The Golden Key

Home to the George MacDonald Society

Home to the George MacDonald Society



“ ...If you turn your face to the sun, my boy, your soul will, when you come to die, feel like an autumn, with the golden fruits of the earth hanging in rich clusters ready to be gathered --- not like a winter.  You may feel ever so worn, but you will not feel withered.  You will die in peace, hoping for the spring --- and such a spring!”

Ranald Bannerman’s Boyhood



To cease to educate in order to amuse is to degenerate. Amusement is a good and sacred thing; but it is not on par with education; and indeed if it does not in any way further the growth of the higher nature, it cannot be called good at all.

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood



"Father, who through thy Son knowest pain, and who dost even now in thyself feel the pain of this thy child, help her to endure until thou shalt say it is enough, and send it from her.  Let it not overmaster her patience;  let it not be too much for her.  What good it shall work in her, thou, Lord, needest not that we should instruct thee."

(Polwarth’s prayer for Juliet) Paul Faber, Surgeon



I don't see what right people have to expect what they have been used to.

Vicar's Daughter



“But truth is truth,” George would have replied.

What you profess to teach them might be a fact, but could never be a truth,  I answer.  And the very value which you falsely put upon facts you have learned to attribute to them from the supposed existence of something at the root of all facts, namely truths, or eternal laws of being.  Still, if you believe that men will be happier from learning your discovery that there is no God, preach it, and prosper in proportion to it’s truth.  No; that from my pen would be a curse --- no preach it not, I say, until you  have searched all spaces of space, up and down, in greatness and smallness --- where I  grant indeed, but you cannot know, that you will not find him --- and all regions of thought and feeling, all the unknown mental universe of possible discovery --- preach it not until you have searched that also, I say, lest what you count a truth should prove to be no fact, and there should after all be somewhere, somehow, a very, living God, a Truth indeed, in whom is the universe.  If you say, “But I am convinced there is none,” I answer ---  You may be convinced that there is no God such as this or that in whom men imagine they believe, but you cannot be convinced there is no God.

Thomas Wingfold, Curate



"I don't know quite," he had been saying, "what to think about that story of the woman they brought to Jesus in the temple --- I mean how it got into that nook of the gospel of St. John, where it has no right place. --- They didn't bring her for healing or for the rebuke or her demon, but for condemnation, only they came to the wrong man for that. ... ... ... I did think once, buthastily, that it was our Lord's text for saying 'I am the light of the world,'  but it follows quite as well on his offer of living water. ... ... ... But it doesn't matter much: the tale must be a true one.  Only --- to think of just this one story, of tenderest  righteousness, floating about like a holy waif through the world of letters! --- a sweet gray dove of promise that can find no rest for the sole of it foot!  Just this one story of all stories a kind of outcast!  And yet as a wanderer, oh how welcome! ..."

Excerpt from: "Thomas Wingfold, Curate." Chapter eighty-two

By George MacDonald



7 man sinks into the grave. He only disappears. Life is a constant sunrise, which death cannot interrupt, any more than the night can swallow up the sun. "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him."

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood



I ran down the stair, fearing she[ the white leopardess] would spring on my back, but she followed me quietly. At the foot I turned to lay hold of her, but she sprang over my head; and when again I turned to face her, she was crouching at my feet!  I stooped and stroked her lovely white skin; she responded by licking my bare feet with her hard dry tongue. Then I patted and fondled her, a well of tenderness overflowing in my heart. She might be treacherous too, but if I turned from every show of love lest it should be feigned, how was I ever to find the real love which must be somewhere in every world?


Lip Yeow


If you find what I tell you untrue, it will only be that it is not grand and free and bounteous enough. To think anything too good to be true, is to deny God --- to say the untrue may be better than the true --- that there might be a greater God than he.

Donal Grant



Alas for our beliefs if they go no farther than the poor horizon of our experience or our logic, or any possible wording of the beliefs themselves! Alas for ourselves if our beliefs are not what we shape our lives, our actions, our aspirations, our hopes, our repentances by!

Donal Grant



The thought has not yet come to him that that which it would be unfair to lay upon him as punishment, may yet be laid upon him as favour --- by a love supreme which would give him blessing beyond all possible prayer --- blessing he would not dare to ask if he saw the means necessary to its giving, but blessing for which, once known and understood, he would be willing to endure yet again all that he had undergone.

“The Voice of Job”, Unspoken Sermons, Second Series



Offered the spirit of God for the asking, offered it by the Lord Himself, in the misery of their unbelief they betake themselves to necromancy instead, and raise the dead to ask their advice, and follow it, and will find someday that Satan had not forgotten how to dress like an angel of light. Nay, he can be more cunning with the demands of time. We are clever; he will be cleverer. Why should he dress and not speak like an angel of light? Why should he not give good advice if that will help to withdraw people by degrees from regarding the source of all good? he knows well enough that good advice goes for little, but that what fills the heart and mind goes for much.

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood



And their lamps were going out, for they grew redder and smokier!  But they did not lose courage, for there is a kind of capillary attraction in the facing of two souls, that lifts quite beyond the level to which either could raise it alone ...

 They grew weary, and sat down on the rocky floor, for wait they would --- indeed, wait they must.  Each set his lamp by his knee, and watched it die.   ...   Then all was blackness of darkness up to their very hearts and everywhere around them. 

excerpt from Chapter Seven, 'What is in a Name?'

The Princess and the Curdie



Now to the practical :what are we to do for the polish of our manners?

Just what I have said we must do for the polish of our style.  Take off; do not put on.  Polish away this rudeness, that awkwardness.  Correct everything self-assertive, which includes nine-tenths of all vulgarity.  Imitate no one's behaviour; that is to paint.  Do not think about yourself; that is to varnish.  Put what is wrong right, and what is in you will show itself in harmonious behaviour.

from"On Polish", A Dish of Orts



The so-called special providences are no exception to the rule

 --- they are common to all men at all moments. But it is a fact that God's care is more evident in some instances of it than in others to the dim and often bewildered vision of humanity. Upon such instances men seize and call them providences. It is well that they can; but it would be gloriously better if they could believe that the whole matter is one grand providence.

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood



All things are shadows of thee, Lord;

   The sun himself is but thy shade;

My spirit is the shadow of thy word,

   Thy candle sun-bedayed!

Diamonds are shadows of the sun;

   They gleam as after him they hark

My soul some arrows of thy light hath won,

   And round me slays the dark!

All knowledge is but broken shades ---

   In gulfs of dark a wandering horde

Together rush the parted glory-grades ---

   And lo, thy garment, Lord!

My soul, the shadow, still is light,

   Because the shadow falls from thee;

I turn, dull candle, to the centre bright,

   And home flit shadowy.

Shine, shine; make me thy shadow still ---

   The brighter still the more thy shade;

My motion be thy lovely moveless will!

   My darkness, light delayed!

Castle Warlock

Caroline Macdonald

b. 1854



Act-truth is infinitely more than fact-truth; the love of the

truth infinitely beyond the knowledge of it.

Donal Grant




Thy good embraces ill, and lo! its illness dies!

Diary of an Old Soul

Bernard MacDonald born (1865),

 George Macdonald’s death (1905)



"What is there that can be done?" answered Leopold. "It does seem hard that a man should be made capable doing things that he is not made capable of undoing again."

 "It is indeed a terrible thought!  And even the small wrong

is, perhaps, too awful a thing for created being ever to set right again." 

"You mean it takes God to do that?"

“I do." 

 "I don't see how He could ever set some things right." 

 "He would not be God if He could not or would not do for His creature what that creature cannot do for himself and must

have done for him or lose his life."  

Thomas Wingfold, Curate 



"Have you forgiven me?" I asked.

"How can I say I have, when I never had anything to forgive?"

Well, then, I must go unforgiven, for I cannot forgive myself," I said.

"O Mrs. Percivale!  if you think how the world is flooded with forgiveness, you will just dip in your cup, and take what you want."

The Vicar’s Daughter



All day long he sat silent in his cabin; nor could any effort of the

captain , or others on board, induce him to go on deck  till night came on, when, under the starlight he ventured the open air.  The sky soothed him then, he knew not how.  For the face of nature is the face of God, and must bear expressions that can influence, though unconsciously  to them, the most ignorant and hopeless of His children. 

"The Broken Swords"



It shall not cause me any alarm

 For neither so come the bird to harm 

Seeing our father, thou hast said,

 Is by the sparrow's dying bed;

Therefore it is a blessed place

 And the sparrow in high grace. 

 It cometh therefore to this, Lord

 I have considered thy word,

 And henceforth will be they bird. 

excerpt from poem 'Consider the Ravens'

Poetical Works, Volume Two


I wonder how many Christians there are who so thoroughly believe God made them that they can laugh in God's name; who understand that God invented laughter and gave it to his children. Such belief would add a keenness to the zest in their enjoyment, and slay that sneering laughter of which a man grimaces to the fiends, as well as that feeble laughter in which neither heart nor intellect has a share. It would help them also to understand the depth of this miracle. The Lord of gladness delights in the laughter of a merry heart.

“The Beginning of Miracles”

The Miracles of Our Lord



“...if I had seen nothing else, I could now go home content.  Yet I am not sure whether amidst the lovely chaos of shifting clouds I have seen the highest peak of the Jungfrau.  It is utterly useless to try to describe it ... I hate the photographs, they convey no idea. The tints and the lines and the mass and the streams and the vapours, and the mingling, and the infinitude, and the loftiness, the glaciers and the slow crawling avalanches --- they cannot be described.

  Once today, looking through the midst, I said with just a slight reservation of doubt in my heart,”There that is as high as I want it to be,” and straightway I saw a higher point grow out of the mist beyond. So have I found it with the ways of God. And so will you, dear love.”

 (from a letter to his wife - from Murren, summer, 1865)

An Expression of Character, ed. Sadler



At first, he heard a good many rough and bad words; but he did not like them, and so they did him little harm. He did not know in the least what they meant, but there was something in the very sound of them, and in the tone of voice in which they were said, which Diamond felt to be ugly. So they did not even stick to him, not to say get inside him. He never took any notice of them, and his face shone pure and good in the middle of them, like a primrose in a hailstorm.

At the Back of the North Wind



The truth of the flower is, not the facts about it, be they correct as ideal science itself, but the shining, glowing, gladdening, patient thing throned on its stalk ---  the compeller of smile and tear from child and prophet.

“The Truth” Unspoken Sermons Series Three



Things can never be really possessed by the man who cannot do without them --- who would not be absolutely, divinely content in the consciousness that the cause of his being is within it --- and with him. I would not be misunderstood. No man can have the consciousness of God with him and not be content; I mean that no man who has not the Father so as to be eternally content in him alone, can possess a sunset or a field of grass or a mine of gold or the love of a fellow-creature according to its nature ---as God would have him possess it --- in the eternal way of inheriting, having, and holding.  He who has God, has all things, after the fashion in which he who made them has them. To man, woman, and child, I say --- if you are not content, it is because God is not with you as you need him, not with you as he would be with you, as you must have him; for you need him as your body never needed food or air, need him as your soul never hungered after joy, or peace, or pleasure...

“The Hardness of the Way”

 Unspoken Sermons, Series Two




Is it not strange that in the Christian law we can offer to God the most deformed and diseased thing we have got  --- ourselves?  I have had a most strange, delightful feeling lately

 --- when disgusted with my own selfishness --- of just giving away the self to God --- throwing it off me up to heaven --- to be forgotten and grow clean, without my smearing it all over with trying to wash out the spot.

from a letter to his wife, 1861

 An Expression of Character, ed. Sadler



Suddenly she came out on a little open glade; and there, on the root of a great oak, sat the loveliest little girl, with her lap full of flowers of all colours, but of such kinds as Rosamond had never before seen. She was playing with them --- burying her hands in them, tumbling them about, and every now and then picking one from the rest, and throwing it away. All the time she never smiled, except with her eyes, which were as full as they could hold of the laughter of the spirit  ---  a laughter which in this world is never heard, only sets the eyes alight with a liquid shining.

The Wise Woman   Chapter thirteen



The sky, the water, the wide earth

Was full of windy play ---

Shining and fair, alive with mirth,

 All for his holiday!

excerpt from the poem "The Golden Key"

Poetical Works, Volume Two