Alec Forbes of Howglen, The Princess and the Goblin, and The Portent

Michael Phillips’ newly updated editions of all of MacDonald’s novels—including expanded and lengthier new editions of those he edited back in the 1980s—comprise THE CULLEN COLLECTION, in honor of the village in Scotland where MacDonald wrote and set his classic, Malcolm. The collection also includes a monumental new bibliographic biography, George MacDonald, A Writer’s Life. Ten books are available as of this writing (see sidebar at right), including three that went live on Amazon just this past Sunday: Alec Forbes of Howglen, The Princess and the Goblin, and The Portent.

About ALEC FORBES of HOWGLEN: From George MacDonald, A Writer’s Life

“While it cannot be said that Alec Forbes of Howglen “launched” George MacDonald’s writing career when it was released in 1865, it certainly solidified his name as among Victorian Britain’s leading novelists.

“As that year opened, though he had published eight books between 1851 and 1864, the momentum of George MacDonald’s career as a writer was still sputtering along somewhat fitfully. His first realistic novel, David Elginbrod, had done well two years earlier. But one book does not a career make. Thousands of one-book-wonders come and go through the years, authors who are never heard from again. Three more titles (one, a device for a collection of short stories, the second a reprint of poems, the third scarcely more than a novella) had been released on the heels of Elginbrod’s success. But they represented nothing significantly new from the Scots author. Some critics complained that those recent releases were mere recycled flotsam and jetsam out of MacDonald’s past files.

“If MacDonald was going to make it as a novelist, he had to show that he could do it again. He had to prove that the success of David Elginbrod—as a major work of fiction—wasn’t just a one-off. The critics, it might be said, were getting restless.

“As 1865 dawned, therefore, much was on the line. MacDonald had to demonstrate that he hadn’t just been lucky, but that he could keep writing novels that would sell, that people would read, and that the ambivalent critics would rave about.

“And that’s exactly what he did. This was the book that proved it…”

About THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN: From George MacDonald, A Writer’s Life

“I find the origins of Narnia particularly fascinating. Recognizing from my study of both men for forty years how much in C.S. Lewis’s writings (fiction and non-fiction) comes straight from MacDonald (for much of which it puzzles me somewhat that Lewis does not adequately acknowledge MacDonald as it seems he would beyond his “master” statement). I trace Narnia’s origins straight to the opening passages of Phantastes and Lilith (the magical “wardrobe-entry” into an alternate world), and then, once inside that world of fanciful beings and a young girl who “sees” what others cannot, to The Princess and the Goblin.

“This book is Narnia’s birth-home.

“The forerunner to Narnia’s Lucy is eight-year-old Princess Irene. She lives in a castle with her father and mother, the king and queen. Curdie, son of one of the miners, works inside the mountain beneath the castle. Near where Curdie and his father work lives a colony of kobolds or goblins—ugly devilish beings who are constantly trying to thwart the miners. In the highest part of the castle, Irene discovers a mysterious old lady who calls herself Irene’s great-great-grandmother of the same name. Like North Wind, she acts the part of a benevolent angel, and brings both Irene and Curdie into her plans…”

About THE PORTENT: From George MacDonald, A Writer’s Life

“The whole tone here is different than in most MacDonald books—a little ominous, dark perhaps…spooky. It’s a spine-tingler, a Hitchcockian ghost story, certainly not the sort of “children’s story,” for which MacDonald is so well known.

“As MacDonald probed the supernatural and occult in David Elginbrod, the same themes are at work here, and obviously reflect MacDonald’s interest at this stage of his life. In The Portent, MacDonald explores the legendary highland phenomenon called the “second sight”—the ability to “see” with the eyes of the spirit that which cannot be perceived by physical sight (and to hear with inner ears)—particularly getting premonitions into the future and into the world of the supernatural. At its most benign, the second sight is little more than what we might call a heightened awareness, a “sixth sense.” When cultivated, as is the case with all supposed occult activity, the claims grow in proportion to the credibility given them. Some possessors of the second sight therefore also claim to be able to probe the veil of death and see across into the other side.

“George MacDonald’s disappointed admission that he himself had not a trace of the second sight reveals his fascination with the unseen world and its workings and manifestations. He would like to have had it, which no doubt explains why so many eerie and spooky themes find their way into his books. No MacDonald novel is complete without a good old-fashioned goose-flesher of a ghost story…”