Phantastes: A Faerie Romance by George MacDonald (1858)
Phantastes A Faerie Romance
“Phantastes from ‘their fount’ all shapes deriving,
In new habiliments can quickly dight.”
Fletcher’s Purple Island
Epigraph on page 1 (with title)
Epigraph, pages 2 (German) and 3 (English)
“Es lassen sich Erzablungen ohne Zusammenbang, jedoch mit Association, wie Traume, denken, Gedichte, die bloss wohlklingend und voll schoner Worte sind, aber auch ohne allen Sinn und Zusammenbang, hochstens einzelne Strophen verstandlich, wie Bruchstucke aus den verschiedenartigsten Dingen. Diese wahre Poesie kann hochstens einen allegorischen Sinn im Grossen, und die indirecte Wirking, wie die Stube eines Zauberers, eines Physikers, eine Kinderstube, eine Polterund Vorrathskammer . . .
“Ein Mahrchen ist wie ein Traumbild ohne Zusammenbang. Ein Ensemble wunderbarer Dinge und Begebenheiten, z. B. eine Musikalische Phantastie, die harmonischen Folgen einer Aeolsharfe, die Natur selbst . . .
“In einem echten Mahrchen muss alleas wunderbar, geheimnissvoll und zusammenhangend sein, alles belebt, jeder auf eine andere Art. Die ganze Natur muss wunderlich mit der ganzen Geiserwelt gemischt sein, hier tritt die Zeit der Anarchie, der Gesetzlogiskeit, Freiheit, der Naturstand der Natur, die Zeit vor der Welt ein . . . Die Welt des Mahrchens ist die, der Welt der Wahrheit durchaus entgegengesetzte, und eben darum ihr so durchaus ahnlich, wie da Chaos der vollendeten Schopfung ahnlich ist.”
“One can imagine stories without rational cohesion and yet filled with associations, like dreams, and poems that are merely lovely sounding. full of beautiful words, but also without rational sense and connections–with, at the most, individual verses which are intelligible, like fragments of the most varied things. This true Poesie can at most have a general allegorical meaning and an indirect effect, as music does. Thus is Nature so purely poetic, like the room of a magician or a physicist, like a children’s nursery or a carpenter’s shop . . .
“A fairy-story is like a vision without rational connections, a harmonious whole of miraculous things and events–as, for example, a musical fantasia, the harmonic sequence of an Aeolian harp, indeed Nature itself . . .
“In a genuine fairy-story, everything must be miraculous, mysterious, and interrelated, everything must be alive, each in its own way. The whole of Nature must be wondrously blended with the whole world of the Spirit. In fairy-story the time of anarchy, lawlessness, freedom, the natural state of Nature makes itself felt in the world . . . The world of the fairy-story is that world which is opposes throughout to the world of of rational truth, and precisely for that reason it is so thoroughly an analogue to it, as Chaos is an analogue to the finished Creation.”
“A spirit . . .
. . . . .
The undulating woods, and silent well,
And rippling rivulet, and evening gloom,
Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming,
Held commune with him, as if he and it
Were all that was. [“]
“‘Wo ist der Strom?’ rief er mit Thranen. ‘Siebst du nicht seine blauen Wellen uber uns?’ Er sah hinauf, und der blaue Strom floss leise uber ihrem Haupte.”
NOVALIS, Heinrich von Ofterdingen
“‘Where is the stream?’ cried he, with tears. ‘Seest thou not its blue waves above us?’ He looked up, and lo! the blue stream was flowing gently over their heads.”
“Man doth usurp all space,
Stares thee, in rock, bush, river, in the face.
Never yet thine eyes behold a tree,
‘Tis no sea thou seest in the sea,
‘Tis but a disguised humanity.
To avoid thy fellow, vain thy plan,
All that interests a man, is man.”
“When bale is att hyest, boote is nyest.”
Ballad of Sir Aldingar
“And she was smooth and full, as if one gush
Of life had washed her, or as if a sleep
Lay on her eyelid, easier to sweep
Than bee from daisy.”
“Sche was as whyt as lylye yn May
Or snow that sneweth yn Wynterys day.”
Romance of Sir Launfal
“Ach, hute sich doch ein Mensch, wenn seine erfullten Wunsche auf ihn herad regnen, und er so uber alle Maase frolich ist!”
–FOUQUE Der Zauberring
“Ah, let a man beware, when his wishes, fulfilled, rain down upon him, and his happiness is unbounded.”
“Thy red lips, like worms,
Travel over my cheek.”
“Fight on, my men, Sir Andres sayes,
A little Ime hurt, but yett not slaine,
Ile but lye downe and bleede awhile,
And then Ile rise and fight againe.”
Ballad of Sir Andre Barton
“Ich bin ein Theil des Theils, der anfangs alles war.”
GOETHE -Mephistopheles in Faust
“I am a part of the part, which at first was the whole.”
“O Lady! we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does nature live:
Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud!
. . . . .
Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth,
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud,
Enveloping the Earth–
And from the soul itself must there be sent
A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,
Of all sweet sounds the life and element!”
“From Eden’s bowers the full-fed rivers flow,
To guide the outcasts to the land of woe:
Our Earth one little toiling streamlet yields,
To guide the wanderers to the happy fields.”
“A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth,
Far sinking into splendor–without end:
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes, and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
“Chained is the Spring. The night-wind bold
Blows over the hard earth,
Time is not more confused and cold,
Nor keeps more wintry mirth.
“Yet blow and roll the world about,
Blow, Time–blow, winter’s Wind!
Through chinks of Time, heaven peepeth out,
And Spring the frost behind.”
“I saw a ship sailing upon the sea,
Deeply laden as a ship could be,
But not so deep as in love I am,
For I care not whether I sink or swim.”
“But Love is such a Mystery
I cannot find it out:
For when I think I’m best resolv’d,
I then am in most doubt.”
SIR JOHN SUCKLING
Have we pass’d through, not without much content
In many singularities, but we saw not
That which my daughter came to look upon,
The statue of her mother.”
“Alexander. When will you finish Campaspe?
“Apelles. Never finish: for always in absolute beauty there is somewhat above art.”
“Selbst der Styx, drer neunfach sie umwindet,
Wehrt die Ruckkehr Ceres Tochter nicht:
Nach dem Apfel greift sie, und es bindet
Ewig sie des Orkus Pflicht.”
SCHILLER — Das Ideal und das Leben.
“Ev’n the Styx, which ninefold her infoldeth,
Hems not Ceres’s daughter in its flow,
But she grasps the apple–ever holdeth
Her, sad Orcus, down below.”
“Anfangs wollt’ ich fast verzagen,
Und ich glaubt’ ich trug’ es nie,
Und ich hab’ es doch getragen,–
Aber fragt mich nur nicht: wie?”
First, I thought, almost despairing,
This must crush my spirit now,
Yet I bore it, and am bearing–
Only do not ask me how.”
“Im Sausen des Windes, in Brausen des Meers,
Und im Seufzen der eigenen Brust.”
“In the wind’s uproar, the sea’s raging grim,
And the sighs that are born in him.”
“Ja, es wird zwar ein anders Zeitalter kommen, wo es Licht wird, und wo der Mensch aus erhabnen Traumen erwacht, und die Traume–wieder findet, weil er nichts verlor als den Schlaf.”
–JEAN PAUL, Hesperus
“From dreams of bliss shall men awake
One day, but not to weep:
The dreams remain, they only break
The mirror of the sleep.”
“In stiller Ruhe, in wechselloser Einfalt fuhr ich ununterbrochen das Bewusstseyn der ganzen Menschheit in mir.”
“In still rest, in changeless simplicity, I bear, uninterrupted, the consciousness iof the whole of Humanity without me.”
“–such a sweetness, such a grace
In all thy speech appear,
That what to th’eye a beauteous face,
That thy tongue is to the ear.”
“Thou hadst no fame, that which thou didst like good
Was but thy appetite that swayed thy blood
For that time to the best, for as a blast
That through a house comes, usually doth cast
Things out of order, yet by chance may come
And blow some one thing to his proper room,
So did thy appetite, and not thy zeal,
Sway thee by chance to do some one thing well.”
FLETCHER’S Faithful Shepherdess
“The noble hart that harbours vertuous thought
And is with childe of glorious great intent,
Can never rest, until it forth have brought
Th’ eternall brood of glorie excellent.”
SPENSER–The Faerie Queene
“I put my life in your hands.”
–The Book of Judges
“Niemand hat meine Gestalt als der Ich.”
Scoppe, in JEAN PAUL’S Titan
“No one has my form but I.”
“Joy’s a subtil elf.
I think man’s happiest when he forgets himself.”
CYRIL TOURNEAUR– The Revenger’s Tragedy
“High erected thought, seated in a heart of courtesy.”
Sir PHILIP SIDNEY
“A sweet attractive kind of grace,
A full assurance given by lookes,
Continuall comfort in a face,
The lineaments of Gospell bookes.”
MATTHEW ROYDON, on Sir Philip Sidney
“We are ne’er like angels till our passions die.”
“This wretched Inn, where we scarce stay to bait,
We call our Dwelling-Place:
We call one Step a Race:
But angels in their full enlightened state,
Angels, who Live, and know what ’tis to Be,
Who all the nonsense of our language see,
Who speak things, and our words, their ill-drawn pictures, scorn,
When we, by a foolish figure say,
Behold an old man dead! then they
Speak properly, and cry, Behold a man-child born!”
“Unser Leben ist kein Traum, aber es soll und wird vielleicht einer werden.”
“Our life is no dream, but it ought to become one, and perhaps will.”
“And on the ground, which is my modres gate,
I knocke with my staf, erlich and late,
And say to hire, Leve mother, “et me in.”
CHAUCER, The Pardoneres Tale.
C.S.Lewis on Phantastes:
Letters to Arthur Greeves:
(Gastons 7 March 1916) Tuesday
I have had a great literary experience this week. I have discovered yet another author to add to our circle–our very own set: never since I first read ‘The well at the world’s end’ have I enjoyed a book so much–and indeed I think my new ‘find’ is quite as good as Malory or Morris himself. The book, to get to the point, is George Macdonald’s ‘Faerie Romance’, Phantastes, which I picked up by hazard in a rather tired Everyman copy–by the way isn’t it funny, they cost 1/ld. now–on our station bookstall last Saturday. Have you read it? I suppose not, as if you had, you could not have helped telling me about it. At any rate, whatever the book you are reading now, you simply MUST get this at once: and it is quite worth getting in a superior Everyman binding too.
Of course it is hopeless for me to try and describe it, but when you have followed the hero Anodos along that little stream to the faery wood, have heard about the terrible ash tree and how the the shadow of his gnarled hand falls upon the book the hero is reading, when you have read about the faery paalace–just like the picture in the Dulac book–and heard the episode of Cosmo, I know that you will quite agree with me. You must not be disappointed at the first chapter which is rather conventional faery tal style, and after it you won’t be able to stop until you have finished. There are one or two poems in the tale–as in the Morris tales you know–which, with one or two exceptions are shockingly bad, so don’t TRY to appreciate them: it is just a sign, isn’t it, of howsome geniuses can’t work in metrical forms–anothe example being the Brontes.
(14 March 1916)
It must have been a very old Everyman list on which you found ‘Phantastes’ as one of the new ones, since, to my knowledge, the copy I got had been on the bookstall for weeks. Everyman with us have gone up 1d. in the shilling. I suppose it is just the same at home? By the time you get this you will probably have finished Phantastes, so you must give me your verdict on it as a whole: when one has read a book, I think there is nothing so nice as discussing it with some one else–even though it sometimes produce rather fierce arguments.
(21 March 1916)
I’m awfully bucked to hear that you think the same about Phantastes as I, though if you only began to enjoy it in the eleventh chapter, you must have missed what I thought were the best parts–that is to say the forest scene and the faery palace–or does that come after chapter XI? You will gather that the book is upstairs and that I am too lazy to go and get it. I hope that by this time you have bought ‘Sir Gibbie’ and will be able to advise me on it. Some of the titles of his other books are, to me at least, even more alluring than the one you quote: for instance ‘At the back of the north wind.’
(6 June 1916)
I know very well what you mean by books getting tiresome half way through, but don’t think it always happens: for instance ‘Phantastes,’ ‘Jane Eyre,’ ‘Shirley,’ (which in fact only begins to get interesting about then) might be cited–good word that–as examples.
(4 July 1916)
By the way, I hope you don’t really think that I hinted for a moment that your willow was borrowed from my roses: how could you know what my roses were going to do about five chapters ahead? Above all, don’t change anything in the plan of your tale on that account. Perhaps, as you say, we both took it unconsciously from ‘Phantastes,’ who in his turn borrowed it from the dryads, etc. of classical mythology, who are a development of the primitive savage idea that everything has a spirit (just as your precious Jehovah is an old Hebrew thunder spirit): so we needn’t be ashamed of borrowing our trees, sinc ethey are really common property.
25 July 1916
. . . in the same edition as the ‘Letters from Hell’ I suppose. That book (Hell) by the way is not by Dostoevsky I think, because I fancy I read somewhere that it is translated not from the Russian but from the Swediah: Ihave noticed too (did I tell you this before) that this edition has a preface by our friend Macdonald, the author of Phantastes.
20 February 1916
It is difficult to choose betweewn two such perfect flowers as the ‘Crock of Gold’ and ‘Phantastes.’ The former has a beautiful sense of nature and open air, and a certain volutpuousness that the other ha’nt, but then there is nothing in it quite so fine as the faery palace or the place where Anodos comes out on the sad sea shore and throws himself into the waves–or the story of Cosmo. You see! what memories crowd up. Still the homely, Iish beauty of the other is topping: so is the humour both of the philosopher and the policemen. The philosophical parts (I mean the serious philosophical parts at the beginning of some chapters) I don’;t understand, but they stir me in some strange way that theyn probably wouldn’t if I reall could follow them.
14 March 1917
I say ‘bright volumes’ advisedly, because all books are not suitable for bed reading. Books of the’Phantastes’ and ‘Crock of Gold” typr are best; some new ones if possible, several old favorites, a trashy novel from the library (trashy, but not bad, if you know what I mean) AND some picture books of the Rackham and Robinson type. I should find ‘Jason’ very good company too.
6 May 1917 Uni.Coll.
Well first, let me most earnestly advise you to get Gautier’s ‘Un Trio de Romans’ when you next want a French book. It is really excellent; one story rather eminds me of the Cosmio episode in ‘Phantastes’.
8 July 1917 Univ.Coll.
The best, in fact the only really important tale in Gautier’s little book was the last one ‘Avatar,’ which I would have had you read first and read the other two or not, as might seem worthwhile afterwards. It was this third onr that I compared, not to Phantastes as a whole, but to the Cosmo story–which, you know, has rather a different flavour from the main book. I must admit that the resemblance is rather a vague one: still, I am sure that you will like ‘Avatar’ if you give it a trial.
24 July 1917 Uni.Coll.
I suppose that by now you are nearly at the end of ‘Avatar’, and see what I meant by com[aring it to the Cosmo story. It is an excellent little novel, I think, as voluptuous and magical as only you an I can appreciate.
Sunday 5 January 1930 Hillsboro
In the meantime, I wish to record that it has been about the biggest shaking up I’ve got from a book [Jacob Boehme, The Signature of all Things, with Other Writings, Everyman Library], since I first read Phantastes. It is not such a plesant experience as Phantastes, and if it continues to give me the same feeling when I understand more I shall give I up. No fooling about for me: and I keep one hand firmly gripped around the homely and simple things. But it is a real book: i.e., it’s not like a book at all, but like a thunderclap. Heaven defend us–what things there are knocking about the world!
18 August 1930 Hillsboro
And yet one has to go through with it: and little by little the real consolations come. Read what Bunyan says about the valley of humiliation. Read about Anodos at the low island where the old woman lived.
6 March 1926
A cetain part of my disappointment is clearly special to the present case. Heinemann’s had treated me well before. I had allowed myself to think of them as [ed. Phantastes, ch.22] and flattered myself on being admitted to the rank of the number of good poets whose work they publish.
31 August 1931 Hillsboro
If I followed my inclinations I would have read them all by now [gifts of MacD. from AG]: but fortunately work forbids me such a dangerous orgy. I have however finished Wilfrid Cumbermede –I took it down to Parson’s Pleasure and read naked under the willows. I shall not venture on my next Macdonald, tho’ tempted, for some time, for fear of spoiling my own delights.
As you said in one of your letters, his novels have great and almost intolerable faults. His only real form is the symbolical fantasy like Phantastes and Lilith. This is what he always writes: but unfortunately, for financial reasons, he sometimes has to disguise it as ordinary Victorian fiction. hence what you get is a certain amount of the real Macdonald linked (as Mezentius linked live men to corpses)–linked onto a mass of quite worthless ‘plot’: and as his real parts have to involve strange happenings, the plot is usually improbable, obscure, and melodramatic. Thus Wilfrid’s dream of Athanasia, his waking to find Mary (transfigured) by his side, and the sword between them, is pure vision. It is in fact closely connected in that world with the sword-divided sleep of Sigurd and Brynhild, and also with Dymer’s adventures. (For we don’t individually invent these things, perhaps. Look how the ’empty castle’ theme is present in Phantastes, Wilfrid, and Dymer. No doubt it passed into Dymer from Phantastes: but then, from it, in Dymer, I passed on to the mysterious bedfellow without any guidance from Macdonald–and only now find that he has got that bit of the story too, only in another book. Don’t you get the feeling of something waiting there and slowly being recovered in fragments by different human minds according to their abilities, and partially spoiled in each writer by the admixture of his own mere individual invention?) This is pure vision, as I say: unfortuantely, in oreder to keep up the pretence that he is writing a novel, he has to explain it all away–hence all the impossible rigmarole about Clara’s putting the sword there and Mary’s getting into the wrong bed. Yet the gold is so good that it carries off the dross and I hope to read this book many times again. Things that particularly affected me were the grass plain round the old farm (I don’t know why this gives such a magical air), the storm raised by the pendulum and the sudden appearance of the horsemen, the chapter called ‘On the Leads’, the scene of Wifrid lost on the Alps, and the dream of Charley (what a name) and Wilfrid dead, and perching on the bushes. I don’t think as a whole it is so good as Sir Gibbie which seems of all G.M’s novels so far as I have read to avoid best the mere deadweight of ‘plot’ that I have complained of. Thanks, Arthur, again and again. I know nothing that gives me such a feeling of spiritual healing, of beingwashed, as to read G. Macdonald.
15 September 1930
I think you misunderstood me abouit the Macdonald. I never meant the novels wd. be better without a story, nor that the good parts consisted of anything other than story. All I meant was that a really valuable story of the Phantastes kind was constantly being interrupted by a story of a quite inferior kind, and even an inferior specimen of that kind. Also, I agree that the frist few chapters of S.Gibbie are nothing like as good as the first few chapters of W. Cumbermede. But by now you will have got to the good parts. Don’t you love ‘sleep was scattered all over the world’–and the lovely homeliness of the farm kitchen–and the apparition of Sir Gibbie when the old woman mistakes him for Christ.
29 October 1930
About Geo. Macdonld, I am afraid we must agree to a real difference. The exciting story in Wilfrid Cumbermede seems to me a pure drag and Sir Gibbie seems to me much better because the excitement in it is of the real sort and not interrupted by the mere machinery of the old melodramatic 3-vol. novel. I bought two others in London, Adela Cathcart and What’s Mine’s Mine just before term began. (By the way the bookseller told me that there was a small but steady demand for Macdonalds–wh. is interesting and encouraging). Adela I am afraid I think definitely bad, tho it begins well: and The Seaboard Parish the same. The real holiness is, in them both, degenrating into mere flat moralizing and sometimes it is hard to feel that you’re reading the author of Phantastes.
17 January 1931
I have read a new Macdonald since I last wrote, which I think the very best of the novels. I would put it immediately below Phantastes, Lilith, the fairy Tales, and the Diary of an Old Soul. It is called What’s Mine’s Mine. It has very little of the bad plot interest, and quite frankly subordinates story to doctrine. But such doctrine. Some of the conversations in this book I hope to re-read many times. The scene and the characters are Highland Celtic, as opposed to the Lowland Scots of most of the novels: highly idealised. Yet somehow they convince me. Or if they don’;t quite convince me as real people, they differ from most ideal characters in this, that I wish they were real. A young chief of a decaying clan is the hero: and the chief contrast is between the clansmen and a vulgar rich Glasgow family who have come to live in the neighbourhood. These are, like most of Macdonald’s worshippers of Mammon, over-drawn. I venture to think that there was some moral, as well as literary, weakness in this. I mean in characters like th baronet in Sir Gibbie etc. I obseerve that M. is constantly praying against anger
Keep me from wrath, let it seem never so right.
I wonder did he indulge (day-dreamily) an otherwise repressed fund of indignation by putting up in his novels bogeys to whom his heroes could make the stunning retorts and deliver the stunning blows which he himself neither could not would deliver in real life. I am certain that this is morally as well as artistically dangerous and I’ll tell you why. The pleasure of anger–the gnawing attraction which makes one return again and again to its theme–lies, I believe, in the fact that one feels entirely righteous oneself only when one is angry. Then the other person is pure black, and you are pure white. But in real life sanity always returns to break the dream. In fiction you can put absolutely all the right, with no snage or reservations, on the side of the hero (with whom you identify yourself) and all the wrong on the side of the villain. You thus revel in unearned self-righteousness, which wd. be vicious even if it were earned.
Haven’t you noticed how people with a fixed hatred, say, of Germans or Bolshevists, resent anything wh. is pleaded in extenuation, however small, of their supposed crimes. The enemy must be unredeemed black. While all the time one does nothing and enjoys the feeling of perfect superiority over the faults one is never tempted to commit:
Compound for sins we are inclined to
By damning those we have no mind to. (Butler, Hudibras)
I suppose that when one hears a tale od hdeous cruelty anger is quite the wrong reaction, and merely wastes the energy that ought to go in a different direction: perhpas merely dulls the conscience wh., if it were awake, would ask us “Well? What are you doing about uit? How much of your life have you spent in really cobbatting this? In helping to produce social conditions in which these sort of things will not occur?”
1 February 1931
I am almost shocked to find from more than one passage that gheo, Macdonald hated Sterne. The coarseness apparently revolted him: but I cannot understand hoe he was not attracted by the over-flowing goodness at the heart of the book. One must remember that the wyaward Highland temperament, with its reserve and delicacy, may find cioarseness a greater trial than our rougher Saxon grain. . . . I hope you won’t be disappointed by What’s Mine’s Mine. Of course it has not the fantastic charm of Phantastes: nor the plot excitement of Wilfrid Cumbermede. It is just the spiritual quality with some beautiful landscape–nothing more.
end of letters to AG
After this I read Macdonald’s Phantastes over my tea, which I have read many times and which I really believe fills for me the place of a devotional book . . .
Surprised by Joy, p.179
And then, on top of this, in superabundance of mercy, came that event which I have already more than once attempted to describe in other books. I was in the habit of walking over to Leatherhead about once a week and sometimes taking the train back. In summer I did so chiefly because Leatherhead boasted a tiny swimming bath; better then nothing to me who had learned to swim almost before I can remember and who, till middle age and rheumatism crept upon me, was passionately fond of being in water. But I went in winter, too, to look fior books and to get my hair cut. The evening that I now speak of was in October. I and one porter had the long, timbered platform of Leatherhead station to ourselves. It was getting just dark enough for the smoke of an engine to glow red on the underside with the reflection of the furnace. The hills beyond the Dorking Valley were of a blue so intense as to be nearly violet and the sky was green with frost. My ears tingled with the cold. The glorious week end of reading was before me. Turning to the bookstall, I picked out an Everyman in a dirty jacket, Phantastes, a faerie Romance, George MacDonald. Then the train came in. I can still remember the voice of the porter calling out the village names, Saxon and sweet a a nut– “Bookham, Effingham, Horsley train.” That evening I began to read my new book.
The woodland journeyings in that story, the ghostly enemies, the ladies both good and evil, were close enough to my habitual imagery to lure me on without thje perception of a change. It is as if I were carried sleeping across the frontier, or as if I had died in the old country and could never remember how I came alive in the new. For in one sense the new country was exactly like the old. I met there all that had already charmed me in Malory, Spenser, Morris, and Yeats. But in another sense all was changed. I did not yet know (and I was long in learning) the name of the new quality, the bright shadow, that rested on the travels of Anodos. I do now. It was Holiness. For the first time the song of the sirens sounded like the voice of my mother or my nurse. Here were old wives’ tales; there was nothing to be proud of in enjoying them. It was as though the voice which had called to me from the world’s end were now speaking at my side. It was with me in the room, or in my own body, or behind me. If it had once eluded me by its distance, it now eluded me by proximity–something too near to see, too plain to be understood, on this side of knowledge. It seemed to have beenb always with me; if I could ever have turned my head quick enough I should have seized it. Now for the first time I felt that it was out of reach not because of something I could not do but because of something I could not stop doing. If only I could leave off, let go, unmake myself, it would be there. Meanwhile, in this new region all the confusions that had hitherto perplexed my search for Joy were disarmed. There was no temptation to confuse the scenes of the tale with the light that rested upon them, or to suppose that they were put forward as realities, or even to dream that if they had been realities and I could reach the woods where Anodos journeyed I should thereby come a step nerer to my desire. Yet, at the same time, never had the wind of Joy blowing through any story been less separable from the story itself. Where the god and the idolon were most nearly one there was least danger of confounding them. Thus, when the great moments came I did not break away from the woods and cottages that I read of to seek some bodiless light shining beyond them, but gradually, with a swelling continuity (like the sun at mid-morning burning through a fog) I found the light shining on those woods and cottages, and then on my own past life, and on the quiet room where I sat and on my old teacher where he nodded above his little Tacitus. For I now perceived that while the air of the new region made all my erotic and magical perversions of Joy look like sordid trumpery, it had no such disenchanting power over the bread upon the table or the coals in the grate. That was the marvel. Up till now each visitation of Joy had left the common world momentarily a desert–“The first touch of the earth went nigh to kill.” Even when real clouds or trees had been the material of the vision, they had been so only by reminding me of another world; and I did not like the return to ours. But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged. Or, more accurately, I saw the common things drawn into the bright shadow. Unde hoc mihi? In the depth of my disgraces, in the then invincible ignorance of my intellect, all this was given me without asking, even without concent. That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me, not unnaturally, took longe. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes.
George MacDonald: An Anthology, edited and with a preface by C.S. Lewis (1947), xxxii-
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. And even if honesty did not–well, I am a don, and “source-hunting” (Quellenforschung) is perhaps in my marrow. It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought–almost unwillingly, for I had looked at the volume on that bookstall and rejected it on a dozen previous occasions–the Everyman edition of Phantastes. A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier. I had already bee wist-deep in Romanticism; and likely enough, at any moment, to flounder into its darker and more evil forms, slithering down the steep descent that leads from the love of strangeness to that of eccentricity and thence to that of perversity. Now Phantastes was romantic enough in all conscience; but there was a difference. Nothing was at that time further from my thoughts than Christianity and I therefore had no notion what this difference really was. I was only aware that if this new world was strange, it was also homely and humble; that if this was a dream, it was a dream in which one at least felt strangely vigilant; that the whole book had about it a sort of cool, morning innocence, and also, quite unmistakably, a certain quality of Death, good Death. What it actually did to me eas o convert, even to baptize (that was where the Death came in) my imagination. It did nothing to my intellect nor (at that time) to my conscience. Their turn came far later and with the help of many other books and men. But when the process was complete–by which, of course, I mean “when it had really begun”–I found that I was still with MacDonald and that he had accompanied me all the way and that I was now at last ready to hear from him much that he could not have told me at that first meeting. But in a sense, what he was now telling me was the very same that he had told me from the beginning. There was no question of getting through to the kernel and throwing away the shell: no question of a gilded pill. The pill was gold all through. The quality which had enchanted me in his imaginative works turned out to be the quality of the real universe, the divine, magical, terrifying, and ecstatic reality in which we all live. I should have been shocked in my teens if anyone had told me that what I learned to love in Phantastes was goodness. But now that I know, I see there was no deception. The deception is all the other way round–in that prosaic moralism which confines goodness to the region of Law and Duty, which never lets us feel in our faces the sweet air blowing from “the land of righteousness,” never reveals that elusive Form which if once seen must inevitably be desired will all but sensuous desire–the thing (in Sappho’s phrase) “more gold than gold.”
Bookham, Surrey Bocheham, DB, Bokham Magna 1273, Littille Bokham 1263; OE Bocham ‘village by beeches.’
Effingham, Surrey Effingeham 933, Epingeham DB. ‘The HAM of Effa’s people.’ Effa is a variant of Aeffa (name) .
Horsley, Surrey Horslege c.1050 OE. horsa-leah ‘pasture for horses.’
Leatherhead, Surrey Leodridan c.880, Leret DB, the elements appear to be OE leode ‘people’ and rida or ride ‘riding-path’ or ‘ford over which it was possible to ride.’ OE rida (or ride) would be a formation from ridan. The name probably means ‘the public ford.’ Leatherhead is on the Mole, where it is crossed by an important road.
Fetcham, Surrey Fecham 964, Feceham DB. Apparently OE Feccan ham, where Fecca is a derivative of Facca (name).
Ockham, Surrey Bocheham DB, Hocham 1170. Identical with Oakham.
Headley, Surrey Hallega DB, Hedlega 1190. OE. haep-leah ‘clearing overgrown with heather.’
Mickleham, Surrey Micleham DB, Mikelham 1242. ‘Large FELD, HAM or HAMM, THWAITE, TUN, LEAH.
Gomshall, Surrey Gomeselle DB, Gumeselva 1168. ‘Guma’s SCYLF or hill slope. Guma is a short form of Gumbeorht (name).
Abinger Hammer, Surrey Abinceborne DB, Ebbingwurde 1198. ‘The word of Eabba’s or Aebba’s people.’
Ashtead, Surrey Estede c.1150. ‘Place where ash grew.’
Dorking, Surrey Dorchinges DB. ‘The dwellers on R. Dork.’ Presumably the Mole was was once called Dorce ‘bright river.’ (cf. Dorchester)
Epsom, Surrey Ebesham 675, Evesham DB. ‘Ebbe’s ham.’
Guildford, Surrey Geldeford DB, Guldeford 1131. The town is on the Wey where the river cuts through the long ridge called the Hog’s Back It was formerlt Guildown. Guildford is probably ‘ford where golden flowers grew.’ The first element would be OE. gylde, a derivative of gold and of the same meaning as golde, marigold. In Guildford gylde would mean ‘marsh marigold.’ Guildown may mean ‘ridge where golden flowers grew.’
Lewis was brought home to ‘Blighty’–that is, soldiers’ slang for England– after being wounded on 15 April 1918. He was sent to the Endsleigh Palace Hospital on 25 May 1918. This was located in Endlseigh Gardens, very close to Euston Station and the University Hospital, close to the Euston Road (extending westwards as the Marylebone Road.) By 12 June Lewis says that he has been up and dressed and even been out a few times. On Friday 14 June, Lewis went to the Drury Lane Theatre to hear Wagner’s The Valkyrie, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham; Lewis tells Arthur that “we” went–does that mean Janie Moore accompanied him? She was in London. On Sunday, 16 June Lewis visited the Kirkpatricks at Great Bookham. And on 21 June, he heard Tosca. On 25 June Lewis arrived at Ashton Court, Long Ashton, Clifton, Bristol. Presumably he left Endsleigh Palace Hospital that same day, 25 June, since it is not a long journey from London to Bristol (less than three hours).
The Endsleigh Palace Hospital was, almost certainly, originally the Endsleigh Palace Hotel. It had doubtless been commandeered, as the saying went, to act as a convalescent home for wounded officers; it would not have had any facilities for surgery, but would have been more than adequate for caring for recuperating officers from France. And after the war it went back to being a hotel. In a letter 29 May to Arthur Greeves, Lewis says:
From my window I see a big flat plain of houses and beyond that actually a green hill with trees on it, which I am told is the aristocratic district of High Hampstead. In the foreground is the Euston station hotel–bringing old, old memories.
Blighty is a strange word and reflects the ‘far-flung outposts of the British Empire’ to which troops were sent from the eighteenth century onwards. It had two meanings, not unrelated. First, it meant home, England, especially after foreign service. Second, it meant a wound which was serious enough to ensure a passage back to England. So it might be said that Lewis caught or copped a Blighty; and also that he was sent home to Blighty.
The word itself was one of many foreign words that passed into the English language from the languages of those under British rule. This word is Urdu (or Hindustani) in origin, b’layti, which originally meant a foreigner, especially a European, a heading under which all British troops fell. It was in use by the British in India at least as the early 1900’s, but it may well have been in spoken use for a hundred years earlier.
Letter to AG 3 August 1930
The other thing I was thinking on my walk was this: I had just begun M. Arnold’s Studies in Celtic Literature and looking on to the end I saw that he said that German Romanticism (he particularly mentioned Novalis) was a kind of clumsy attempt at the ‘natural magic’ of the Celts. Now I was perfectly certain that whatever else was true, that was not: but this et me puzzling as to what the real difference between the two was. I found that when I tried to get the spirit of german romance I got the idea of smiths, gold, dwarfs, forests, cottages and castles: while the other gave me the idea of water and rushes and clouds. Then I noted that the Celric was much more sensuous; also less homely: also, entirely lacking in reverence, of which the Germanic was full. Then again that the Germanic glowed in a sense with rich sombre colours, while the Celtic was all transparent and full of nuances–evanescent– but very bright. One sees that Celtic is essentially Pagan, not merely in the sense of being heathen (not-Christian), as the Germanic may be, but in the sense of being irredeemably Pagan, frivolous under all its melancholy, incapable of growing into religion, and–I think–a little heartless. In fact, add Roman civilisation to it, and you get–France. I’m not running it down: before it gets Romanised it is delicious and refreshing. I don’t want to give up either: they are almost ones male and emale sould. Do you feel at all in sympathy with what I have been saying? And do you agree that the Germanic–gold and smiths–runs peculiarly to mineral images, i.e., the Earth–while Celtic runs to the elements. I think in the Tempest Caliban is almost a picture of the Germanic at its lowest, and Arial the Celtic; but look at the lovely earthy poetry put into Caliban’s mouth on two occasions.
To AG 13 August 1930
I have again begun my german and do half an hour every morning before beginning my other work. I ams till at Novalis–you will wonder how I have not finished it long ago, and even to myself I seem to have been reading it almost all my life. As I go about the pace of a schoolboy translating Caesar I expect it will last me for the rest of my days. (I am like the man in the story. ‘Why not buy a book?’ ‘Oh I have one already.’) This certainly leads to economy. It has better results too. As you know, ‘Heinrich Von Ofterdingen’ wh. I am reading is a very Macdonaldy book–indeed Novalis is perhaps the greatest single influence on Macdonald–full of ‘holiness,’ gloriously German-romantic (i.e., a delicious mingling of earthy homeliness and magic, also of a sort of spiritual voluptuousness with innocence) and to be compelled to spell out such stuff word by word instead of galloping greedily thro’ it as I certainly should if I could find a translation really forces me to get the most out of it. Ther is no translation either into French or English: so you will have to rely on what I tell you.
Letter to AG 1 September 1933
I have just re-read Lilith and am much clearer about the meaning. The first thing to get out of the way is all Greville Macdonald’s nonsense about ‘dimensions’ and ‘elements’–if you have his preface in your edition. That is just the sort of mechanical ‘mysticism’ which is worlds away from Geo. Macdonald. The main lesson of the book is against secular philanthropy–against the belief that you can effectively obey the 2nd command about loving your neighbour without first trying to love God.
The story runs like this. The human soul exploring its own house (the Mind) finds itself on the verge of unexpected worlds which at first dismay (Chap.I-V). the first utterance of these worlds is an unconditional demand for absolute surrnder of the Soul to the will of God, or, if you like, for Death (Chap.VI). To this demand the soul cannot at first face up (Chap.VII). But attempting to return to the normal consciousness finds by education that its experiences are not abnormal or trivial but are vouched for by all the great poets and philosophers (VII My Father’s MS). It repents and tries to face the demand, but its original refusal has now rendered total submission temporarily impossible (IX). It has to face instead the impulses of the subconscious (X) and the slightly spurious loyalties to purely human ’causes’–political, theological etc (XI). It now becomes conscious of its fellow men: and finds them divided into ‘Lovers’ (=’Hearts” in our old classification) and ‘Bags’ or ‘Giants’ (=’Spades’). But because it is an unconverted soul, has not yet died, it cannot really help the Lovers and become the slave of the Bags. In other words, the young man, however amiably disposed towards the sweet and simple people of the world, gets a job or draws a dividend, and becomes in fact the servant of the economic machine (XII-XIII). But he is too good to go on like this, and so becomes a ‘Reformer,’ a ‘friend of humanity’–a Shelley, Ryskin, Lenin (XIV). Here follows a digression on Purgatory (XV-XVII).
With the next section we enter on the deepest part of the book which I still only v. dimly understand. Why do so many purely secular reformers and philanthropists fail and in the end leave men more wretched and wicked than they found them? Apparently the unconveerted soul, doing its very best for the Lovers, only succeeds first in waking (at the price of its own blood) and then in becoming the tool of, Lilith. Lilith is till quite beyond me. One can trace in her specially the Will to Power–which here fits in quite well–but there is a great deal more than that. She is also the real ideal somehow spoiled: she is not primarily a sexual symbol, but includes the characteristic female abuse of sex, which is love of Power, as the characteristic male abuse is is sensuality. After a long and stormy attempt to doo God’s work in Lilith’s way or Lilith’s work in God’s way, the soul comes to itself again, realises that its previous proceedings are ‘cracked absolutely’ and in fact has a sort of half-conversion. But the new powers of will and imagination which even this half conversion inspires (symbolised in the horse) are so exhilirating that the soul thinks these will do instead of ‘death’ and agin shoots off on its own. This passage is v. true and important. Macdonald is aware how religion itself supplies new temptations (XXX-XXXI). This again leads to another attempt to help the Lovers in his own way, with consequent partial disaster in the death of Lona (XXXII-XXXVII). He finds himself the jailer of Lilith: i.e., he is now living in the state of tension with the evil thing inside him only just held down, and ata a terrible cost–until he (or Lilith–the Lilith-part of him) at last repents (Mara) and consents to die (XXXVIII-end).
I hope this has not bored you. I am so excited about it myself that for the moment I can hardly imagine anyone else being bored: but probably I have done it so badly that in the result nothin survives to be excited about. For one thing, I have emphasised the external side too much. Correct everything above by remembering that it is not only helping the Lovers outside against the Bags, but equally the Lover in himself against the Bag in himself.
Letter to AG 15 June 1930
Another fine thing in The Pr. and the Goblin is where Curdie, in a dream, keeps on dreaming that he has waked up and then finding that he is still in bed. This means the same as the passage where Adam says to Lilith ‘Unless you unclose your hand you will never die and therefore never wake. You may think you have dies and even that you have risen again; but both will be a dream.’ (Lilith Ch.XL)
Lewis wrote to Arthur Greeves from Great Bookham on 26 September 1914, telling him his impressions “after a week’s trial.” Presumably he arrived in Bookham about 19 September 1914.
We know that he left Bookham to go to Oxford in April 1917 and he presumably went home to Belfast first. The last letter to AG from Bookham is dated 14 March 1917