About khingston

My current research focuses on narratology and disability in Victorian novels, and my next research project will investigate the intersection of religion and disability in the Victorian era.

Natural Selection and The Princess and the Goblin

By F. O.

I  looked for  publications related to the novel The Princess and the Goblin in four different magazines and newspapers. I was looking for something related to children´s faith since faith and religion were so important for people in the Victorian Era. However, after reading the whole book, I became more interested in how Darwin´s theory was presented in it and how George MacDonald linked Darwin’s theory of natural selection with the survival and superiority of the believers. Darwin’s theory started to become popular before 1872 when The Princess and the Goblin was written. Religion still played a significant role in society; however, many people also believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution and some were able to deal with science and religion together. Natural selection and Christianity could be compatible; on the other hand, some others just changed their minds about religion or had second thoughts before believing in something that could not be proven. Continue reading

Spiritualism in The Saturday Review and The Princess and The Goblin

By T. T.


1872 was the year that George MacDonald’s published his children’s novel, The Princess and the Goblin, sparking the imaginations of both adults and children who were invited to enter a fantasy realm of subterranean creatures, fire fuelled by roses and invisible magic thread. It is no wonder then that the central emphasis in the novel is the power of believing in the seemingly unfathomable; as Princess Irene’s grandmother stresses, “seeing is not believing—it is only seeing” (MacDonald 173).

Yet, Victorians were deeply engaged in a hungry pursuit for knowledge, and scientific disciplines dependent on concrete facts were growing at an exponential rate. To satiate this hunger, Victorians turned to weekly newspapers such as The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, which was noted as one of the “leading critical opinion[s]” of the time (Bevington VII). Founded in London in 1855 by A.J.B. Beresford Hope, the Saturday Review was published until 1938, and was graced with renowned contributors including Oscar Wilde, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and George Bernard Shaw (Bevington 16). Continue reading

Song and the Supernatural: Victorian Goblins and Mermaids

By S. McF.

McFee Mermaids

“Mermaids,” a short, four-page article from the 29th volume of the Victorian periodical All The Year Round, discusses the origins of mermaids and different accounts of mermaid sightings throughout Britain. George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin also addresses magical beings and their origins. The introduction of the goblins into the story, which discusses how they slowly retreated underground, serves as a short origin story. MacDonald emphasizes the physical peculiarities of the goblins, as does the anonymous author of “Mermaids.” In addition, both pieces discuss the relationship between song and the supernatural. The relations to physical abnormality and song serve as the link between Macdonald’s novel and “Mermaids”; both examine the supernatural being’s relationship to music and to the ‘natural’ human form.

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Morality and Redemption in Orlando Furioso and The Princess and the Goblin

By L.M.

For my digital exhibit entry, I have chosen an excerpt from an 1869 issue of the Victorian periodical All the Year Round. This piece, entitled “The Wizard’s Castle,” is the fourth Canto of forty-six written by Lodovico Ariosto in his poem Orlando Furioso. “The Wizard’s Castle” describes two protagonists arriving at a castle and the battle that proceeds, with the maiden ultimately prevailing over the evil wizard. This is significant in the context of Victorian literature in how it goes along with certain characteristics of Victorian fairy tales. Even though Orlando Furioso is not from the Victorian era, the fact that it was published in All the Year Round shows it had some literary and cultural relevance. While morality and redemption play a role in both Orlando Furioso and The Princess and the Goblin, the pieces also display how much fantasy literature and fairy tales have changed over time.


Major themes in fairy tales were and still are morality and redemption. This is seen in Orlando Furioso through the resolution of love between various characters. This is also notable in how Bradamante, the main protagonist and heroine, prevails over the evil wizard. The success of protagonists against characters with lesser moral values Continue reading

What the Moonlight Reveals About Women and Madness in the Nineteenth Century

By B. J.

BJ Punch

Literature, poetry, and non-fiction writing from the nineteenth century display the Victorian fascination with gender and gender roles. Determining what made a man a man, and a woman a woman, was relevant to them. Victorians associated women with purity, morality, gentleness, but also instability, fluidity, and hysteria. This sense of what a woman was lead many Victorians to also believe that women were more susceptible to fits, madness, and lunacy. Comparing a Punch editorial entitled “The Superiority of the Male Sex” to Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, I intend to suggest that while the connection between women and the moon led to overgeneralization that women were more likely to go mad, Collins’ work suggests deviation from this close-mindedness.

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Institutionalization of the Insane: “Of Right Mind” and The Woman in White

By J. T.

JT Scan1Eng

All the Year Round, a Victorian periodical by Charles Dickens, was published weekly throughout the United Kingdom from 1859 to 1893. All the Year Round replaced Dickens’s former magazine, Household Words, which focused on social issues of the time, after Dickens had a dispute with his publishers, Bradbury and Evans. All the Year Round included serialized novels, having “the opening page always contain[ing] one of the two serial installments of novels then running” and proved a “vehicle for novelists” rather than journalists (Allingham). All the Year Round also emphasized foreign and cultural affairs, as compared to the issues Household Words focused on, particularly those of the poor and working class (Drew 10). The Woman in White first appeared in forty weekly installments in All the Year Round, from 26 November, 1859, until 25 August, 1860 (Bachman and Cox 41). All the Year Round dealt with cultural affairs similar to those discussed in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, topics such as insanity, and the institutionalization of the insane. In “Of Right Mind,” an article published in All The Year Round, Volume 3, on September 22, 1860, the author challenges the Victorian view of insanity, claiming perfect mental health does not exist, a hefty statement considering the common Victorian mind set on insanity. Continue reading

Music and Spirituality in “Handel Festival” and The Princess and The Goblin

By C. Y.

Handel Festival 1

The primary source I decided to analyze is an article that was published in All the Year Round, Charles Dickens’ periodical, on June 27, 1874. The article, “Handel Festival,” seeks to address a perceived impression that the world at large believes Britain to be an unmusical nation. The article attempts to refute this fact by describing how tremendously popular worthy music is in Britain, particularly the oratorio Messiah, by the great German-born British composer Handel. By illustrating the utmost importance of both music and spirituality in British society, the article concludes that while there is an abundance of bad British music, it is not representative of the nation as a whole, as Britain is more than capable of creating great musical works of art and faith, a message that is reinforced by the themes of artistry and Christianity present in The Princess and the Goblin. Continue reading

Victorian Gender Representation and Marriage Dynamics as They Relate to Smoking in The Woman in White

By O.H.

The article titled “A Sensible Wife” from the Febuary 19th 1859 edition of Punch Magazine satirically looks at the dynamics of marriage regarding “smok[ing] in the house” (78). This article is small and just barely takes up the corner located in the lower right hand of page 78 of the large bound volume of Punch. This short piece contains a conversation between two women (one Mrs. Smith and one Mrs. Brown) on the benefits of allowing their husbands to smoke indoors (“A Sensible Wife” 78). The conversation lends towards the benefit of tobacco as a tranquilizer, having a calming effect upon the husband who would otherwise be of a temper when arriving home from his long day (“A Sensible Wife” 78). Letting the husband smoke indoors causes the wife to be seen as both a tolerant and good wife to allow him something that distresses her lungs but calms his (“A Sensible Wife” 78). This tongue-in-cheek look at the dynamics of a Victorian marriage is rather interesting in its relation to the marriage dynamics of the characters in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White.

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The Perfect Princess: Victorian Childhood in Relation to the Girl of the Home

By J. S.

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The article “School Lessons in House-hold Economy,” found in the 1871 volume of Good Words, exemplifies the theme of childhood found in George MacDonald’s The Princess and The Goblin. The Christian periodical Good Words, originally published by evangelical Alexander Strahan, was published from 1860 until 1906. Its contents were firmly rooted with strong Christian ideals, and the texts within it were exceptionally traditional. A mixture of “philanthropists, ministers of the Church, pious versifiers, and the converted” authored pieces written for Good Words (Cooke “Brief Introduction”). Norman MacLeod edited this 1871 edition, which published “School Lesson in House-hold Economy,” and edited the periodical until his death in 1872. Continue reading

Invalidism in North and South and Advertisements in the Illustrated London News

By B. N.

Invalidism - Full Page

I selected three advertisements from the 2 July 1853 issue of The Illustrated London News: one advertises a book on “neurotonics” (or medicine for the nerves), another advertises a cure for “Deafness,” and the last advertises a sanctuary for middle- and upper-class women with “nervous and mental disorders.” None of the advertisements are illustrated and each consists of, at most, a paragraph of text. Because society was undergoing many rapid changes in technology, medicine, and science, fiction in the Victorian era presents anxiety regarding illness and health. Although each advertisement prescribes something unique, each one has an optimistic tone and presents a hopeful image for the invalid. For example, the advertisement for deafness describes its treatment as “one of the most important discoveries ever made in medical science” and states that it is “the only certain and successful treatment known” (535). Continue reading