My chief joy in running the Elizabeth Goudge site is the interesting correspondence that I receive from around the world. Many of those who contact me wrote to Elizabeth, and the letters and the writers feelings on her replies flesh out the knowledge of the woman Elizabeth grew into. They contain a universal message of hope in adversity and love for her fellow man, all say how inspiring she was, and the positive effect she had on their lives. What a wonderful legacy to leave.
But back in March of this year I was contacted by Javier V’zquez from Spain with a short email which touched me deeply.
“My family has letters to my mother, Lucila Alvarez. My mother was the wife of a victimized during the Franco era. If they were of interest, I think that would be fine to send copies of most of these letters.”
It is well documented that Elizabeth felt keenly for those who suffered persecution and imprisonment. I don’t know how she found out about the sad plight of this family from so far away. But their circumstances and tragic story touched her so much that she wrote to them for many years, giving them her support and friendship.
There is a prayer in her Diary of Prayer which is headed “For Prisoners’ Families” and starts,
We pray to you, O Lord, for the broken homes of prisoners, wives left without their husbands and children fatherless, whole families in fear as they face the loneliness and hardship that lie before them. Help us, O Lord, to help them. Show us how to bring to them all the love and aid in our power, in whatever way is possible for us.”
(Diary of Prayer. Goudge 1966)
As the prayer is not attributed to anyone it seems fairly certain that it was one Elizabeth wrote herself as part of her private devotions. It was written not long after she got in touch with the Vazquez family. We can only imagine the lift the gift of friendship would have been, the practicable support offered would have been a life line.
Lucila’s husband Miguel was an artist and an out spoken critic of the Franco regime, and was someone with whom Elizabeth would have found it easy to empathize with. We know from her letters that she considered him an artist of some merit, congratulating him on an exhibition he was staging.
Elizabeth always felt compassion for prisoners, her books are full of them, from Thomas More to Michael in The Rosemary Tree, her concern for their well being shines out. It seems to me more than a coincidence that The Eliot’s matriarch was named Lucilla.
We do not have Lucila and Miguel’s letters to Elizabeth as her correspondence was destroyed after her death, but the letters she wrote to them have been a treasured part of the Vazquez’s life ever since and I feel privileged to be able to share them with you.
Thank you Mrs Vazquez and Javier.