Hodder & Stoughton have reprinted the best selling of Elizabeth Goudge’s novels, including the Eliot Triology.
Well worth a look.
Dear D. Gaudin,
When I was a child (I’m 67) ‘Henrietta’s House’ was one of my favourite books. I have since read many of Elizabeth Goudge’s books and am presently re-reading ‘City of Bells’
I would love to find a copy of the book I used to get out of our local library, and I wonder if you know of this one.
It was a hardback, with, as far as I can recollect, green boards. There were full-size colour illustrations on shiny paper. One showed Henrietta in a lovely pink dress, and one showed her in a white dress as she welcomes everyone into her house.
I’ve searched Abe books but none of the 13 books there seem to be the one I remember.
Can you help?
In hope, and friendship,
Thank you for visiting the site, hope you return again.
I have a 1949 re-print of Henrietta’s House published by the same company as produced the original, University of London Press Ltd
The front cover and two of the coloured illustrations inside, on shiny paper show Henrietta wearing a pink dress, and indeed a white one when she welcomes them to the house at the end of the story.
The boards however are orange. Perhaps this is the copy you remember?
Elizabeth’s books are getting harder and harder to source, especially her children’s books, as children tend to not look after them and they disintegrate.
I have a friend who runs a bookshop via the internet and I will ask him the next time I see him if he has a copy.
I hope that this helps
Most readers have favourite writers. But sometimes you find that, over time, these change. A writer who spoke to you directly at one age can fade as your circumstances change, while another writer who was formerly less appealing may reveal new value. Certainly this is true of me. There are writers I read and reread as a teenager, in my twenties, in my thirties, whom I still love, but no longer need to read. But there are a handful who have stayed with me lifelong, in whose books I continue to find new things. One of these is Elizabeth Goudge.
I was five or six when I first encountered her, via her Carnegie Medal–winning children’s book, The Little White Horse. It was one of my favourite books as a child, and it remains a book I consider essential to my personal library. I reread it last week, as I prepared to write this piece, and found it as engaging and magical as I always did. Goudge—like Dodie Smith and Rumer Godden, two more of my lifelong writers—wrote for both adults and children, although I suspect these days it is mainly her children’s books for which she is known. For most of her career, moreover, the idea of genre was minor, and all her books were published as mainstream novels. Some were set against historical backgrounds, including all her children’s books; others have contemporary settings. The central concern in all of them, however, is the life of the spirit, and the blending of the mundane and the transcendent, and all of them are in certain ways profoundly magical.
Goudge was a devout Christian and her faith informs all of her works. I can at this point hear some readers of this turning away. But I ask them to bear with me—and with her—for unlike many of the best known religious writers (including C. S. Lewis) she never preaches, nor lays out moral parameters, and, to paraphrase Louisa Alcott, she does not reward the “good” with gilded treats and the “bad” with dire punishments. Indeed, I’m not sure she deals in good and bad at all: she writes rather about compassion and understanding and resolution through empathy. Her work is not showy and it is not melodramatic. It is, however, often surprising and sometimes startling. And she rarely if ever does what the reader expects.
With the exception of her children’s books, most of her work is not what most people would think of as fantasy. The children’s books are all set in a version of our real world, too, though her towns and landscapes in them are imaginary. Yet in all her work the boundaries between worlds are thin. Folklore and poetry, transcendent experience, and glimpses of the immanent pervade them, and her characters—especially the youngest and the oldest—slip between these worlds easily. Her characters channel folktales and legend through their lives and their connections with others. This is most clear in her children’s books, in particular, her three best known—The Little White Horse, Henrietta’s House, and Linnets and Valerians (recently retitled The Runaways). In The Little White Horse, which is the most directly fantastical of Goudge’s books, the protagonist Maria must explore the history of her family and their ancestral home via a blend of fact and magic—the injustices done by her forefather Sir Wrolf were real enough, but their context and consequences belong as much to the realm of magic and the liminal as to reality. A white horse and a giant dog come and go throughout the history of her family—and her own experience—guiding, observing, and sometimes leading Maria to the discoveries she needs to make. The dog—another Wrolf—is real enough but seemingly immortal, but the horse is a unicorn and a creature of the sea and not to be grasped or owned. The story sounds soppy, and the recent film (titled The Secret of Moonacre) tried hard to make it soppy by replacing the very real magic of Goudge’s writing with sentiment and gloss, but in the book, it is not. Rather, everything is tied together by extra-mundane bonds, so that Maria’s friend and ally, Robin, is at first a boy in dreams who becomes real, and the white horse brings not only Maria but the book’s main antagonist to a solution to the ancient problem they face that is partly realistic, yes, but rooted in liminal experience.
Henrietta’s House leads a cast of characters through a series of experiences from fairy tales, including “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Giant Who Kept His Heart in a Bag,” all set in a realistic landscape and blended with new legends invented by Goudge herself about saints and bandits and the continuity of myths within certain locations. In Linnets and Valerians there is a witch to defeat, and an old evil that has damaged the present. All three books are populated by a rich cast of characters, of all ages, not all of them human (Goudge wrote animals well and with sympathetic realism), all of them nuanced. Unusually for a writer of her period, she includes characters of colour in positive roles, and people with disabilities who have full and valuable lives (this is also the case in her adult books).
Her children’s books are easy reads and highly entertaining. Her adult ones are more challenging. They can be deeply philosophical—Goudge spends more time on the life of the mind than the “what-happens-next” in many of them. Characters make sacrifices that are not necessarily rewarded or even recognised. But as with the children’s books, the adult novels weave mundanity with the liminal. If she were alive and writing today, she might well be classed as a magic realist writer. Thus A City of Bells is both a bildungsroman for the protagonist Jocelyn and a recreation of the tale of the Pied Piper, and the story of the latter—represented by the figure of the lost, perhaps dead poet Gabriel Ferranti—weaves in and out alongside details of Edwardian omnibuses and the problems of bookselling and raising children in old age in a way that makes each add to the depth of the other. And there are ghosts, benign and painful.
The Rosemary Tree is perhaps the most overtly religious of Goudge’s novels, but this element is present far more through glimpses of Otherness and of human attraction to the transcendent than through any direct reference to Christianity (or any other faith—and Goudge presents the latter as valid and true when she does speak of them). And the spine of the novel is the story of the Ugly Duckling, with the characters each finding ways of dealing with their particular problems and self-defined weaknesses. Goudge does not restrict this access to the liminal to approved characters, either—in The Scent of Water, the walls between past and present break down not only for the main protagonist Mary but for a minor character, a venal businessman, who finds his own comfort through his glimpse of something outside himself.
And in all Goudge’s novels there is a profound sense of the magic, which is contained in the everyday (a skill she shares with Ray Bradbury, who in many ways she resembles as a writer). Thus in Island Magic—a historical novel set on Jersey and deeply imbued with the folklore of that place—Peronelle has a deep experience of otherworldliness while washing the dishes. The most overtly magical of Goudge’s adult books is probably The White Witch, which is set against the early years of the English Civil War. The protagonist Froniga is, as the title suggests, a working witch, the daughter of a settled father and a Romani mother, and she possesses both the power to heal and the power to see the future. Yet while both are important to the plot, the book is not about her powers, but about her selfhood and character and her effect on those around her. A lesser writer would probably have taken this theme in the direction of witch trials and melodrama. Goudge uses it to examine the effects of divided politics on families and communities and the ways in which our beliefs affect others outside ourselves. Her characters do bad things, sometimes, and those have consequences, but she rarely writes bad people—I can think of only one, the greedy and self-obsessed school-owner Mrs. Belling in The Rosemary Tree. Goudge was concerned not with judging others but with understanding them with compassion. In her case, that compassion is linked to her sense of otherness—the most profound experiences of liminality her characters experience are often when they are most concerned with others than themselves.
Like a lot of writers of her generation, she is fading from memory, save as a children’s writer, and awareness of her other work tends to focus on her faith, which some readers find off-putting. That’s a shame: her ability to express the magical, the liminal, the fantastical is peerless, and I recommend her works highly.
Copyright © 2016 Kari Sperring
Kari Sperring is the pen name of the Anglo-Welsh historian Kari L. Maund. She has published six books and many articles on Welsh, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and Viking history and has taught the history of these peoples at university level. As Kari Sperring, she is the author of two novels, Living with Ghosts (DAW 2009), which won the 2010 Sydney J. Bounds Award, was shortlisted for the William L. Crawford Award, and made the Tiptree Award Honor List, and The Grass King’s Concubine (DAW 2012).
This was Elizabeth’s favourite book as a small child. I know nothing about the story it contains, except that he has a series of adventures with two friends called Kit and Jum-Jum.
Cocky Olly means yellow cockerel.
Elizabeth’s favourite colour was yellow. The image it gave to her was of a man standing on a mountain with his arms lifted high praising God.
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.
Source: ‘Elizabeth Goudge and Her Books’, Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, Spring 1947, volume III no 1, pp. 11-12.
In 1974, the B.B.C. sent one of their immaculately spoken interviewers, to visit the successful and talented writer Elizabeth Goudge at her home Rose Cottage deep in the Chiltern countryside. When asked what she expected Elizabeth to be like, Jane an acquaintance said she thought that Elizabeth would be a well dressed, handsome, older woman surrounded by friends and family, living in a large and gracious home, rather like the matriarchal characters that inhabit Elizabeth’s work, a Lucilla in fact. Jane was a great fan of Elizabeth’s work, exulting in the lavish description of landscape she used and the detail of the feasts and parties that so many of her novels include. She appreciated the depth given to the characters and the comfort that Elizabeth’s stories provide in an uncertain world. The knowledge that good will continue its fight against evil, even if the struggle seems at times hopeless, the outcome uncertain.
In fact at that time Rose Cottage was very small with only one room downstairs, the kitchen being built out in an extension, and with only two bedrooms upstairs, it must have come as something of a shock. Elizabeth herself could not be less like Lucilla, being more a cross between Margaret Eliot and Jean Anderson. The previous inhabitants of the cottage had been The Rectory coachman who was succeeded by his daughter, a benign ghost whose presence both Elizabeth and Jessie were aware of.
The cottage was wonderfully chaotic, with Frodo the current Dandy allowed to keep his bones in the fire place, and the space cluttered with objects inherited, sent by avid readers of her work, and items Elizabeth was just interested in such as a collection of watches, one of which belonged to a grandfather of Jessie’s, the inspiration for the “The Dean’s Watch.”
“For it was not only a beautiful watch but an uncommon one. It had a jewelled watch cock of unusual design, showing a man carrying a burden on his shoulders. Isaac had seen hundreds of watch cocks during his professional life, and many of them had had impish faces peeping through flowers and leaves, but never so far as he could remember one showing a human figure. The pillars were of plain cylindrical form, as in most of Graham’s watches. He had never favoured elaborate pillars for like all great craftsmen he had always made ornament subsidiary to usefulness. Isaac closed the thin gold shell that protected the delicate mechanism and turned the watch over. It had a fine enamelled dial with a wreath of flowers within the hour ring. The outer case was of plain gold with the monogram A. A. engraved upon one side, and upon the other a Latin motto encircling the crest of a mailed hand holding a sword.”
(Dean’s Watch 1960 p 13)
I learnt that she had a collection of horse brasses, bought for her by Jessie, one for each book she had published. They reflected the theme of each story Elizabeth had written. A Welsh Woman in a tall hat for “Child From The Sea”, a dolphin for “Green Dolphin Country”, a bell for “City of Bells”, and so on. Elizabeth wrote eloquently about the teams of horses used on the land, from the Hampshire fields of the Eliot’s to the Somerset of The Rosemary Tree, the round of the arable year was to her moving poetry.
No mention was made of the Icon on the Wall, a painting which is visible in one of the photographs I have of Elizabeth, and the title of one of her collection of short stories. But we were introduced to the Little Things, though sadly, not in any detail. They had been a gift from a Channel Isle Aunt. Elizabeth said that like her Aunt and her Mother before her, she had given away some of the collection to children who had seemed to connect to them, and that this was only a remnant of the collection. Which little boy got the Gnome Mary gives to Isaac in Scent of Water, who Queen Mab in her hazelnut coach?
She gave a wonderful description of the figurine that Miguel crafted and gave to her, part bird, part man, a Franciscan monk ‘with a very naughty look on his face. I wonder what became of it? I felt privileged to know the background to the Prisoner story Elizabeth related, although no mention was made of her relationship with his family.
No allusion was made to her austere and simple life style, or to where she worked and wrote. I cannot imagine someone who uses their bedroom as a retreat from the world, using the same space to write in. Yet the old cottage had no small study space that could be used. She must have written in the large downstairs room with its view of Dog Lane and front garden.
It was interesting hearing her speak, so 1940’s in the rhythm and patterns, so of her class and time. Yet she belonged to Amnesty, before they became International.
They talked about seals and how they came to Jessie but not to her and the interviewer played some seal noises recorded in Pembrokeshire. They spoke of the cottage they stayed in above the bay, and I remembered the window she wrote in and the view of the sea, the little harbour wall and the pink fuchsias swinging in the wind.
“He ceased playing and listened, and from over the water was answered by a low fluting cry. It was so mysterious, so beautiful and yet so eerie that when Charles took Lucy’s hand he found it was cold and trembling He played a few noted like a call and was answered. He did it again and again and each time like an echo his music came back to him. Now here, now there, now near, now far.”
(Goudge 1970 Child from the Sea p 346).
When asked about her hobbies, if she had time for any, Elizabeth spoke eloquently about her love of music and of one piece in particular, the opening of the second movement of Beethoven’s third piano concerto. It had seemed to her as if the orchestra had come down to meet the soloist, and it was if eternity had come down and picked up the mortal thing that was Elizabeth and she was comforted, lifted out of her misery.
She spoke too about the embroidered chair seats she had made depicting wild flowers such as Bryony and Rose, a family skill inherited from her Great Grandmother, whose sampler had been made into a fire screen.
There was no mention of her love of poetry, in fact there was no discussion of her creative life at all, it was a sort of “Home and Garden” of a famous writer, rather than an in depth look at her life and work.
The garden which had been wrestled from the wilderness by Jessie, was walked round and the herbs and old roses discussed at length. Elizabeth recounted folk lore about Rosemary being a protection against evil, never growing higher than the height of Christ while He lived on Earth, and Rue granting second or clear sight. Which was the reason it was often grown in graveyards. There were fennel, hyssop, wild strawberries, red sage, herba Barona, caraway thyme, for rubbing on a baron of beef, if you ever had any, tansy, and a Glastonbury Thorn given by a friend who was a nun.
The old roses were told over as if they were beads on a rosary. Maiden’s Blush, Apothecary and Rosa Mundi, fair Rosamund, William Lobb, a moss rose, hips and leaf colour as important as the flowers, Gold finch that smelt of pineapple. It was a hide and seek garden that children loved.
It was obvious that Jessie was the plants woman and loved her garden as Elizabeth loved her words. But Elizabeth detested Magpies, they had wreaked havoc on the small bird population of the garden. She saw them sitting in an old oak at the bottom of the garden, preying on the other birds. Despite being a pacifist if she had known how to fire a gun and had one she would have shot them all!
The tour ended at the well which Elizabeth said was a rain water well. She began talking about making the garden well safe because of all the children who visited her and her concern for their safety. Did many children come and stay she was asked? Oh yes very many, Elizabeth replied with a smile in her voice.
Here the interview ended. It had been a privilege to walk with Elizabeth round her home, to listen to her voice and see through her eyes some of the things that inspired her and that made up her inner life and enriched her days. Being such a private person, it was a small miracle to me to have this almost complete interview to listen to.
I want to thank you for doing this website and having an Elizabeth Goudge Society [how does one join?]. At this time of year, coming up to Christmas, I often re-read either The Herb of Grace or The Dean’s Watch or one of her children’s books for the amazing descriptions of wonderful Christmases in England.
I started reading her books when I was about ten years old, living in New Jersey and getting them from the library and they became the enchanted kingdom I disappeared into when my own life was too difficult [my mother was ill and alcoholic and times could be rough]. I read the adult books because the library didn’t have any of her children’s books.
Many years later, an animal lover and intrepid about wild animals, I took a break from being a research librarian and went to work with seals and sea lions in a free-release setting in Key West Florida. Here I won the trust of an abused sea lion by singing to her because I remembered this being described in The Child From the Sea. And it worked — this 300 pound beast crawled into my lap. The only problem was that every time I stopped singing she growled at me. I must have sung every show tune I knew for hours.
Elizabeth Goudge’s books, along with the Mary Poppins books, Wind in the Willows and everything by Rumer Godden, were all instrumental in my decision to up sticks from the USA and move to England. I lived in Devon for 20 years [1986 to 2006] in a thatched cottage and made a lovely garden. Here too I found ultimately almost all of EG’s books in wonderful second-hand bookshops [mostly in Ashburton] and off Amazon. And I found Providence Cottage in Marldon, still called that, and whoever they were they had corgis, which I think Elizabeth might have enjoyed.
Of course I spent time in the New Forest and Buckler’s Hard and imagined that a small lane south of the Hard going down to the River Beaulieu would lead to the Herb of Grace. [That’s still my favourite book of all.] I also visited Ely [but I think that the cathedral she describes in The Dean’s Watch seems to be the cathedral in Lincoln] and Wells [where I had my first collision with nettles – ouch! — while I was standing on a fallen log to peer over the high stone wall at the back of the choir master’s house, which I thought must be the place were she was born].
And like Elizabeth I started having spiritual and ghostly experiences in England, which had never happened to me in the United States. All positive I’m glad to say, or at least not fearful. I always had an open mind in that regard, and rather hoped such things existed, but never expected to experience them. It is most amazing and lovely and helps me to live more fully and trustingly.
I’m happy to say that I was pretty much born an Anglophile, and living in England suited me entirely, even though for various reasons I retired to France in 2006, where I have again made a garden and continue read Elizabeth Goudge.
Thanks again for the lovely website, I am going to enjoy reading the various postings on Goudge Talk [and you are welcome to post this if you would like to].
I am an ardent fan of the writings of Miss Goudge and owe her much in the way of the joy it has given me to read her books. I have collected many (though not all) of her books, and I have read them over and over since I was a young girl in the 60’s . I am English by ancestry, and I love the way Miss Goudge describes the England of long ago. Unfortunately a short trip to London in ’88 did not allow me to explore those places in her books to see if they were how I pictured them. One of these days I want to travel to Pembrokeshire to see Roch Castle, and St. David’s in Wales.
My favourite book is Child from the Sea, and I would like to believe that Lucy was not the amoral creature her attackers have portrayed in other publications. I find it very interesting that Diana, Princess of Wales, has a connection to Lucy through common ancestors. Maybe royal people named Charles just can’t be trusted! The very first time I was reading Child from the Sea, I was with a boyfriend who I just discovered was unfaithful, and I was reading the part where Lucy “realized that Charles had been unfaithful to her, and that Anne was cruel to tell her so” and I cried more for Lucy’s hurt than for mine. Every time I read that book I hope things will turn out differently (I know, of course it doesn’t)
Another favourite book I love is the Scent of Water, which was the first book Goudge book I read, and it has always remained so magical for me. I , too, have a collection of “little (precious) things” largely due to the idea in the book of having beautiful tiny precious objects. I will be leaving them to nieces someday.
It has disturbed me to read criticisms of Elizabeth Goudge’s work. I think she was a wonderful writer, and she had a way of making the surroundings and events in her stories so real that they became real in my mind, and also she was dead-on in her descriptions of human issues and feelings, which, of course, are not bound to the confines of a book. Her books had beautiful truth in them, which is why I read them over and over.
I also love The White Witch, for a different view of the Civil War. I am so glad Miss Goudge lived at Froniga’s house. I would love to visit it someday, and see if the village and surroundings have any of the same feel today as in the story. The Dean’s Watch, City of Bells, Green Dolphin Street, and Pilgrim’s Inn are also wonderful stories. Thank goodness there are people born to be writers like Elizabeth Goudge. I am sad she is gone and hope that her books continue to be read and appreciated.
I am Véronique. In my teen years, I read as many books I could from Elizabeth Goudge. I don’t know why for me, and I learnt after, so many French people, her books were so magic. Some twenty years ago, I went to the Buckler’s hard to find some memories of “The Herb of Grace”. I was not disappointed. Two years ago, I went back, now it is a little bit too touristic, but at least preserved.
Today I just came back from Ely and from Peppard common, and I was feeling very sad, that people in the cathedral or nearby her home, don’t seem to know her any more. So thank you for this web site, thank you for her and all her readers.