GEORGE MACDONALD by William Raeper


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A conventional biography of the Victorian novelist, theologian, and children's book writer. Raeper, secretary to the George Macdonald Society, has conscientiously performed a long-overdue task--the last biography of the author of Lilith and At the Back of the North Wind was written by his son, Greville, in 1924. Raeper gathers together a great deal of interesting information about Macdonald, his 11 children, his circle of literary friends--Ruskin, Lewis Carroll, Lady Byron--and the intellectual and social currents of the time. Unfortunately, the finished product lacks grace. Raeper has the sad habit of inserting block quotations from secondary sources when he could simply paraphrase and footnote. More serious is his propensity for writing endless plot summaries of many of Macdonald's 26 novels. His critical insights are not profound, and he does little to resurrect Macdonald's literary reputation. Raeper concedes the general criticism that Macdonald was pedantic, and a mediocre stylist, and lays claims for him only as an innovative novelist of the unconscious, in the Gothic vein. One wishes Raeper had followed a more definite path, towards either a forceful literary reappraisal or a social biography of the man and his times. All in all, a clumsy blend of life narrative, Victorian social and intellectual history, and literary analysis.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Lion