C.S. Lewis wrote:... I tried, trembling, to tell this man all that his writings had done for me. I tried to tell how a certain frosty afternoon at Leatherhead Station when I had first bought a copy of Phantastes (being then about sixteen years old) had been to me what the first sight of Beatrice had been to Dante: Here begins the new life. I started to confess how long that Life had delayed in the region of imagination merely: how slowly and reluctantly I had come to admit that his Christendom had more than an accidental connexion with it, how hard I had tried not to see the true name of the quality which first met me in his books is Holiness.
The above passage appears in the ninth chapter of The Great Divorce when the narrator, a character that is heavily influenced by Lewis himself, meets George MacDonald in Heaven. In reality, Lewis actually did read that very book when he was sixteen, later saying, "Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later, I knew that I had crossed a great frontier."
C.S. Lewis also greatly admired George MacDonald's religious teachings, to such a degree that Lewis compiled a collection of them known as George MacDonald: An Anthology. It is in the Preface of this book that we find these two quotes from Lewis, which tell us something of his admiration for MacDonald:
C.S. Lewis wrote:I dare not say that he is never in error; but to speak plainly I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continuously close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself. Hence his Christ-like union of tenderness and severity. Nowhere else outside the New Testament have I found terror and comfort so intertwined.
In making this collection I was discharging a debt of justice. 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. But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasize it.
George MacDonald, born in the year of 1824 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, was a Christian minister, poet, and pioneer in the world of fantasy literature. While his name has grown somewhat obscure over the years, MacDonald and his writings have had a profound effect on classic literature. He was the friend and mentor of Lewis Carroll, and a friend and arguable literary influence of Mark Twain. Besides C.S. Lewis, he has also been an influence to many other authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, E. Nesbit, and Madeleine L'Engle, to name a few.
While it has been several years since I have read any of MacDonald's fictional works (I read The Princess and the Goblin at around ten years of age), I've begun reading MacDonald's series Unspoken Sermons over the past eight or so months and have absolutely loved it. I don't think Lewis's assessment was off-the-mark when he described MacDonald's writings as "Christ-like", and I often run across lines and ideas in Unspoken Sermons that remind me of themes I've encountered in the Chronicles of Narnia.
Have you read any books by George MacDonald, whether fiction or non-fiction? Do you perceive any parallels between MacDonald's novels and the Chronicles of Narnia? (Have you noticed any times in which Lewis actually quotes from him in his books, as Lewis claimed in the aforementioned quote?) For those of you who are familiar with his religious teachings, have you observed any unique influence from MacDonald on Lewis's beliefs as a Christian, or in the religious themes that are found in the Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis's other works?