Archive for July 20, 2016

Controversy Over The Rosemary Tree Rumbles On

Controversy Over The Rosemary Tree Rumbles On

Martha Dayton

Dear Ms. Gaudin,

I have spent a very enjoyable hour reading the articles posted on the Elizabeth Goudge site. I am very appreciative of all the work that you have gone to, and am thankful for your efforts.

The work of Miss Goudge has meant a great deal to me, and I find myself rereading her works often, especially in moments of difficulty or when I need to have my own attitude of life expressed in her incredible language. Being a woman of faith, I am grateful for someone who can (with such naturalness!) convey intellectually and without that contrived, embarrassed, self-conscious air that so many authors have when introducing and explaining the normal haunting of God in their lives.

I do not find her plots and attitude to life saccharine or sweet – on the contrary, they seem to have much more in common with my own experience than much of what I read, or see on the television. I was introduced to her work by our county librarian, who recommended the Damerosehay trilogy as “a wonderful, feel-good read”, which is a great summing up. Booksellers that I have enquired for titles from have asked questions, saying that their patrons recommended her work as extremely well written, but usually do not know much beyond “Green Dolphin Street”. I have given my battered extra copies of her work away to friends, apologizing for their condition, but unable to obtain better, all the while haunting the second-hand stalls looking for hard-bound copies.

The recent controversy, involving the plagiarizing of her work by the Hindi author and the (embarrassing for them) gushing review of the pirated novel in the New York Times, would warrant an article on your site. Especially as, when printing their retraction when the plagiarism was discovered, the newspaper suggested in print that “perhaps the novels of Elizabeth Goudge would warrant a second look”. The language in those original reviews rightly belongs to Elizabeth Goudge.

Appreciatively,

Martha Dayton
Placerville, California

 

Herb Of Grace

Herb of Grace

There’s rue for you: and here’s some for me:
we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays:
O, you must wear your rue with a difference.
Hamlet

Riverside Inn

The sun rising on the first page reveals Sally, waking up to a new day in her London apartment. Who is she? What will be her colour in the tapestry of the tale? With the sure sweep of the experienced film director, Elizabeth opens the story in a completely unexpected place, with people we have yet to be introduced to.

The Herb of Grace or Pilgrim’s Inn as its called in America, is the second in the Eliot trilogy and was published in the dark days of 1948. The war was over, but life was still hard in Britain, rationing was in force, every thing from fresh fish to houses was in short supply. The Marshall Plan which was helping a devastated Europe rebuild itself, was intended for the losers of the conflict, not the cash strapped nominal winners. Some of the key moments of the story take place against these stark facts. The first meeting Sally has with the Eliot children is in a Greengrocers where the children lament the lack of grapefruit for their Mother and Sally becomes guilty about being in a position to buy flowers. Later on in the same chapter Sally uses her last rations to complete an outfit for a party, “To save coupons she had made it herself out of a very fine grey wool material, soft and thin and she had spent the very last of her coupons on grey silk stockings and grey suede shoes to match.”( Goudge 1948 )

Life was slowly returning to normal, in fact Britain was hosting the “Austerity Games” as the Olympics were known that year. Can you imagine the athletes of today using recently vacated army barracks as their Olympic Village? Or people arriving with packed lunches on buses and commandeered army vehicles, as there were no catering facilities or public transport?

Everyone was mad for a little colour and glamour in their lives after the unrelenting greyness of the war years. The entertainment industry bloomed; Powell & Pressburger bought out the film The Red Shoes, Lawrence Olivier starred in and directed the film version of Hamlet, and Champagne Charlie with Stanley Holloway as the lead, was the hit musical comedy of the day, perhaps it was the one from which Sally hums a tune in the opening sequence.

The plot is the continuing story of the Eliots, and their homes which are important characters in their own right. It lets us catch up with and then accompany members of a family that we have come to care about. We follow George and Nadine further into their troubled marriage, watch Ben, Tommy and Caroline grow and develop into young men and women, get to know the twins and revisit Lucilla, Hilary and Margaret at Damerosehay. The tension in the book doesn’t arise through the subtleties of the plot. We know that Sally is destined for David, that the family will buy the inn and that the old, strange octagonal store-room will turn out to be special, that Jill will win the love of the twins. The drama comes from the emotional and spiritual growth that we share with characters.

The supporting cast of subsidiaries of which Annie-Laurie and Maloney are chief, help to emphasis points that Elizabeth wishes to make. In this case ones of loyalty, commitment and unconditional love as promised in the marriage vows that all the partners have taken or will take. There is nothing new under the sun, and although it seems a modern idiom to have people living an itinerant lifestyle, it was far from uncommon at the time, people needed homes and would make them where they could.

In this work with its theme of painting and artistry, Elizabeth uses the metaphor of the old masters to describe the crowded canvas she is painting. Sally’s father the eminent portrait painter says upon arrival at the Inn, ” there’s no coincidence. You stepped into a picture Sally, so you said, when you came into this house. The great masters, no matter how densely populated their canvases, never get a single figure there without deliberate intention. ( Goudge 1948).
One of the main characters of the novel is a monk from the local abbey, whose legacy of hospitality and healing is integral to the book, he too is also a consummate artist, writing his story so hugely into the fabric of the house that he is still a dominate presence hundreds of years after his death.

While in Hampshire we located the ruins of the Benedictine abbey, vast, roofless, reaching up out of the surrounding fields and farm. In the article titled Hampshire Pilgrimage is a description of the ruins made by Cobbett, and both he and I think that this was the original Beaulieu, as the situation is a more open and beautiful place than the “newer” Abbey. Although called St Leonard’s by the locals and the farmer whose land it is on, it lies in the right relation to Buckler’s Hard. Elizabeth would have driven by this stirring romantic site many times, with is view across to the needles, that distinctive rock formation that strides away from the Isle of Wight.

Throughout the book, the characters refer to the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows. It was obviously a favourite of Elizabeth’s, it was published when she was eight, and The Herb of Grace has many parallels with the story. The twins pretend to be Mole and Rat, consider Ben to be badger, Tommy the boastful toad, and Caroline the Gaoler’s daughter. Ben’s first thoughts on seeing the river are to quote Rat ” Believe me my young friend, there is nothing,– absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ( Grahame 1908 ).The twins see the wood as the Wild Wood from the story and when Sally takes them to the wood they tell her they are going ” deep in to the Place Beyond, where the fairy person with the horns is.” Before they have been as far as Ben’s special place “where the person is who plays the pipes” ( Goudge 1948 ) Sally describes Damerosehay as ” the house of the perfect eaves” all phrases from the “Willows” But has she borrowed more than this? Is the Cistercian monk a representation of the “Piper at the Gates of Dawn?” Both were healers having sympathy for trapped and hurt creatures, showing compassion for those less fortunate than themselves, both lived far from the haunts of man, both were the genus loci of the countryside.
Most importantly, both books have the value of hearth, home, and the worth of family and good friends at the heart of them.

I have tried to find out if there was a legend about a local monk in Knyghtwood, but although I found a Knightwood Oak at a place called Boulderwood, I was unable to find the man. So along with the imagined Inn, I think that this was a device of Elizabeth’s. The tale that Ben hears from Auntie Rose and fleshes out for the Christmas play seems to be a Christian version of the ghost of old countryside gods

Hampshire

Hampshire

Throughout this book as with others, we gain insights into Elizabeth’s life.
The first is the description of Sally Adair, clothed in Elizabeth’s favourite colour yellow, and sounding remarkably like her first glimpse of Jessie. ” She had a glorious mop of unruly red-brown curls, the white skin that goes with such hair and golden eyes like a lion’s that looked you straight in the face with a lion’s courage. Her voice was deep and beautiful, and the Scotch Nannie who had looked after her had imparted to it a Scotch lilt that increased its beauty.” (Goudge 1948) Her description of Jessie whom she met for the first time after her Mother’s death at Providence Cottage says, ” I saw an upright, capable-looking young woman with a head of hair like a horse-chestnut on fire, and the white magnolia skin that goes with such hair. Her eyes were very direct.” (Goudge 1974) Jessie too had Scotch connections. so may well have had a lilt to her voice. Red hair is a physical attribute that Elizabeth admired, it is given to many of her heroes and heroines. Perhaps the mysterious Ely lover had such hair.

The wonderful train journey that Caroline takes home is another instance. ” She was glad, for this was the first time she had done the journey from school to The Herb of Grace, and she wanted to be alone so as to get the landmarks well into her mind. She saw a group of pines outlined starkly against a lemon-coloured sky, a farmhouse with higgledy-piggledy roof and lights in the windows, a white wooden bridge crossing a stream, and knew that she would not forget them as long as she lived” ( Goudge 1948 ). These sights could be from anywhere, are we hearing the young Elizabeth returning to Ely, her home of homes, from boarding school?

The Herb of grace is a symbol for clear sightedness, intuition, self knowledge, the ability to forgive even yourself for past mistakes and then the strength to go forward with conviction. The Inn helps The Eliots to do this, it has a strong personality of its own as Damerosehay has, giving to those who seek it an inner strength. Nadine comes to realize as Lucilla does that the war has swept away all the old certainties, but that there are some worth the effort to recuperate. ” she recognised Lucilla’s efforts at preservation as what they were, not so much the salvage of useless trash from a lost past, but paving-stones set upon the quagmire of these times, leading to a new dignity whose shape she could not guess at yet.” ( Goudge 1948.)

Through the whole book weaves the sights and sounds of the river as it winds its way through the New Forest to the Solent. ” All was a-shake and a-shiver-glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man, who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and then tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.” (Grahame 1908) We too are held by the narrative until we arrive at the climax of the year and the satisfactory ending of the book.

This is the best book in the Eliot trilogy, and one that I find myself re-reading constantly. The whole ethos of the book speaks to me of values that are enduring, and although placed in a specific time and place gives us a grounding in the eternal merits of strong family bonds and home. It remains as valid today in the shifting patterns of family life, and the constant moves that work demands, as when our careers and lives fixed us to the same place.

Deborah Gaudin

Goudge Elizabeth The Herb of Grace Hodder & Stoughton 1948 pp 9 22 72 136 252
Goudge Elizabeth Joy of the Snow. Hodder & Stoughton 1974 p 244
Grahame Kenneth Wind In The Willows Methuen 1908 pp 3 5

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Damerosehay

Pilgrim’s Inn and The Perfect-Eaved House

Posted by: Louise Bequette

Tue Sep 2nd 2008 10:30 am (PDT)

There is a reference in Pilgrim’s Inn to Wind in the Willows and -apparently in ” Wind In The Willows” – a reference to the Perfect-Eaved House in the same book. A friend and I have looked many times in WIW trying to find the remark. It sounds like it would be Toad Hall but we have never found it. Is it in an English edition and not in American editions – or what?

A curious reader – Louise – in mid-Missouri

Hi Louise,

The swallows in the Chapter Wayfarers All page 161 ,say to Rat ” The call of lush meadow-grass, wet orchards, warm insect-haunted ponds, of browsing cattle, of hay making, and all the farm buildings clustering round the House of the perfect Eaves?” My copy of WIW is a 1961 re-print. I don’t think the American copy is different.

If you mean Sally mentioning it in Pilgrims Inn, she says it the first time she met Lucilla at Damerosehay. p160

Deborah

I am now wondering the original source of the phrase: House of the Perfect-Eaves. Guess I will have to do some online searching. Wonder if there is an Annotated Wind in the Willows.

I don’t think I had paid much attention to that chapter in recent years. The central chapter in the book when they find the little otter is quietly wonderful one – and know I have read some studies on it. I have a vested interest in children’s literature since I was a librarian before retirement. I never read WIW until my mid-30s and could not get my children interested in it.

Louise

I found at copy abebooks.com, and it isn’t the only edition, there is at least one other. Happy Hunting

Deborah

KENNETH GRAHAME. My Dearest Mouse: The ‘Wind in the Willows’ Letters.

Inspiring The Next Generation

10 September 2008

Dear Elizabeth Goudge,

I have just read your wonderful book “The Little White Horse”. I absolutely loved reading this book. Some parts made me sit on the edge of my seat and when my mum came into my room to turn the lights off, I would not put the book down.

I would like to ask you some questions about the book so that I may include your comments in my reading contract report.

  1. What inspired you to write “The Little White Horse”?
  2. I am a ten year old girl. What other books do you recommend my friends and I read?
  3. The names of the characters are intriguing. What made you come up with the names of the characters in “The Little White Horse”?
  4. My favourite character is Maria Merryweather. Who’s your favourite character and why?
  5. My favourite part of the book is when Maria and Robin escape from Monsieur Coqu de Noir’s castle. What is your favourite part of the book and why?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

I can’t wait to receive your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Vanessa Preston

Vanessa Preston

Click here to view my reply on behalf of Elizabeth

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Inspiring the Next Generation

Inspiring the next generation

Vanessa’s letter and your response took first place in class discussion this week.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and support. I think that you gained one girl’s appreciation, and a whole class of interest and curiosity.

Vanessa will be honoured to have the letter, response and her photo posted on the website.

Thank you once again for your assistance.

Sincerely, Jacqueline and Dean

 

Bird In The Tree

Bird In The Tree

The Bird

I have grown tired of sorrow and human tears;

Life is a dream in the night, a fear among fears,

A naked runner lost in a storm of spears.

Arthur Symons

Hampshire

Hampshire

So begins the poem used to prefix Elizabeth’s novel, Bird in the Tree. It must have spoken directly to her heart at a time in her life when she truly felt that life was “a fear among fears” A book which she began in the security of a loving family and the fame of her successful writing career, was taken up again in the darkness of her fathers tragic last illness and subsequent death. Her mother’s grief and frailty a palpable sorrow, and all around was the chaos and fear caused by the outbreak of the 2nd World War. Now it was she who was head of the family and must provide both a home and income.

Elizabeth always frail had a nervous break down under the strain and went to recuperate at Harewood House in the Hampshire marshes. She retreated here just as the battered Eliots would come to do. The house was run by a local lady called Mrs Adams who had visitors recommended to her that would appreciate the peace, quiet and homeliness of the house. The break did help her to get her life and grief into perspective and once back at The Ark in Devon she did, slowly, painfully begin to write again.

But the writing for once went badly, and no doubt with her Father’s words ringing in her ears, “your not a professional writer if you only write when you feel like it” she got completely bogged down and the characters refused to act. “At one point I reached deadlock. Usually my characters manipulate me, not I them, but now they suddenly went dead as dormice. I could see no way through, and nothing that could possible happen next.” (Goudge 1974)

There have been various theories as to where the break in the narrative occurred, but there seem to be so many possible places, from the time of Lucilla’s dream in the newly found house to the telling of Lucilla’s story to Nadine and David, that I don’t have a definitive choice. Sylvia Gower in her book discusses this in some depth. To me, not knowing the circumstances until recently, the stream of writing seems continuous.

But her method for over coming this difficulty was a typically Goudge one to make. She prayed about it, a bit sheepishly because it was one of the things she was asking for for herself, but it worked. “In desperation I prayed that I might dream the rest of the book, and I did. In a dream full of lovely light the story unrolled smoothly and afterwards I only had to write down what I had dreamed.” (Goudge 1974)

The story revolves around the Eliot family, their loves, passions, life and spiritual growth. It is set in one of Elizabeth’s special places, that piece of the Hampshire coastline opposite the Isle of Wight. They became her surrogate family, maybe the sort of family she felt comfortable in. She wrote, “Of my various book people the dearest are the Eliots. I am almost ashamed to confess how devoted I am to them.” (Goudge 1957)

All of the characters are lovingly drawn, their inward and outward appearances, down to their faults and foibles The matriarch Lucilla, whose regal habit of attracting all to her, is a portrait of her Mother with perhaps a pinch of her maternal Grandmother, while the quiet strengths of Margaret and Hilary her children are characteristics Elizabeth possessed herself.

But to David, Lucilla’s beloved grand son. Elizabeth poured out the entire frustrated Mother love for a son she would never physically have.

He is handsome and charming, an actor in the mode of the young John Gielgud who she had seen play Hamlet on stage at the Old Vic during the 1929/30 season. He is a lover of words and poetry as she was, and felt life intensely, suffering depression and nervous breakdowns as she had done. He has been attributed to a young Henry Goudge, and although I’m sure that his good looks may have been, his morals certainly weren’t. I can not imagine Henry having an affair, definitely not one with his uncle’s wife. David also struggles with his faith and is envious of Lucilla in her strength of belief and her ability to put it to use in her every day life, a trait Henry either never had or overcame early in his life, his faith was unshakable.

After I had visited Buckler’s Hard, a place that is special to the Eliots as it was to Elizabeth, another role model occurred to me. The chapel at the Hard is dedicated to the son of Lady Poole, who was called David, and was a keen sailor and sports man. Could the love and romance of this have imbued her fictional son?

“Visitors to Damerosehay, had they but known it, could have told just how much the children liked them by the particular spot at which they were met upon arrival. If the visitor was definitely disliked the children paid no attention to him until Ellen had forcibly thrust them into their best clothes and pushed them through the drawing-room door at about the hour of five; when they extended limp paws in salutation, replied in polite monosyllables to inquiries as to their well-being, and then stood in a depressed row staring at the carpet, beautiful to behold but no more alive than three Della Robbia cherubs modelled out of plaster. If, on the other hand, they tolerated the visitor, they would go so far as to meet him at the front door and ask if he had bought them anything. If they liked him they would go to the gate at the end of the wood and wave encouragingly as he came towards them. But if they loved him, if he were one of the inner circle, they would go right through the village, taking the dogs with them, and along the coast road to the corner by the cornfield, and when they saw the beloved approaching they would yell like all the fiends of hell let loose for the afternoon.” (Goudge 1938)

So starts the first book in the Eliot trilogy, and at once the spell is cast, Elizabeth wishes us to know that we, the readers, will become part of the inner circle of this remarkable family. In essence nothing much happens, like much of life all the dramas and traumas are under the surface. The children are living an idyllic life with their Grandmother by the sea, in a large house, looked after by Margaret, Ellen and the long suffering nanny Jill. The boys are taught by their Uncle Hilary in the vicarage and the youngest, Caroline at home by Lucilla. Despite the fact that they miss their parents, and as all children, are more aware of the dangerous undercurrents than their parents think they are, they live life as most of us would like our children to do. They have the freedom of garden, house and surroundings, dogs, books and the stimulus of love to round them out and make them grow.

All of the children are sensitively given and one wonders where and how the spinster Elizabeth gained her knowledge of them. Granted, her Father always had a bevy of students surrounding him, but at Ely when she would have been old enough to take notice of the compassionate way he cared for them and their stories and responses, she would have spent most of her time at boarding school.

She did have 2nd cousins and young people from both her own and Jessie’s family, who were part of her life and they all came to stay with her, but how big a role she played as family “Aunt” she doesn’t reveal.

Perhaps she learnt her sure but light touch from Mrs Kennion, a friend of her Mother’s whom she visited in the Bishops Palace at Wells. At that time she was only a child and an inarticulate and shy one at that. Elizabeth says of her “But perhaps also she loved children in general with that painful love of a childless woman. She certainly knew how to talk to them in her soft Scottish voice, treating them as though there were no age barrier at all.” The voice down the years of one childless woman to another.

But the Eliot children live. Caroline, the prime shy child, youngest of the brood, a Daddy’s girl whose love for her father is all consuming. Her knowledge that Mother really prefers boys and she will never be able to please her. Her love of tidiness and dogs and her shinning cap of hair balanced by the thumb sucking of the insecure, (and Ellen’s method of curing it,) vivid insight.

Ben a sensitive youth, swinging from boyhood to a young man in the course of half an hour. His response to David when he thinks he may become a threat, his moods and awkwardness typical of his type.

And, Tommy, where did he arrive from? That bold modern youngster, always striving to leave the old behind, until he comes to realize later on the value of family and roots. A loyal brave mischievous soul, messy, loud and aggressive, a proto-type of many a modern home, I want and usually gets.

The older Eliots can only visit Damerosehay, so that for them it takes on a quality of retreat and renewal, enabling them to face the stresses and strains of the modern world. As Elizabeth drew strength from Harewood house and the atmosphere that Mrs Adams created, so they are strengthened by their time in the Hampshire marshes and the presence and good sense of Lucilla. During one such visit, David arrives with the news that will tear the family apart, and Lucilla finds herself allied with her home in an attempt to prevent this happening. This clever device enables Elizabeth to weave in all the local history that she loved to collect and tie them into the house and family giving to both depth and colour.

Hampshire

Buckler’s Hard & The Master Builder’s House

One of the weapons that Lucilla employs is the telling of her own history and how it might relate to the current crisis. In the tale she speaks of a young Doctor with whom she falls in love. He is a facsimile of her Uncle James; a relative of Henry’s whom the family often visited in London. He too had started off life as an ordinary G. P. but quickly gained a reputation and the wealth that goes with it, as an imminent children’s doctor. He once saved Henry’s life when he became gravely ill with pneumonia.

This first introduction to the Eliots published in 1940 became one of Elizabeth’s best selling novels and gained notoriety when it was cited by a Judge in a divorce court. He suggested that the couple went away and read it, which they did and then came to the conclusion that they would stay together for the greater good of the family.

But in the first instance the books values would have appealed to a wide range of people. It was published during the war, when all resources including paper were in short supply. But it was chosen above others not only for the quality of its writing and because she was an established author, but because it espoused the core values of hearth and home that the men were fighting for.

It seems strange that Elizabeth should chose a poem by Arthur Symons to begin a story of spiritual growth. He was a dissolute young man, vilified by the press for his bohemian lifestyle. But this shows Elizabeth’s compassion and insight, she despised the sin not the sinner , he is the mirror which she holds up to David. His words are life affirming and yet he struggles to match the high ideals he sets himself, just as David does. All people are flawed and the one of the great gifts of the artist is that they rise above this and show others it is possible to do so.

The symbol of renewal that had stayed with Elizabeth all her life from the Cocky Olly bird of her youth to the black birds in the ilex tree at Harewood house became a symbol of peace and tranquillity for millions of people world wide. “”Who of us goes through life companied only by the flesh and blood people whom we live with day by day?” (Goudge 1957), only children and those like Elizabeth of great imagination.

Elizabeth Goudge 1957 The Eliots of Damerosehay Hodder & Stoughton

 

Elizabeth Goudge 1974 Joy Of The Snow Hodder & Stoughton