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  • Dr. Jerry Root

Unpublished George MacDonald Poem + The Princess and the Goblin Introduction

Once, rummaging through an old bookstore in London I came across an unpublished George MacDonald quote scribbled in his own hand in a copy of MacDonald’s Diary of an Old Soul. As it happened, I made this discovery the day after I successfully defended my dissertation in Oxford. The whole Ph.D. process was very stressful and though I came through it successfully, it was not without plenty of emotional bruises along the way. I wandered into the bookstore with two friends and asked about Lewis, Tolkien, Williams, G. K. Chesterton, and MacDonald books.


The proprietor said, "You might be interested in seeing this!" He handed me the MacDonald book. It was inscribed to his sister-in-law, who I discovered later, at the time the inscription was dated, was suffering difficulties with one of her adult children. The poem has never been published. My guess is MacDonald made it up on the spot. The meter is not all that good but the sentiment is glorious for such a troubled time as his sister-in-law was enduring, and such a time as I had recently emerged and from which I was still smarting. Here is the poem:


Go not forth to call thy sorrow

From the dim fields of tomorrow;

Let her roam there all unheeded;

She will come when she is needed;

But when she draws nigh thy door,

She will find God there before.


George MacDonald 7 Oct. 1890


I bought the book and donated it to the Wade Center at Wheaton College and it can be seen there even now.


The influence of MacDonald on Lewis was great. Below is a list of some of the sources where one can dig deeper to discover how great the influence actually was:


  1. Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy (his autobiography) that the influence was great. Even in his atheist days, he tells about stumbling across a copy of MacDonald’s Phantastes and after reading it said “My imagination was baptized”. He talks about other influences of MacDonald in Surprised by Joy as well. Lewis’s autobiography is a good place to start your study.

  2. Lewis actually wrote an introduction to a later edition of Phantastes and Lilith, this introduction also has acknowledgement of Lewis’s debt to MacDonald.

  3. Lewis actually put together an anthology of George MacDonald and it was published in the 1940s. It is called, George MacDonald: An Anthology. Lewis’s introduction to that book is very important as he describes the level of his debt to MacDonald and even says he (Lewis) never wrote a book where he neglected to quote MacDonald (if not explicitly so, then in relation to stealing an idea from MacDonald and expanding on it). It is interesting to read through the anthology and see the exact texts throughout MacDonald’s work that caught Lewis’s attention.

  4. Lewis wrote a book called The Great Divorce; it is a satire, of sorts, built upon Dante’s Divine Comedy. Just as Dante had Virgil, the man he considered his own greatest literary influence lead him through Hell and a portion of Purgatory, so too, Lewis, in his work, has George MacDonald play the role of his guide in that book. This also underscores Lewis’s high regard for MacDonald.

  5. Furthermore, you can look in the three volumes of Lewis’s published letter and find hosts of references to MacDonald in Lewis’s correspondence. The letters are meticulously indexed so you can glean information quickly.


George MacDonald’s introduction to The Princess and the Goblin.


From George MacDonald’s original version of The Princess and the Goblin, as it appeared in Good Words for the Young.


Narrator: There once was a little princess who....


Interrupting Voice: But Mister Narrator why do you always write about Princesses?


Narrator: Because every little girl is a princess.


Interrupting Voice: You'll make them vain if you tell them that.


Narrator: Not if they understand what I mean.


Interrupting Voice: What do YOU mean by a princess?


Narrator: Well, what do YOU mean by a princess?


Interrupting Voice: I mean the daughter of a King.


Narrator: Very well then, every little girl is a princess and is always at risk of forgetting her rank, that’s why they must have stories told about them.


This introduction to the book was edited out of the original version as near as I can tell by an edition published by Lippincott in 1921 (if I remember right)



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