A Christmas Message from Elizabeth

” He slept deeply that night. a thing he had not done for months past, then woke at his usual early hour, dressed and made his meditation.  Then he left the house for the first service of Christmas Day.  As he closed the garden door behind him he stood in amazement, for he had stepped not into the expected darkness but into light.  It was neither of the sun nor the moon but of the snow. The sky was a cold clear green behind the dark mass of the Cathedral, the wind had dropped and the stillness was absolute. The snow was not deep but it covered the garden with light.  He moved forward a few steps and looked about him.  The roof of the Cathedral, every parapet and ledge, the roofs of the houses and the boughs of the trees all bore their glory of snow.  He walked through the garden in awe and joy, thinking of the myriad snowflakes under his feet, each one a cluster of beautiful shapes of stars and flowers and leaves, all too small to be seen by any eye except that of their Creator, yet each giving light.  That was why he always wanted a white Christmas.”
(The Dean’s Watch p321-322)

Light through stained glass

Although these thoughts are attributed to Adam Ayscough, I am sure the experience was one Elizabeth had one Christmas in Ely. She saw that pellucid sky, the quilt of snow, was stunned by light. Her gift is being able to take a deeper meaning from the experience and give it to us, a Christmas gift.

We wish all of you a Joyous Christmas and a peaceful New Year.


  1. I appreciate this timely quote from the Dean’s Watch, especially as I am sitting here with a treasured copy of the book in my hand autographed by Elisabeth. She gave me this copy, soon after publication in 1960 on one of my regular visits to Rose Cottage, and she talked quite animatedly about it as mothers do about about a new baby, but unless my memory serves me very badly – which in my 80th year it may well do – she mentioned only Lincoln as the inspiration behind it, not Ely. My wife Sally confirms this because after we married in 1962, we would take the trip to Rose Cottage together, and the Dean’s Watch popped up in conversation again. We could of course both be wrong, but I just thought I would mention this for the record.

    Keep up the good work, we love your website

    • How wonderful that you and your wife actually met Elizabeth! She was such a special person. Her books are beloved companions.

  2. Thank you so much for these words and the beautiful pictures!
    The weather in Berlin at the moment is grey with a chill wind, but I had a wonderful experience last Saturday. I went to our local “book box” to place two books there and found a very old “Sister of the Angels” albeit in German as “Henriettas Haus”. I haven’t read this book and recently, when I had tried to order it at a German book company, was told they couldn’t deliver it. So, imagine my happiness! I read German and will enjoy it this Advent.

    • You will love “Sister of the Angels”! Nothing like one of Elizabeth’s books to enhance the holidays. I enjoy settling down with her books especially during this time of year.
      Christmas greetings!

      • Thank you, Jill, and Christmas greetings to you and all our fellow Elizabeth Goudge fans.
        “The Dean’s Watch” played such a significant role in my life ca. 35 years ago when I was going through great hardship. I’m sure it wasn’t a coincidence that this book came into my hands. It gave me hope. I’ve also just re-bought “City of Bells”. In fact, I then found that I had kept my copy after all so a friend has benefited from my mistake!

        • Hi Gabrielle,
          “City of Bells” is one of my favorite books by Elizabeth. I have 2 copies of it and am enamored by Grandfather. It is a book I give to special friends hoping they will love it like I do. As Grandfather said: “In my experience when people once begin to read they go on. They begin because they think they ought to and they go on because they must. Yes, they find it widens life.”
          Bless you this New Year!

  3. “Her gift is being able to take a deeper meaning from the experience and give it to us.” Yes, that is her amazing, gracious gift. It is something that inspires me in my own writing.

    I haven’t read The Dean’s Watch in a while. This makes me want to reread. My two favorite novels for Christmas time are City of Bells and Pilgrim’s Inn. I love their Christmas climaxes!

  4. A beautiful passage and I thank you for sharing it and the beautiful photographs. Although as I’ve aged I am more aware of the power and menace behind a blizzard I am still exhilarated and inspired by a good, peaceful snow.
    This Christmas holiday I finally hope to get to “A Bird in the Tree” although I am far behind Ms. Gaudin’s autumnal post about that book.
    I hope that all of my new Goudge/Goudin pen friends have a peaceful and rejuvenating Christmas season.

  5. Thanks Ms. Gaudin and all! I especially appreciate the brilliant insight that each snowflake is “a cluster of beautiful shapes of stars and flowers and leaves, all too small to be seen by any eye except that of their Creator, yet each giving light.”

  6. I, too, have not read ‘The Dean’s Watch’ for a while so it was lovely to be reminded of this passage and to feel the majesty and grace of the beautiful cathedral. (I’m sure that Ely was the setting as the book also talks about the fens).
    Our family usually attend Midnight Mass ~ sadly not at a cathedral and also not usually in the snow ~ but a time for reflection none the less.
    Thank you for the post ~ I will get my copy down from the shelf and read in the days leading up to Christmas Eve.

  7. A touching and sensitive passage for this time of year, and it keeps Elizabeth alive in our memories. Greatly appreciated, thank you for posting.

  8. I am about 80 pages into The Dean’s Watch and I am enjoying it immensely-I found it in a second hand shop in a little Gold Rush town in Northern California last week along with her sweet Book of Comfort. I first came to love Elizabeth Goudge’s writing through The Little White Horse years ago. She is unmatched, in my opinion! Glad to know there’s a community of folks who love her writing as well.

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