Lighten Despair

There is a book of Elizabeth’s for every situation in life. I have never felt turned away or unanswered when I go to her work. It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, what my situation is, she gives me an answer. She is there to empathises and put out a hand in comfort.

Today I am sitting with Miss Brown on a seat outside the Free Library, with the roar of London traffic at my back. Although in truth my body is cradled in the deep quiet of a countryside afternoon in autumn.

But like Miss Brown, I have been “ in the grip of fear; not just apprehension or anxiety, but real fear, naked and horrible”

And yet as she says I am “ not worse off than many other people” Miss Brown loses her home and her livelihood during a world war, and that is not the case with me. We just have to sell the home we have lived in for over thirty years and earnt our living from and move away. We too do not  know where we will end up or how we will get there.

But then I think about all the refugees that are currently displaced in the world today, and try to imagine their trauma and pain, fleeing from war or famine. The loss of one’s home, the identity we have made over generations must be immense. Isaac the refugee from Germany speaks for them all. “God how he hated the loneliness of perpetual wandering! No satisfactory companionship was possible if you could not strike down roots”
(Castle On The Hill p36 of the 1949 edition) He feels as if he was superfluous to life, that his existence has no meaning or relevance to anyone. Something which is realizes as the book progresses is far from the truth.

Elizabeth peppers her books with wonderful quotes from other writers to enhance her themes or underline a point she is making and I love the one she uses here
“We are the Pilgrims, Master; we shall go
Always a little further:”
Flecker’s verse is out of vouge and difficult in it’s subject matter, but seems very appropriate for our situation and times, when the world is undergoing the mass exodus of people from intolerable situations, desperate to find sanctuary.

So, I will read of the courage and strength endured in The Castle On The Hill during the Second World War and find the tranquillity of  the autumn countryside mirrored back at me. As Dame Juliana of Norwich says and is quoted  famously by T. S. Eliot, “ And all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Thank you Elizabeth for bringing perspective and good sense into my life.


  1. Dear Deborah, I am so sorry for your loss, the grief it must be bringing.

    All of the kindred spirits here lend you our hope and courage while the new way is opening and being made clear.

    I just sent the Julian of Norwich quotation to a friend. It is a good one to keep close. May you clasp its truth to your heart.

  2. You are right, Deborah. Elizabeth Goudge has a book, or story, or perhaps a poem, for every situation in life. (We might agree to qualify this idea. There are extreme human situations — psychopaths, and paranoid schizophrenia, perhaps — that are so far from anything Elizabeth Goudge knew, or could imagine, and that are very hard for us to imagine. But for MANY situations in life, Elizabeth Goudge has something that is deeply relevant, and, more importantly, that can help us see a way ahead.)
    Yes, the terrible circumstances of Britain, in 1940, after Dunkirk, with refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, and with the destruction of the German bombing of London and England (developing into what is now known as the Blitz), described in Goudge’s remarkable war-time novel, “The Castle on the Hill”, have new relevance in our era of refugees and global threats.
    You mention the way Goudge refers to James Elroy Flecker’s verse play “Hassan”, and the incidental stage music of Frederick Delius (played by the violin virtuoso street busker, Isaac:

    Flecker’s “Hassan”, and Delius’s haunting music, may be unfamiliar with modern readers, and listeners, seventy years (roughly) later.

    It is decades since I read Flecker’s “Hassan”, and many years since I last heard Delius’s music for the play.
    But I commend the play
    and the music to your readers.
    The story of the play is not difficult, despite its exotic setting in the brutal era of Sultans and prisons and pilgrims.
    Elizabeth Goudge never chose a literary, musical, or artistic reference lightly. They were cultural objects / experiences that she felt very deeply, and it is always helpful to explore her citations and quotations at length.
    You may be interested in my own long article on “The Castle on the Hill” uploaded (free) at

    • Mr. Gough, what an incredible wealth of information you’ve just shared! I appreciate it so much and will be checking all of these links, including your own treatise.

    • Thank you for this gift, John Gough. I have downloaded your article and am genuinely grateful.

  3. P.S. Did you know that you can read ‘The World of Elizabeth Goudge on line? I do not know how long it has been posted but it is from the The Internet Archive, you do need to create an account but that is free.
    Here is the link I use, but then I have an account already. It might not work until one creates the account.

  4. What sorrowful news from you, Deborah, and I’m so grateful (as always) to Elizabeth Goudge that you are able to find comfort in her books. You will be in my thoughts.

    • Thank you for your kind thoughts, I am fine and am sure things will work out. Uncertainty is just hard to deal with sometimes I am genuinely grateful for your support

  5. Thank you so much for reminding me to read yet again THE CASTLE ON THE HILL! On every page, it seems to me, it is about this time – right now! – in the world as we hunker down with fear at what is both happening and coming over the horizon! I wish I could sit down with Elizabeth right now, and talk about it – because this time I believe, by hook or by crook, it presages the shift in consciousness we have all been waiting for, I believe. And which Ms Goudge wrote about in her own ways, which I expect is why we are so faithful and grateful for her books! Thank you each and all for sharing this deep appreciation of her work with me!

    • I’m cheering your good thoughts, Carolyn. This is where I think Elizabeth’s words and the thoughts behind them shine.

  6. In my ancient copy of Castle on the Hill, I notice the titles of several books published that I’d never heard of before. Does anyone have advice for where I might find them? They are:
    Pedlar’s Pack
    Smoky House
    The Golden Skylark
    The Well of the Star
    The Blue Hills
    The Valley of Song

    thanks so much –

    • My go to source is Abe books an online group of independent worldwide book sellers. You might find The Blue Hills as Linnets and Valerians Some of the short story collections are harder to find. Happy hunting!

    • I’m so glad that John Gough responded so thoroughly to your inquiry. I had a similar dilemma when looking for Elizabeth’s books and discovered there were alternate American titles for the same works.

      There is one story in The Pedlar’s Pack collection called, “A Shepherd and a Shepherdess,” that to me is her all-time best short story. Magical, lovely, and enchanting. Hope you have a chance to read it.

      In addition to Deborah’s recommendation of ABE Books, I sometimes use Alibris Used Books as well to find Goudge books.

      I purchased the reprinting of The World of Elizabeth Goudge by Sylvia Gower from the Girls Gone By Publishers in England. This version has a publisher’s introduction, extra old photos, and is a wonderful read.

  7. “The Blue Hills” is the USA title for “Henrietta’s House”, the third in the “Torminster” trilogy, following “A City of Bells” and “Sister of the Angels”.

    “Linnets and Valerians” has the USA title “The Runaways”.

    “Smoky House” (known as “Smokey House” in the USA, and sometimes as “Smoky-House”) has been reissued by Girls Gone By Publishers, who have also reissued several other books by, and about, Goudge.

    GGBP have also reissued “The Valley of Song”, which Goudge said, in “The Joy of the Snow” was one of her own favourites!

    “Pedlar’s Pack” and “The Golden Skylark” are titles of early collections of short stories. They are contained within the so-called collected stories, under the title of “White Wings”.

    “The Well of the Star” is included in another anthology, “The Reward of Faith”.

  8. Chère Deborah, très touchée par votre message et moi-même admiratrice inconditionnelle d’E. Goudge et de son oeuvre, je me suis procuré tous ses livres traduits en français.
    J’ai moi-même traduit ‘Le Monde d’Elizabeth Goudge’ de Sylvia Gower, en me servant de “google traduction”, car ma connaissance de la langue anglaise date du lycée et j’ai 75 ans.

    Actuellement, je traduis ‘Beyond the Snow’ de Christine Rawlins -une admirable et complète biographie d’Elizabeth- et je suis parvenue au moment où elle quitte Providence Cottage dans le Devon qui lui est si cher, pour résider dans l’Oxfordshire, à Peppard. Elle est déchirée de chagrin de quitter sa maison où sa mère a vécu et est décédée. Il lui est très difficile de trouver une nouvelle demeure. Ce sera Rose Cottage où elle s’établira avec Jessie Monroe. Je pense à vous en lisant ces passages:
    “I would never believe that I could have got myself out of Devon. I thought I was there for the rest of my life. (But) so many things combined to show us what we had to do.”

    “…I will never forget my misery as the train pulled out of the station and I watched Devon slipping away…”

    Enfin, Christine Rawlin ajoute :”..loss – despite its pain – can be…the start of a new life…”

    Dans cette biographie, j’ai découvert qu’Elizabeth croyait non seulement à la providence mais aussi aux fées. Elle dit que sa découverte de Rose Cottage n’est pas le fait du hasard.
    Puissent les fées, ou la providence, chère Deborah, vous avoir trouvé une nouvelle demeure où vous coulerez des jours heureux pour une nouvelle vie.

    Oui, la lecture d’Elizabeth apporte solutions,
    et/ou réconfort dans toutes les situations. Elle m’accompagne depuis mon adolescence et j’ai souvent recours à elle dans la détresse. Et j’aime particulièrement ‘Le Château sur la Colline’.

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