Orts: Essays on Life, Literature, and Imagination
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By George MacDonald
George MacDonald’s literary merits, in the estimation of C. S. Lewis, derive almost exclusively from his work in fantasy; this he did “better than any man.” Yet MacDonald wrote more than fantasy; his works span five books of theology, a dozen-plus volumes of poetry, and scores of essays and lectures. And while the quality of this additional literary yield might not have attained the same lofty heights as did his fantasy, it still delivers—in that happy blend of gravity and levity particular to MacDonald—a trove of wisdom and imaginative insight into the works and ways of both God and man.
I do not write for children, but for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five. (George MacDonald)
Orts (an archaic term for “leftovers”) is more than mere scraps from MacDonald’s literary table. Originally published in 1893 (as A Dish of Orts), the volume presents twelve essays on such topics as the imagination and its functions; Shakespeare and his genius, the poetry of Browning and Wordsworth, and a study of Shelley; two book reviews; and two sermons. Read in whole or in part, what MacDonald writes of a Browning poem will be found as equally true of these Orts: “powerful in their simplicity, and embodied in words of admirable force…full of pathos and humour; full of beauty and grandeur, earnestness and truth.”
George MacDonald (1824–1905) was a Scottish author, poet, and clergyman. Best known for his fairy tales and fantasy novels, MacDonald inspired and influenced such literary masters as W. H. Auden, G. K. Chesterton, and C. S. Lewis. His collected stories are available from Cluny in three volumes: The Lost Princess and Other Tales; The Shadows and Other Tales; and The Gifts of the Christ Child and Other Tales.
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