Archive for 16 July 2016

Sweet Inspiration

Email from America

I grew up reading and loving Elizabeth Goudge’s many books. I loved “A Child from the Sea,” “The Middle Window,” and all of the books featuring the Eliot family. I have been able to acquire a few of these titles to add to my personal library, and I am always looking out for more.

I came upon your site when I was searching for audio book versions of Ms. Goudge’s works, and while I have yet to find any of these, I was pleased to find your site with its interesting sections including photos, biographical information, and readers’ commentary.

So, at your invitation, and as a reader of both Ms. Goudge and of the numerous Harry Potter books, may I point out that on the website the author of the Harry Potter books is incorrectly mentioned as “J. K. Rowlings” ? I believe there is no “s” in the surname.

I was delighted to read that as a child Ms. Rowling had read and been influenced by the work of Ms. Goudge,  what a lovely (and logical) connection between two marvellously gifted storytellers.

I look forward to visiting your site again and seeing additional details about the life and work of Elizabeth Goudge.

With my thanks and best wishes,

Rebecca Thornburn

The Middle Window

The Middle Window

Whenever I start to read a Goudge novel, it always sets me off on a journey of discovery, and I rarely end up where I anticipate. The book begins with this quote: ‘To those who cry out against romance I would say—You are romance. You are the lost prince herding obscurely among the swine. The romance of your spirit is the most wonderful of stories.’
A.E. The Candle of Vision.

Who was A.E.? George William Russell was an Irish poet, painter and author, a mystic who contributed to the early 19th century Celtic Renaissance. A.E. was short for Aeon, the pen name he had chosen for himself. He was a friend of Stevens and W.B.Yeats, producing a series of essays on journeys he had undertaken in the ‘inner realms’, a thesis on his perception of spirituality and the way it permeates the physical and mental planes of our lives.

It may seem strange to many of Goudge’s most avid readers that Elizabeth was influenced and inspired by some one who today would be called ‘New Age’, so maybe we need to put the book in context with what was happening in the larger world in 1935. What was the current mind set of the generation?

Elizabeth had grown up in the Edwardian era, a time when scientific thought was taking flight, literally and metaphorically. Every thing had to be compartmentalized and labelled, including God and the after life.
Conan Doyle and the Spiritualist movement were in vogue, with such intellectual advocates as J.B.Priestly, one of his best known works “English Journey” had come out the previous year. A book in which he had set out to define the English and their working landscape at that time perched precariously on the brink of War and foreign revolution.
The first Eco-warrior of the 20th century, a charismatic “Red Indian” called Grey Owl was touring the country to packed audiences in 1935, informing us of his observations on the inter connectedness of all life. He was even invited to Buckingham Palace, received by the King himself.
Dion Fortune published The Winged Bull, a book about obsession. She was a truly remarkable woman, a writer, lecturer, and founding member of the Inner Light.(1)  A new edition of the Works of Mary Webb was brought out by Jonathan Cape and a Surrey housewife and writer called Enid Bagnold stormed the hearts of young horse mad girls everywhere with the tale of National Velvet, all in the same year. Hope was “springing eternal”, and how they needed it.

The First World War had left its sad legacy of depletion, grief and anger behind, but people were by this time well aware that it hadn’t been, “the war to end all wars”, and needed the panacea of “proof” that life itself was not the sum total of their existence.
The old Myths and legends were taken out and dusted down, refurbished to aid a new generation, their worth reaffirmed, the struggle, the fight, was life.

It was against this back ground that Elizabeth wrote and published her novel, “The Middle Window”, one of her most under rated and least valued works.

The book is about a young socialite called Judith Cameron, and her search for meaning and depth to her, so far shallow life.
In the window of a shop, she sees a painting, a triptych of pictures in fact, which show her three differing aspects of life. One is of a glittering ballroom such as she has visited the previous evening, the other a comfortable cottage interior. But it is the Middle picture that draws her, a painting of a Scottish mountain and loch.
”A world of stark and terrible beauty, of sorrow and failure, shorn of wealth and comfort but yet ablaze with joy, the world of the heights of the human spirit. It seemed to Judy that her little shivering self was flitting from side to side, unwilling to chose either of the worlds to left or right, yet cowering back in fear from that terrible middle window. And yet——– she had to chose it” (Goudge 1934 p 19).

Her quest takes her to the Highlands of Scotland and the ancestral home of Ian MacDonald. What follows is more of a home coming than a holiday as places and people she knows she hasn’t met before seem achingly familiar.
”I’m quite sure we’ve come the wrong way “complained poor Lady Cameron, “and James has gone to sleep again and Judy isn’t even looking at that route the R.A.C. gave us. She hasn’t looked at it for hours…….. Judy!” Judy did not answer and Lady Cameron prodded her in the back “Look at the route dear, I’m sure we’re all wrong” Judy stirred and sighed. “No” she said “we shall be there in twenty minutes.” Her voice seemed to come from very far away.” We’re just climbing up Ben Caorach. In ten minutes we shall be at the top. Then we shall drop down into Glen Suilag.”
”Judy exclaimed Charles, “how on earth do you know?” ( Goudge 1934 p 29)

Then when they arrive, the house itself, the people who live in it, the very rooms themselves are known to her.
There always appears in Elizabeth’s books a Goudgian room, one that you know the author is remembering and describing, probably one from her past. We meet them with subtle variations in Gentian Hill, The Rosemary Tree, City of Bells, The Dean’s Watch, The Eliot books, etc, etc. it will contain; spindly legged Sheraton chairs with tapestry covers, wood panelling, miniature paintings, shabby brocade curtains, china on the mantelpiece, and an old bureau or oak chest. There might be an Adams fireplace, or a moulded cornice, or as is the case in The Little White Horse and The Middle Window, a harpsichord. Whose house is she remembering?

As with rooms, so with times of the day and a Goudge book would not be complete without at least one spectacular dawn, a very important part of her day.
”The cold air was like fingers of snow creeping over her body and stinging her awake to vivid consciousness of the loveliness in front of her. The shadow of night still lay over the garden and the larch wood and the loch and the lower slopes of the mountains, but up on the summits day had come. There were no clouds now to hide the top of Judy’s mountain; it was outlines in indigo and violet against a golden sky that melted through apricot and primrose yellow to deep blue over head. Far up the sun’s fingers just touched the bog myrtle and bracken to green flame. “
(Goudge, 1934. pp 69/70)

As always Elizabeth draws on her personal physical response to place. She visited the Highlands and Islands on a walking holiday with a friend, after the success of her first novel and short stories, this passage describing an experience she had while on the Isle of Skye.
”Suddenly she flung up her head, her eyes dilating with terror. There was a curious, crackling, thudding, sound behind her, as though a galloping horseman cracked a whip as he rode at her to drive her away. She jumped to her feet and looked behind her, but there was nothing there, and no sound but the burn. She took to her feet and ran, not stopping until she was down among the crofts again and sitting on a stone by the roadside.” (Goudge 1934 p131).
Both the character and Elizabeth herself put it down to intrusion of place by a stranger, “I tired to be to intimate and It resented it” (Goudge.1934 p 131)
Joy of the Snow deals with the experience on pages 135 to 136.

The story is placed in three parts, The Search, in which Judith arrives at Glen Suilag and meets Ian MacDonald, Union, which takes us back to Jacobean times, and The Finding which brings us back up to the present.

Each part starts with its corresponding quote, The Search we discussed at the begin of the piece, Union starts with a quote by Jami,
All that is not One must ever
Suffer with the wound of Absence,
And whoever in Love’s city
Enters, finds but room for one
And but in Oneness, Union.
Jami was the name of a Sufi poet and philosopher who was born in the village of Jam, Ghor Province, Afghanistan in 1414. He studied Peripateticism,( the teaching method of Aristotle, who, like the troubadours of the Middle Ages walked from place to place to teach) Maths, Arabic literature, Natural Sciences and Islamic Philosophy at Nizamiyyah University. He was one of the last great Sufi poets, and a teacher of renown. He wrote 87 books on Mysticism, Poetry and History, he was on the cutting edge of thought in the 15th century.

So what drew Elizabeth to a writer from such a different background? I think it was that in his view, LOVE was the fundamental stepping stone for starting on the spiritual journey.
”Love is the Lord by whom we escape Death “(Goudge 1960. p.346)
Also the fact that Judith and Ranald’s love is unrequited doesn’t make it a negative event, but a sowing of love that will be reaped in the future. Are we being told that this is how she viewed the lost of her love, her Ely love, only mentioned in passing, and that she to used the experience to enrich her life? Was Ranald the idealist and social reformer modelled on some one she knew?

The Finding, the final part of the story is headed with a quote from Samuel Butler.
”Yet for the great bitterness of this grief,
We three, you and he and I,
May pass into the hearts of like true comrades hereafter,
In whom we may weep anew and yet comfort them,
As they too pass out, out, out into the night.
So guide them and guard them Heaven and fare them well.

He came from a Victorian clerical background like Elizabeth’s father Henry Goudge. He attended Shrewsbury School where his Grandfather, also called Samuel, the former Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry had been the headmaster. Afterwards he went to Cambridge and after graduation lived in a low income parish in London to prepare for his Ordination into the Anglican Church. Here he discovered that Baptism made no apparent difference to the morals or behaviour of his peers which led him to question his faith. His father was so angry with him that it led to him emigrating to New Zealand where he made his fortune Sheep Farming before returning home to pursue his literary career.

Nine years and five books later, is the character of William Ozanne and the country he ended up making his fortune in, in part inspired by the tale of Samuel Butler? It is one of the few books Elizabeth wrote about a country she had never been to.
The quote certainly encapsulates her thoughts on reincarnation and the legacy left behind by people we consider to be our spiritual families. She was always uneasy about the theory, seeing it as a form of possession.

”They don’t “she whispered “the dead are dead.”
Ian was looking at her his eyes burning her, and she turned her head away. She could not meet his eyes.
”They’re not” he said” they are alive. They possess the living”
Possession! That fear that had been lying at the back of her mind, haunting her, through all her time at Glen Suilag, leapt out now and seized her, just as the first flash of lightning shone out over the garden, showing up Ian’s figure black and frightening.”
(Goudge, 1934. p. 155)

Jesus after all had only needed one life, so why should we be any different? Except of cause that we are not fully realized spiritual beings.
She was much happier with the inheritance of ideas and values contained in the Butler quote and used it too good effect in many of her later works.

This is a book about a Spiritual Journey, a dedicating of a life to values inherent in the life of Jesus and the gospels that she read every day. But I believe Elizabeth realised early on in her life that all spiritual striving was valid.
The research she under took into the works of A.E. and Evelyn Underhill, (ii) were the equivalent of Henry reading the Catholic Missal that so distressed his parents. She wanted to know what others thought about the nature of God and the way of spiritual growth, and then make up her own mind.
The principals and disciplines that Judy undertakes in her daily life, were the ones Elizabeth adopted, those of daily learning, contemplation, prayer and Service Work, which are the same whichever doctrine or creed one chooses to follow.


Almighty God, who enlightened your Church
by the teaching of your servant Evelyn Underhill:
enrich it evermore with your heavenly grace
and raise up faithful witnesses who,
by their life and teaching,
may proclaim the truth of your salvation;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

From Common Worship (Church of England.)

Elizabeth was one of the faithful witnesses who tried to live her life by the principals laid down by in the gospels. She was however, never afraid to enhance her study by thinking outside of the Anglican Church. But like Evelyn Underhill, felt most at home with the religion and creed she had assimilated and grown up with.

Goudge Elizabeth 1934 The Middle Window
Goudge Elizabeth 1960 The Dean’s Watch.


1 An organisation set up to teach and study esoteric subjects, and the New Testament, especially the Gospels and the teacher Jesus. She was even approached by the M.O.D to carry out physic defence of Great Britain during the II World War against the Black Arts employed by the Nazis.

ii Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875, the daughter of a wealthy barrister. She became a committed worshipper in the Church of England in which she was raised, and wrote a number of books on mystics, mysticism as well as reviews, lectures and leading retreats. Her book Worship is still recommended reading in theological colleges. She died on 15th June 1941, and is remembered in the Calendar of the Church in a special collect on that day.

Written by Deborah Gaudin. Summer 2007


The Writer Who Inspired J.K.Rowling

The Writer Who Inspired J.K.Rowling
Sylvia Gower

For a book first written in 1946 to remain in print up to the present day, gives a good indication that it must be something special.

“The Little White Horse” written by the late novelist Elizabeth Goudge won the Carnegie Award for its author as the best children’s book of the year. Ever since it has continued to be a favourite with children and continually re-printed. Now it is also available on audio tape, read by Miriam Margoyles in the BBC Cover of the series. It is now in the process of being made into a film.

When she was interviewed on T.V. after the first Harry Potter book had brought her fame, J. K. Rowling mentioned “The Little White Horse”, saying it was her favourite book as a child and had possibly influenced her own writing.

So what does the book offer and what are the magical ingredients that continue to make it so popular?

The setting of the story is a West Country village in the 19th century. At the time she wrote it, Miss Goudge had been living in Devon for several years and had absorbed much of the local folklore about magical and mythical creatures. She seemed to know instinctively what would appeal to children.
The mix of fantasy and reality made both humans and animals stay alive from start to finish and the well planned plot kept readers guessing to the end.

Moonarce Manor Park where the heroine Maria Merryweather comes to live was based on Compton castle very close to where Elizabeth lived. It is possible to visit there today and still see the old well where the moon Princess was said to have hidden her pearls so long ago, at the start of the long standing feud which Maria succeeds in bringing to an end. In the best tradition of children’s books, all ends happily ever after, but not before many scary events have held its young readers enthralled.

The Carnegie Award for “The Little White Horse” had come soon after another success for Miss Goudge. In 1944 she had won an MGM prize in America worth $30.000, (most of it went in taxes) for her novel “Green Dolphin Country” making her a best seller. Until then, although she had been writing since the early 30’s and had gained many appreciative readers she had not been famous.

She already had two books for children published. In 1940, soon after coming to live in Devon, she had written “Smokey House”, using stories she had been told about the local pub in earlier times. Then in 1942, “Henrietta’s House” was published in which she wrote again about the people features in her second novel “City of Bells”, which she had based on her childhood home of Wells. Although “Henrietta’s House” was meant for children, I suspect many of her adult readers also found it enjoyable.

Elizabeth’s love and empathy for children was always apparent in all of her books and it was this and her equally discernible love for animals that drew many readers to her writing. Every book had children and dogs incorporated into the story. The influence of home and family was central to her characters.
She never married, being one of the generations of women who were “surplus” after the slaughter of so many men in the First World War. In her autobiography “Joy of the Snow”, Elizabeth made no secret of the fact that she would love to have been married and had children, though acknowledging this would not have given her the same opportunity for writing.

The next book she wrote for children “Make Believe” was published in 1949. It used stories from her mother’s childhood spent in Guernsey and where Elizabeth herself had spent many happy childhood holidays. Again she used some of the same characters that she had put in her first novel “Island Magic”.
Probably her least known book for children is “Valley of Song” published in 1951. It is set in the village of Buckler’s Hard in Hampshire during the 18th century when it was an important centre for the building of some of the most famous sailing ships of the period. Elizabeth loved Buckler’s Hard which she had known first from her school days. She had already written about it in her Eliot Trilogy novels. She said “The Valley of Song” was one of her own favourite books, but she wrote it during a sad time in her life and maybe this sadness seeped into the book.

In 1964, several years after moving away from Devon, but perhaps still feeling somewhat homesick for it, she wrote “Linnets and Valerians” which appears to use her old village in Devon as a background to the story and uses some of the local lore she remembered hearing. Again it is another great adventure with lots of action and wonderful characters, like Ezra, the one legged gardener who talks to the bees; Lady Alicia with her pet monkey Abendego and the awful Emma Cobley, the local witch.

One of the reasons for the long popularity of the “The Little White Horse” is that the first generation of its readers, remembering their own love of it couldn’t wait to share it with their own children, and perhaps, surprisingly it had worked its magic for them too. One young internet reader reported on Amazon as saying, “I was really sorry when I finished the Harry Potter book, but I think The “Little White Horse” is the best book ever!”

So, possibly the huge success of the Harry Potter books is that JK Rowling has “tuned in” again to the needs of children for stories with magical ingredients as in “The Little White Horse”. The first edition of the book, published by the University of London Press was wonderfully illustrated by an artist called Walter Hodges. Elizabeth was so pleased with the way his illustrations portrayed her characters, that she dedicated the book to him.

As many of her admirers will know, Elizabeth Goudge was a very modest person, and although when she wrote her autobiography in 1974, “The Little White Horse” was in its seventh issue, she made no mention of it.
The book she said she would most like to be remembered for was her novel “The Dean’s Watch” set in her favourite home town of Ely.

I feel however Elizabeth would be pleased to think she has “handed on the torch” for more magical stories in another generation to such an imaginative writer as J.K.Rowling.


The Little White Horse.

The Little White Horse.

The Little White Horse, the best loved of all Elizabeth’s children’s books, is the story that pulls the majority of her readers into her own special world, a place that we are often guided to by someone, anxious to share their find. That’s the way of her writing, her readers become passionate and involved the more they discover, and want to share the experience.

The book starts with an example of Elizabeth’s own verse, The Little White Horse, and then crashes straight into the action, the main protagonists swaying along dark misty roads in an uncomfortable, old fashioned carriage, into the heart of the West Country.
It is high Victorian Gothic, with distinct shades of Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen), a writer that Elizabeth had read and admired. Living as she had in Edwardian Somerset, she had always maintained that the West Country had a distinct air of fairy about it.

We are straight into the heart of the moral fibre of the story too, setting up the testing of Maria, with her strength and courage, her forthright manner, making her a most suitable and appealing person.

The story opens with the red haired orphan Maria and her Governess Miss Heliotrope going to live with Maria’s cousin Sir Benjamin Merryweather after the death of her father which had left “so many debts that everything he possessed, including the beautiful London house with the fanlight over the door and the tall windows looking out over the garden of the quiet London Square, where Maria had lived through out the whole of her short life, had had to be sold to pay them.”(Goudge. 1946 p3)
Although this didn’t happen to Elizabeth and her Mother, they had seen it happen to many other clergymen’s families. Often, in the days of pre Social Security, people felt themselves fortunate to find relations willing and able to take them in and help them.

The manor house is in fact a Norman castle, set in a valley, surrounded by green rounded hills, with the village of Silverydew at the foot of the cone of Paradise hill. The house is inhabited by her cousin, his male cook Marmaduke Scarlett and the coachman Digweed. It is the proud boast of them all that “You (Miss Heliotrope) and Maria are the first members of the fair sex to set foot in this house for twenty years.”(Goudge 1946 p26)

But they are made to feel welcome and Maria soon finds that the castle is more like home than anywhere else she has lived. She also starts to discover the history of her family and the curse that it has lived under for centuries. She uncovers the true identity of the dog Wrolf, and the beautiful apparition of the Little White Horse, first seen on her way to the castle.

The Little White Horse

The Little White Horse

In 1946 when the book was written, Elizabeth would have had some formidable rivals in the world of children’s books. Five other children were “Going Off in a Caravan” (Enid Blyton) and the Lone Pine Club (Malcolm Saville) were solving Welsh Border mysteries. But one of the reasons I think that Elizabeth won the Carnegie Medal that year for this book, was her cleverness at making it timeless. By setting the novel in Victorian England, a time she knew well and could emphasis with, it would not become dated. Think how silted some of the Famous Five books can be now.

Another reason is her ability to move the action of a story along in the most lyrical and effortless prose, such as these, taken at random from pages 77/79. “It was lovely in the stable yard, with the white doves just coming out from their cote cooing softly, flying down to the cobbles to strut and flutter their wings in the sweet morning air, and the sky was like a rose over the old stable roofs still glistening with dew” Another lovely dawn and the beginning of an adventure for our heroine. ” And then the little cavalcade, Maria on Periwinkle with Wrolf and Wiggins one on each side of her , trotted gaily out of the stable-yard, through the garden and out through the door under the great archway into the park. Without a moments hesitation she swung east. She must not go to Merryweather Bay, but she would explore the park in that direction.     She might perhaps see the sea in the distance.” East towards the rising sun and towards the alter of the sea, a metaphor that writers have used for the unconscious for generations. Too deep for a children’s book? I don’t think it is. It may have been unintentional on her part, but C.S. Lewis used Christian myths and symbols in his work, and I think Elizabeth does too.

“as she rode they thinned out more and more, the beeches and oak-trees and bushes of golden gorse giving place to solitary groups of wind twisted pines, with here and there boulders of grey rock pushing their way through the tussocks of heather. To the cold fresh tang of the frost there was added now the salt tang of the sea.”
I would love to think that this is a description of a ride that Elizabeth took. We know from Joy of the Snow that she had learnt to ride and certainly did in Ely, perhaps Elizabeth too rode in sight of the sea in her Devonshire days.

One place and experience in the book which is drawn from her life is the bay and cliffs that Maria and Robin find at the end of the pine wood tunnels, it sounds just like the description of the bay in Guernsey that she visited with her Aunts and cousins. She describes the rock climbing capabilities of one Aunt in particular. “I am ashamed now when I think of the furious rages when my aunts interfered with rock climbing. Aunt Emily was easy to shake off for she was no more than a gripper of the ankle. With a quick wrench and a quick scramble upward one could get rid of her. But Aunt Marie, a spare agile person who could climb better than I could, was another matter. If she caught me starting to climb she did not grip my ankle but simply came after me to take care of me. She was the dearest of my aunts but I hated her, and said so, when she shared my rocks.” (Goudge 1974.p 47) It sounds just like Maria fearing the grip of the Black Men’s hands on her ankles in the climb that she and Robin take to elude their pursuers. The caves that she describes and all the colours of the seaweeds and rocks and sand, could be Saints Bay.

But Maria is halted in her joyous ride by “a thin high screaming that came threading through the happy sounds, pushing into her heart like a sharp needle.” She is riding to the rescue of Serena and her first encounter with William Coq du Noir.

In only three pages the action is set up against its contrasting background of beauty and the normality of daily life, we find out more about Maria, her character and previous life, and what she is capable of achieving. She tests her own strengths against the cruelty of life and finds out that with help she can beat them.

Yet Elizabeth maintains and uses many of the other ingredients of the current adventure books of the day. There is the map that Sir Benjamin shows her of the valley of Moonacre, surrounded by its green hills very much as Wells is situated, the tunnels which bore through them, and the passages and caves down from the pine woods to the sea, with the hidden treasure of the Moon Princess along the way, the robbers in the pine wood, sinister shapes in the landscape, all could have come from any children’s adventure book.
So could her preoccupation with food. In all the Famous Five books their picnic’s and slap up meals with lashings of ginger beer are lovingly described.
Elizabeth goes one better by having Marmaduke Scarlett as cook to the Merryweather household. His meals, the surprise party in particular are lavish. I think this epicurean fantasy stems from War time austerity, ration books and a distinct lack of sweets.

The valley is filled with the delightful characters that pepper all of Elizabeth’s works and tells us something about her natural friendliness towards all differing sorts of people. Elizabeth one feels, would never judge a book by its cover; an attribute she gives to Maria, and her devotion and love to the outwardly unappealing Miss Heliotrope. Her “invented” London play mate, Robin who turns out to be the shepherd boy come gardener at the manor, is not an unsuitable suitor, and his Mother, Loveday Minette, is “a dream come true. For when in lonely moments the motherless Maria had imagined for herself the mother she would like to have, that mother had been exactly like Loveday Minette.”(Goudge p. 131)
Her first encounter with her larger than life cousin, a “Sun Merryweather” is memorable. “He was so tall and so broad that seemed to fill the big door way. His face was round and red and clean shaven, and his big hooked nose put Miss Heliotrope’s entirely in the shade. he had three double chins, a large smiling mouth, and twinkling eyes of a warm tawny-brown, almost lost beneath bushy white eyebrows. His clothes, most scrupulously cared for, were very old fashioned and most oddly assorted He had a huge white wig like a cauliflower on his head, and his double chins were propped by a cravat of Honiton lace.” (Goudge 1948 p.17). His kindness. love and warm welcome to the stranger that is his cousin Maria endears her to him instantly, and they continue to become closer and more indispensable to each other as the story progresses.
Digweed the coachman/gardener at the manor is pencilled in the margins of the tale like the illustrations that Edwardian letters often contained. “she watched the gnome-like little man as he scurried to the rusty chain, seized hold of it, lifted both legs off the ground and swung there like a monkey on a stick.”(Goudge 1946 p12)
“Seeing him in daylight without his hat, Maria immediately loved old Digweed. He had wide innocent blue eyes like a baby’s, a high wrinkled forehead and a completely bald head.”(Goudge 1946 p45)
Then, Maraduke Scarlett the cook is introduced as “a little hunched backed dwarf,” with his”!fringe of whisker that encircled his whole face like a ham frill “and his propensity to use long words and lots of them, an artist in the world of Cooking.
Finally, Old Parson, the vicar of Silverydew, a formidable person of great intellectual and spiritual power, the Mentor of the story. Who, never the less is given a very human twist at the end of the tale.
All of these portraits are detailed and drawn with insight, humour and understanding.
Maria as well as Elizabeth was an only child, and so relates well to the grown ups around her, there is very little us and them mentality.

It is the marginalia of her stories which helps to give depth to her writing. Every setting and every person is detailed and important, a way of looking at life that Elizabeth liked in the paintings of the old masters, who never left anyone out, giving importance to the great and the small. Her stories became the tapestries that she tired to make during her Art College course in Reading.

Yet it is the animals that have some of the biggest personalities of the book. Elizabeth’s love of dogs is evident in her lavish descriptions of Wiggins. “But though Wiggins’s moral character left much to be desired, it must not be thought that he was a useless member of society, for a thing of beauty is a joy forever, and Wiggins’s beauty was of that high order that can only be described by that tremendous trumpet sounding word incomparable. His tail was like an ostrich feather. He was proud of it and carried it always like a pennon in the wind. His coat was deep cream in colour and smooth and glossy everywhere upon his body except upon his chest, where it broke into an exquisite cascade of soft curls like a gentleman’s frilled shirt-front” (Goudge 1946 p9). He is self centred and pleasure seeking, yet insists on being near Maria, not because he loves her but because “he thought it good policy,      from Maria there emanated all those things which made his existence pleasant to him.”(Goudge 1946 p 8)

Wrolf is introduced as an animal of mythic proportions, stretching the length of the hearth, has a huge shaggy head and from his first sniff thinks little of the pretentious Wiggins. “Through his cascade, of reddish hair that fell over them (paws) eyes ;like yellow lamps shone disconcertingly upon the assembled company; disconcerting because they were so terribly penetrating. What sort of creature was he, Maria wondered. She supposed he was a dog, and yet, somehow, he wasn’t quite like a dog………”The dog Wrolf,” said Sir Benjamin, answering her unspoken question” (Goudge 1946 p19)

Zachariah the cat who lives in the kitchen with Marmaduke Scarlett is also no ordinary animal. “He was enormous, twice the size of any cat she had seen in London. His black fur was short, but so exquisitely glossy that it gleamed like satin. His tail stretched out along the floor behind him for a good yard and looked like a fat black snake; He had a noble head, with a great domed forehead, and large but beautifully shaped ears. His chest, as was only to be expected when one considered the volume of sound that came out of it looked unusually powerful, and so did his broad shoulders and powerful haunches and strong looking paws. He was altogether a most imposing animal, and when he turned his head and his great emerald green eyes blazed out at her, she was almost as scared as she had been when she was introduced to Wrolf. She just stood where she was a dropped him a curtsey.”(Goudge 1946 p94) He will come to play a big part in her future adventures. His intelligence like the other animals out strips the humans. They are the “spirit guides” in a way that help the children achieve their quest.

Serena the creature Maria rescues from the trap is the archetypal symbol of the Moon and Moon magic. A creature associated with witch craft and the supernatural. “But a hare, now, that is a different thing altogether. A hare is not a pet but a person. Hares are clever and brave and loving, and they have fairy blood in them. It’s a grand thing to have a hare for a friend.” (Goudge 1946 p85).

Even the horses that pull the carriage and of cause Periwinkle, her “Joy of the Ground” have an important places in the story and a part to play in helping the humans to realize their potential.

Dedicating a book to someone is a very personal statement to make, and the book is dedicated to the illustrator and artist Walter Hodges who drew the defining pictures to the story. His line drawings and fine water colours suit the gentle tone and mood of the book. I feel that the movie will have to work hard not to disappoint, with air brushed persons playing her characters. Strong faces are needed like in the film Tess, of Thomas Hardy’s work, and I hope they pay attention to details of appearance, even if the title of the work has to be up dated. The dedication is another example of Elizabeth’s admiration for the artists of this world. This work has lived on, forever fresh and eternal, pleasing generations of young girls, and famously being J.K.Rowling favourite children’s book.

Elizabeth Goudge 1946 The Little White Horse
Elizabeth Goudge 1974 Joy of the Snow.

Deborah Gaudin




Bull Roarer

I found this piece about Bull roarers on the web, and thought that the information would be of interest to others as well.

Museum Number: 506
Artefact Name/Title: Wind/Bull roarers, Two plates approximately 9″ x 2″ pierced at one end. Shallow carving of a spiral design on one and angular design on the other. Used for summoning spirits or raising spirit power.
Brief Artefact Name: Wind Roarers
Museum Classification: Working Tools
Maker/Author: unknown
Information: When a west country witch wishes to draw to her spirit forces when working in the open countryside, she makes use of a wind roarer, being a flat section of shaped hard wood secured to a length of stout pliable string which is then rotated at arm’s length at speed around the head. The sound emitted varies in pitch depending on the blade size and speed of rotation. By this means strange wailing sounds can be created. Little wonder that the spirits come flocking in to see what all the ghastly moaning is about.

With thanks to Hannah Foxe who kindly gave permission for us to use this material from the Folk Museum website.

Pride of Place

I have just been down Dog lane looking for Rose cottage- and it can hardly be seen from the lane.  A garage seems to have been built on the front garden.  The golf course is immediately the other side of dog lane.  I wonder what Goudge would have made of it?

I do think it sad that Devon websites can acknowledge Elizabeth Goudge’s having lived at Providence Cottage and Oxfordshire doesn’t know about Rose Cottage.  If I lived in a house previously belonging to someone like Elizabeth Goudge, I would be proud of it, not try to hide.

When I saw it in the summer there was a big hedge all round it – but it did look as if there was still plenty of land at the back of it.

C.S. Lewis’s house -the Kilns-and its land, in Oxford, was sold off by his brother and Maureen Moore, and internally altered by 1970’s owners but is now restored by an American society.  I think it has recently got a Blue Plaque.  Perhaps something like that might happen to one of Elizabeth Goudge’s cottages

I saw somewhere that a film is being made of the Little White Horse- so there may be more interest than ever in Elizabeth Goudge.  When I was a child I enjoyed equally The Valley of Song.  I do some part time online bookselling now, and – of second hand books, – and occasionally benefit from the fact that publishers are too silly to reprint it. – Copies are quite rare.


Lorna Logan


Perceived Pronunciation


A couple of weeks ago, I received this question about the pronunciation of Damerosehay and thought that the information might be of interest to other Goudge readers.

This must seem a very silly question, but could you tell me how to pronounce Damerosehay?

John Goldsmith



Not silly at all.  After doing a bit of thinking and asking the advice of Sylvia Gower, who wrote The World of Elizabeth Goudge, I came up with the following.

 No one that we know ever heard Elizabeth say the word out loud so we don’t know exactly. But it comes from the Huguenot French, and I think is pronounced;

Dame as in Madam with a silent e, Rose the flower, Hay as in cut grass, Dame/rose/hay.
But as Sylvia pointed out, being fictitious it could be said anyway you wish.

 If I find out any more, I’ll let you know.

Thanks for visiting the site and an interesting question

 Deborah Gaudin



Thanks for such a helpful reply.

I tried dame as in game – but that sounded wrong,
I tried dame as in ham – but that didn’t seem right either.
Dame as in maDAM feels just right!



The Fairies’ Baby & Other Stories

About a year ago, one of those rare, once in a life time opportunities occurred. E bay had a copy of Elizabeth Goudge’s first published work for sale. I had never seen it before, had indeed only found out it had existed after reading Sylvia Gower’s book. It was the book that Elizabeth had burnt, as she considered it dreadful!
Not only was it a copy of the work, naturally a first edition, it also had pressed flowers in it from the garden of Rose Cottage and a dedication from Elizabeth in the front piece. Oh how I wanted that book, in the way of all obsessive book collectors.
Unfortunately the final price was way over my budget, and I could only sadly wave it Good bye.

So, imagine how delighted I was to receive the following letter and pictures from the person who had sold the book. Thank you Andrew for sending me this wonderful piece, to up date us on a rare and delightful work by Elizabeth Goudge


My mother, Sonia Harwood (now aged 88), was a good friend of Elizabeth Goudge being both a frequent correspondent and an occasional visitor. She did in fact have “A Diary of Prayers” dedicated to her by Elizabeth in 1966!

Elizabeth presented her with a signed volume that it would appear you may not know ever existed! “The Fairies’ Baby and Other Stories” was published by W & G Foyle of London in 1919 and was Elizabeth Goudge’s first attempt at writing at the tender age of 19. I understand that it was not a success and she did not write again for a long time!

This volume (including the pressed flowers collected from Rose Cottage) was offered on E Bay a couple of years ago and, because it was so rare, was purchased for a massive $410 by an American lady called Dancy who has been corresponding with my mother ever since.


Kindest regards,





American Connections

American Connections

Jo Dee from Alabama U.S.A. tells us her story of her correspondence with Elizabeth Goudge, how she found “that” photograph and why Elizabeth has become an important part of her life.

My husband and I met Jessie Munroe in August, 1979.  I may have put this previously on your website last fall.  She was so kind inviting us into the garden.  Miss Goudge was not well.  She offered to give me cuttings from her garden which, of course, I could not take.  We were staying another month in England and, also, Customs would have presented a problem.  I had located Rose Cottage by following clues in her autobiography.  The postmistress told us not many people any longer tried to locate her house.

Of course, we did not knock, but, we did stop a few minutes on the lane and Miss Munroe saw us and came over to talk.  She remembered my letter to Miss Goudge and hers to me a couple of years earlier.

Miss Munroe invited us into her back garden while she returned into the house to continue cooking lunch.  She left the back door open and their little dog stood there barking at us.  The sheep in the neighbouring field moved over to the fence looking over it as we walked about.  Miss Munroe told us that Miss Goudge had seen an apparition walk through that field and fence continuing along the rear of the house and then disappeared.  This gave her the idea for “The White Witch”.  I seem to recall that Miss Goudge mentions the story in her autobiography.

There was an elderly retired gentleman in Shreveport, La. who lived with his wife in a two story very old house.  The entire downstairs was totally filled with tall bookcases filled with books and books sitting all around on the floor.  I used to enjoy visiting with him-we attended the same church-and we would sit visiting amidst all those musty books.  He usually had on one of those tank top under shirts because it was usually very warm in the house.

One day I just happened to ask him that if he ever came across any of E.G.s books would he please call me.  He brightened exclaiming that he had just acquired a number of her books and that they were outside in a metal shed which held his overflow of books.

I told Miss Goudge in my letter how comforting her books were to us the two years before my mother died.  Each weekend we would drive about 250 miles to see my mother and I would read her books aloud on the drive down and on the way back.  I felt that underneath it all Miss Goudge was a Christian mystic and she mentions something about that in her letter to me in regards to Evelyn Underhill.  I had asked if she knew Underhill.

Miss Goudge had become a “touchstone” for me and she remains so.  Her compassion and underlying religious viewpoint shaped my ideas about the Christian life.  I had been brought up in the Methodist Church, but, she had far more influence in how I see God and the way others should be treated by me, as did C.S. Lewis, too.  I was about 32 when my mother died and am now almost 65.

I was an only child.  My father was born in 1883 and my mother in 1903.  Miss Goudge seemed comfortable with her own introversion and love of solitude.  This was one of the factors which validated my own introversion because I could see meaning in it for her through which she was able to create.

Jo Dee Musselman.

Jo Dee has kindly given her permission for the letter to be reproduced on our site.

Make Believe

Make Believe

The first thing that strikes the reader is that this is a collection of short stories, not a continuous narrative. Each chapter is complete in itself, an episode in an idyllic childhood

The book is full of autobiographical references and places. The windmill and the walled farm house were both close to her Grandparents home. Descriptions of the island are faithful to the Guernsey of the Edwardian era, the book set in the Channel island home of the du Frocq family, who live in the farm house of Bon Repos on the island of Guernsey.

The first chapter, Make-believe, shows us the passion that Elizabeth had developed for the theatre, something she was introduced to and shared with her Father. It concerns an actor of obvious worth and talent coming back to his roots, perhaps a prototype of the character David Eliot, whom we would all grow to love in the future.

Chapter Two, St Georges Well, deals with one of the folk tales of the Island that her mother used to tell her. We are also taken a little deeper into the character of Petronelle, whom I think is Elizabeth’s mother. Both of them wanted to be doctors, both were immensely practical, and both were out door tomboys with good looks.

The whole book is littered with fairy tales and folklore, from the St Georges Well and its curative power over children’s illnesses, through the fey water lanes that ran down to the sea, the burning of “varaic”, seaweed, on fires in the poorer homes, where the lace that was still being made by hand, to the Wild Forester’s Ride that took place every November.

Rescue on the Island, is a charming description of St Peter Port, the main town on the island. “The front of his dark little bow windowed bookshop looked out on La Rue Lihou, a narrow cobbled street so steep that climbing it was like climbing the side of a mountain, but the window of his sitting room at the back looked straight onto the harbour.” (Goudge 1949 p 65, 66) The Chemist next door made the famous Verbena scent that she writes about in her biography. “He might have been a fairy man in disguise and perhaps he was. It was he who manufactured the Guernsey verbena scent and it was a magic perfume” (Goudge 1974 p 56) It also deals with a perennial Goudge theme of people being too quick to throw the good of the past out with the bad, out dated things, which progression to often does.

New Moon is my personal favourite and is the best story by far in the book. The children are wonderfully horrid. I can remember the misery of buying new shoes for school myself, and Colette I think is Elizabeth in this tale, and the experience of losing the world of myth and wonder are hers. “Do you believe in Fairies?” Peter Pan asks each maturing child. Some of us still do, even if childhood is rapidly disappearing down the wrong end of a telescope. “Her faith in fairies had been until this moment the foundation stone of her existence.” (Goudge 1949 p 95)
The description of St Pierre by night is magical and would appeal to most children. “The black jumble of roofs and chimneys, falling so steeply down the rocky cliff to the sea, were only visible as queer crazy shapes like witches’ hands reaching up to pluck the stars out of the sky, and below them the narrow twisting streets were deep clefts in the rock where hobgoblins lurked” (Goudge 1949 p 98)
Luckily for Colette and I believe Elizabeth too, an experience occurred that reasserted her belief. How else to explain the otherworldly nature of her children’s books, where fairy tales are rein-acted and dreams come true.

Good Old Albert is a fill in story, a childhood romp taken with a donkey through the summer of a bygone age. But in Doing Good, we are back in the auto-biography of Elizabeth, giving away her toys as a child each year to those less fortunate than herself. Her parents, her father in particular wanted her to see for herself how the working class lived, the poverty and hardship, and how the act of offering was as beneficial for herself as for them.

We can surmise that the stories have been written as a series, as we are reintroduced to the cast in each one, their mannerisms and appearance reiterated. It is the small grit in the shoe of these tales, just taking the edge off their perfection.
The children of the du Frocq family were the brother and sisters of her Mother, their exploits and interest the same. Their home although a modern Victorian Villa, was close the cliffs and had an uninterrupted view of the sea. The farm house of Bon Repos was not far away. For an only child growing up in a world of adults in a small cathedral town, the island must have been a Paradise of freedom and companionship.

Her Mother came from a large family, and Rachael and Andre are pen portraits of her Grand Parents, although she felt that she had failed to capture her Grandfather and hadn’t been able to do justice to the memory of the man. She says about him:”I think of the music of Mozart when I think of my Grandfather. The great composers seem to represent different types of spiritual greatness in men. Mozart has his dancers moving in measure; but the dancers are sometimes ourselves, not always the heavenly spirits. He is so often gay and tender in those first movements of symphonies and concertos, as though delighting in us, and in the second movements, while we rest, he sings to us. It is often of himself he sings, and then delight is only on the surface; below is heartbreaking sadness. But he does not wish to break our hearts and the dancing comes again, but faster, as though urgent to cover up what was not intended should be revealed. I am reminded of my grandfather.” (Goudge 1974. p. 44, 45)

Her Grandmother, like Rachael was a tall, dark, beautiful, woman, whose strong personality dominated the family. Elizabeth felt that he grandmother didn’t altogether approve of this spoilt child, with her distressingly English looks, but she couldn’t help but admire her. She must have seen a lot of her own Mother in Rachael, both were strong women.

The last two stories are based on island traditions that Elizabeth loved. The wild old magic of the Foresters Ride and the story of Midnight in the Stable, which is layered with meaning, from the belief that the animals kneel in homage to the Christ Child, to the story of every day duplicity and sin, being transformed into a holy and reconciling action. It has all the beauty and message of her Christmas works, topped of with an icing of snow. As her visits to the island were in summer, this isn’t something she would have been able to write about first hand, but I imagine her grandfather, a keen Meteorologist, would have told her if this rare phenomenon had occurred. This story alone would make me want to buy the book.

I haven’t been able to find out if the November custom of the Forester’s Ride did or does in fact take place or if Elizabeth made this legend up. Maybe it was given up after the advent of the car on the island? Elizabeth usually adapts rather than creates this sort of detail.

Although its formula and content make this one of the most dated of Elizabeth’s works, I think that it gives important information about her background, enabling those of us who admire her to gain a better understanding of her, and what shaped the woman who wrote such wonderful books. Islands were to be an important symbol to her all her life, and it was imprinted here in the Island Magic of her childhood visits.

Goudge.E. 1949 Make-Believe Duckworths
Goudge E. 1974 Joy of the Snow Hodder & Stoughton ISBN 0 340 185317