Elizabeth Goudge and Her Books

The Guernsey Society was formed in London in 1943 (whilst the Channel Islands were under German Occupation), and a number of high profile Guernsey exiles, as well as prominent UK residents with Guernsey connections, were invited to join in order to lobby the British Government on behalf of the occupied islanders, and evacuees in the UK.

After the war, the Society continued, but as more of an social organisation, connecting Guernsey people who did not live in the island, and those with a special interest in the island, with news from Guernsey. The prime means of doing this was through a magazine, The Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society. It appears from the article, that Elizabeth Goudge joined in 1947 (as it mentions she had recently become a member), and had written this article for publication in The Quarterly Review. (The magazine, The Review, moved to three times a year in 1971, and has continued to be published ever since).

The Guernsey Society still organises meetings, talks and social gatherings in the UK and further afield.

 

 

GREEN DOLPHIN COUNTRY. By Elizabeth Goudge. (Hodder & Stoughton. 12/6 net.)

This novel was first published in September, 1944, and since that date has run through no fewer than five printings. It has been immensely popular on both sides of the Atlantic, no doubt partly due to the publicity given to it when it was awarded the Louis B. Mayer prize of £30,000, for the best novel of the year published in America. The film rights have been acquired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The book has caused much interest in Guernsey.

Below we print Miss Goudge’s own comment on her story, answering a number of critics and questioners, who have sought to “recognise” many of her descriptions of buildings and localities described.

We welcome this distinguished novelist as a recently joined member of the Guernsey Society.

***

I paid my first visit to Guernsey when I was eighteen months old (and that was forty-six years ago!), and my last in 1930.

My grandfather was Adolphus Collenette, famous for his weather lore, and my grandmother was Marie-Louise Ozanne, who was brought up in Hauteville House, now the Victor Hugo Museum. My great-grandfather sold the house to Victor Hugo. He came to see it before buying it, and my grandmother took him over it on her eighteenth birthday. So that on one side I am proud to call myself a Guernseywoman.

I spent many glorious holidays in Guernsey in my childhood, and I loved it so intensely that my memories of the Guernsey of those days are all extraordinarily radiant, and the most vivid that I have. Guernsey must cast a very strong spell over her children and her half-children that the very thought of her in after years can bring such happiness.

My first bit of writing to meet with any success was a novel about Guernsey called Island Magic, that I wrote after my last visit there, when I stayed with Miss Cownellan in her cabin at Le Gouffre. I had had no success with my writing until I began to write about Guernsey.

In their childhood my mother and her brother and sisters lived in a house then called Le Hêchet, that is now the Alexandra Nursing Home, and my mother’s stories of the Le Hêchet of those days were always to me more exciting than any fairy tales. Miss Cownellan, when I stayed with her, told me more Guernsey stories, and adding to them my own childhood’s memories wrote Island Magic.

The family of children in this book I called du Frocq, after a Guernsey ancestress, and I loved them so much that I wrote short stories about them for years. Those stories came out in English and American magazines, and I was always getting letters from readers asking for “more about the du Frocqs”. But though I have enjoyed writing about Guernsey more than any other place I have liked writing about my own homes too.

I was born in Wells in Somerset, where my father was principal of the Theological College, and later we lived at Ely in Cambridgeshire, and those two lovely cathedral cities together made the Townminster of my book The City of Bells. In 1923 my father became Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford where we lived in an old home in Tom Quad, Christ Church, and I wrote about Oxford in Towers in the Mist. When my father died just before the war, my mother and I came to live in Devon, not far from the sea, where we have the seagulls always with us, and where the narrow lanes and the fuchsias and the escallonia bushes remind us both of Guernsey. I describe this bit of country where we live in The Castle on the Hill. Then I found myself longing to write about Guernsey again, and in odd times all through the war I wrote Green Dolphin Country, and once again Guernsey brought me luck.

As all that I wrote about Guernsey has been written away from it, I have never made any attempt to be topographically correct. My Island is inspired by Guernsey but in neither of my books have I actually called it Guernsey, it has been just “the Island”. Several readers have written to ask where exactly is the convent on the cliff that I describe in Green Dolphin Country, and I have had to reply with shame that I’m afraid it isn’t anywhere except in my imagination! I have always felt that I owed the island an apology for treating it in this imaginative way, and I hope Guernsey people will forgive me.

 

ELIZABETH GOUDGE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: ‘Elizabeth Goudge and Her Books’, Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, Spring 1947, volume III no 1, pp. 11-12.

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