Last of the Summer Sun

This wonderful old photograph of Keyhaven with the boats at low tide was sent to me by Marion Sheath, a long time supporter of the website. It shows the river Beaulieu at low tide with all the sail boats at rest, the white wings of their sails furled. When we visited Buckler’s Hard and the surrounding area I looked for the precise site of Damerosehay, but was unable to locate it. Harewood House, the inspiration for Damerosehay had been knocked down and redeveloped many years before.

We took a trip on the river, on a boat we had all to ourselves in the wet grey morning and we passed many a house covered with wisteria and vines who’s gardens ran down to the river. But inland the woods hid any house that might have been. Perhaps it is as well that the house is ephemeral, a place of the spirit and imagination, where anyone can find healing and rest. The Bird in The Tree is a favourite autumnal read.

Photograph of Harewood House, Elizabeth’s spiritual retreat and the inspiration for The Eliot Trilogy.

The Bird

I have grown tired of sorrow and human tears;
Life is a dream in the night, a fear among fears,
A naked runner lost in a storm of spears.

I have grown tired of rapture and love’s desire;
love is a flaming heart, and it’s flames aspire
Till they cloud the soul in the smoke of a windy fire…..

Arthur Symons

As the sun slips further down the sky and autumn begins its run through the woods, which of Elizabeth’s books do you chose for company?





    • Oh, please don’t mention the ending of summer. I am a cold morsel at the best of times and the thought of more clothes to put on; raincoat, gloves and scarf are daunting, even though the summer held many days that were too hot to breath and debilitating.

      At Deborah’s suggestion in a recent post I picked up, once again, The Scent of Water and was even more amazed at the depth of Elizabeth’s knowledge of the real world. It permeates through and between her characters and landscapes, jolting one into believing that tomorrow is worth living through and finally rises to a height that leaves one breathless at the reason behind everything, love.

      I have to admit though that I have a few chapters left to read, diverting to crime fiction for a while. Don’t be too admonishing, for I believe Elizabeth did the same.

  1. I have now come to.a period in life I intend to reread her whole oeuvre. I am sure I will notice aspects I neglected when reading them first. Or discover I myself am a different person with sifferent values and tastes from when I was in my twenties. I never get tired of rereading The Little White Horse and Henrietta’s House, my childhood favourites. But now there are so many other gems waiting to be discovered.

  2. Yes thank you! I somehow regret having passed the Elliott trilogy on to a friend.
    Have just ordered’The Little White Horse” which amazingly I have never read.
    September greetings.

    • Greetings Gabriele, I love this time of year. Had forgotten that Bird in the Tree ends on an equinoxical storm, a true autumn journey, renewal of the spirit. thanks for your input and hope you continue to enjoy the site.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful post. I remember with great affection the meeting you arranged many years ago when we had the opportunity of visiting Rose Cottage and the church where Elizabeth worshipped. It was wonderful at that time to meet up with other fans of Elizabeth Goudge,
    Audrey Piddington

    • Thank you Audrey. I too have wonderful memories of that day, one of which is the two of us standing alone in Elizabeth’s empty bedroom. We were both relieved that all of her personal possessions had gone. You also wondered aloud at the impressions that the walls of her room had been imprinted with. The view we thought had remained much the same. Was it you who told me of Frances Cornford’s that Elizabeth loved? Really pleased that you like the site.

  4. I know I’m not the only one turning to Elizabeth for comfort during these unsettled days. I just finished re-reading “The Castle on the Hill,” which is one of the less satisfying ones. A few weeks before that, I breezed through my favorite bits of “A Bird in the Tree”. I’m saving my favorite, “Pilgrim’s Inn”*, for the golden days of autumn.

    *actually, “Linnets and Valerian” ties for first…

    • Soooo happy to see another Linnets & Valerians fan! I’m always surprised that so many seem to prefer Little White Horse.

  5. Lovely! I agree – nice to have it be a place for the imagination.

    I’ve just gotten back my copy of The Scent of Water and hope to dive into it again for a reread after I finish reading her short stories in ‘White Wings’.

  6. I re-read ‘The Scent of Water’ a few months back, during a very very difficult time. It was perfect. It gave me courage.

  7. I never tire of the Damerosehay trilogy and have turned to the three books together with the Rosemary Tree time and again when life has been getting me down. A chance discovery in a local library sale has given me comfort and encouragement through many ups and downs. These are the books I most treasure.

  8. “Perhaps it is as well that the house is ephemeral, a place of the spirit and imagination, where anyone can find healing and rest.” This is beautiful, Deborah. I loved seeing the old photo of Harewood House. It has been years since I read The Joy of the Snow — is that where she mentions this home as a spiritual retreat?

    Every time I read the Eliot Trilogy, I find something new and see all of it anew. This post has me thinking that I may revisit it very soon.

    Thanks for another enjoyable post!

    • Iam glad that you are enjoying the site and thank you for your kind comment. Yes, you are right, Elizabeth does speak of Harewood House in her auto-biography. She explains all about it on pages 148/149.
      Sylvia Gower in her book The World Of Elizabeth Goudge also talks about the influence of the house and owner.

  9. Thank you for the lovely post and the idea of cogitating over which is my favourite Elizabeth Goudge novel.
    It has to be Gentian Hill. This book was a gift at a very happy Christmas so my memories of that time are overlaid with thoughts of this beautiful tale. I had not been to Devon at that time and years later I was able to visit the village of Marldon and mooch about a bit (much to the impatience of my family!).
    I love the way Elizabeth weaves myths and legends into her stories and never tire of re-reading.
    My second favourite is A City of Bells which has a decidedly autumnal feel about it. I will always bless our English teacher who set this as our book to study when we were 12/13. It opened the door for all the Goudge books for which I am truly grateful. I can’t read this one any time soon, however, as I have recently lent it to one of the daughters. But I am looking forward to hearing her views.
    Thank you for this great site.
    p.s. Do you have get-togethers? I see Audrey’s post above.

    • Unfortunately Rosy it was a one off. We all live so far away from each other that it seemed a lot of work to make it happen again. It was a wonderful day and we all really enjoyed visiting Elizabeth Goudge’s home and the church where she worshipped. Good memories

      • Thank you Deborah.
        I did once visit Peppard Common years ago but couldn’t find Rose Cottage. My daughters were very little then and I didn’t want to drag them around on a search so gave up and enjoyed what we could see of the village. Now that they are grown up I think I will go again his autumn and see what if I can discover it this time. And go into the church. Will post any photos!

        • Enjoy your visit, as we will enjoy any photos you wish to share. Hopefully the Blue Plaque is still up. You can see the church from Rose Cottage.

  10. This summer I bought/read (twice!) “A Scent of Water” based on Ms. Gaudin’s post and the other comments of this website. It was eerie timing for it to come into my life; the descriptions of Cousin Mary’s battle with mental illness, the “current Mary” coming to terms with/understanding the incomplete love in her life, and of course the usual beautiful descriptions and empathy in all of Goudge’s writing. I would like to write more but will only say I feel I must now read “The Bird in the Tree”, perhaps it, too, will guide me. It gives me a morale lift just to read the titles mentioned on this site, they are so poetic and evocative to me. I thank all of you again for your posts, and Ms. Gaudin, for being our guide.
    PS: “Linnets and Valerians” was one of my favorite “young adult” books!

    • I am so pleased that you found the site at the time you needed to. Elizabeth has been my guide for many, many years, as I know she has for thousands of other people.
      This modest, unassuming, middle class, spinster, had a grasp on the fundamentals of life and the human condition which is phenomenal.
      She herself suffered from mental illness on and off all her life, and though is was not as severe as Cousin Mary the Elder, many of the coping mechanisms she writes about were ones that she employed herself.

      The three lines of prayer the old man gave to Mary were recited at Elizabeth’s funeral .

      I think that some of Elizabeth’s children’s stories could be considered dated, and because The Little White Horse is already “historical” it has become timeless.

      I hope that you chose to revisit the site, as I would love to know how you get on with The Eliots.

  11. Many years ago my friend shared with me an old book she’d found in a nursing home library for the elderly: Gentian Hill. This led to years of collecting other books by Elizabeth Goudge, which we shared amongst our small band of like minded souls. Now, some 40 years later, having raised our children, we are grandmothers returning to the joys of our youth. What a pleasure to find your site and to once again bring down the boxes if Goudge books from the attic. Especially in the golden light of Autumn. Both literally and metaphorically. We in the Pacific Northwest, USA treasure Elizabeth too!

    • Thank you for your story. I am very fortunate to have many American friends and correspondents. Elizabeth’s work has always touched a chord with like minded people. Enjoy your rummaging!

  12. Dear Deboroah,
    I was alerted by friend Paul Gray to the fact that you had posted a photo I sent you some while ago, alongside your article- Last of the Summer Sun. Thank you!
    The picture was from a very old postcard and the house in the background actually Harewood House, Keyhaven.
    Several years ago I took some photos across from the garden where Harwood House once stood if you are interested.
    Sorry it’s been a while since being in touch I’m not on Facebook now, hope all is well with you, and Nick.

    • It’s always good to hear from you. Thank you, any photographs of “Damerosehay” that you wish to share would be lovely. As the years pass, I am continually re-hearted by the relevancy of Elizabeth’s work, her work has stood the test of time.

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