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Lilith

By George MacDonald

 

A VARIORUM EDITION

in 2 volumes

 

Rolland Hein, Editor

 

 

with a foreword by

Elizabeth McDonald Weinrich

 

Printed and Published by

Johannesen

P. O. Box 24

Whitethorn, California

95589 U.S.A.

 

Printed with soy ink on recycled paper.

Hand-made covers and Hand-bound with care

by

Johannesen.

 

 

July 1997, First Edition

 

ISBN# 1-881084-56-6

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

I am grateful to the British Library for allowing me access to the Lilith Manuscripts in their possession, and for granting permission to publish them, and to both them and the Brown University Library for furnishing me with copies on microfilm.

 

I am deeply indebted to two very capable and dependable teaching assistants for the completion of this project. Christopher Andrew Lapeyre helped in getting the undertaking started and did considerable work on the B manuscript, and Teresa Caldwell Board worked diligently on both D and E. Their careful contributions have been invaluable. It is a happy coincidence that Elizabeth McDonald Weinrich was doing doctoral work on the B manuscript simultaneously with our transcribing it. Consulting with her and profiting from her expertise was both a delight and a large help in deciphering its obscurities. John Docherty graciously gave of his time to check portions of the transcription against the original documents to insure accuracy.

 

I am also grateful to Wheaton College for granting reduced teaching loads during the extended period of time required to complete this task, and to the family of G. W. Aldeen for establishing the fund from which I was granted the necessary financial aid. And it is with special delight that I express thanks to Andy and Debbie Johannesen for their willingness to undertake this publishing venture, and for the pleasure of working with them.

 

 

 

 

PREFACE

 

Our first thought when we began this project was to provide a complete facsimile of the four intermediate versions of the text-those that were written after the short original Lilith A and that precede the printer's copies (of which there are three, containing minor corrections). These versions are referred to as Lilith B, C, D, and E. We intended to include the typed text, along with a faithful reproduction of MacDonald's myriad crossouts, interlinear notes, and marginalia.

It soon occurred to us, however, that such a task was not only behemoth, but also impractical. Given the immense complexity of the original manuscripts, such facsimiles, laborious to read, would be of interest only to advanced MacDonald scholars who would want to consult the originals anyway. We therefore took as our goal the production of readily readable texts that would present faithful and accurate transcripts, insofar as this is possible, of the original typewritten texts, minus all marginalia and interlinear revisions, confident that all such were picked up by the typists (perhaps MacDonald's daughters) in the succeeding manuscript versions.

Our work has not, however, been without its complications. The first of these arises from the enormous differences between the handwritten A and the typewritten B, together with the obvious evidences that B is composed of several fragments from prior manuscripts no longer extant. The typeface of Lilith B, which began as an elite, periodically changes to pica, and the pica portions contain crossed out passages which are clearly inconsistent with the elite text. Thus frequent discontinuities in the thought occur. Further, close consideration reveals that the pica text is much more like the first version, Lilith A, while the elite text more obviously advances the plot. It is tempting, therefore, to hypothesize that MacDonald, instead of retyping material that he wanted to keep from prior manuscripts, simply combined portions from them and proceeded to make elaborate changes and additions. Lilith B is thus an especially exciting manuscript to read. In Lilith B, we have indicated the material in pica type by italics.

 

The B manuscript is further complicated by MacDonald's occasional typing over old lines or typing in new lines between the ordinarily double-spaced lines. This practice may be taken as further evidence of his attempting to bring prior manuscripts together. We have deciphered as best we could the lines from A/B that were typed through, and have indicated them with a strike-thru.

 

We have not, however, thus indicated the untold thousands of lines that are merely crossed out with a pen, nor have we attempted to reproduce any of the hand-written insertions that sometimes (not always) blend the versions coherently together. Words, phrases, or lines that are not clearly decipherable but yet we feel quite confident what they are, we have marked with a [/] on either side[/]. When we have had to give up on trying to decipher certain words or phrases, we have indicated these by [?]. The end of each page is marked thus: {end 1}. The pages of Lilith B generally have two or more page numbers, some of which are crossed out, written over, or by hand. We have reproduced the typed numbers in italics, and the handwritten ones in regular type, thus: {end 60; 49}

Finally, handwritten corrections of spelling or typographical errors are marked in bold, and any special instructions to the typist appear in capital letters. A [sic] following a word confirms that the error was present in the manuscript, but that it was not corrected by the typist. Any errors not so marked should be laid at the feet of the transcribers.

 

 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

In There and Back, a novel published one year after the author had committed the first draft of Lilith to paper, MacDonald created a dialogue in which his two main characters discuss the value of examining early versions of a poem. The female pupil asks the young hero why he should care about the first version if a poet had revised his work. Richard Tuke, bookbinder and amateur critic responds,

"Just because it is different. A thing not so good may have a different goodness. . . .So you see a new form may be much better, and yet the old form remain much too good to be parted with. In any case it is intensely interesting to see how and why he changed a thing or its shape, and to ponder wherein it is for the better or the worse. . . If I were a schoolmaster, I should make my pupils compare different forms of the same poem, and find out why the poet made the changes." In this volume Professor Hein has begun the assignment MacDonald himself laid out for us by providing the different forms of the Lilith text in order to enable readers to explore why the writer made changes.

A mere glance will convince any reader of the remarkable nature of the series and of the value of studying it. On looking more closely, one first wonders why MacDonald produced so many versions. Then perplexity sets in at the character and magnitude of changes in the fascinating text which comes off so elegantly in its original version. What we have in this book is not merely MacDonald's masterwork of fantasy: it is the record of a text, and of a life, transformed. Although MacDonald was obviously interested in examining aesthetic purposes rather than performing psychoanalysis through the study of textual changes, looking at these documents will help the student to gain some inkling of the complexity of the revising process which occurred during what was probably his greatest spiritual crisis. While each document is worth study in itself, a brief discussion of the first two versions of Lilith will throw into relief the entire re-writing process.

Lovers of Lilith have long known of the legend of its seemingly "spontaneous generation." In brief, Greville MacDonald claimed his father wrote at one sitting, hardly lifting his pen from his paper, the text we now know as Lilith A. Such a creative act, he believed, must have been inspired in some way by the Holy Spirit Himself, for hardly a word is altered or cancelled, the handwriting remarkably clear, the story beautifully coherent. Then we encounter the peculiar Lilith B, a troublesome document in which the murky depths of a vexed creative process churn like the earthy waves of Lilith's Bad Burrow. How did the lucid manuscript A take the shape of this long, difficult, and dramatically new version?

Looking at specific characteristics of the text will help bring to light some of MacDonald's intentions and methods at this stage. A clear example appears early in B when Vane, renamed from Lilith A's Henry Fane, discovers a manuscript written by his father relating the story of his own journey to another world. Here we discover that MacDonald actually revised and inserted into Lilith B the first ten pages of Lilith A as the father's story of his adventure. This is the only passage in this second version where such a portion of the first version remains in tact. Clearly, the embedding of this fragment of the original in the second establishes Lilith A and Lilith B as two distinct generations of the text. This change in itself demonstrates that at some point MacDonald "put to death," so to speak, his initial intentions for and rewrote the story.

After composing Lilith A, MacDonald seems to have started over twice, as alterations to plot and tone, as well as the physical evidence, will attest. One draft, as Professor Hein has indicated, was typed with a machine using a pica style font. Though different from the original handwritten version, this draft contains elements, some cancelled, recalling the central themes of Lilith A but which disappear by the time the book was published. These include the narrator's search for and reunion with his father and the single obsession with the princess. This "pica" draft was then revised and combined with long portions typed on a machine using an elite style font. Due to revisions introduced in the "elite" passages, Vane's father drops out of the picture, while the narrator's quest for innocent love-embodied in the child/mother Lona-is juxtaposed with his masochistic fixation on the vampiress, now identified as Adam's first wife, Lilith. In this one document, then, the reader can trace MacDonald's change of intentions, shifting from his original vision of the fairy tale-like quest for the loving but absent father-present in the "pica" portions-to the working out of the complex struggle to reconcile the flesh and the spirit, unite goodness and passion-introduced in the "elite" portions. The resulting revision yields a much more complex portrait of MacDonald's psychological state, as well as a more compelling myth, than does the original version.

We can but conjecture what prompted the transformation, although some events in MacDonald's life and his responses to them can provide some perspective. In 1891 his eldest child, Lilia, returned from a trip to America with tuberculosis. Age 39, Lilia had sacrificed both marriage and an acting career in order to support her parents and run the household of thirteen plus adopted children. Then a year and a half after the inscription of Lilith A, Lilia died in her father's arms. After lingering at her grave, MacDonald wrote about his mood to his cousin: "I think we feel-Louisa and I at least-as if we were ready to go. The world is very different since Lily went, and we shall be glad when our time comes to go after our children." 1 The image of Henry Vane holding in his arms the dead mother-child, so much like Lilia, first appears in Lilith B. And the ending in which Vane pines after Lona, who has left him in death, seems to echo MacDonald's longing for Lily. Lilith B introduces more than the search for innocent love: it also replaces the child's search for the father with the father's search for the child.

MacDonald's comments about his writing also help us to attempt to date Lilith B and thus to identify what might have motivated the changes in it. As Professor Hein has noted, in 1893 MacDonald mentioned "cutting and killing, re-embodying and shifting" a text in a letter to his daughter Winifred. Since such a process is evident in the aspects of the typescript here transcribed-no other draft was as thoroughly re-worked as Lilith B-this letter most likely refers to this stage of revision. We can then determine that the major changes occurred after Lilia's death and are likely to have been prompted by the grief that followed.

Attributing extensive revision, even change of purpose, to the author's spiritual and emotional crisis, however, only addresses a handful of the myriad questions which arise with reading this series of drafts. For the Christian reader, one critical issue might touch on the spiritual inspiration of the Lilith A text. While Greville's description of the writing of it would have the reader envision the text as leaping whole from MacDonald's brow like Athena from Zeus's forehead, the final version was composed by a painstaking, tedious process of re-writing and re-envisioning. To imagine that MacDonald ever generated a text he considered sacrosanct at any step of production-even after a Spirit-breathed burst of creativity-is to misunderstand entirely his views of writing and textuality, even of inspired scripture. He revised many texts after they had been published in serial or book form. Furthermore, he did not even expect verbal precision from the apostles. In his Unspoken Sermons, Series Three, he explained his view of the inspiration of the scriptures. The writers of the Gospels, MacDonald wrote, conveyed what they remembered and understood the Lord to have said, not his precise words. Given the tendency of believers to "word-worship, false logic, and corruption of the truth," God would not have his children enslaved to a belief in verbal inerrancy, "seeing that words, being human, therefore but partially capable, could not absolutely contain or express what the Lord meant, and that he must depend for being understood upon the spirit of his disciple."

In fact, as many have noted, Lilith deals largely with submission and repentance through imaginative processes. How much more, then, might MacDonald have seen the writing of this book as the working out of righteousness, the purging trial of repentance and change, through writing, re-writing, envisioning and re-envisioning his work? In the composing of the book MacDonald worked out, at least unconsciously, its theme of the mortification of the flesh. With each "death" of the text, each version embodied in a manuscript, MacDonald attempted to conform it to his-and to God's-ideal for his work.

Whether or not MacDonald saw the published text as complete, we cannot know. We can, however, witness this work as a process, a dynamic spiritual journey through his search for the fatherhood of God; grief at his daughter's death; disappointment at his inadequacies as father, writer, and teacher; insecurities about the instabilities of texts; and uncertainties about the nature of the spirit. This tortuous journey, so like Henry Vane's and our own, finally brought an old soul to the threshold of eternity, silent and waiting for the door to open.

 

 

Elizabeth McDonald Weinrich

 

FOOTNOTES

 

1 To Helen Powell, April 16, 1892. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. As quoted in William Raeper, George MacDonald (Tring: Lion. 1987). p 363.

 

 

Introduction

 

Lilith is an extraordinary achievement in fantasy literature. Simply approaching it as a fanciful narrative, a disinterested reader may well find it sufficiently engaging to recommend it to others as-someone might say-an entertaining "read." But even such a reader feels a disquieting sense that it is much more than this. Returning to it, one is compelled to ponder with a growing curiosity an Adam who is also a talking raven, a Lilith who is also both a leopard and a vampire, a hooded woman who is a leopard as well and who offers her guests both bitterness and joy, and a type of sleeping that leads through various nightmares to joy. The story refuses to yield much meaning if we approach it as an allegory-but allegory it is not-yet one has a growing certainty not only that it means intensely, but also that its meanings are somehow vital to one's well-being. Something has been awakened that will not easily be stilled.

 

While the enigma of much of the imagery may remain to tease and baffle, the patterns of action in the narrative yield themes one recognizes as being intricately woven into the very texture of life. And these themes, commonplace as they often are thought to be-such as the self as an entity being formed from among many possibilities; life as a journey beset with trials, each of which either furthers or frustrates us; the difficulty in resisting one's strongest impulses; and the beauty of love-all seem invested by this particular story with a haunting personal significance.

 

George MacDonald wrote Lilith when he felt he was nearing the end of a long and busy career-one marked with almost continual hardships-and then radically rewrote it five times. Eight original manuscripts are reposited in the British Library, the first five being distinct versions, and the final three corrected galley proofs. The A manuscript duplexed with the 1895 published version has already been published by Johannesen, 1994. We are here presenting manuscripts B through E. During the years 1890 - 1895, when Lilith was being composed, MacDonald underwent the most excruciating of the trials of his life, the death of Lilia, his firstborn. Because of her self-sacrificing attitudes and her great dramatic talents, she had been for almost forty years the emotional center of the family. Many of the startling changes in Lilith, especially evident in the almost impossible to decipher amalgam of fragments that composes the B manuscript, may be directly related to the emotional trauma of Lilia's untimely death.

 

In fact, this fantasy may well not have been written at all had his long and productive life not been beset with its many trials. In spite of his almost constant ill health and his never having been able to find a comfortable relationship to the established expressions of Victorian Christianity, he had eked out a living for his wife and eleven children by free lance preaching, by lecturing on English literature, and by writing. Since 1863 his need for income had kept him writing almost constantly his many novels-theological romances-that detail his ponderings on the nature of experience. Story-telling had itself become a wearisome task, not because he did not enjoy stories, and certainly not because he tired of his convictions as to the nature of life, but simply because he would rather have been writing mythopoeia. He had also written considerable poetry-his collected works fill two large volumes-but, like mythopoeia, it put little bread on the table.

 

The fairy stories he had written had met with only modest success and less real understanding. Phantastes, his fantasy for adults that was composed almost forty years earlier, had been received with incomprehension and critical jeers. His many fairy tales for children had had a fair reception as children's stories, but they were not taken as seriously as they deserved. Few indeed sensed the profound vision of the nature of life and reality they convey. Once when his spirits were low he told his wife that he did not know what God had intended him for.

 

Now, at sixty-six years of age, he was seized with the compulsion to embody imaginatively his vision in one final fantasy, one that would view life as mythopoeia alone can, with its core significances read against the background of eternity. Although he was an astute theologian, he had long realized the severe limits of any rationalist reaching after ultimate truth, necessary though he recognized such reaching to be. Truth can but seem, and the truth is in the seeming. Metaphors, symbols, and above all myths, are indispensable vehicles in that mysterious process whereby It accommodates itself to us in grace. Somehow all human lives are participating in one great story, and stories well-told best induce those lightning flashes in the mind which momentarily illumine ultimate truths. Insights too lofty for words, they speak loudly of joy. "It is so good, it has to be true," was the benediction MacDonald himself placed upon his visions.

 

"I am a little tired," MacDonald wrote to his daughter in 1893, "having been hard at work cutting and killing and re-embodying and shifting, and trying generally to restore or order, and draw out hidden meanings from their holes."1 As the almost complete lack of alteration in the much shorter A manuscript seems to suggest a type of immediate inspiration, his elaborate reworkings over several years attest to an immense amount of exacting labor. The reader who studies these successive steps in composition will come to a much fuller understanding of Lilith than is possible simply from a knowledge of the final published text.

 

Reproducing these manuscripts offers the reader a fascinating study in the creative process, as one can trace with what painstaking steps the final text evolved. Through these successive versions images and episodes appear, are radically altered, and sometimes disappear under MacDonald's exacting pen. Well over fifty percent of the text of each successive manuscript is crossed out and replaced with elaborate marginal and interlinear additions painstakingly written in a minute hand. The value of making available these successive manuscripts is, therefore, that of enabling the reader to see more readily by what precise stages MacDonald arrived at the version that he was willing to offer to his publisher. Material he kept he constantly refined, so that to observe the evolvement of an image or episode through these various versions is often to arrive at a considerably clearer understanding of MacDonald's meaning. The final version, which readers of this edition have probably already read, offers all who would interpret the text many perplexities; much light is shed upon these by one's contemplating the various phases through which respective concepts passed.

 

I have offered my own interpretations of Lilith many times, but invariably with a feeling of presumption and a sense of their inadequacy. In his essay "The Fantastic Imagination," MacDonald warns against boiling a rose, and insists that, so long as he is confident his dog can bark, he refuses to bark for him. His was such confidence in the sacramental nature of the universe, the value of story, and the capacity of each individual reader to grasp those truths appropriate to one's need that he placed his work entirely at his readers' disposal. "But a man may then imagine in your work what he pleases, what you never meant!" the disturbed objector cries. MacDonald replies: "Not what he pleases, but what he can. If he be not a true man, he will draw evil out of the best. . . . If he be a true man, he will imagine true things; what matter whether I meant them or not?"2 May each reader be a true person.

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES

 

1 To Winifred, 14 June 1893. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

2 Rolland Hein, ed., The Heart of George MacDonald (Wheaton, Il: Harold Shaw, 1994), p. 427.