and otherworldly that adults often enjoy them as much, or more, than children.
MacDonald, born December 10, 1824, drew an enjoyment from reading books even as a young boy that encompassed all the typical poetic elements of elusiveness that so engage the mystical minded. By his late teens, as a student at King's College in Aberdeen, young George was already reading Shelley, Coleridge, James Hogg, and Tom Moore while also finding time to write poetry of his own. He had a powerful intellect, winning 3rd prize in Chemistry and 4th in Natural Philosophy, subjects he would lecture on years later at a Ladies' College to earn some much needed money.
The MacDonald family was quite poor early on, barely staying away starvation at times, often accepting the charity of friends and family. Eventually, however, George MacDonald would run in some very high literary circles. During the winter of 1872-73 he would address several thousands at a time during his lecture tour of the USA. He was great friends with Samuel Clemens (A.K.A.--Mark Twain), Charles Dodgson (A.K.A.--Lewis Carroll), John Ruskin, Lady Byron (widow of Lord Byron), and Ralph Waldo Emerson among others. Several of his closest friends sat in high positions of government such as William Cowper-Temple. Others were well known clergymen like F.D. Maurice or college professors such as Dean Stanley. By the late 1860's he had become a very celebrated author. Children would walk back and forth in front of his home hoping to catch a glimpse of the man who was so much loved. He would later be held in high esteem by CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, and JRR Tolkien.