C. S. Lewis famously said that George MacDonald (pictured left) "baptized" is imagination--and I never understood that statement, having read The Princess and the Goblin and liking it, but not being profoundly moved by it. Then I read "The Gifts of the Child Christ" and it all became clear. MacDonald's story of a young girls' honest yearning faith, and its transformative effects on her entire family, is an powerful instance of virtue incarnate in art.
The story is widely available online: here, here, and here. You can also purchase a new edition from Dodo Press.
Here is our introduction to the story's hero, Sophy:
Little Sophy--or, as she called herself by a transposition of consonant sounds common with children, Phosy--found her nurse Alice in the nursery. But she was lost in the pages of a certain London weekly, which had found her in a mood open to its influences, and did not even look up when the child entered. With some effort Phosy drew off her gloves, and with more difficulty untied her hat. Then she took off her jacket, smoothed her hair, and retreated to a corner. There a large shabby doll lay upon her little chair: she took it up, disposed it gently upon the bed, seated herself in its place, got a little book from where she had left it under the chair, smoothed down her skirts, and began simultaneously to read and suck her thumb. The book was an unhealthy one, a cup filled to the brim with a poverty-stricken and selfish religion: such are always breaking out like an eruption here and there over the body of the Church, doing their part, doubtless, in carrying off the evil humours generated by poverty of blood, or the congestion of self-preservation. It is wonderful out of what spoiled fruit some children will suck sweetness.
But she did not read far: her thoughts went back to a phrase which had haunted her ever since first she went to church: "Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth."
"I wish he would chasten me," she thought for the hundredth time.
The small Christian had no suspicion that her whole life had been a period of chastening--that few children indeed had to live in such a sunless atmosphere as hers.
(By the way, I highly recommend all the stories in this volume. And if you have a copy already, treasure it, because it is very valuable.)