“God’s love is not founded upon any merit – it rests only upon being and need.” -George MacDonald
The Shopkeeper’s Daughter is another abridged work by George MacDonald, edited and republished by Elizabeth Guignard Hamilton. Like in The Fisherman’s Lady, MacDonald presents the reader with the ideal Christian, only this time in the form of a lady, Mary Marston.
Most of the other characters in The Shopkeeper’s Daughter hardly know how to understand or categorize Mary, a Christian woman devoted wholly to the will and work of the Lord, who submits cheerfully to the tasks of her low station as shopkeeper and lady’s maid and yet disregards the importance and value of class. Her willingness to accept work without pay and to lend aid to anyone she can is viewed with suspicion by those who do not care about or believe in God. Most – excepting Jasper Joseph, another individual seeking humbly to follow Christ’s footsteps, who recognizes Mary’s Christly virtue immediately – assume her to have selfish motives, because they themselves cannot conceive of any other kind of life.
True, Mary’s character is not the most developed and her saintliness is perhaps too perfect, apart from a weak struggle with temper she overcomes early in the novel. The Shopkeeper’s Daughter does not achieve the depth and interest of The Fisherman’s Lady, but it offers a light, interesting read nonetheless. It is mostly worth reading for the sake of, firstly, tracing the origins of C. S. Lewis’ thoughts, and, secondly, for encountering beautiful expressions of truth such as follow below.
“But what is love and loss and even defilement, what are pains and hopes and disappointments, what sorrow and death and all the ills that our flesh is heir to, but means to this very end, to this waking of the soul to seek the home of our being – the life eternal?”
“On the contrary, He is the only Man who is no exception. We are the exceptions. Don’t you see? He is the very One we must all come to be like, or perish!“
“She knew there is no bond so strong, so close or so lasting as the truth. In God alone, who is the truth, can creatures meet.“
Read a review of George MacDonald’s Phantastes, a totally different kind of novel.
Other books about the ideal Victorian lady:
Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë
The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth E. Prentiss