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.