The Enchanted Kingdom

Hello Deborah,

I want to thank you for doing this website and having an Elizabeth Goudge Society [how does one join?]. At this time of year, coming up to Christmas, I often re-read either The Herb of Grace or The Dean’s Watch or one of her children’s books for the amazing descriptions of wonderful Christmases in England.

I started reading her books when I was about ten years old, living in New Jersey and getting them from the library and they became the enchanted kingdom I disappeared into when my own life was too difficult [my mother was ill and alcoholic and times could be rough]. I read the adult books because the library didn’t have any of her children’s books.

Many years later, an animal lover and intrepid about wild animals, I took a break from being a research librarian and went to work with seals and sea lions in a free-release setting in Key West Florida. Here I won the trust of an abused sea lion by singing to her because I remembered this being described in The Child From the Sea. And it worked — this 300 pound beast crawled into my lap. The only problem was that every time I stopped singing she growled at me. I must have sung every show tune I knew for hours.

Elizabeth Goudge’s books, along with the Mary Poppins books, Wind in the Willows and everything by Rumer Godden, were all instrumental in my decision to up sticks from the USA and move to England. I lived in Devon for 20 years [1986 to 2006] in a thatched cottage and made a lovely garden. Here too I found ultimately almost all of EG’s books in wonderful second-hand bookshops [mostly in Ashburton] and off Amazon. And I found Providence Cottage in Marldon, still called that, and whoever they were they had corgis, which I think Elizabeth might have enjoyed.

Of course I spent time in the New Forest and Buckler’s Hard and imagined that a small lane south of the Hard going down to the River Beaulieu would lead to the Herb of Grace. [That’s still my favourite book of all.] I also visited Ely [but I think that the cathedral she describes in The Dean’s Watch seems to be the cathedral in Lincoln] and Wells [where I had my first collision with nettles – ouch! — while I was standing on a fallen log to peer over the high stone wall at the back of the choir master’s house, which I thought must be the place were she was born].

And like Elizabeth I started having spiritual and ghostly experiences in England, which had never happened to me in the United States. All positive I’m glad to say, or at least not fearful. I always had an open mind in that regard, and rather hoped such things existed, but never expected to experience them. It is most amazing and lovely and helps me to live more fully and trustingly.

I’m happy to say that I was pretty much born an Anglophile, and living in England suited me entirely, even though for various reasons I retired to France in 2006, where I have again made a garden and continue read Elizabeth Goudge.

Thanks again for the lovely website, I am going to enjoy reading the various postings on Goudge Talk [and you are welcome to post this if you would like to].

Now that I’ve been thinking about it, there are so many areas of my real life that have been influenced by Elizabeth Goudge.  Reading the Scent of Water [and later the Joy of the Snow] I grew to want my own four-poster bed [and found out that she never did have one, but gave it instead to Mary in Scent of Water] and a green carpet with roses and ribbons.  Here’s a picture of my bedroom in my thatched cottage, with four-poster [only a flat-pack pine, but an artist friend painted it for me] and you can see a bit of the carpet too].
Four poster bed
The scene on the end of the bed shows my unicorn [I’ve always had a unicorn] and, in one of those strange things that keep happening to me, it prophesied the area I would later move to in France — not too far from where I live are the wonderful ruins of Crozant Castle built on a rocky promontory where the river curves and it looks very much like the imaginary scene on my bed. I have two prophetic paintings — the other was made for me by a friend in NYC many years ago that was supposed to be of my Manhattan street and the brownstone I lived in, but as he said “the sea and the fields kept bursting in and I couldn’t stop them”  and indeed between the NY brownstones you can see the sea, and pouring out between them is a patchwork of fields.  I should say I had no notion then of ever moving to England, and in fact, didn’t really know Devon existed [I’d read EG’s books set there, but the county didn’t really register in my mind].  But ten years later when I moved to Devon, England, I found exactly those fields, the red earth of that red sandstone area of Devon and the patchwork of  colours of the different crops.
warm regards Nancy Wolff

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