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.

Comments

  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:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Elroy_Flecker

    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
    https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3834
    and the music to your readers.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SePrjNL1_C4
    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 Academia.edu:
    https://www.academia.edu/42284912/Elizabeth_Goudges_The_Castle_on_the_Hill_A_Case-Study_in_Existential_Christianity_in_a_Time_of_War

    • 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 Academia.edu 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.
    https://archive.org/details/worldofelizabeth0000gowe

  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. Dear Deborah,
    I am so sorry to hear of this tremendous loss and uncertainty. I am so appreciative of your generosity for years in creating and maintaining this website and blog, a gathering place for so many of us. I wonder if there is any way that we can help in this time?

    And meanwhile, I find that in the hardest times of my life, I go straight to The Dean’s Watch or the Scent of Water. Like you, I find that she speaks straight to my heart and soul…

    Wishing you comfort, grace and the odd miracle,
    Adelia

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. “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”.

  9. 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’.

  10. Chere Leblanc. Excusez-mois, s’il-vous-plait, si je ecris en Anglais. Ma Francaise et pauvre, depuis haut ecole en 1966, et j’ai 72 ans.
    I am also unable to type with acute or grave accents, and others.
    Your comment, en Francaise, is clear and thoughtful.
    Could you please tell us which titles by Elizabeth Goudge have been translated into French?
    (I am also aware of some that have been translated into German, such as “Sister of the Angels”.)
    “The Castle on the Hill” is one of Goudge’s darkest novels. But it was written while World War II still raged, with little evidence that an Allied victory lay ahead, or was even possible.
    But the novel ends with the orphaned children finding a new home, and, surely, new hope.
    Similarly, the broken-down musician and Miss Brown cling, hopefully, to the wreckage of their lives, supporting one another, also hoping to build a future. (Their future may not include mutual romantic love, but it is not impossible, and surely many readers hope this will eventually develop.)
    May I end by offering a small note of caution. English is a language full of idioms, and almost all words have more than one meaning. This means that Google Translate (Traduction) can be extremely helpful, but is sometimes not correct. I say this from experience, having used Google Translate, very carefully and cautiously, to translate some German verses, in 1950s Advent Calendar books, into English prose, and then use my poetry-writing skill to create good verse translations in English. In doing this, sometimes the English prose that Google Translate gave me was wrong, or nonsense, or unable to handle an unusual German idiom.
    Christine Rawlins’, and Sylvia Gower’s books are VERY good, as you know. But Goodle Traduction might have included some errors.
    Bon chance. Good health.
    I wish you a peaceful Advent — et un jouyeux Noel! (Avec mes apologies pour ma pauvre Francaise!)

    • Dear John Gough, thank you for your message.
      The books of E. Goudge translated into French that I own are:
      The Eliot trilogy
      L’Arche dans la Tempête
      Island Magic
      L’Appel du Passé
      The Middle Window
      La Cité des Cloches
      A City of Bells
      Tours dans la Brume
      Towers in the Mist
      La Soeur des Anges
      The Sister of Angels
      La Maison Enfumée
      The Smoky House)
      Le Château sur la Colline
      The Castle on the Hill
      La Maison d’Henriette Henrietta “s House
      Le Pays du Dauphin Vert
      Green Dolphin Country
      Le Petit Cheval Blanc
      The little White Horse
      La Colline aux Gentianes
      Gentian Hill)
      La Vallée qui Chante
      The Valley of Song
      Le Jardin de Belmaray
      The Rosemary Tree
      La Sorcière Blanche
      The White Witch
      La Montre du Doyen
      The Dean’s Watch
      La Senteur de l’Eau
      The Scent of Water
      Sorilèges
      Linnets and Valerians
      L’Enfant de la Mer
      The Child from the Sea. There are others that I don’t own.
      My English is not good either and I answer you with … google .. It is a machine which translates and not a human being, which explains the incongruities! But with a little practice and knowledge of the writer, one almost always manages to grasp the general meaning. The most difficult to translate, and often even impossible, are the poetic quotes. Yes, The Castle on the Hill is his darkest book, with a less happy ending than in his other works, but which ends as you say on hope, for these two little girls and for the couple. Have you noticed that in almost all of his novels there is one or more orphans? However, she herself was not an orphan …
      I wish you happy holidays of the end of the year.
      Georgine Leblanc

      • Many thanks, Georgine Leblanc, for your quick and helpful reply.
        I did not know so many of Goudge’s books had been translated into French — most of them, it seems. I had realised that she was appreciated in her lifetime by French readers. (For example, I found a French magazine article describing a visit to her house in Devon.)
        I understand that you are using Google Traduction very sensibly. Of course, poetry is the hardest kind of language to translate because it relies on imagery and metaphor, and poetry often implies meanings that go beyond a literal translation.
        Yes, Elizabeth Goudge’s books often include orphans. I am sure their isolation and vulnerability appealed to her sensitive nature. She was not an orphan, of course. But she was an only child, with no brothers or sisters. As a child she longed for the company of other children. She even invented an imaginary or pretend child as a friend, and was very sad when her mother insisted the child was not a real person. (Goudge describes this in her autobiography “The Joy of the Snow”.)
        I think that being the daughter of a Church of England priest, who was also a professional theologian (like a professor), made it hard for her to have friends. (Priests seem strange, I feel, to children, in the same way that policemen, for example, seem to be not quite ordinary as grownups.)
        The fact that Elizabeth’s mother was also very different from ordinary mothers, because of her serious injury and her chronic pain and disability, must have made Elizabeth feel more isolated, despite having parents.
        Moreover, she grew up with a nanny (a woman who lives with the family, and whose daily work involves minding the child, and, in the case of the Goudge’s family, also helping to care for Goudge’s invalid mother.)
        That is, I think that in some ways Elizabeth Goudge may have felt herself to be LIKE an orphan. If I am right, that would explain the orphans in her stories — they represent aspects of herself, as a child.
        Have a wonderful Advent and a marvellous Christmas!
        John

        • Dear John, your explanation regarding Elizabeth’s feeling of isolation, certainly justifies all these orphans in her novels
          ( They are very numerous!). I will add to it the personality of his mother, described by Jessie Monroe as possessive and authoritarian, to such an extent that Elizabeth would have remained submissive to him even after her death, and would have suffered greatly. J. Monroe certainly got this information from Elizabeth herself, or those close to her. Note that in her writings, Elizabeth is only praise, admiration and gratitude to her parents. She even writes, speaking of her mother, “she was our life”. Regarding her father, she says all the same that he intimidated her a lot, and that they did not get closer to each other until shortly before his death, which she deplores. sure. Yes, she was very lonely, hypersensitive, with a tendency to self-deprecate, in front of two parents with strong personalities, at a time when unconditional respect for elders was the rule. This is undoubtedly the reason for his extraordinary understanding of human beings at all ages and in all their states. Personally, I find many answers and comfort in her. And yes, she was very popular in France. Some of his works are even reissued, after a period of oblivion. She was also very famous in the United States.
          I wish you, too, a happy end of the year.
          Georgine.
          PS: you use absolutely perfect French. I entrust my text to google …

          • Merci beaucoup, cher Georgine. You are very gracious about my French, and your use of English is always clear.
            I am also impressed by your insight into Elizabeth Goudge’s family situation. You have read her novels, and autobiography, very well, with strong understanding.
            For me, as well as Goudge’s interest in different kinds of people and their predicaments in life (I think of Goudge as an existential author!), a very important aspect of her writing is the way she frequently mentions, and often quotes, from famous authors (and others not so famous) and books and poems. The Bible, of course, as well. Shakespeare, Keats, Browning, Dickens, and many others. In my articles about Goudge, I have done my best to identify the books and poems she mentions, and to explain how these connect with the story and the characters she is creating.
            Goudge also often mentions music, such as Beethoven (symphonies and quartets), and the theatre music that Frederick Delius wrote for James Elroy Flecker’s poetic play “Hassan” — a very important piece of music in “The Castle on the Hill”.
            And Goudge also often refers to great art, such as Dutch Masters, and Ancient Greek statues.
            Regardless of the language we speak, it is easy to appreciate the way Goudge refers to music, and to art. But it must be harder when she refers to and quotes English literature, and especially poetry — including her own poetry that occurs in some of her books, such as the songs and hymns in “The Little White Horse”.
            Elizabeth Goudge invites us — challenges us! — to read and listen and look at the larger world of literature, music and art in which her writing lives.
            With my best wishes, hoping that Pere Noel is kind to you, and that you find the bean in the galette during la Fete des Rois, and 2022 est une tre bonne annee (moins les accents, helas!)
            John

  11. Post Scriptum, je vous ai répondu en anglais (approximatif), mais le site publie ma réponse en français !!?? Désolée..

  12. Thank you and merci to Leblanc and John Gough for the very informative information/thoughts/ideas about Castle On the Hill and the issues with translations and using Google for that. My only meagre contribution to your discussion about Goudge is to say that I think orphans are consistently in Goudge’s novels (and of many other British and European authors) because up until the last 70 years or so, being an orphan was not that unusual. The predicament of the orphan was one that touched many people, both children and adults. Many thanks again to this website and it’s contributors. Ms. Gaudin, you continue to be in my thoughts and I hope things are improving for you.

    • Thank you Kerry, things are slowly improving and we are at least able to look forward to the Christmas season

    • “No artist of this name writes a note or a syllable, does not put a spot of color, without being essential to the perfection of the whole” The Heart of the Family.

      Indeed, E.Goudge constantly draws on his artistic, geographical, historical knowledge … and more. Nothing escapes him, the monuments, the styles of furniture, the crockery (cf. this admirable listing of the table for the meal of Miss Wenworth! In The Rosemary Tree.), Everything having to do with nature, minerals, trees. , flowers … medicinal plants and their uses … and I forget! It seems that nothing escapes her about what was going on around her.
      Existential, yes, her favorite area is the human soul

      I went to “see” you on the internet, dear John, it seems to me that it is indeed you. This is an article about “The Rosemary Tree”. What amazes me is that you talk about his “unhappy endings”. I’ve always read that she was criticized a lot for her … happy endings. She explains this by saying that she loved her characters too much to abandon them in misfortune. Did I misunderstand?

      It challenges us, and the challenge is great. I feel very ignorant reading it …

      Thank you for having answered me. I also wish Santa Claus was generous to you! And all my best wishes for the best possible year in every way.

      • You are right, Georgine, that Elizabeth Goudge said she loved her characters too much to abandon them in misfortune. You did not misunderstand. But, of course this is a generalization. Goudge would be the first to admit that some of her characters are hard to love, and not actually deserving of love, because of the moral choices they have made in their life. For example, Grandfather du Frocq in “Island Magic” (“L’Arche dans la tempete”), or the terrible headmistress in “The Rosemary Tree”. These unhappy people die unhappily — deservedly so, we might think. By contrast, many characters find happy endings when the book finishes, and for some (such as the du Frocq children, or Maria Merryweather in “The Little White Horse”) we are even told a little of what happens to them AFTER the book finishes the here-and-now narrative. But Goudge’s books are not all about happy endings, or even mostly about happy endings. Consider, for example, the street musician at the end of “The Castle on the Hill”. He finds a new resolve to continue living, having rejected his despairing thoughts of suicide. But, although we readers can hope he will fall in love and achieve real happiness and satisfaction in the life ahead of him, an adopting parent, the words of the book do not say this is what happens, or will happen. I think that where Goudge says she loved her characters too much to abandon them in misfortune, this is another example of her speaking positively to her readers who like to have happy endings. Goudge valued all her readers, even the ones who regarded her as a sentimental Romance writer, rather than as a very seriously well-read, Christian author telling stories of suffering and endurance, and despair. That is, I think we can “read between the lines”, and accept that sometimes Goudge is, for very good and understandable reasons, not a reliable commentator on her books. (She is not alone in this. Beethoven believed that his little Eighth symphony was his best, for example. Kafka disliked his books so much he asked Max Brod to burn them after Kafka died.)
        You are also right, Georgine, that Elizabeth Goudge’s writing is vivid in describing everyday household items, as well as landscapes, and weather. Some of her descriptions are like prose poems as she uses her words to “paint a picture”. That is, she puts us in the places she is writing about, even when (as with some of the places on “the Island” she describes in “Island Magic”) she is inventing places that do not actually exist.
        I am glad you found my long article on “The Rosemary Tree” at Academia.edu. There are also similar articles on “Island Magic”, “The Castle on the Hill”, and “The Little White Horse”.
        I am writing this four days before Christmas, 2021, and I hope you, and Deborah Gaudin, and Kerry, and any other readers have a wonderful Christmas and a vastly improved post-Covid new year!

        • Thank you for your Christmas wishes, John. I wish the same for you, Deborah and Georgine especially, as I found your recent bi-lingual examination of Ms. Goudge so fascinating. I ordered “Castle on the Hill” due to your conversation and am so looking forward to reading it over my holiday next week. Also I wanted to thank you for the recommendation/link to the LOVELY Delius piece with Robert Tear. I recently read that Sir Thomas Beecham was a great advocate/interpreter of Delius and so this is a very notable recording. I shall try to hunt down my own copy. (am not yet a fan of streaming!). All my best wishes to Ms. Goudge’s worldwide appreciators, and many thanks again to Deborah for creating this site. Kerry

          • Merci Kerry, j’espère que Castle on the Hill vous plaira autant qu’à moi-même. Une magnifique leçon de courage chez tous les personnages de ce roman. Très heureuses fêtes à vous.

        • Dear John, thank you for your message, and for your good wishes.
          You’re right about happy endings in Elizabeth. I therefore qualify my statement by saying that it leaves us, almost always, HOPE, of a happy ending. This hope even seems to me to be the keystone of all his works. This is what I personally seek by reading and rereading it tirelessly. The hope that the trials of his characters have meaning, that our trials have meaning. And how to overcome them when and if we are able to do so…I find it, in this respect, “inexhaustible”, discovering with each reading, a new idea, and, always, a comfort.
          His characters are not all happy, far from it, but the tragic events of his novels very often take place before the beginning of the story, so that we are less affected by them. I am thinking of the deaths of Lucilla’s sons and grandsons, of the mother of the Linnet children and of the parents of all the orphans who dot her work, of the wife and children of Sébastien, (whom we see dying but that this death leaves as relieved for him…) to the victims of the suicide attempt of Michael etc…
          Again, she spares her readers. We do not witness tragic events “live”.
          Of course there is also The White Witch, and Yoben…Uncle Ranulph in Magic Island, Richard Birley and the parents of Moppet and Poppet…and others.
          And then the unfortunate ones without apparent hope, but who knows? Like the grandfather of Frocq, and Madame Belling…
          It is true that Elizabeth showed extreme modesty with regard to her works…and her person! I didn’t know about Beethoven and Kafka!!!
          I wish you an excellent start to the year, as well as to all the people on the blog, unfortunately still in the middle of covid… What would Elizabeth have said about it? Not to mention global warming and its ravages on everything she loved, plants, animals, landscapes?
          Cordially.
          Georgine.

        • Post-scriptum, à la relecture, je me rends compte que mister google me fait dire que je ne connais pas Beethoven et Kafka!! Honte! Je ne savais pas qu’ils ignoraient la valeur de leurs oeuvres…

  13. Thank you for your kind wishes, Kerry. May you and all here in this circle woven by our appreciation of Elizabeth and her writings, know peace and joy this winter season.

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