May Day

At this time of year, my favourite  Elizabeth Goudge book to read is her great novel of self discovery, “The Scent of Water.” Mary is setting off for a new life, leaving the city and “culture” behind her for a life of country seclusion. The sort of pilgrimage that folk have always undertaken in the spring of the year.

I also have copies of anthologies of poetry Elizabeth collated, of which her “Book of Peace” is my most thumbed, used re-read. Many of Elizabeth’s friends were poets. Her next door neighbour in Dog Lane was the poet Anne Lewis-Smith. Reading her chosen verse gives insights into Elizabeth’s personality and thought process. She uses lots of poetry in her novels to illustrate characters mental and spiritual development, under score a view, or impress a point she wishes to make. Elizabeth’s books have become part of my internal dialogue, a personal pilgrimage I can undertake when ever I wish to.

Open one of Elizabeth’s books, you might be surprised where it leads you.


  1. I enjoyed reading your post. I’ve been reading the “Henrietta” books lately. Do the Elizabeth poetry anthologies you own have titles?

    • Yes they do and here we go:-
      A Book of Comfort
      A Book of Peace
      A Book of Faith
      A Diary of Prayer
      And a book of her own verse, Songs and Verses
      My favourite is Book of Peace.

      • Do you know anything about how she compiled these? Was it over years in a commonplace book, or for the purpose of publishing?

        • I don’t know definitely but I think that like most people who love poetry, she collected verse all her life and then just collated them for anthologies.

  2. The Scent of Water is one of my favorites, too! And, I agree that there are books I re-read in certain seasons of the year. I love the children, the “little things”, and the three short prayers.

    I discovered Goudge when I sent my husband to the library after the birth of my second child. I gave him several book titles, and also told him to get a novel from an author he’d never heard of who’s last name began with G. He brought me Pilgrim Inn, and I’ve been reading her books for nearly forty years.

    Happy belated May Day! I hope to see posts from other Goudge-friends soon!

  3. The Scent of Water is one of my favorite Goudge books. The magic of the “little things” so touched my heart that I purchased a glass dome with a stand inside containing multiple shelves and over the years have filled it with my own set of little things that delight. Thank you for this reminder of the spring beauty and blessings to be found in the scent of water.

    • I’m pleased that you love this book as much as I do. I think it is the book of books for me and has had an impact on how I try to live my life. Would you consider letting us see a photograph of your collection of “little things?” I think Elizabeth would be thrilled to have inspired a fellow collector.

      • I would be delighted to share … how do I do that Deborah?
        I will take a few and you can decide what to post. Just let
        me know how to get them to you. Thank you!

  4. We recently moved to a retirement cottage; in the main centre (which also has a library) I happened upon a book of short stories by Elizabeth Goudge and what a treasure it proved to be (The Lost Angel and others). Now I have found and just begun Gentian Hill. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and insights into this wonderful author.

  5. To the Elizabeth Goudge Society,
    I appreciate this site and specifically Ms. Gaudin for her posts. It means a lot to me that Elizabeth Goudge still has admirers and I should have written before now.
    My mother was introduced to Goudge in the 1950’s with “The White Witch” and bought us children “Linnets and Valerians”, when we were young. Since then I’ve read nearly everything Goudge wrote, and bought many for my own home library. That was back in the “old days” when you needed to haunt used book stores. Now of course the titles can be found online, which is VERY convenient (although I miss the anticipation and joy of “the hunt”).
    The timing of this post was remarkable and I felt I should share it. I’ll try to be brief:
    I am experiencing increasingly difficult times as my mother’s primary caregiver as her health steadily deteriorates. She is quite old so this is neither unexpected nor tragic but recently she also lost the last remnants of her vision which we have not yet “adjusted” to. To add insult to injury she next came down with a bladder infection, which requires an extra amount of vigilance and care.
    So although I usually maintain fairly good spirits, last Saturday night I was feeling weary and sad. During some sleepless hours I suddenly thought of Goudge, and her troubles with/love for her own mother. That led to memories of her novels, and all the travails faced by her characters. And merely thinking about those things comforted me. THEN–while still in bed during the early morning hours– I heard an email notification on my phone. That being a little unusual at that early hour on a weekend I checked it and was speechless to see an email “from” “Elizabeth Goudge: May Day”
    Well, in the first moments of awakening it is always easier to believe in the unbelievable and I nearly jumped out of my skin. (“She ANSWERED me?!”)
    Well, of course, no, she hadn’t. It was Ms Gaudin, but it was still magical timing.
    The “May Day” post makes me feel it is time to add another Goudge to my collection. I’ve just ordered “A Scent of Water”.
    Many thanks to all contributors to this website.
    (Colorado, USA)

    PS: And speaking of May Day, isn’t there a pivotal chapter in “Green Dolphin Street” (forgive me for not taking the time to verify this before sending the email) that takes place during a May Day celebration? The very young and happy Marguerite is declared the Queen of the Fete (with William I believe, chosen as her “consort”) and Marianne, looking on from the crowd, realizes for the first time that destiny might not always be within her control.

    • You’ve done it! I can’t resist. Will read the book yet again!

      You your mother; will enter my quiet time.

      Nice to meet another GDC ” fan”.

    • Dear Kerry,
      What a fantastic post! A truly Goudgian event. By that I mean something happening which could be coincidence, but which I think is fated to happen. It just the sort of devise that Elizabeth would use in one of her books, a revelation for a character, something that helps them rise above adverse circumstances.
      I believe that Elizabeth was answering you.
      She has certainly helped me through some difficult times .
      Thank you for reminding me about the May Queen in Green Dolphin Country. I had forgotten that, very evocative.
      Enjoy Scent of Water.

  6. Ms Gaudin – for you, I suspect more than a few readers whisper
    “Thank you” to a higher power.
    You introduced me to The Dean’s Watch. Now this quote is not perfect..from the story a think (nearly)the following words came..”….it was not his love that she feared losing, for he had none; it was the partiality of his tolerance.”

    In my copy of Green Dolphin Country there was no mention of the name of the Channel Island. I knew it had to exist! How I searched. Nearly at the end if my traveling money I arrived at St. Peter Port! As I looked for some signs I met an elderly lady
    ( I was young!) In joy and excitement I asked her if this could be the island I searched for. The poor lady was very very angry. She told me the Island did not exist and that the story was a load of ‘rubbish’. Lessons I learned that day. The first, memories could hurt others. Others! I wasn’t the only one on earth that was born in hell; and, I had the right island! Though I apologised I accepted that she saw only another immature tourist that ruined her day. Thus, I avoided people. She is in my prayers often! I searched the old cemetery. Weeds covered….but I found names! Only William! Him I could not find. Having found all I needed I remarked to my self
    ‘Well he, he probably did not exist’. Then a seagull tried to share my bread. My attention was drawn to a building in my view on which was written ” William Ozannne Hall”. At the time I thought the bird, William who ever he really was, smiled at me. Thus I began a new life.
    The debt of gratitude I owe Elizabeth Gouge, can never be repaid…I knew that. Even at an age of youth and a good deal of immaturity. I knew I had been given a gift. Some how my life which I had perceived as hell, was an instrument in my being able to understand: ” We see the world through the medium of our own characters…” Those words elicited the understanding that I could choose to copy Marguerite. That everyone had burdens to carry and, that whoever Elizabeth Goudge was, she knew the meaning of joy and sorrow. From her for many years I drew my courage without knowing until many years later, she too was not given the easiest of lives.

  7. After reading the post about The Scent of Water I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon re-reading the book. On the topic of May mornings, a memorable evocation is the one in Towers in the Mist where Faithful is swept along in the procession celebrating May Morning in Oxford.
    I have enjoyed Elizabeth Goudge’s work ever since reading The Little White Horse as a child, then The Herb of Grace as a teenager.
    I live in Shropshire and the readers are world wide!

  8. Thank you so much for the e mail. I was feeling low having hurt my back with over enthusiastic gardening meaning I could hardly move. I was reminded to get one of my Elizabeth Goudge books and just sit in the garden and not to feel sorry for myself. I first read one of her books 45 years ago when a friend gave me ‘Child from the sea’. I didn’t think I would be able to concentrate as I had just had my first baby but I did and became a lover of her books. Later I found an old diary and realised I had read Little white horse many years before. My favourites are the Elliot trilogy as I wanted to be an Elliot and live either in the ‘Herb of Grace’ or Damerosehay. I bought ‘The joy of snow’ her auto biography a few years ago and discovered that she had lived near to me at Westerland in Devon as I live on the edge of Paignton very close to Marldon. I had not read’ Gentian hill’ since we moved here and was thrilled it was so local when I re read it. I have looked for Providence cottage and not found it. I used to live near Rose cottage when we lived in Oxfordshire so I seem to be following her aroundas I once worked in Reading and Oxford where she has also stayed.
    I would love to know more about you fellow lovers of Elizabeth’s books are there profiles anywhere?
    Are you all American?
    Thank you for this site.
    Sue Harper
    Paignton Devon UK

    • Afternoon Sue, there is only me running the site and no profiles about contributors as I like to maintain their privacy.
      How wonderful that you have lived in so many places of beauty and those associated with Elizabeth. I was instrumental in helping put up a blue plaque on Rose cottage about 8 years ago. You can read about the event on the web site. Devon is still on my list of Goudge places to visit.
      Thanks for visiting the site and enjoying it.

  9. I thank you all for your kind replies and comments. I feel re-energized just reading through them and the memories each of you have of Goudge’s books. And furthermore (although those of you actually living in England may not understand WHY) simply reading the names of the cities and towns mentioned in your posts also are very poetic and beautiful to my ear.
    The only down-side to all of this is that I have dragged out all of my Goudge books, determined to find the passages you all have mentioned and to re-read my favorite chapters, when I know in reality all I’ve done is stirred up dust because I will NOT be getting to them soon. Nevertheless it has all cheered me up, thank you again.
    Ms. Gaudin, many thanks for your success at landmarking Rose Cottage. Having a faint grasp of bureaucracy in ANY country, I understand that could not have been an easy thing to do. What an accomplishment!
    I am pretty awkward at WordPress so I hope I am writing my comment in the appropriate place.
    Now I’d best get back to work.
    Take care, all of you.

  10. Dear Ms Gaudin,

    It is always a pleasure to hear from Elizabeth through you.
    A Scent of Water is my favourite book.
    I never open it, especially in times of stress, without drawing some comfort from it.
    You could say that from nearly all Elizabeth’s books, but this one is special.
    My mother who is nearly ninety is rereading it, and keeps it near her.

    Thank you once more for your work and your website

    Josiane from Belgium

  11. Love reading all your comments and realizing the impact Miss Goudge has had on so very many diverse lives! Not only have her anthologies (A Diary of Prayer might be my favorite) set me trotting off to find new poets and essayists, but so have her novels. Would I have read all of Herbert and Donne and many more of their kind is she hadn’t quoted them first, I wonder… My favorite novel is probably The Rosemary Tree, but it’s followed very closely by Scent of Water and all of her children’s books. What a dear, dear writer she was.

  12. A dear friend in Scotland bought The Scent of Water for me. (Kindle).

    Got to mid chapter 3…and thought….definitely not my cup of tea. Chose to honour my friend’s action; the author’s effort and respect the rest of you by at least finishing the book.

    Chapter four onwards…..oh my goodness what a treasure!

    Thank you everyone.

    • My best friend felt the same about The Rosemary Tree, that it was too melancholic for her, but she persevered and found it a joy, too!

  13. I once owned the prayer card with the three line Thomas Treherne prayer (from Scent of Water) on it which was offered to those who attended Elizabeth Goudge’s funeral. I no longer have it. Does anyone have a photograph of this card I could copy? I would love to have a facsimile to give to friends and others in crisis.

    • Louise, thank you so much for identifying the source of the three line prayer used in The Scent of Water. I have used that prayer so many, many times in my life, but never knew from whence it came.

      I am a big fan of Pinterest online – are you familiar with it? I just searched on Thomas Treherne and I think you will love the results. It would be lovely for you to also find a facsimile of the card used at Elizabeth’s funeral. Surely someone here can find one for you, and then perhaps you can share the image.

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