Archive for 22 July 2016

Fallen Idol

The Secret of Moonacre.

Or whatever have they done to Robin?

I thought of going to see the film, although I was apprehensive the moment I heard about it. After the TV version just what horrors were to come? Then I decided to look at the website, to get a preview I thought innocently.” The Little White Horse” was getting some recognition at last. But, oh, the worst WAS yet to come. I looked at the trailer and then the extracts. Like, no doubt, many others who know the book I wondered if I had got the right trailer so, like a masochist, I watched it all again. Yes, this was supposed to be The Little White Horse. I have not plucked up courage to see the whole film, even though it is showing at a cinema not two miles away. That would be beyond the call of duty.

Apart from them using the names of some, and only some, of the characters I would never have guessed that it had anything to do with the book. What puzzles me is why they claim to be making a film of the book and then they ignore it. These fantasy things are popular with sub-teen girls, fair enough, but why not just write a story anyway? Why massacre a known and loved book?

My especial grouse is about their treatment of Robin. (I fell for Robin when I first read the book, nearly sixty years ago, aged eight – just the sort of boy/man to appeal to me. I suspect that I spent my life looking for Robin – and I never found him!) To change him so completely knocks the stuffing out of the story. His quiet strength, courage and determination form the rock on which Maria relies. To make him into a bandit is ridiculous. That image of him with a face mask and a frill of feathers round his neck still haunts me, as if they had done it as an insult to a friend of mine.

Miss Heliotrope was never my favourite character, she was a bit too good for my liking, but I admired her good qualities and her determination to do her best, even if she had lost her love. There is a satisfying conclusion in the story when she and Old Parson find each other again. At least it happens in the story if not often in real life. What the film-makers decided to do with her is just silly. The book has within it a wonderful character just waiting to be picked off the page.

If I cannot forgive them for what they did to Robin, then Loveday comes a close second. In the story it is her quiet motherly qualities which are essential, so why turn her into a new-age witch?

I understand fully that the, now unfortunate, title of the “black men” needs to be faced, but why not do what was done for the audio book version a few years ago? The expression “the men from the dark woods” worked very well when I first listened to it,¬† I was halfway through before it dawned on me what they had done. That just shows how neatly they dealt with it.

Why was Marmaduke Scarlet turned into a demented elf? He is very down-to-earth and practical as are all good cooks. His meals and EG’s wonderful descriptions of them have stayed with me all my life, indeed I think the tea he provided for them all at the end of the book would happily serve as my last meal. When I first read Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling’s descriptions of the food at Hogwarts reminded me immediately of The Little White Horse¬† it was lovely to read that she also had appreciated Marmaduke’s meals.

The website for the film is attracting comments, which seem to fall into two camps, sub-teens seem to like the story as shown in the film but just as many people hate what has been done to the book, and some of these sound broken-hearted. I think we can understand this, and at least it is good to know there are a lot of people out there who care about The Little White Horse.

If this was America could we sue the film-makers for the distress caused to all the fans of The Little White Horse?
Doreen Brown


Henrietta’s House

Just holding this book in your hand is guaranteed to bring on feelings of nostalgia. The picture, by R. L. Steel who also provides the illustrations in the book, shows a young girl opening a pair of wrought iron gates onto a smooth green lawn. On top of the brick built gate-posts sit two opposing figures. One is of a typical West Country pixie, the other is a small naked child, covering its eyes with a fore arm. Mature trees obscure your view into a garden. The girl who is the Henrietta of the title is dressed in all her Edwardian Sunday finery. Her pink dress has a full skirt over a petticoat, a ruffled hem and a tight belt with a large bow. The matching bodice has short puffed sleeves and a ruffled collar to match the hemline. On her plaited black hair dressed with pink bows is a large brimmed sun hat, tilted back so that her heart shaped face and smile of welcome are clearly visible.

Underneath the dust jacket the boards are the colour of the Chinese lantern seed heads which currently fill my brass jug, with a small black line drawing of the house seen through the open gates. The pages are printed on a thick, cheap paper, it was printed in 1949 and paper for books was still in short supply. It was probably printed on “re-cycled” paper, without the bleach used to whiten such today. It smells slightly musty and has obviously been a well loved present as a childish hand has written in the front, ” Wishing Jennifer a Happy Birthday, Brenda and Christine.”


The dedication reads;- ” For Dorothy Pope. There were once two little girls, one had fair hair and lived in the Cathedral Close of Torminster and the other had dark hair and lived in the blue hills above the city, and they were friends. Now that they are grown up they are still friends, and the one who lived in Torminster dedicates this little book to the one who lived in the blue hills, because it was she who saw the White Fishes in the cave. ” ( Goudge 1942. )

The fair haired child who lived in the city is obviously Elizabeth herself, and her friend Dorothy the template for Henrietta. I find it comforting to think that they remained in contact throughout their lives. It is an indication of Elizabeth’s loyalty and commitment. Elizabeth herself says that she never revisited any of the places she lived in because she wanted to remember them how they had been and not how they had become. So perhaps they corresponded with each other as she did with so many friends and admirers, a habit inherited from her Father.

It is a gentle story, a sequel to Sister of Angels and City of Bells, a tapestry woven with words around the charm of an Edwardian summer, when as Elizabeth says ” this story is set at the beginning of the present century, and in those days the world was often silent and sleepy, and not the bustling, noisy place that it is today.” ( Goudge 1949.). She is of cause referring to the 20th century and not the 21st.

In 1941 as the story was being written, British troops were fighting in the desert against Rommel, the Germans were taking on the might of Russia and The Americans were about to enter the war after the massacre at Pearl Harbour. A gloomy time, with no end of the war in sight and on the home front the introduction of clothes rationing. What better place and time to escape to than the opulence of Wells in a time before either World Wars had blighted her generations life.

The story starts with Henrietta waiting on the platform for Hugh Anthony to return for the holidays from boarding school ending their first separation from each other, and chronicles the delights of a summer in the countryside surrounding the tiny city where Elizabeth lived out the first few years of her life.

It contains many of her childhood memories from the way that hat elastic hurts the chin, to stately picnics in the hills
The story is as pedestrian as the procession of carts that convey the party to the picnic, and therein lies its charm. We are not hurried on to the next piece of drama, but have time to observed that ” The canterbury bells, and sweet williams, the roses and the sweet peas, the delphiniums and the syringa were a blaze of colour and scent in the gardens and all the birds were singing”(Goudge 1942 p 42 ).

Hills for Elizabeth were, as for so many of us, a place of heightened spirituality. They house the gods, myths and legends. They are the place of the solitary, the Hermit, the Wise Man. We ascend above the valleys and plains of every day life and looking back and down are able to see the bigger picture, to view where we have come from and how far we have travelled to get here.” Looking back he could see the great grey rock of the Cathedral and the old twisted roofs of Torminster, dwarfed by distance into a toy town that a child might have played with, and looking ahead, far up against the sky, he could see the blue hills growing in power and might as they drew nearer to them. He felt for a moment gripped between the grey rock of the Cathedral and the grandeur of the hills, two mighty things that time did not touch.” ( Goudge 1942 p 65)

All of the people invited on Hugh Anthony’s birthday picnic end up getting “lost”. None of them with the exception of Grandmother’s party arrive at their preordained destination. But all of them are enriched by their experiences, they all attain something vital to their well being, even if like the Dean they didn’t at first know that this was necessary.

The Dean recaptures his innocence and love of his fellow man, Hugh Anthony loses some of his pride and arrogance. Grandfather rescues another soul in distress, Jocelyn and Felicity lose their car and find fairy land, and Henrietta, well Henrietta finds her hearts desire.

The strange figures sitting on top of the gateposts are explained as they come from the Cathedral at Wells and must have captured the young Elizabeth’s imagination. The explanation of their meaning given in the story by Henrietta’s Grandfather sounds as if it had originally been told to Elizabeth by her father. ” Replicas of those two figures in the chantry in the south choir aisle of which I told you Bates. The cringing human soul and the mockery of Providence.” (Goudge 1942 p 94) Elizabeth herself was to call her future Devonshire home Providence Cottage, so the Symbology obviously stuck with her.

I thought at first that the caves Elizabeth writes about so vividly were the ones at Wookey Hole, especially as the Old Man in the ruined house could have been a metaphor for the Witch of Wookey. with his wax figurines and pins. But there are no recorded sightings of cave fish in Wookey, and the caves themselves weren’t open to the public in the time that Elizabeth lived here.

Cheddar gorge however is close and one of the caves there is actually called the Cathedral cave for its stunning similarity to a cathedral interior. I love the idea of being able to look up inside rabbit burrows and see the rabbits looking back at you in astonishment, a picture an imaginative child would conjure up. Cheddar too has its underground river complete with little rowing boat, its vast system of unseen caves riddling the Mendip hills like a honeycomb.

I have been unable to find the fish, all sources telling me that the lead content in the water, (the hills have been mined for lead since before the Romans arrived,) is too high for fish to survive. So maybe, the fish were flashes of light reflected back by a carried lamp, a code between friends for a shared magical experience. But I like to think the girls saw them on that long ago Edwardian afternoon. ” Look! cried Hugh Anthony excitedly, kneeling beside the still, inky pool, “There are white fishes here. Quite white. Like Ghosts.”
The Dean put his oil lamp on the ground and knelt beside him and together they watched fascinated as the strange white shapes swam round and round in the black water, their ghostly bodies rippling back and forth as though they were weaving some never-ending pattern upon the black loom of the water.” ( Goudge 1942 p 102)

The story was written at a time when the bells of all the churches and cathedrals of England were silenced, only to be rung in a time of national emergency. They were to signal the devastating news that we had been invaded by Germany. How people must have dreaded the thought of hearing them ring. It would have been an especial sadness for Elizabeth, whose life so far had been lived and to a large extent regulated by the bells of the cathedrals her father worked in. No wonder she wanted to transport herself and her readership back to a time of innocence, when the bells would have rung out for worship and celebration as they were intended to be.

LIttle White Fish


In Memoriam

In Memoriam

It is with deep regret and sadness that I have to inform you all that Sylvia Gower died unexpectedly at home on St Lucy’s Day the 13th December 2008.

As normal, I had opened my emails with my usual optimism and delight, wondering where in the world I would be receiving news and updates from today, and saw first a message from a long time friend and correspondent in the States, Kate Lindemann. It was headed simply Sylvia Gower. It was obvious that the news had shocked her deeply, and it was kind of her to think of informing me. The two had been friends for many years, as Kate had promoted Sylvia’s book ” The World Of Elizabeth Goudge” in The States through her bookshop and contacts. They had also met on one of Kates rare visits to England.

Sylvia was a gracious and generous lady who shared her knowledge and love of Elizabeth Goudge with a wide audience. She had researched Elizabeth’s life and visited the places where she had lived and which had inspired her career as a writer.

In turn Sylvia’s book was my guide on the journey I took to Hampshire, allowing me to find all the right places I needed to see, including Elizabeth’s grave, which I would never have achieved without the books help. I had thought that the church yard would be a small country one. How wrong I was, it was vast, and it was only Sylvia’s detailed description which enabled me to find it.


That, I was to find out was typical of Sylvia’s nature, she loved to share her knowledge. Just a week before, she had written me a lovely letter and sent me a copy of a programme for a Nativity Play that Elizabeth had written for her local School in Marldon, Devon. It seemed most appropriate for the season, and has set me off on a quest to try and find a copy of the play itself. There was also a copy of a magazine article from the States about the nature of the Devonshire countryside that Elizabeth loved and the people who inhabited it. Fodder for a future article.

Sylvia and I met just the once at the unveiling of the Blue Plaque placed on Elizabeth’s final home in Peppard Common. It was a project that Sylvia had worked on for the best part of a year, a fitting and long overdue tribute. The day although overcast and miserable, was filled with the good company of new friends who had met to celebrate a mutual love and respect for the work of Elizabeth Goudge. It had been a cherished idea close to Sylvia’s heart and one that she was rightly proud to have accomplished. There were so many interesting people attending and the hosts made us so welcome, that I didn’t have the time I would have liked to speak to Sylvia. So it is doubly special to me that at least we finally met each other. She has been a constant source of encouragement and support in the work I do for the website, an invaluable mentor in The World Of Elizabeth Goudge.

Sylvia also belonged to a local writers group, who encouraged her in her literary work. Here is an extract from a piece she wrote about a visit to Ely one April.

” For me, always glad to revisit the lovely old place, the highlight came towards the end of the afternoon. There was an annual Pets’ Blessing Service being held in the cathedral, which although I knew of it, I found a lovely surprise to be able to witness. The nave was filled with all kinds of well behaved dogs with their owners, together with less obvious pets in cages including (I was told), a snake. Behind the seats were two pens, one holding sheep and goats and the other two donkeys. In the entrance porch was a beautifully groomed and beribboned Shire horse and Shetland pony. Incredibly while the address was being given there was not a sound to be heard from any of the animals. The event had been organised by the nearby animal sanctuary. It was a fitting ending to a wonderful day.
Sylvia Gower


The High Alter Ely

She told me that she had found the whole episode, a very “Goudgian” experience, one that could have been taken from any of her novels, where dogs in particular are often taken to church. In The Little White Horse, sheep and dogs make up a large proportion of the congregation.

St Lucy is the patron Saint of the Blind, In the legend, Lucy’s eyes were torn out and later healed by God, a legend that supports this association with the blind. If this is not too fanciful, I like to think that Sylvia helped us with blind groping towards an understanding of Elizabeth, helping to shed light on her life and work.

She was buried in a private ceremony on Tuesday 23rd December at St Peter’s Church Great Totham near Tiptree in Essex. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband George and their daughter, whose loss has been deeply personal.

I am sure I speak for the many thousands whose lives were enriched by Sylvia in saying how much she will be missed and fondly remembered.

” For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground: yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.”
The Book of Job

A Rose Cottage Interior

A Rose Cottage Interior

Goodbye my friend, I will endeavour to keep the work of Elizabeth fresh and alive into the next generation as we wished and along the way take your wisdom and knowledge with me.

Deborah Gaudin


Correct Pronunciation

I’ve had the happy experience of “finding” books by Elizabeth Goudge by chance when I was browsing through the shelves of my local library. She has become one of my favourite authors. I would like to be certain that I am pronouncing her name correctly Could you e-mail the pronunciation of her name to me? I have been pronouncing it “gooj.” Thank you for your help.

Elaine Douglas

Hi Elaine
Your email got me thinking.

I don’t think you are that far off the correct pronunciation, its pronounced Goog the g sounding like the g in Giraffe, Geranium , rather than j as in jar The d is silent.
Does that help?

regards Deborah


The Lion’s Roar

Having never read it as a child I am very keen to read The Little White Horse. All the currently available copies seem to be reprints of a revised edition in 1988. Do you know if the 1988 revision drastically altered the text (I’m not too worried about illustrations) of the 1946 original?

Many thanks in advance.

Lisa Cardy

Dear Lisa

The only copies of The Little White Horse that I have read are the Puffin paperback, my first introduction in the 70’s and the 1946 hardback I acquired in my mid twenties. Both these were the same text

But I haven’t read the 1988 revised edition, who published it Christchurch? I will post your letter on February’s Goudge talk and see if any other reader knows the answer.

Dear Deborah

Thank you for your reply.

The edition I’ve just bought is by Lion Publishing plc; New edition (3 Jul 2000). After two house moves, I lost my copy (this edition) of “The Little white horse”, and bought a modern replacement copy without checking the publication details. I read it, and was so disappointed – it seemed so flat and as if something was missing. Was it me? had I finally grown out of it after so many years and readings? Then – I checked the publication details; a REVISED edition! revised all the magic out. This is a wonderful story as originally written , but beware “revisions”. So 4 stars for the original and loud boos for any so-called revision

So, I went back and checked the publishing details of the Lion Publishing plc book I’ve just bought and it does mention a revised 1988 edition. I’m reluctant to read the book I’ve just bought as I want to read the original. I’ve been in touch with the publisher to try and find out what the difference is but haven’t had a reply as yet. Any light you can shed would be most appreciated.

From Georgina Elms
( Lion Publications)

I wonder whether the person who contacted you about the revised edition was the same person that called Lion the other day? Someone bought a copy recently but was in fact after a 1946 edition. We did make a few small editorial alterations when we first purchased the publishing rights from the literary agents David Higham in 1988 – e.g. substituted references to ‘black men’ – but nothing major.


Hope This answers some of your questions Lisa.


Sylvia Gower

Dear All


Totnes Church

Yesterday I drove a total of 130 miles, attending Sylvia’s funeral. It was a lovely simple service and she is buried with her father. Her husband, George, was very upset. I passed him the condolences of the Elizabeth Goudge Group.

It was such a lovely church, in the middle of the countryside, that I had to take photos. The churchyard is beautiful too and just before the service a large flock of gulls settled on the nearby fields.

Sylvia was the author of The World Of Elizabeth Goudge and was instrumental in getting the Blue Plaque on Rose Cottage to commemorate Elizabeth’s life and work. It was Sylvia who asked me to set up the web site as she thought it was so important for her work to be remembered and introduced to a new generation of readers.



Greetings From Belgium

Greetings From Belgium

Dear Deborah,

I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas.

I hope you will go on with your interesting site next year. I appreciate your comments about the novels.

I would like to know what you think about “The Scent of Water” which is one of my favourites.

Elizabeth doesn’t mention it in her auto-biography, but I have a feeling that she put a lot of herself in it.

I am sorry to live too far to take part in the Goudge’s events.
One question: is Jessie still alive? She must have been a precious source of information about her friend unless she wanted to remain discreet about her. It would be quite understandable.

Thanks again for your work
Merry Christmas and happy New Year
Josie Natalis from Li’ge, Belgium

Dear Josie,

Thank you for your kind comments and good wishes.

I intend to make the next article a review of The Scent Of Water which is also my favourite Goudge book. I think she puts biographical references in all her work, but I too think there is something special about that particular book.

Unfortunately Jessie died some years ago, but I did met up with her God daughter Erlys, last year at her home in Pembrokeshire. We had a very long and interesting talk about both Jessie and Elizabeth, which as yet I haven’t written about publicly. Jessie was indeed a very private person and reticent about her life with Elizabeth.

Keep visiting and enjoying the site.

regards Deborah.


Sister of Angels

A Christmas Story, for all those who loved Henrietta.

So runs the dedication of this book which was written in 1939 three years before Henrietta’s House, as a short sequel to City Of Bells. It is a charming seasonal tale of Elizabeth’s fairy tale home in Wells Somerset, which draws on her own childhood memories and experiences.


Although Henrietta sounds like the description Elizabeth gives of her cousin Helen with her dark hair and fragile face, many of the child’s thoughts and emotions were probably Elizabeth’s own. ” She pictured Torminster lying under the moonlight, its steep roofs white and sparkling with frosted snow, its lighted windows patches of orange upon the shadowed walls, the great cathedral cutting patterns out of the sky with its towers and pinnacles and the tall houses throwing blue shadows across the snowy streets. Torminster was making itself very beautiful to greet the rising moon, creating ever shifting patterns of loveliness, quite uncaring that there was no one but the moon to see……..It was creating, and that was enough for Torminster. Ten o’clock struck from the cathedral, ten booming strokes that fell through the night as though ten great stars dropped from the sky” ( Goudge 1939 p81/82). Here Elizabeth is depicting the prospect from her bedroom window through the eyes of her child self of night falling over the tiny city.

Other thoughts and ideas seem oddly mature for so young a girl, such as her musings in the cathedral, ” Everywhere was this sense of space and height and a reaching out to an end that was never found. There was no time here, past and present and future were all one. Here she was a little midge of a thing, alive whether she liked it or not, gripped by life as she was gripped by this great cathedral.” ( Goudge 1939 p 25/26 ) Perhaps physically by the time these thoughts came to her she had moved on to Ely, and what we are hearing are the thoughts inspired in her slightly older self by another beautiful, holy place.

The story is one of outcasts brought home, prisoners paying the full price of their crime and then finding redemption, and an old legend concerning the oldest part of the cathedral, the mysterious crypt. All under pinned by the love and security given to Henrietta by Grandfather, Grandmother and Hugh Anthony.

Henrietta’s father, the by now successful poet Gabriel Ferranti takes an important part in the tale, cutting a wonderfully eccentric figure, as flamboyant and unusual as Poets are meant to be. Elizabeth had a great respect for the poetic Art, and became friends with many eminent Poets.

She gives us lovely insights into the less romantic aspects of Victorian daily life such as washing in cold water, on a freezing morning in an unheated bedroom, ” but on others days they were expected to wash all over, in their rooms, “by bits.” It was a process that called for great skill. The technical problem was how to wash a square foot of back, for instance, without uncovering the rest of yourself to the icy air……” (Goudge 1939 p 10 ) In fact any form of heating in bedroom was considered to be “coddling” (Goudge 1939 p 9)

The heart of the story takes place in the crypt at Wells Cathedral, a place that technically doesn’t exist. There is an Undercroft which is currently undergoing repair and renovation.

The fresco’s that decorate the Undercroft have a ghostly resonance in Elizabeth’s life. In her biography she talks about the “angel” or ghost seen in the “next door house but one” ( Goudge 1974 p 123) Here is what one poor unfortunate guest witnessed when staying in the spare bedroom. ” I cannot stay in the room with that!” cried the terrified guest, and pointed to the beautiful figure who stood in the moonlight against a blank wall.
” Why that’s nothing to be afraid of ” said the old maid soothingly. ” I can see it in my room too and I call it my angel. When the moonlight leaves the wall it will go.”
She fetched her mistress to comfort the girl and when the moon moved on so did the ghost”. (Goudge 1974 p123/124)

When this house was recently undergoing major renovations, the floor was removed for repair, and the workmen discovered a long concealed fresco, of an angel/woman on the wall. So maybe the moonlight picked out the painting behind the loose plaster. Which would explain why it disappeared when the moon moved on.

I have not been able to find out a definitive answer as to why Elizabeth felt such compassion for prisoners. They enter her work in many forms, from the Prisoner of war in The Castle On The Hill, or of Conscience as Parson Hawthorn in the White Witch, but usually just as prisoners who have served their sentences as Michael in The Rosemary Tree, Mr Hepplewhite in Scent Of Water, Annie-Laurie in The Herb of Grace, and of cause Nicholas in Sister Of The Angels.

None of her family were wrongly imprisoned, and I have been unable to find out if the Rev Goudge was a Prison Visitor, he certainly doesn’t seem to have been a Prison Chaplain, so it wasn’t something learnt at home. Perhaps it was because she felt imprisoned by her illness, her acute depression a form of gaol from which she was periodically released. Or perhaps it serves as an illustration of the Christian ethic of redemption, that following the teachings of Christ brings.

There is no doubt about the out come of the tale, it is the expected resolution, a closed circle of a story complete unto itself. Even though we are permitted a glimpse of Henrietta’s artistic future, for us she will always remain the little girl running through the streets and days of her enchanted kingdom of Torminster and its surrounding hills.

Sister of Angels is a Christmas card of a novella, a perfect story for reading aloud round the Christmas tree, a seasonal greeting from the pen of Elizabeth, a gift for us to enjoy.



Three Little Maids From Goudge


During the early 1960’s Elizabeth branched out from writing books and worked with the Parnassus Gallery for the Curnew Press who produced greeting cards. She wrote a series of seasonal and general pamphlets which could be bought as gift as well as card, innovative for its time. They were charmingly illustrated by Isobel Morton-Sale whose husband drew the dust jackets for many of Elizabeth’s novels, Gentian Hill and Green Dolphin Country among them. They were targeted towards the younger readers of Elizabeth’s work, and enhanced by the delicate watercolours that accompany the text.

Both Isobel and her husband John were prolific artists and worked out of an art studio in Devon .John contributed work to the Red Cross hospital promoted during the war by the late Queen Mother. They also founded an art dynasty, their Grand son is now a renown Italian sculptor. I find John’s illustrations more edgy, there is a tension in the faces, and many of his figures appear to be in motion or have just come to rest. While Isobel draws more on the nostalgia of her themes, her figures seem posed as if sitting for a portrait.


The three pamphlets are; Maria or The Good Little Girl, Arabella or The Bad Little Girl and Serena The Hen. On first appearances they are a throw back to Elizabeth’s childhood and the moral tales about the virtues and innocence of children, the Victorian perspective of a childhood that we now all aspire to give our children. But Elizabeth was made aware from an early age that not all children were as lucky and sheltered as she was. The Ritual of Giving Away The Toys alluded to in City of Bells was a yearly donation to under privileged children that the Reverend Goudge encouraged her to make.

They are simple stories, more like long poems than a tale, and deal in the various dominating themes of early childhood. The rather selfish and self centred nature adopted by Arabella being common to most under fives. She reminds me of Bella in The Dean’s Watch, a perfectly amiable creature as long as her wants are granted. While Maria could be a portrait of Elizabeth herself, being shown a box of shells by a relative in the Channel Isles, the wonder of children being shown the natural world for the first time. Serena the Hen was probable produced for the Easter market. Unusually for Elizabeth it is the only one that doesn’t make sense. Serena The Hen escapes the farmyard so that her eggs will not be eaten and goes to ground in The Wild Wood. She is rescued by the laird’s daughter Flora who wakes up and decides that she will ” take her basket and row across the lake to the Wild Wood and look for edible toadstools” ( Goudge 1960). How has Serena the Hen managed to get an island?

But as in all her work Elizabeth doesn’t patronise her audience. The idea of the eating eggs being like eating embryo chicks is not something most people, let alone children, think about. Does this mean that Elizabeth felt this way? Her prose is beautiful and she uses appropriate words even though they may not be understood by her target audience, ” her air of fastidious delicacy was as aristocratic as Serena’s own” ( Goudge 1960).
” she saw a great illimitable sea, very calm and safe, and upon it a little boat travelling along in absolute security.” ( Goudge 1960) ” Algernon could sing as loudly and with as effective a tremolo as Caruso himself,” (Goudge 1960) They make the right music and allow the adult reader to enjoy the tales as well.

It says in the front piece that more titles are to follow, but I can only find one more title in the series which is enigmatically entitled The Shufflewing, which is the old country name for Dunnocks or Hedge Sparrows depending on where you live. It is used to describe the way they shuffle their wings when flitting through shrubs and hedges. Perhaps this illustrates the beauty in the over looked, the mundane, the shy, as John in The Rosemary Tree extols the beauty of the dead sparrow, as perhaps Elizabeth saw herself. To date I have been unable to find a copy.

Elizabeth also produced an advent calendar with the story of David The Shepherd Boy for the publishers Hamish Hamilton. Christmas was one of the most important events in her year and an event she wrote about extensively. It would have enchanted her with its open lit windows like the festival of lights itself, becoming brighter and brighter as Christmas Day drew ever nearer.

Elizabeth Goudge 1960 Arabella Or The Bad Little Girl Curnew Press
Elizabeth Goudge 1960 Maria Or The Good Little Girl Curnew Press
Elizabeth Goudge 1960 Serena The Hen Curnew Press



Lady of Wells

A mysterious medieval wall painting found beneath the floor of the Bishop of Bath and Wells’ bedroom has given up its secrets.

The painting, which shows a partly-clad woman wearing a transparent dress, dates from between 1460 and 1470.

It was part of the decoration of the throne room of Bishop Thomas Beckynton.

Dr Mark Horton, of Bristol University, who researched the painting discovered it is most likely to be part of a scene representing a medieval paradise.

The painting was found by builders three years ago in the space between two floors in the Virgin’s Tower next to heating pipes where the whitewash had fallen away

The key to the identification is a medieval manuscript that shows the actual throne room with the wall paintings accurately depicted.

The manuscript is at Trinity College, Cambridge but a Victorian copy exists in the Special Collections of Bristol University and this shows the playwright Thomas Chaundler presenting one of his plays to Bishop Beckynton in 1460.

Dr Horton said: “The amazing thing is that this medieval manuscript accurately records what was on the wall. This included details of foliage and fruits which we then were able to find behind the heating pipes next to the image of the lady.

“It was rather like something out of the Da Vinci Code, creeping beneath the bishop’s floorboards to come face to face with this incredible piece of medieval art.”

The discovery has inspired the current Bishop, the Right Rev Peter Price, who lives in the palace, to want to restore the throne room to its former glory with the painted lady in pride of place along with the rest of the earthly garden