From The Mark Twain Journal, Volume 30, Number 2 (published August 1994)
The unknown connection between two of C. S. Lewis’s favorite books, Sir
Gibbie and Huckleberry Finn.
THE CONNECTION between Mark Twain and George MacDonald evidently began in
1870, the year when 35-year-old Twain married the woman he adored, Olivia Langdon. The newlyweds were soon reading MacDonald’s latest novel, Robert Falconer: and Twain reacted with great gusto and disgust. In a letter to their friend Mary Mason Fairbanks, who had probably recommended the book or given it to them, he spoke his mind on September 2, 1870.
“My! but the first half of it is superb! We just kept our pencils going,
marking brilliant & beautiful things–but there was nothing to mark, after
the middle. Up to the middle of the book we did so admire & like Robert–&
after that we began to dislike & finally ended by despising him for a
self-righteous humbug, devoured with egotism.
[Robert was a young Scot with a heart of gold–a forerunner of Gibbie, who
would be invented later.]
“I guess we hated his grandmother from the first. The author was always
telling of us her goodness, but seldom letting us see any of it.
[At this point Livy added a note: “I did not. I liked her all the time, her
heart was all right, and what was wrong came of her education.”]
“Shargar was the only character in the book who was always welcome, & of
him the author gave us just as little as possible, & filled his empty pages
with the added emptiness of that tiresome Ericson & his dismal
‘poetry’–hogwash, I call it.
“Oh, yes, & there was Dooble Sanny, an imperial character–but of course
he had to die in order to give Robert a chance to air some of his piety, &
talk like a blessed Sunday-school book with a marbled cover to it.–
[Livy inserted “thats not correct.”]
“But what on earth the author lugged in that inanity, Miss Lindsay, for,
goes clear beyond my comprehension. Page after page, & page after page
about that ineffable doughnut, & not even the poor satisfaction that Lord
Rothie ruined her, after all. Hang such a character!
[Livy added a note: “how dreadful.”]
“And Miss St. John–well there never was any interest about her, from the
first. And when she concluded that the man she first loved was small
potatoes & that that big booby of an Ericson was the man that completely
filled her idea of masculine perfection I just wanted to send her a dose of
salts [to purge her] with my compliments.
“Mind you, we are not through yet–two or three chapters still to read–&
that idiot is still hunting for his father. I hoped that as he grew to
years of discretion he would eventually appreciate that efforts of a wise
Providence to get the old man out of the way (seeing that he wasn’t very
eligible property, take him how you would,)–but no, nothing would do for
him, clear from juvenile stupidity up to mature imbecility but tag around
after that old bummer.
[Livy added one word: “scandalous.”]
“I do just wonder what he is going to make of him now that he is about to
find him. A missionary, likely, along with Rev. De Fleuri, & trot him
around peddling sentiment to London guttersnipes while he continues his
special mission upon earth of reclaiming venerable strumpets and exhibiting
his little wonders at midnight for the astonishment & admiration of chance
strangers like the applauding Gordon.”
[At this point Livy took her turn: “I would make erasures in this letter
but it is a hopeless undertaking, I should have to erase the last three
pages of it–However I know that he is rather ashamed of it because he said
that he had left plenty of room for me to say something pleasant–
“The last part of the book we have not enjoyed as much as the first part,
but the first we did enjoy intensely– Lovingly yours, Livy–“] (1)
Mark Twain was ten years younger than George MacDonald and had waited ten
years longer to get married; so it was that when he and Livy were newlyweds
reading Robert Falconer, the MacDonalds had already been married twenty
years. Two years later these colorful couples would meet each other.
In the fall of 1872 George MacDonald crossed the Atlantic on a Cunard
oceanliner and arrived in Boston with his wife Louisa and oldest son
Greville, for a triumphant United States lecture tour. He was the popular
author of over twenty books by this time, and he could hold an audience of
two or three thousand spellbound without any loudspeakers. He soon met
Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, Stowe, and other prominent American
authors, plus the prolific young writer Frances Hodgson Burnett. The tour
was plagued with occasional illnesses and travel problems; therefore, the
MacDonalds greatly appreciated a five-day pre-Christmas rest “in lapsury’s
luck” at the Elmira, New York, home of “the Mother-in-law of Mark Twain,”
as MacDonald wrote on December 22 to his children back in England. (2)
It was only seven years after the end of the Civil War. On January 17,
1873, the MacDonalds went for the second time to hear the Jubilee Singers,
a group of freed slaves sponsored by Fisk University. The first time that
they heard these singers, George MacDonald sat with tears rolling down his
cheeks and Louisa MacDonald was chocked with a combination of tears and
laughter. On January 17, the MacDonalds stayed after the performance to
talk with the singers and to persuade them to sing in England. When the
auditorium lights went out, one of the singers called out in the dark, “All
the same color now!”(3)
On January 27, 1873, ten days after attending their second Jubilee Singers
concert, the MacDonalds visited Livy (and possibly Mark Twain) again.(4)
Because the two couples shared an admiration for the Jubilee Singers, it
seems likely that one of their topics of conversation was that group.(5)
On May 19, 1873, Mark Twain sat on the platform with other famous American
writers at a farewell benefit for George MacDonald before he returned to
Two months later, the Clemenses were in England. On July 10, 1873, Louisa
MacDonald wrote to Livy that her garden party on the following Wednesday
afternoon, July 16, would feature a MacDonald family play called July
Jumble. Guests would include some poor and needy people, prominent London
professionals, the Clemenses, and the Jubilee Singers, who were now in
England on a concert tour.(7) At this time the large MacDonald family
lived at a home they called The Retreat on the banks of the Thames in
Although the MacDonalds were often in financial distress, this fine old
home had a garden of nearly an acre, a roadway bordered by ancient elms,
and a tulip-tree said to be the second largest in England. The family had
a portable stage that they used to set up on the lawn for performances. On
Oxford and Cambridge boat-race days friends and relatives gathered from
near and far to watch the race from the water’s edge. Alfred, Lord
Tennyson attended once.(9) (After the MacDonald family gave up The
Retreat, William Morris moved in and renamed it Kelmscott.)
Twain’s daughter Susy briefly described her parents’ 1873 visit to England,
although she was too young to understand any of it at the time. She spoke
of her father meeting such men as Thomas Hardy, Robert Browning, and
Anthony Trollope. Then she added, “and mamma and papa were quite well
acquainted with Dr. Macdonald and family.”(10) Mark Twain quoted that
passage from Susy in his autobiography and mentioned in passing that George
MacDonald was a lively talker.(11)
Greville MacDonald, who had accompanied his parents on their tour in the
United States, agreed with Susy about the friendship. “The two writers
were very intimate and had discussed co-operation in a novel together, so
as to secure copyright on both sides of the Atlantic. But there were many
difficulties in the way, not chiefly [sic] those of motive and style.”(12)
Is it possible that the two men conceived of a story about a white orphan
boy whose friend was a good-hearted black man? Within thirteen years they
both happened to write and publish such a story.
Mark Twain had been working on Tom Sawyer in 1873 and had put it aside.
In 1875 he took the pages out of their pigeonhole in his desk and finished
the book without any trouble. He published Tom Sawyer in 1876.
George MacDonald was publishing one to three books every year at that time.
In 1876 he published Thomas Wingfold, Curate, a 666-page novel, and Mark
Twain owned a copy that cost $1.25.(13)
Twain started Huckleberry Finn in 1876; but it bogged down, and he took
seven years to finish the first draft. He put it aside and returned to it
three or four times between 1876 and the complete first draft in 1883.
Years later, he described his creative process:
As long as a book would write itself I was a faithful and interested
amanuensis and my industry did not flag; but the minute the book tried to
shift to my head the labor of contriving its situations, inventing its
adventures, and conducting its conversations I put it away and dropped it
out of my mind…. It was by accident that I found out that a book is
pretty sure to get tired along about the middle and refuse to go on with
its work until its powers and its interest should have been refreshed by a
rest and its depleted stock of raw material reinforced by lapse of time.
It was when I had reached the middle of Tom Sawyer that I made this
invaluable find. At page 400 of my manuscript the story made a sudden and
detemined halt and refused to proceed another step. Day after day it
still refused. I was disappointed, distressed and immeasurably astonished,
for I knew quite well that the tale was not finished and I could not
understand why I was not able to go on with it. The reason was very simple
— my tank had run dry; it was empty; the stock of materials in it was
exhausted; the story could not go on without material; it could not be
wrought out of nothing.
When the manuscript had lain in the pigeon hole two years I took it out one
day and read the last chapter that I had written. It was then that I made
the great discovery that when the tank runs dry you’ve only to leave it
alone and it will fill up again in time, while you are asleep–also while
you are at work on other things and are quite unaware that this unconscious
and profitable cerebration is going on. There was plenty of material now,
and the book went on and finished itself without any trouble.(14)
On May 10, 1880, Mark Twain bought a new book from the J. R. Barlow
bookstore in his home city of Hartford, Connecticut: Sir Gibbie, by his
British friend George MacDonald.(15) It was in a paperback Seaside
Library Edition, and it cost twenty cents.(16) In July Twain received a bill for the book. On July 5, 1880, he paid the twenty cents. And that long-forgotten twenty-cent purchase may have contributed to Huckleberry Finn.
In 1881 Twain had his publisher send a copy of The Prince and the Pauper
to MacDonald as a gift.(17) In August 1882 MacDonald recommended his
literary agent A. P. Watt to Mark Twain. On September 19, 1882, Twain
answered that he didn’t need an agent because he had turned his literary
business over to Osgood in Boston (later known as Houghton, Mifflin & Co.)
and Chatto in London. “A book of mine used to pay me nothing in England —
pays me two or three thousand pounds now. Osgood sells my occasional
magazine rubbish at figures which make me blush, they are so autrocious. I
perceive, after all these wasted years, that an author ought always to be
connected with a highwayman.”(18)
Twain had begun this letter by saying, “I’ll send you the book [Life on the
Mississippi] with names in it, sure, as soon as it issues from the press…
Since I may choose, I will take the Back of the North Wind in return, for
our children’s sake; they have read and re-read their own copy so many
times that it looks as if it had been through the wars.” (At the Back of
the North Wind was first published in 1871.)
On February 16, 1883, George MacDonald wrote to Mark Twain to suggest a
scheme for protection against pirating. If Twain would write brief
sections of MacDonald’s forthcoming sequel to Sir Gibbie, titled Donal
Grant, both authors’ names could appear on it and it would be copyrighted
in both countries. On March 9 Twain politely declined. He said that if it
were not for the pressure of his own work and his doubtfulness about the
success of collaborative efforts, he would enjoy writing “the Great
Scottish-American novel” with MacDonald, “each doing his full half.” He
promised again to send MacDonald a copy of Life on the Mississippi.(19)
In the same letter, Twain thanked MacDonald “in advance for the North Wind
which is coming,” and added a postscript: “The North Wind has arrived; &
Susy lost not a moment, but went to work & ravenously devoured the whole of
it once more, at a single sitting.”(20)
At the Back of the North Wind remained important to Twain. Susy died in
1896. In a 1899 letter to William Dean Howells, Twain reflected upon his
successful career and then added, “All these things might move and interest
one. But how desperately more I have been moved to-night by the thought of
a little old copy in the nursery of At the Back of the North Wind. Oh,
what happy days they were when that little book was read, and how Susy
According to Alan Gribben, author of Mark Twain’s Library: A
Reconstruction, this book had been such a favorite in the Twain household
that his children sometimes prevailed upon him to invent new stories about
its hero, the motherless boy called little Diamond. The benevolent North
Wind gave little Diamond a series of adventures and carried him up among
the stars. She “eventually imparts the greatest favor of all–swift and
painless death.” Little Diamond’s final journey was to “the country at the
back of the North Wind.”(22)
Similarly, in Twain’s fairytale “The Five Boons of Life” a good fairy
bestowed the valuable gift of death upon an innocent little child , after
that gift had been spurned by a man who foolishly put his trust in
pleasure, love, fame, and riches. “[The child] was ignorant,” the fairy
explained, “but trusted me, asking me to choose for it.”(23) There is at
least a superficial resemblance between the role of Twain’s good fairy and
MacDonald’s North Wind.
Coleman O. Parsons suggested that At the Back of the North Wind provided
the mode of airborne conveyance employed by Mark Twain’s Satan in “The
Chronicle of Young Satan.” Gribben notes Parsons’ idea and claims far
more: that At the Back of the North Wind was an important inspirational
source for No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger According to Gribben, Mark
Twain’s Satan is a bitter and perverse transmogrification of MacDonald’s
kind North Wind.(24) If The Mysterious Stranger was influenced by North
Wind, perhaps Huckleberry Finn was influenced by Sir Gibbie. When Mark
Twain declined George MacDonald’s 1883 invitation to co-author a sequel to
Sir Gibbie, perhaps he was already responding to Sir Gibbie quite
differently as he wrote Huckleberry Finn.
MacDonald’s story is about a mute, barefoot, illiterate child of the
streets in a city in northeastern Scotland; his mother is dead and his
father is a miserable alcoholic. After his father dies, Gibbie is
befriended and cared for by a kind black sailor; but the sailor is brutally
murdered in Gibbie’s presence. Gibbie flees the city and wanders away,
living off the land and eventually becoming a secret helper at a farm. He
is especially vulnerable because he is physically incapable of speech.
After he is almost killed by a cruel buffoon, he is informally adopted by a
kind old shepherd couple in a remote mountain cottage. He befriends the
buffoon’s spunky daughter by rescuing her when she is lost on the
mountainside. Later he performs magnificently during a great flood, saving
animals and people.
When Gibbie is found to be a lost baronet and heir to a fortune, he is
taken back to the city and trained to be a gentleman. Among his many good
deeds, he runs a secret lodging place for homeless people and goes to great
lengths to rescue an alcoholic friend. He graduates from college, becomes
an extraordinary philanthropist, and finally marries the girl he loves in
spite of her cruel father.
Both Sir Gibbie and Huckleberry Finn explore questions of ethics and
truth through the life of an unusually bright and unusually unfortunate
boy. Both are set in the colorful region where the author spent his
boyhood. Both were written for children as well as adults. And they have
at least twenty plot elements in common.
1. Parents: The hero is a motherless, ignorant, but good-hearted boy who
has lived with an alcoholic and criminally negligent father. He is
occasionally helped by kind women, one of whom thinks of him as a lost
2. Talents: The boy enjoys extraordinary health, resilience, and courage.
He is a strong swimmer. Although he is illiterate when the book opens, he
learns to read once he gets the opportunity.
3. Black Man: The boy finds a kind of foster-father in a tender-hearted
black man. The relationship changes the boy’s life.
4. Runaway: The boy has little sense about money, but much practical sense
about survival skills. He becomes a runaway who lives off the land.
5. Flood: The boy is thrilled by a dramatic storm that causes a severe
river flood. Surprising objects float down the river in the flood. The
flood causes wild rabbits to perch in trees, where they can be easily
caught by boys.
6.Raft: Someone takes a remarkable journey downriver on a raft.
7. Silent Child: An adult beats a child for refusing to respond, only to
discover later that the child was physically unable to do so.
8. Sign Language: Someone in the novel communicates regularly by means of
9. False Piety: There is much artificial Christianity and some false
sermonizing in the story.
10. Pilgrim’s Progress: The boy reads repeatedly in John Bunyan’s
11. Inheritance: The boy meets and loves a fine girl who is being cheated
out of her inheritance. With great effort, he restores it to her.
12. Title Fraud: An outrageously immoral and rather humorous character
wrongly appropriates a hereditary title and demands and receives special
courtesies as a result.
13. Missing Child: The boy is futilely sought by his townspeople as the
supposed victim after a break-in by (real or imagined) murderers.
14. Forgiveness: The boy demonstrates a surprisingly tolerant spirit
toward people who have harmed him.
15. Wounded Boy: An adult shoots a boy in the calf of his leg.
16. A Trust: A boy who has usually worn rags owns money which is held in
trust for him by a stuffy professional man.
17. Murder and alcohol: Grisly murder and chronic alcoholism of are
important plot elements.
18. Superstition: The novel describes eccentric local superstitions that
some of the characters believe in.
19. Dialect: The novel makes heavy use of colorful dialect which is
appropriate to its locale, but far from standard English.
20. Kind Couple: The boy finds an ideal home with a friend’s relatives, a
white-haired country couple with small means and large hearts. Though a
bit vague mentally, the elderly gentleman in this home displays admirable
piety and leads devotions in a muddled but kindly way.
Literary cross-pollination is a fact of life, but so is the temptation to
make facile assumptions about sources and allusions. Some similarities are
to be expected in the popular fiction of an era, and common story elements
alone never constitute proof of direct influence. Frances Hodgson
Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and Sara Crew (1888) have elements
in common with Sir Gibbie also.(25) Similarly, in my opinion Willa
Cather’s My Antonia (1918) has a scene reminiscent of a scene in Burnett’s
Secret Garden (1911). According to John Docherty of the George MacDonald
Society, MacDonald alludes to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
in both the drafts and the final version of Lilith.(26) At the very
least, tracing these apparent links between authors is a pleasant pastime,
and it gives readers new occasions to talk and write about the books they
Perhaps a consensus will develop that Sir Gibbie was one of Twain’s
sources for Huckleberry Finn. Walter Blair has shown that there are many
sources,(27) and fresh claims of sources are occasionally set forth.(28)
What is more certain is that in Twain’s day books for children were
developing beyond the moralistic tales of the previous generation that
Twain himself had satirized,(29) although Huckleberry Finn proved to be
too strong for some reviewers.(30) WhetherSir Gibbie furnished Twain with
actual themes and incidents or not, it would have provided him with the
latest example of the latitude afforded to writers of books for children
The similarities between Sir Gibbie and Huckleberry Finn have no doubt
been obscured by the books’ great differences. Sir Gibbie is longer and
traces the life of Gibbie (Gilbert Galbraith) from the age of eight to
adult success and happy marriage. In contrast, Huck Finn is about fourteen
years of age throughout his book, which fits Twain’s dictum at the end of
It being strictly a history of a boy, it must stop here; the story could
not go much further without becoming the history of a man. When one writes
a novel about grown people, he knows exactly where to stop–that is, with a
marrage; but when he writes of juveniles, he must stop where best he can.
In the twentieth century Huckleberry Finn has won world acclaim and Sir
Gibbie has been consigned to near oblivion. The two factors most
responsible for Sir Gibbie’s eclipse were MacDonald’s sometimes preachy,
long-winded style, and a northern Scots dialect which has become
Although George MacDonald’s immense popularity faded after his death in
1905, some of the fifty-seven books published in his lifetime are still
beloved today. Early copies of his books sometimes sell for hundreds of
dollars. More significantly, in 1992 there were ninety-five current
American editions of books by George MacDonald listed in Books in Print.
Three of them are illustrated by Maurice Sendak, and one bears an afterword
by W. H. Auden. The most highly esteemed of all George MacDonald’s books
are probably At the Back of the North Wind. The Golden Key, The Light
Princess, Lillith, Phantastes, The Princess and Curdie, The Princess and
the Goblin, and The Wise Woman.
No one claims that George MacDonald was a consistently excellent writer,
but such luminaries as G. K. Chesterton, W. H. Auden, Roger Lancelyn Green,
and C. S. Lewis have lavished praise on his mythopoeic imagination.
According to Chesterton, MacDonald was the most original thinker of his
time. According to Auden, he was the Kafka of his century. According to
Green, his strange gift set him among the very greatest story-tellers.
According to C. S. Lewis, he was a rare mythopoeic genius like Kafka or
Novalis and the greatest of them all. “I have never concealed the fact
that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a
book in which I did not quote from him.”(31)
C. S. Lewis readily admitted that MacDonald’s more realistic novels were
inferior. “Necessity made MacDonald a novelist, but few of his novels are
good and none is very good. They are best when they depart most from the
canons of novel writing… Sometimes they depart in order to come nearer
to fantasy, as in the whole character of the hero in Sir Gibbie…”(32)
C.S. Lewis buffs are well aware of his enthusiasm for George MacDonald, but
few know of his enthusiasm for what he called “the divine Huckleberry.” On
6 December 1950 C.S. Lewis wrote to an American correspondent, “I have been
regaling myself on Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I wonder why that man
never wrote anything else on the same level. The scene in which Huck
decides to be ‘good’ by betraying Jim, and then finds he can’t and
concludes that he is a reprobate, is unparalleled in humor, pathos, and
tenderness. And it goes down to the very depth of all moral problems.”(33)
It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them
stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole
things right out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again,
which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other waren’t.
Twain’s Huck Finn combines keen moral intuition with a dearth of
independent religious imagination. In contrast, MacDonald’s Gibbie is not
only a moral prodigy, but also a Mozart of religious sensibility. Both
Huckleberry Finn and Sir Gibbie include humor, horror, irony, and sorrow;
but Sir Gibbie is permeated by the sweetness of George MacDonald’s profound
trust in the goodness of a God with whom Mark Twain was often at war.
What might unflappable George MacDonald, an ordained Congregational
preacher, have said about Mark Twain’s profound distrust in the goodness of
God? MacDonald happened to publish this line just one year after Twain
published Huckleberry Finn: “Complaint against God is far nearer to God
than indifference about him.”(34) I challenge Mark Twain lovers to locate
Twain’s most appropriate quotation for a salty reply. (36)
Key Dates in the Twain-
1870 Samuel Clemens married Olivia Langdon.
The couple read George MacDonald’s Robert Falconer.
Twain objected to too much sweetness and piety.
1872 George MacDonald visited the United States and met Mark Twain.
1873 Mark Twain visited the MacDonalds in England.
1876-1883 The two authors sometimes exchanged books.
1880 Mark Twain bought MacDonald’s novel Sir Gibbie.
1883 MacDonald invited Twain to co-author the sequel to Sir Gibbie.
Twain declined; appreciated At the Back of the North Wind.
1885 Mark Twain published Huckleberry Finn.
1899 Mark Twain was deeply moved by memory of At the Back of the North
With profound thanks to Thomas Tenney, editor of The Mark Twain Journal,
for his helpful expertise.
1. Mark Twain, Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks, ed. Dixon Wecter (San Marino,
Huntington Library: 1949) 134-137.
2. Greville MacDonald, George MacDonald and His Wife (London: George Allen
& Unwin, 1924), 432.
3. MacDonald, 442.
4. MacDonald, 443.
5. Almost eighteen years later, on November 16, 1890, Mark Twain attended a
concert given by the Jubilee Singers in Asylum Hill Congregational Church
in Hartford. He recorded the song titles in his journal, and they are
listed in Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals, Volume III, ed. Frederick
Anderson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 593-594.
6. MacDonald, 459.
7. Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals, Volume I, ed. Frederick Anderson
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 564.
8. The MacDonalds were visited by several of their new acquaintances from
the United States. Greville MacDonald tells of a visitor who “avowed
devotion to the negro cause, brought an uneducated coloured wife with him,
and, in return for unbounded hospitality and money, as well as literary
help, swindled and insulted my father.” This account appears on page 466
of Greville’s George MacDonald and His Wife.
9. Macdonald, 380.
10. Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Autobiography, Volume II (New York: Harper &
Brothers, 1924), 231. George MacDonald received an honorary doctorate from
his alma mater, King’s College in Aberdeen.
11. Mark Twain’s Autobiography, 232.
12. MacDonald, 457.
13. Alan Gribben, Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction (Boston: G.K. Hall
& Co., 1980), 442.
14. Autobiography of Mark Twain, ed. Charles Neider (New York: Harper &
Row, 1959), 288-289. This passage in chapter 53 is dated August 30, 1906.
15. Gribben, 442.
16. Sir Gibbie is presently available in five editions. The latest is an
abridged version by Kathryn Lindskoog, the only one to retain all sixty-two
chapters and all their content; it is illustrated by Patrick Wynne and was
released by Questar in 1992 for $4.99. An adaptation for young readers by
Michael Phillips, titled Wee Sir Gibbie of the Highlands, was released by
Bethany House in 1990 for $9.95. The original text was re-released by
Sunrise Books in 1989 for $27.50. An abridged version by Elizabeth Yates,
which omits parts of the story, was re-released by Schocken in 1987 for
$8.95. An abridged version by Michael Phillips titled The Baronet’s Song
was released by Bethany House in 1983 for $5.95.
17. Gribben, 440.
18. MacDonald, 458.
19. Twain, Notebooks & Journals, Volume III, 11.
20. Gribben, 441.
21. Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain, A Biography, Volume II (New York:
Harper & Brothers, 1912), 1074.
22. Gribben, 440-441.
23. First published in Harper’s Weekly, July 5, 1902.
24. Gribben, 441-442.
25. According to Phyllis Bixler’s essay “Frances Hodgson Burnett” in
American Writers for Children Before 1900, Volume 42 in Dictionary of
Literary Biography (Detroit: Gale Research, 1985), Burnett met MacDonald
when he visited New York in 1873. Burnett’s In the Closed Room (1904)
invites comparison to MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind, and
Burnett’s The White People (1917) contains what may be a fictional tribute
to MacDonald. This story is set in Scotland and features MacDonald’s
trademark, an ancient library. “Much of the story depicts the narrator’s
growing friendship with a writer she had long admired. Like MacDonald, the
writer is a world-renowned Scotchman who writes essays, poems, and
marvelous stories…. In the final scene the writer dies, and the narrator
says she has frequently seen him since, smiling at her.” (MacDonald died
twelve years before The White People was published.)
26. John Docherty’s book The Literary Products of the Lewis Carroll-George
MacDonald Friendship (Mellen, 1995) tells about the two men’s allusions to
each other in their writings.
27. Mark Twain and Huck Finn. Berkeley: U of Californis P, 1960.
28. In Was Huck Finn Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices (New
York: Oxford UP, 1993), Shelley Fisher Fishkin contends that the germ of
Huck Finn was a 1874 newspaper sketch in which Twain explored the
possibilities of using a young boy (in this case black, and younger than
Huck) as narrator.
29. See especially “The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come To
Grief” (The Californian, December 23, 1865) and “The Story of the Good
Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper” (The Galaxy, May, 1870.).
30. Victor Fischer provides a valuable survey in “Huck Finn Reviewed: The
Reception of Huckleberry Finn in the United States, 1885-1897,” American
Literary Realism, 16 (Spring 1983), 1-57.
31. George MacDonald: An Anthology, ed. C.S. Lewis (New York: Macmillan,
32. George MacDonald: An Anthology, 17.
33. From a letter to Warfield Firor of Baltimore, Maryland. William
Griffin, C. S. Lewis: A Dramatic Life (San Francisco: Harper, 1986).
34. George MacDonald: An Anthology, 126. This quotation is from chapter 39
of What’s Mine’s Mine.
35. A contender is found in the third Benares chapter of Following the
Equator (1897), as from Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar: “True
irreverence is disrespect for another man’s god.”