At the Back of the North Wind was a mid-Victorian blend of fantasy, reality and moralising by the Scottish author and Christian minister George MacDonald (1824–1905). It was originally published in serial parts in the late 1860s in a luxury children’s periodical edited by MacDonald called Good Words for the Young, and published in book form in 1871. The book tells of a young boy called Diamond who is visited by a personification of the North Wind. Eventually – after a series of digressions – it becomes clear that the wind is in fact Death, and the story deals with the boy’s sweet acceptance, and embracing, of his own early demise. Many examples of Victorian fiction feature the dying ‘good child’, a poor but steadfast family, and respect for the order of things no matter how unjust they seem.
The illustrations are by Arthur Hughes (1832–1915), who had worked with many well-known pre-Raphaelite artists. The book proved popular and was well-regarded in its time. It was thanks to the advice and encouragement of MacDonald that Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) originally published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.