Archive for The World of Elizabeth Goudge

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

It is with deep regret and sadness that I have to inform you all that Sylvia Gower died unexpectedly at home on St Lucy’s Day the 13th December 2008.

As normal, I had opened my emails with my usual optimism and delight, wondering where in the world I would be receiving news and updates from today, and saw first a message from a long time friend and correspondent in the States, Kate Lindemann. It was headed simply Sylvia Gower. It was obvious that the news had shocked her deeply, and it was kind of her to think of informing me. The two had been friends for many years, as Kate had promoted Sylvia’s book ” The World Of Elizabeth Goudge” in The States through her bookshop and contacts. They had also met on one of Kates rare visits to England.

Sylvia was a gracious and generous lady who shared her knowledge and love of Elizabeth Goudge with a wide audience. She had researched Elizabeth’s life and visited the places where she had lived and which had inspired her career as a writer.

In turn Sylvia’s book was my guide on the journey I took to Hampshire, allowing me to find all the right places I needed to see, including Elizabeth’s grave, which I would never have achieved without the books help. I had thought that the church yard would be a small country one. How wrong I was, it was vast, and it was only Sylvia’s detailed description which enabled me to find it.


That, I was to find out was typical of Sylvia’s nature, she loved to share her knowledge. Just a week before, she had written me a lovely letter and sent me a copy of a programme for a Nativity Play that Elizabeth had written for her local School in Marldon, Devon. It seemed most appropriate for the season, and has set me off on a quest to try and find a copy of the play itself. There was also a copy of a magazine article from the States about the nature of the Devonshire countryside that Elizabeth loved and the people who inhabited it. Fodder for a future article.

Sylvia and I met just the once at the unveiling of the Blue Plaque placed on Elizabeth’s final home in Peppard Common. It was a project that Sylvia had worked on for the best part of a year, a fitting and long overdue tribute. The day although overcast and miserable, was filled with the good company of new friends who had met to celebrate a mutual love and respect for the work of Elizabeth Goudge. It had been a cherished idea close to Sylvia’s heart and one that she was rightly proud to have accomplished. There were so many interesting people attending and the hosts made us so welcome, that I didn’t have the time I would have liked to speak to Sylvia. So it is doubly special to me that at least we finally met each other. She has been a constant source of encouragement and support in the work I do for the website, an invaluable mentor in The World Of Elizabeth Goudge.

Sylvia also belonged to a local writers group, who encouraged her in her literary work. Here is an extract from a piece she wrote about a visit to Ely one April.

” For me, always glad to revisit the lovely old place, the highlight came towards the end of the afternoon. There was an annual Pets’ Blessing Service being held in the cathedral, which although I knew of it, I found a lovely surprise to be able to witness. The nave was filled with all kinds of well behaved dogs with their owners, together with less obvious pets in cages including (I was told), a snake. Behind the seats were two pens, one holding sheep and goats and the other two donkeys. In the entrance porch was a beautifully groomed and beribboned Shire horse and Shetland pony. Incredibly while the address was being given there was not a sound to be heard from any of the animals. The event had been organised by the nearby animal sanctuary. It was a fitting ending to a wonderful day.
Sylvia Gower


The High Alter Ely

She told me that she had found the whole episode, a very “Goudgian” experience, one that could have been taken from any of her novels, where dogs in particular are often taken to church. In The Little White Horse, sheep and dogs make up a large proportion of the congregation.

St Lucy is the patron Saint of the Blind, In the legend, Lucy’s eyes were torn out and later healed by God, a legend that supports this association with the blind. If this is not too fanciful, I like to think that Sylvia helped us with blind groping towards an understanding of Elizabeth, helping to shed light on her life and work.

She was buried in a private ceremony on Tuesday 23rd December at St Peter’s Church Great Totham near Tiptree in Essex. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband George and their daughter, whose loss has been deeply personal.

I am sure I speak for the many thousands whose lives were enriched by Sylvia in saying how much she will be missed and fondly remembered.

” For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground: yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.”
The Book of Job

A Rose Cottage Interior

A Rose Cottage Interior

Goodbye my friend, I will endeavour to keep the work of Elizabeth fresh and alive into the next generation as we wished and along the way take your wisdom and knowledge with me.

Deborah Gaudin


Paper Treasure

From: Deborah Gaudin
Category: Category 1
Date: 08 Oct 2006

In the corner of my bedroom stands a bookcase, of three shelves. It is well out of the way of direct sunlight, and directly in my line of vision from the bed. It contains the most precious books in my collection, not always the most expensive, although some of them are, but the ones that sound the deepest resonance with me. Naturally this is where my collection of Elizabeth Goudge books lives,  making up the largest group of books on the shelves. Some that are not by her have a bearing on her life and work.

I was found by Elizabeth Goudge, age nine, at a friends house by accident one wet afternoon, in the form of a tatty paperback called “The Little White Horse”. My friend had been bought it by her elder sister, and didn’t care for it at all. I on the other hand couldn’t put it down. From the moment the carriage lurches, and Miss Heliotrope, Maria Merryweather and Wiggins fall into each others arms, I was enchanted. The spell was only deepened as Digweed swung from the bell rope, and trundled them through the tunnel.

How could any child processed of an imagination not know that an enchanted and other worldly kingdom awaited not only Maria, but anyone courageous enough to accompany her. The Cathedral books and The White Witch followed on over the next few years, until I was eagerly searching for other titles by this remarkable author. She seemed able to bring the world of the spirit into the every day and make of the mundane something fresh and new. I set out to find all of her books, and was lucky enough to do so with the exception of her plays and one early set of stories.

I caught the news of her death in 1984 by accident. I was married by this time with my first child on the way and a new house in a strange town to look after. I felt as though a beloved distant relative had died, and that now, I would never get a chance to tell her how much I admired and loved her. I re read all her work, and started to fill in the gaps that I hadn’t got around to filling. Suddenly every word she had written was doubly precious, as there weren’t going to be any more. I sought out copies of her Omnibus edition of the Eliots of Damerosehay; this had a forward in it that filled in a tiny piece of knowledge. Her auto biography, anthologies and Diary of Prayer, soon followed. I found the guide she had written for the Chapel at Buckler’s Hard, and that she had written the jacket publicity for a number of books such as “Rider on the White Horse”, and “Sword at Sunset”, both written by another favourite author of mine Rosemary Sutcliff.

This is when the wonderful, Goudgian event occurred. My husband mentioned that he had seen the first editions of The Sword and the Circle, The Road to Camlann and The Light Beyond the Forest by Rosemary Sutcliff for sale, and that they were signed by the author. Was I interested? Of cause I was, how could I resist? When the books arrived, they were in perfect condition, obviously never been read, and indeed they were signed by the author, and dedicated to “Elizabeth with love.” One of the books also contained a letter. It said; “Elizabeth, my poor Darling! Jessie told me about your poor pinned leg and I am so sorry! This is really just a Get Well Card, I’ll write properly when you feel more up to letters, and meanwhile I’ll phone Jessie for news. Much love Rosemary” It was dated April 24th. For anyone familiar with Elizabeth’s biography, the connection of the two names Jessie and Elizabeth in the same missive had to be more than coincidence! In the “World of Elizabeth Goudge” Sylvia Gower tells us how in the early spring of 1978, Elizabeth had a fall at home and injured her leg so badly she had to go to hospital. Seven months later she was still in pain enough to mention her pinned leg in correspondence.

Elizabeth told a reporter that Jessie was a great help to her with her files and papers, and indeed was told to burn all superfluous material after her death. I am sure that Elizabeth would have corresponded with a number of contemporary authors, such as Rosemary Sutcliff, especially as they belonged to the same publishing house. If a friend knows another is unwell and wishes to send love and good wishes to them, what could be more natural than sending something “home made” or personal with the wish? For most of us it would be a pot of home made jam, or a bunch of garden flowers. But between authors, first editions of their new book! What an addition to a collection. To be able to think that Elizabeth would at least have had the letter read to her, if not actually held it. The very books themselves must have come from her library. I think that along with Parson Hawthorne (The White Witch) Elizabeth held books to be “the best of the earthly meats”, and how rich a new book could make them both feel. These books have now become a treasured part of my collection, a nugget of gold in a jewelled casket of books.


Re: Paper Treasure

From: Jo
Category: Category 1


I thoroughly appreciated the information contained in this posting. Thank you. My husband and I visited with Jessie Monroe outside of Rose Cottage in August, 1979. She was so gracious to us and invited her into their garden and offered cuttings of plants from the garden. She said Miss Goudge had just returned from a nursing home.