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 England.(6)
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 Hammersmith.(8)
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 determined 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 loved it!”(21)
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.
- 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 lamb.
- 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.
- Black Man: The boy finds a kind of foster-father in a tender-hearted black man. The relationship changes the boy’s life.
- Runaway: The boy has little sense about money, but much practical sense about survival skills. He becomes a runaway who lives off the land
- 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.
- Raft: Someone takes a remarkable journey downriver on a raft.
- Silent Child: An adult beats a child for refusing to respond, only to discover later that the child was physically unable to do so.
- Sign Language: Someone in the novel communicates regularly by means of sign language.
- False Piety: There is much artificial Christianity and some false sermonizing in the story.
- Pilgrim’s Progress: The boy reads repeatedly in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
- 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.
- Title Fraud: An outrageously immoral and rather humorous character wrongly appropriates a hereditary title and demands and receives special courtesies as a result.
- Missing Child: The boy is futilely sought by his townspeople as the supposed victim after a break-in by (real or imagined) murderers.
- Forgiveness: The boy demonstrates a surprisingly tolerant spirit toward people who have harmed him.
- Wounded Boy: An adult shoots a boy in the calf of his leg.
- A Trust: A boy who has usually worn rags owns money which is held in trust for him by a stuffy professional man.
- Murder and alcohol: Grisly murder and chronic alcoholism of are important plot elements.
- Superstition: The novel describes eccentric local superstitions that some of the characters believe in.
- Dialect: The novel makes heavy use of colorful dialect which is appropriate to its locale, but far from standard English.
- 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 care about.
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) Whether Sir 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 in 1880.
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 Tom Sawyer:
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 marriage; 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 unreadable.
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-MacDonald Relationship
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 Wind.
With profound thanks to Thomas Tenney, editor of The Mark Twain Journal, for his helpful expertise.
- Mark Twain, Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks, ed. Dixon Wecter (San Marino, Huntington Library: 1949) 134-137.
- Greville MacDonald, George MacDonald and His Wife (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1924), 432.
- MacDonald, 442.
- MacDonald, 443.
- 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.
- MacDonald, 459.
- Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals, Volume I, ed. Frederick Anderson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 564.
- 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.
- Macdonald, 380.
- 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.
- Mark Twain’s Autobiography, 232.
- MacDonald, 457.
- Alan Gribben, Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1980), 442.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain, ed. Charles Neider (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), 288-289. This passage in chapter 53 is dated August 30, 1906.
- Gribben, 442.
- 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.
- Gribben, 440.
- MacDonald, 458.
- Twain, Notebooks & Journals, Volume III, 11.
- Gribben, 441.
- Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain, A Biography, Volume II (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912), 1074.
- Gribben, 440-441.
- First published in Harper’s Weekly, July 5, 1902.
- Gribben, 441-442.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Mark Twain and Huck Finn. Berkeley: U of Californis P, 1960.
- 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.
- 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.).
- 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.
- George MacDonald: An Anthology, ed. C.S. Lewis (New York: Macmillan, 1947), 20.
- George MacDonald: An Anthology, 17.
- From a letter to Warfield Firor of Baltimore, Maryland. William Griffin, C. S. Lewis: A Dramatic Life (San Francisco: Harper, 1986).
- George MacDonald: An Anthology, 126. This quotation is from chapter 39 of What’s Mine’s Mine.
- 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.”