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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.

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



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


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



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.


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

Origins of Book of Prayer

I appreciate SO MUCH your putting together the wonderful site about Elizabeth Goudge.

It is tremendous to have such resources available!

Thanks for this month’s article about A Diary of Prayer. Among my favourite materials are the prayers Goudge composed herself, including one For Children which I have prayed nightly since my children were conceived. I have used the collection daily for many, many years, enriching my prayer life.

I love Miss Goudge — As C. S. Lewis mentioned George MacDonald as his mentor and spiritual guide, Goudge is mine.

Mary Burrows

Dear Mary,

Thank you so much for your support of the site and your kind words regarding a Question of Faith.

I have to confess to no knowledge of the prayers that Elizabeth wrote and would be very grateful if you could give me some information on where I could read them.

I agree totally about the prayers enriching our lives, as so much of her work does. She is definitely a mentor of mine too.

Hi Deborah,

It is my own assumption (and a deep feeling I get) that the prayers that are printed without attribution at the bottom or the word “Anonymous” at the bottom are her own prayers. Of course, I may be mistaken.

They seem to me to be very special prayers — there are some in every section (but I do not have the book here where I am typing). One in particular has been very meaningful to me since I pray it every night:

Lord, as once the mothers of Israel brought their children to you that you might bless them, so now we come before you, bringing in our hearts those children most precious to us. Kneeling in the shadow of your love for them, your most glorious and perfect prayer to the father for them, we say their names in your presence___________. You alone know what awaits them in life, and the special needs of each one of them, and we humbly trust them to your never-failing mercy and almighty love. We ask only that throughout their lives they may do and bear what is your will for them as perfectly as they are able, and that you will keep them close to you, now and forever.

There is a beautiful prayer in the July section about forgetting self that is un-attributed — I wish I could quote it here.




A Different View of The Rosemary Tree

As a Canadian/American who read The Rosemary Tree for the first time just a few years ago when in my late 40’s, I just wanted to say I found it rather depressing on the first read-through, but that it has grown on me since then. It is now one of my all-time favourite books. I keep it by my bed and often read and think about it. Currently I’m searching for a good hard cover copy within my price range; the paperback one I own is literally fallen to pieces, with no two pages connected together. I have to hold the book together whenever I read it, and as you can guess that’s hard to do when one is lying flat in bed.

When I was around 12, I read my mother’s old copy of Gentian Hill. I liked that better at the time because it was about a little girl of approximately my age, though of course I didn’t understand most of what was going on under the surface until I re-read it again as an adult. But Stella was really what modern “fan-fiction” experts call a “Mary Sue,” an impossibly flawless character who often represents, consciously or otherwise, the idealism of the author. There aren’t any characters like that in The Rosemary Tree. (I suppose Margery Wentworth comes closest.)

The reason I have come to appreciate The Rosemary Tree is that every time I read it, I see something new. The first thing I noticed, on about the second read-through, was that it was Harriet sitting at her window who started many of the other events in motion. As I was describing the book to others, I was surprised to realize as I heard myself say it, “This old woman who used to be the nanny but is now crippled by arthritis sits in the window and prays for everyone as she sees them go by. And slowly, all around her, things begin to change.”

Later I saw the contrast between Harriet, crippled by arthritis, in more or less constant pain, and unable to leave her room, who ranges far and wide in her thoughts and prayers based on her love for the family, and Mrs. Belling, crippled only by her own selfishness, who stays in her room because she is too lazy to leave it, and whose thoughts and aspirations have shrunk and shrunk over the years until all her love and care go only to making herself physically comfortable.

And still later I made the connection between these two and the third old woman of the story, Miss Wentworth, who was self-centred as a younger woman, lived to regret it, and is given another chance at loving and giving in her old age.

Then I noticed that the whole book is about second chances. Daphne, bitter about (among other things) the disappointment of her romantic concepts concerning marriage, is given a second chance to sort things out not only with her loving but inept husband, but with her first fiancée who hurt her so badly. Michael is given a second chance at resolving things with Daphne, with his own tragic past and with his personal moral weakness. (He even gets a second chance at romance with a decent woman when Mary shows up.) Mary is given a second chance at choosing to extend friendship to someone she has not considered a friend (Miss Giles) and to extend mercy where she believed it was not warranted. Even Margery, the most nearly perfect character in the book, is given a second chance at schools: she may, if she likes, quit attending Oaklands right now and go to another school where she would not be ill-treated, and she chooses to stay on till the end of the term–a sign of maturity, as she now understands why Miss Giles is so cruel.

It was chilling to realize that Mrs. Belling, too, was given a second chance of sorts on her very deathbed–the kind inner voice urging her to “call the little dog out from under the bed” where she had flung it in a rage, injuring it–but that she said “No” and chose, once again, her own selfish comfort, in the last few hours of life. She was the only main character who did not accept the necessity of, and opportunity for, personal change.

This would make an interesting movie if whoever undertook to adapt/direct it could manage to pick up on the possibilities for character development, action, and even a certain amount of comedy. It would be a pretty bad movie otherwise.

I enjoyed reading about Elizabeth Goudge on your website. Perhaps some day I’ll be able to read more of her work.


Barbara Bell A D

The Rosemary Tree

The Rosemary Tree

The Rosemary Tree is Elizabeth’s contemporary novel set in 1950’s Devon. When the book was published in 1956, motor ways hadn’t opened up the countryside; it was still inaccessible to most people. Railways were the transport of the mass of the population, Beeching not having had the chance to wield his axe, and the wireless was the centre of home entertainment, even though the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II had been watched on Bakelite televisions by 20 million people.
In America Martin Luther King was fighting for Black Rights using passive resistance, and here in Britain, Prime Minister Macmillan was telling us we’d never had it so good. Albert Finney and Richard Briars were promising young students at RADA, Just Walking in the Rain by Johnny Ray was on everyone’s lips and a stage production of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood was headlining The Edinburgh Festival. In the literary world, Dodie Smith’s enduring book 101 Dalmatians was published, Rosemary Sutcliffe was immersed in Roman Britain and children were reading about the Adventures of Biggles and the magical land of Narnia.

We were all still caught up in the undertow of the war, its pale colours leak through into this sad, earnest book. The publishers were unhappy with it, as they thought it was too rigidly Christian to appeal to a mass market. Everyone was tired out, not fully recovered, rationing had only ended two years earlier, and they must have all watched the unfolding of the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian uprising with trepidation. Surely they were not watching the beginnings of yet another conflict?

Elizabeth’s war years had been spent in Devon, first at the Ark and then after it had been built Providence Cottage, and compared to many both she and her mother had an easy war. Their bungalow “Innisfree” had been sold to a family anxious to escape the dangers of London. Devon must have seemed remote enough to be safe. There were no large towns near by to attract the bombers, although two bombs were jettisoned in a neighbouring field, on the way back from a raid on Portsmouth. But the shadow of her fathers death hung over the beginning of this period, he died in 1939, the “threefold chord” was broken. Her beloved Nanny was killed in an air raid on Bristol where she had been living with relations, and the end of the war coincided with her mothers last illness, a sad difficult time. She was nursed by Elizabeth, at home, even though at times she didn’t known who was with her or where she was. Elizabeth must have been grief stricken, worn out and dangerously fragile from living on her nerves, a prisoner to both family and war events.

Superficially the story is about of the Wentworth family and how their lives are transformed by “a wanderer from the outside world “who turns out not to be a stranger at all. (Jacket publicity from the book). John Wentworth is the local vicar and also the titular head of the Wentworth family, who’s Great Aunt still lives in the crumbling family manor house gallantly trying to keep it from being repossessed by selling off other assets and managing on very little, while John and his wife Daphne live in the Vicarage. Daphne is an unhappy woman who feels trapped by her family duties and obligations. Their three daughters attend a pretentious, badly run school where the teachers are battling the warped Headmistress, and the illness of one of only two teachers. John’s old nanny Harriet lives with them, now an invalid, but an indispensable member of the family helping them with love, compassion and her hard won knowledge of life and love.

But, the book is really about prisoners, and the differing forms that imprisonment can take.
Michael, the wanderer from outside the valley, is indeed a recently released prisoner who is running from the shame of his crime and the disgust and pity that he sees in everyone who recognises him. But deeper than this is his desperate need to escape the cowardice he believes he displayed in the war and the fatal consequences it had to his best friend.
Daphne and John are imprisoned in the ruts of a failing marriage, staring at each other from ramparts of their own making, John’s of his sense of worthlessness and failure and Daphne from narrowness and the sterility she feels her life has descended into.
Harriet is imprisoned not only in her bedroom but confined by physical pain, left wondering on her bad days why she has been allowed to live such a dependant, useless life.
Miss Wentworth is imprisoned in the past, reliving her days of youth and splendour, rather than coming to terms with the modern world. Even the house has been allowed to atrophy instead of being given a new lease of life.
Mrs Belling is trapped by her own sloth and greed, having obtained the lifestyle she desired where she did nothing and life came to her, so she is totally unprepared when death does.
Miss Giles by her illness and cruelty to the children and Mary by her temper and slap dash attitude to work. The children trapped by the abominable school that all these bad practises bring about. They are also victims of their parents failing marriage; Winkle’s tantrums, Pat’s bad language, Margery’s timidity being the outward symptoms.
Finally, one could argue that the whole book has been taken prisoner in a bizarre twist, as it is to date the only one of Elizabeth’s works to be fraudulently plagiarised, by an Indian writer, Aikath Indrani who renamed it “Crane’s Morning.”

A famous novelist said at a lecture recently, “writers only make things up as a last resort” which is why good writers resonate with us, we know that they have gone this way before us, a strength that Elizabeth uses well in all her work. Here she gives her father’s physical weaknesses and spiritual strength, plus his love of birds to John who also inherits his large correspondence. “Men and women who had been boys and girls at Belmaray and had left the village would persist in writing to him, men he had known in the war, at sea and in hospital, would persist in doing the same thing. All his old friends of school and college days liked to keep in touch.” (Goudge 1956 p146)

John’s home is an amalgam of all the dark dreary vicarages they had ever lived in.” It was a dreary flagged stoned place where an aroma of mice fought daily with a smell of cabbage and fish. However much Daphne opened the window she could never get rid of the smells, for the damp of the kitchen imprisoned them. “(Goudge 1956 p 18) yet another reference to the general theme of the book

But we receive an insight into Elizabeth herself a few pages on as John battles his fear in the garden. “and fought one of the familiar dreaded battles that came upon him almost daily. The sweat came out on his forehead and his fingers clenched upon the dead bird. He was too ashamed of these paltry battles to speak of them. Since his boyhood he had been plagued by ridiculous obsessions, inhibitions, childish fears and torments of all sorts, but in maturity he had been able to keep them firmly battened down; it was only since the war that they had thrust themselves out again in new forms but with all their old strength.” (Goudge 1956, p 23) I think she is sharing with us how she felt , worn out and dispirited, not wanting to take up living again, not knowing where her life was heading or with whom. It was too taxing to make a fresh start and the old ways didn’t quite fit. She couldn’t slip back into her old pre war routine. Maybe after her parent’s deaths, she too “stared at the ink stains” (Goudge 1959 p 119).

Although she could still paint pictures of the Devon she loved. “was at the highest point of the village, and the orchard sloped steeply above it. Below him the old unpruned  apple trees were still without blossom, but here and there a plum tree or a cherry tree was a froth of white. In the rough grass under the trees were drifts of wild daffodils, and primroses and white violets were growing under the hedge by the gate. Below the orchard were the tall chimneys and tiled roof of the Wheatsheaf, and to the right the village street with its whitewashed cob cottages wound down the hill to the river and the church. All the cottage gardens had their daffodils and early polyanthus and in the water meadows the kingcups were a sheet of gold. The smoke from the cottage chimneys rose gently, wreathed itself into strange shapes and then was lost in the grey of the sky.” (Goudge 1956 p 81) Very reminiscent of the view from The Ark and the vision of Devon she has the first morning she woke there.

Later on in the book she uses an experience of her own life in Devon which was one of her own spiritual highlights, a symbol of great hope and beauty. She had gone out into her garden after a fall of snow and had been marvelling at the purity and silence of it all when she heard ” a solo voice, ringing out joy and praise. One would have said it was a woman’s voice, only could any woman sing like that, with such simplicity and beauty? It lasted for some minutes and then ceased, and the deep silence came back once more.” (Goudge 1974 p 138)
In The Rosemary Tree, John has the experience as a small boy in his garden, although the season has changed the experience is identical. “And then he heard the voice singing. it was like no earthly music he had ever heard, or ever would hear, though the loveliness of earth was in it.” (Goudge 1956 p 154)

She also speaks movingly of the swing into depression and out the other side, something she coped with all her life. Pages 228/229 show how she perceived the lightening of her world of darkness and the symbols that helped her to climb from her own private hell out into the world again. Another insight is also gained into her way of prayer. The total absorption she strived for in communicating with God, the joys and failures that she suffered. “Today, just for once in a way, his prayer would not be quite so desperately unworthy of the God whose wealth of giving seemed washing through him now in wave after wave of warm life. (Goudge 1956 p229) right down to the whole business of intercessory prayer became no more than an arid discipline” (Goudge 1956 p 231) something most people would not own up to experiencing, it doesn’t get more personal and insightful than that.

We also learn about her creative process and her striving to write verse, even down to the possible kernel of a poem she didn’t get round to creating about Pomeroy castle, as Michael one evening in the study of the manor, tries to write about the vision he sees of the generations of men leaving the castle to fight in the world, finishing with the old beadsman at the end. “Patience with the apparent hopelessness of spiritual growth was the man’s task, patience with the breaking chalks and the smudgy drawing of the artist’s.” (Goudge 1956 p 258) Elizabeth admired poets and poetry believing it to be a “high” art. She was friends with and corresponded with many contemporary Poets of her day such as Ruth Pitter.

But for all the characters that she gives the importance of place to, that feeling of not being comfortable else where, is not a trait she shares, managing the many moves to her different homes well. So she must have had a degree of confidence, an inner strength that she didn’t acknowledge and John just doesn’t have. “he had proved himself to be one of those whose physical life decays if uprooted from familiar soil.” (Goudge 1956 p 99)

Elizabeth is often accused of being a “chocolate box writer” whose worlds are just too good and perfect to ring true. But here in this book at least, nothing is truly resolved, just as in life. What will happen when Mary marries Michael? Will Giles be able to cope on her own, or will she revert to feeling lonely and bereft? Will she be physically well enough to cope? What about Mary and Michael’s marriage? Will he be able to restart his career or make a new one? Will Mary be strong enough to deal with the censure and the possible failure of her husband? John and Daphne have for the present made a new beginning to their relationship, but will Daphne remember to laugh? and will John be just able to remember? How will Miss Wentworth, used to the run of a huge estate cope with living in a conventional house in a village? Nothing is brought to a rounded conclusion and we can only hope that lessons for life have been learnt. Elizabeth isn’t an unrealistic writer; she just chose to illuminate the positive swing and did not give glamour to the darkness.

I approached my re-reading of The Rosemary with certain reluctance. It has always been my least liked of Elizabeth’s contemporary novels, I didn’t fully understand why until reading it now in my middle age for the fourth or fifth time. The reason is it holds up a mirror to show us all our petty dissatisfactions with our lives, all the faults and flaws that we have become used to which become all consuming if allowed to dominate us.

Goudge Elizabeth 1956 The Rosemary Tree Hodder & Stoughton
Goudge Elizabeth 1974 The Joy of the Snow  Hodder & Stoughton

Forward Article


About a year ago I was sent a copy of a rare piece of Elizabeth’s writing, by an American University Librarian called Anne Salter. As with all deceased writers there is something doubly precious in finding a new piece of unknown writing, the chances to have them “speak” to you being limited. This piece was even more unique as it was about her Father, and had been commissioned for the forward of his book “Glorying In The Cross” an academic work on Christian life and worship. It gives a rare insight into one of Elizabeth’s most important and intensely personal relationships.

The forward is biographical, charting the growth of her father, physically, mentally, and spiritually starting with his early years and the strict home life that he grew up in, I can’t grace the time with the title childhood. It reminds one that the perceived romantic notion of childhood, is a recent, middle-class idyll, and certainly wasn’t the common experience of most people in the past.

He was born into a London family on 21st December, 1866, he was a delicate child, two of his older brothers had died in infancy, and it was several years before a sister was added to the family group. They moved from North London to the healthier surroundings of Blackheath, high above the roar and pollution of fast developing London. His father worked for the Bank of England, and his Mother was an invalid who suffered all her life with asthma. They were deeply, strictly religious Protestant Evangelicals, “every thing that was fun was wrong” (Goudge 1940 p11) yet her father developed a sense of humour, she believes in self-defence. He also managed to cultivate a love of the theatre and cricket, a game he could actually see being played from his window. Although his asthma stopped him from participating in the games he loved, it doesn’t occur to anyone that he had a long arduous trek across the heath each day to school and back, no matter the weather, and endured the usual bullying that all public schools seem to subject their boys to, under the impression that it will, presumably, inure them to life’s hard knocks. Luckily for him it seems he was clever enough to graduate quickly and escape the situation.

His religion was the standard he set himself throughout his life, and he was always open to questions and answers to test his faith, stretching the limits of his knowledge and experience so that he could make up his own mind, come to his own conclusions, measured by the yard stick of the teachings of Christ.  This was very different from the rigid teachings of his up bringing. One story serves to illustrate the frustrations he put his family through on his journey. He saved up his modest pocket money and bought a Catholic missal, so that he could learn how they worshipped the better to understand their point of view. When it was discovered in his bedroom, it caused a family furore and his father was “very seriously displeased.” Even more so as Henry continued to say that he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, wasn’t in the least sorry and had found the missal “interesting.”

His father could feel pride in his clever accomplished son, but there was no true connection between them. Apart from his family, his father’s only interests were banking and gardening and Henry could feel no enthusiasm for either subject.

The other larger shadow that looms over his childhood was the debilitating nature of his Mother’s illness. He was her favoured nurse and companion; a little selfishly it seems to me, as it distressed him to see her suffering. It almost seems that he took on part of the parental role that his father was not able to do. I see shades of Lucilla relationship with James echoed here. His Mother died while he was studying at Oxford. “He often used to say in after years that it was nonsense to speak of youth as the time of happiness. He never knew real happiness until he had left his youth behind him.” (Goudge. 1940 p14.)

“The restrictions of his boyhood and his father’s criticism bred in him shyness and a self-distrust that he never quite lost.” (Goudge 1940 p14} How ripe he must have been then to fall under the spell of Elizabeth’s Mother intelligent, beautiful, a career woman self confident and strong. She loved the out door life and had been allowed an unusual amount of personal freedom by her unconventional Mother. A bitter blow on the surface then when a bicycle accident made an invalid out of her too, although from Elizabeth’s first hand account we know that the marriage was a love affair of great strength and longevity.

The article charts his progress through the church and all the prominent positions he held, with their inherent responsibilities and financial commitments. But the aspect that shines through is the great personal love that he gave to all that the came into contact with. All his former pupils, he taught at many theological colleges, all the sick and lonely parishioners he visited and the great men that he worked for and with all speak of his nature, “to see at a glance the spirit of Christ wherever it was to be found.” (Goudge 1940 p 16) Professor de Burgh said of him; “he was an anima naturaliter Christiana, something that sprang from constant communion with a supernatural spring of joy and hope. and that reflected the light that was its source.”

Such a person must have been demanding as well as wonderful to live with. One of the household servants was once heard to say “It won’t be the Canon’s fault if we aren’t good, I’m sure he tries hard enough to make us what we did ought to be.” (Goudge 1940 p 22) a quote concerning the ritual of daily prayers he led the household in.

But the most exciting comments are the ones which show the likenesses between Elizabeth and her father, he was a role model for her in every sense; she too strived to live the integrated Christian life, but there are other striking parallels throughout ; they both had Mothers who were invalids and dominated their home lives, they were both shy and felt that they lacked the social graces, Elizabeth famously having to come to terms with this aspect when the family lived in Oxford and Mrs Goudge suffered a nervous breakdown, their love of animals, especially dogs, their fondness for country churches and the simple services in them, the theatre, Henry read plays as recreation, and Elizabeth wrote her most famous lead David into the glamour and success of the profession and they both enjoyed correspondence, writing letters to hundreds of people over their lifetimes, neither of them employing a secretary to do so.

There are other deeper similarities too. Henry instilled in Elizabeth the ethic of doing things for the greater good of the family/community and finding a lasting happiness that way. Their views on religion were not narrow and pedantic but sprang from “a deep conviction that Sectarian rigidity and narrowness was contrary to the spirit of Christ’s religion” (Goudge 1940 p 15) He also gave to her, her abiding love of the natural world and the fact that God had put it there for people to enjoy and take spiritual nourishment from. “If you don’t look out of the window at the scenery, it is an insult to God who put it there for your pleasure” (Goudge 1940 p24) he said on one railway journey they took together. He loved birds and would watch eagerly for the first butterflies on the Michaelmas daisies, a trait Elizabeth gave to some of her favourite characters. He enjoyed long country walks and bicycling famously leaving his younger students to breathlessly trail in his wake.

Lastly they both became published authors, although in sheer volume, talent and saleability here Elizabeth eclipsed him. Henry once said that “Difficult writing is good writing” (Goudge 1940 p 27) not something I entirely agree with, as to get a message across, it is necessary to be understood and to carry the reader along with you. But he did also encourage her in her career and give some good advice. “When in later years I became a writer and complained sometimes of the difficulty of making imagination work to order I met with no sympathy. If you can’t work to time and to order you’re no good as a writer” he said. (Goudge 1940 p 27).

In agreeing to write the forward for the Memorial Volume of his book, Elizabeth has unwittingly let us into her life, in a way she does nowhere else but in her auto-biography,  Joy of the Snow, enabling us to garner information about not only her father but about herself.

Deborah Gaudin

Goudge Elizabeth 1940 A Memorial Biography Hodder & Stoughton.


Child From The Sea


Child From The Sea


I find it interesting that all the Celtic fringes acknowledge the likelihood that Lucy Walters and Charles I were married, while the “official” history doesn’t give them any credence what so ever. Who said History is written by the conquerors?

I am certain that it was thoughts such as these that started Elizabeth off on the long, often arduous journey that all authors take when they begin a new work. She wrote some of the book in the beautiful county of Pembrokeshire, in a low, long house over looking the sea at Newport. She found out about the family who had lived in the romantic castle, seen on the skyline of Newgale, by being given a copy of a book by a friend “who was one of the leaders in the fight to defend the beauty of Pembrokeshire from modern development” (Goudge 1970 p259). She insisted that Elizabeth read it and then write a story in keeping with the book, something which Elizabeth was inspired to do after only reading a few chapters.

The story begins at Roche Castle, one of the Pembrokeshire homes of the Walter family. It is the only book that Elizabeth wrote that doesn’t start with a quote or poem to set the scene. It does however describe in vivid detail the setting of Lucy’s childhood, a place that had overwhelmed Elizabeth with its wild beauty. On my visit I saw no sign of the stream running down to the sea, although the old part of the village was still heavily wooded, so I don’t know if a certain liberty has been taken with the site, or whether it has altered greatly in the last 400 years. There is in fact a place called Roch Bridge, which crosses a stream that runs into the bay at Newgale. It is only a few fields away from the castle, and maybe the route that Lucy took to the sea. But the castle, unlike the cover illustration of the book is not on the coast.

The first section entitled The Child, sets out the background that Lucy grew up in and frames the possible meeting places that could have been used the first time that Charles and Lucy met. Most Historians feel it likely that they met at Golden Grove, as Charles I visited the Earl there, and Lucy would have visited often as a near and dear relative.

We live with Lucy in Pembrokeshire, her natural milieu of freedom from convention and the delights of rural life, and share with her the discovery of the Sin Eater and the sadness and mental anguish she shares with Old Parson in his distress. Here she is brought into contact with the precarious state of children born out of wedlock, as her much loved half brother and sister are packed off back to the servant girl’s family on a Welsh hill farm, a lesson which she was to take to heart in later life.” The departure of Dewi and Betsi left a scar on Lucy or some thing more than a scar, for the wound never quite healed. That two good people like her Father and Mother could throw two babies out of their nest as though they were of no more worth than a couple of sparrows shocked her deeply, and frightened her too. For the first time she was aware of sin as something that tangled up all human life, even the life of her father and mother and their children. She was never entirely a child again after Dewi and Betsi went away.” (Goudge 1970 p 113)

But for some reason, Elizabeth decided to make their meeting place in London, possibly because it was an extremely unhappy time for them both; with Lucy’s parents going through an acrimonious divorce and Charles having to witness and be a party to the trials and recriminations that lead up to the Civil War. His Mother, Queen Henrietta Maria had fled to France, close friends and advisors to his family were put on trial, and in some cases executed.
It also enabled Lucy to be acquainted with Old Sage, in one of those synchronicity of plots that Elizabeth so delights in and which occur more frequently in life than we suppose.
So, two lonely frightened children meet who are both finding out that life doesn’t always work out how one would want it to. They share the same group of friends, have similar backgrounds, and both have a charisma and charm that would ignite the other. “Something or someone, some day, would pull her as moon and sun pull the tides and larks and she would go.” (Goudge. 1970 p19)

We must remember that the age of consent for marriage in the 17th century was 14 for boys and 12 for girls. They grew up fast and died young. John Evelyn the diarist calls her “the daughter of some mean creatures”( Lucy Walters, Wife or Mistress 1947 p 27) But Lucy’s father was directly descended from Sir Rhys ap Thomas about whom was said” though never more than a knight, was never less than a prince” in South Wales. He facilitated the march of Henry Tudor to Bosworth Field, and is credited with finding the fallen crown and placing it on the head of Henry Tudor. The three Ravens on his heraldic Arms were held in high esteem and fear in the Tudor court. On her maternal side her mother was related to the Earl of Carberry, the Vaughans of Golden Grove, who owned just about all of Carmarthenshire. The Earl had been the Comptroller of the King’s Household, during Charles I reign, and from her maternal Grandmother Mary Rhys, Lucy was a descendant of Lady Catherine Howard, aunt to both Anne Boleyn and Queen Katherine Howard. So Lucy would have been a good match for any future Monarch. The act of Parliament that forbids Royalty to marry commoners was not past until 1772.

At Golden Grove, she begins to understand the fascination she can have over the opposite sex, as she beguiles the Earl with her good looks and charm. “I think you may have difficulty in the upbringing of that child Elizabeth said Lady Carberry gently. I have seldom seen my husband so infatuated.” (Goudge 1970 p 125).

We follow her on her sad journey to London and to her new home with Mrs Gwinne, her Grandmother, who lives in the “village” of St Giles. Here Lucy is brought onto the stage of National History, meeting people such as the eminent Dr Cosins, Master of Peterhouse and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Tom Howard, whose brother was the Duke of Suffolk, Algernon and Robert Sidney, friendships deepened by family connections that would eventually lead to her meeting Charles.

In some ways this is my favourite part of the book, Elizabeth is able to communicate the atmosphere of 17th century London so well, that not only do we peer up narrow alleys, saunter down wide fashionable streets, and travel the broad sweep of the Thames, we can smell the stinking kennels and open drains, and rejoice in the peace and perfume of Old Sage’s herb stall. Her description of Covent Garden is typical.

“Lucy and Jacob went warily past the open doors lest a bucket full of slops, flung in the direction of the open kennel, should catch them. When they reached the Garden it was full of activity. The flower girls and fruit and vegetable men were at their stalls, spreading out their wares. Nan’s big red hands moved so quickly in posy-making, bunching the flowers together and twisting long grasses round their stalks, that the posies fell from her fingers to her lap almost as though she were shelling pease, but she allowed a few extra seconds to Lucy’s choosing the flowers with care so that Lucy had a variety of pinks, frilled white ones, white ones stitched with scarlet round the edges, pale pink, a couple of sops-in-wine, and one deep red clove carnation in the centre. Lucy leaned forward and kissed Nan’s rough cheek which smelt of carnations. Nan was steeped in her flowers and smelled of them from head to foot, as did Old Sage of his herbs” (Goudge 1970 p170/171) How different from the brightly coloured but scentless blooms we now purchase, wrapped in cellophane from a supermarket bucket.

Elizabeth likes to root her characters to a place, and Old Sage fits his perfectly. Old Sage had his stall as close as possible to St Paul’s church because he kept his main supply of herbs in the church loft.     There were trees at his end of the Garden and it was sheltered from the sun by a great yew tree which must have been growing here in the days of the monks……Old Sage sold herbs of every sort, bunches and packets of dried herbs, fresh bunches of mint, lavender, rosemary and marjoram, and also cloves and peppercorns and oranges stuck with cloves to keep away infection.         when he moved herb dust sprayed from his person like pepper from a pot.” (Goudge 1970 p 171)

Elizabeth’s father’s side of the family had lived in London, and indeed were part of the French immigration of silk weavers that came over to live in London at the time of the French revolution. They probably planted Mulberry trees in their gardens to facilitate their trade, which would have been old and venerable to young Elizabeth’s eyes, she would have noticed the way that towns and cities have their green and pleasant spots. London although bigger and brasher in Edwardian times, wouldn’t have been that different from the London of 200 years earlier. It’s changed rapidly of cause in the last 50/60 years.

She also manages to bring personal remembrances into the story, memories of her Father’s study for example are used to describe Mr Gwinne’s, Lucy’s Grandfather. “Lucy knocked on the library door and receiving no answer lifted the latch and walked in. Mr Gwinne’s library resembled a clearing in a forest, but the open space was by no means uncluttered, having a minor undergrowth of books piled on the floor, like stumps of felled trees. Around the clearing great bookcases loomed from floor to ceiling, dark but yet alive with a glint of gold or crimson here and there, as though light shone faintly through massed leaves, and ominous with a motionless power.” (Goudge 1970 p 151)

“the narrow doorway of the study and on entering found a wall to the right and on the left the ominous darkness of that invaluable bookcase, Somewhere round on the other side of it was my father at work, but it was very dark between that wall and the bookcase.” (Goudge 1974 p103),being a description of her father’s study at Ely.

The plot flows on, in and out of sadness enriched with flashes of joy, as Lucy and her brothers come to terms with their parents divorce, the deaths of Besti, and her beloved Nan-Nan, the loneliness of William, showing her the separateness of the human condition, and the history of Old Sage, which will prove a vital link in the narrative of the story later on, pulling us right up to the execution of the Earl of Strafford. Lucy sees Charles met the Mayor of London and finds a chance to throw him her present of the dark webbed purse she had made him. It would be the last time they met for years.

The middle section is entitled The Idyll, and as such is the shortest part of the book, as it was the shortest of Lucy’s life. It opens in Devon where Lucy is living with her father’s parents, and Dewi. Roch Castle has been almost destroyed and Algernon Sidney has been badly wounded in the fighting. The Civil War is raging, and she is safe at the moment deep in Royalist held Devon. After a further meeting with the Prince cements her feelings even further than the childish passion she had started with, Lucy travels with her father and Dewi back to Pembrokeshire, to make a home for them in the shadow of their broken castle. It’s as good a place as any to wait out the war.

The meeting and marriage of Charles and Lucy is part of Welsh myth, which is why Elizabeth allows them to meet at the romantic and symbolic place of St David’s cathedral. In reality it is unlikely that he would have had the time or opportunity in the midst of civil war, to go to the west of Wales for four days.
It is a clever devise to have them unwittingly married by a de-frocked or at least un-ordained priest, because of cause; no one has been able to produce a marriage certificate. There were however persistent rumours that they had married before the Prince went to France. Sir Edward Hyde writes in the march of 1646/7 ” I am far from being secure, for many reasons, that the intelligence from London of the Prince’s marriage may not be true; we were apprehensive of it before he went, and spoke freely to him our opinions of the fatal consequences of it.” (Hyde, 1646/7 p 346)

What ever the historical niceties, the second part ends with Charles re-joining the war, and Lucy doomed to wait it out in Pembrokeshire. Elizabeth must have known many young women who sent their men off to war, wondering if they would ever met again, hoping that there would/wouldn’t be a child to comfort them, or concerned with bringing one up alone.

The third and longest part of the story is The Woman, and chronicles Lucy’s travels around Europe and her fight to be accepted as Wife of the Prince and Mother of his child, the future Duke of Monmouth. Part of the problem was that the Royal family had no personal income at all and were reliant on the generosity of other Royals, who after the glamour of the situation had wore off, and Cromwell had won the Civil war with the hearts and minds of the British behind him, found other things they would rather spend their money on. So, the enlarging of the household was most unwelcome. Charles’s mother was extremely angry and begged him not to tell people, as she still hoped for a moneyed match to be made, helping them out of their poverty. I suspect that she hoped Lucy would fall victim to any number of fatal diseases prevalent at that time, thereby freeing Charles from his youthful mistake.
There is evidence to suggest that the Marriage Certificate was stolen from her, during the debacle of her misguided and ultimately self-destructive journey to England with her young son.

This part of the book has been the subject of much conjecture and discussion. Why did Lucy decide to travel to England, taking Jackie with her? She must have realised how dangerous it was and the advantage to the Commonwealth if she was captured. Surely she was frightened about the safety of her son, as a future King of England. The reason given in the book is the bequest left to Lucy by her Mother. “Our Mother left some money for you too. There is still some legal business to be done and it would be a help to Richard and to me if you would come back to England with us and stay for a while. You know what London is like in the spring and summer; a jewel girdled by the little villages among their meadows and flowers. Will you come? You and the children and Anne.”(Goudge 1974 p 663). Justus implores her to return to England with him, and finally she accepts. But I don’t understand why she took the children with her, unless she thought that on her return to the Continent they would have been taken away from her, Charles had tried to kidnap “Jackie” before.

But really I think that Lucy privately gave to much credence to her brother Richards’s position in Cromwell’s staff and Government. She was used to her family being in a position to ensure her safety. She also trusted Tom Howard as an old friend and distant relation, not knowing that he was a double agent, and would be only to happy to hand such a prize over to Cromwell to smooth his own path.

The fact that Cromwell didn’t try and execute them speaks of the sensitive nature of the situation. Killing the Grand father was one thing, but to murder a royal child and his Mother, no such thing had been done since the bad old days of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.

The relationship between Lucy and her personal maid Anne Hill has caused considerable debate among Goudge readers as it appears to be one of almost Saintly Scapegoat and Judas kiss complexity.

Elizabeth had a deep reverence for the relationship between servant and Master, or as is more politically correct today, Employer and Employee. It was something she had seen and experienced all her life. To our modern comprehension it seems as out dated as clubbing your woman over the head and dragging her cave-wards, but to Elizabeth it was one of equality through the act of service and acceptance. It is the Path for all those of Christian faith to try and live by the example of Christ, and Lucy realised that Anne was truly repentant of her former disloyalty. She would have wanted to believe so, as whom else did she have to turn to at this, the lowest point of her life. Anne had become the stable pivot of her and more importantly of her children in an increasingly chaotic life.   click here for the record of the interrogation of Anne Hill

I find the weakness and politically motivated cruelty and neglect with which Charles treated Lucy, hard to understand. I suppose that the desire to be accepted by his peers, his family and his subjects after decades of war, flight and fight was too beguiling. as well as the old adage about Power and corruption. How convenient poor Lucy died before he became King, thereby side stepping the issue completely.

I will finish the article with a quote from the diary of Samuel Peyps, the famous Restoration Diarist, and two from Historical websites, one chronicling the History of Scotland the other from a west country town.

At that time the restoration of the monarchy looked unlikely, and the Stewarts were not the most eligible of bachelors. Charles’ brother James (later James VII) married a commoner, Anne Hyde and Charles II married Lucy Walter, while Louis XIV of France married Françoise d’Aubign, after the death of his first wife. Charles’ mother, Queen Henrietta Marie, was furious when she heard of the marriage and threatened to have her brother, the King of France, cut off Charles’ pension if he did not repudiate Lucy Walters and her child. Charles accepted and went on to marry the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662, four years after the death of Lucy Walters. Charles died in 1685 without any acknowledged legitimate children and was succeeded by his brother, James II.

‘What is whispered about is that young Crofts is lawful son of the King, the King being married to his mother. How true it is, God knows.’
Samuel Pepys Diary, October 1662.

Taken from the Scottish Politics web site by Alba Publishing, Scotland.

Monmouth was the illegitimate son of King Charles II, born to Lucy Walters in 1649 during Charles II’s exile at The Hague. Monmouth was much loved and favoured by his father and despite his illegitimate status was given a place of great authority within English society. In 1674 Monmouth was made ‘Commander in Chief’ of the army; gaining great respect as a soldier among the English people.


Charles II

Shaftesbury urged King Charles II to recognise his son by the legitimisation of his marriage to Lucy Walters. Charles refused declaring he had only ever been married to the Queen. Monmouth later confessed that his father had told him in private that he would have no legal right to the throne. Rumours abounded about a black box being discovered in which the marriage papers of Charles and Lucy Walters were hidden but these were never produced as evidence.
Deborah Gaudin

Goudge.E. 1970. Child From the Sea Hodder & Stoughton
Scott.G Lord 1947 Lucy Walters: Wife or Mistress. Harrap & Co Ltd
Lamford T. G. 2001 The Defence of Lucy Walter The Better Book Company.
Samuel P 1662 The Dairies of Samuel Pepys
Rev C. P. Brown Minehead On Line
Goudge E. 1974 Joy Of The Snow Hodder & Stoughton



Re Pembrokeshire Pilgrimage

Re Pembrokeshire Pilgrimage

Thank you so much for your articles which I always enjoy. I remember my two visits to St David’s; one was when I joined the Easter Day morning worship at the Cathedral. The other was in the summer when we stayed at Tenby and had a trip to Caldy Island. It was also my first time view of the Cathedral, and we walked along the cliff top, with stunning views, and saw that little sanctuary in the rock where a monk once lived. I had EG’s book The Child From The Sea but had not read it so Roch Castle was not foremost in my thoughts then. Since reading the book, (only in the last two years I have to admit, and after many attempts) I particularly appreciated the pictures you put on the site and your article. Perhaps one day we might get to visit again who knows. The vicar at the Church  I attend  was once the vicar at St David’s Cathedral, I ought perhaps to ask him if he has heard or read The Child From The Sea. Probably not heard of it – many years my junior.



Pembrokeshire Pilgrimage


A day of high blue skies saw us chasing the perfect chess piece of Roch Castle all through the twisted wooded lanes. In gaps in the hedges we could see pieces of sky which turned into sea with ships on them; rather like Elizabeth describes the frescos in The Herb of Grace.

The castle had hidden from us for days, appearing dark and ominous on the skyline, then disappearing into a dip of the fields and a belt of woodland. In fact it shelters modestly behind the new face of the village of Roch being approached through a small housing estate.

Once reached, one wonders how it could have been missed. It rears up proudly on its base of volcanic rock, surrounded by lawns, trees and shrubs, and a stone boundary wall, built to contain the gardens

I leaned on the gate and gazed up at the home of the tragic Lucy Walters, the most famous member of the family which had inspired Elizabeth to undertake her final and longest novel. The book, (The Child From The Sea) is set in the Civil War, a period of history that Elizabeth was already familiar with. But this time she was to take the Royalist perspective, writing about Charles II, his relationship with Lucy, and their ill fated son the Duke of Monmouth.

It is a miniature castle, boasting a strong corner turret and curtain wall, with high up slits for arrows and windows. My palms felt damp thinking of the young Walters climbing from them down the walls to the woods. There was one larger window which I think must have belonged to her mother’s solar, part of the modernization that poor William spent all his money to build in a vain effort to please his wife.

A legend tells of the castle’s founder, Adam de Rupe, whose fear of a prophecy that he would be killed by a viper’s bite led him to choose this isolated site. Apparently he was unable to avoid his fate, for a viper, concealed in a bundle of firewood, found its way into the castle and fulfilled the prophecy.

The main reason for it being in such good order is that it has been renovated into a high class holiday let, so access wasn’t possible on an ad hoc basis. I opened the gate and walked the first few yards up the drive, but there seemed to be no one about I could ask, so reluctantly I left. I don’t know what I hoped to see that couldn’t be seen on their web site, and it seemed unlikely that any of the family remained.

The castle was greatly neglected after the Civil War, but in 1900 Viscount St. David began extensive restoration, and subsequent owners have continued this. It is therefore considerably altered, but the tower is unmistakable for miles around, and traces of the old earthwork bailey can be seen at the foot of the outcrop.

The church however was open. It was just across the road from the castle and with Manorbier farm make up what is obviously the heart of the old village. Was the farm the one that Williams’s bailiff lived in? It looked old enough and its name implies that it was part of an estate.

The church is dedicated to St Mary, a Norman trait and had been built on a much earlier earthwork. The inside has been recently renovated and is white washed except for the wall separating the body of the church from the choir and alter which has been left as bare stone. The font by the door is old and the Ten Commandments were still painted in black on the alter wall. I remembered how the new paint on the vii commandment had enraged William, who thought the parson had done it on purpose; he left his hat on in protest.

There was no sign that the family had ever worshipped there, no grave, tomb or memorial to the house of Walter. Their entire lineage from Rhys ap Thomas, all the pride and ownership they had taken in their home was brushed away, so much dust in the long years since their tenancy.

Standing under the lynch gate as Lucy and Charles must have done after their marriage had taken place, the view in its autumnal quietness looks much as it would have done then, except that the Union Jack and Welsh flags fly from the keep, its roof now intact, no longer roofed with the glory of storm clouds as Lucy had seen it on first visit back home.

Following in the footsteps, or more accurately the hoof prints of Lucy and Old Parson, we made our way to St David’s, travelling up and down the switch back coastal road, through the pebble barricades of Newgale, where the thunderous surf was being utilized by surfers, canoeists and dogs, passing finally through the narrow streets of the smallest city in Britain.

The cathedral is contained in a bowl of land, called the Valley of the Roses, and unusually is lower than the surrounding city. Most cathedral sites derive some of their sense of separateness from being built on higher ground, here the reverse is true. Sited beside the stream is the Bishop’s palace, which is undergoing renovation. The stone and brick work are varied and beautiful, and have been crumbling since the bishop, as Elizabeth tells us, sold the lead roof to pay for his daughters dowries in the 16th century. One oriole window had had its stone tracery completed and showed the green of trees and clouded blue sky through itself like stained glass.

The stream is one of the site boundaries and is crossed by the span of a stone bridge. I think that for me this was one with the description in Elizabeth’s book, and I could quite easily conjuror up the ghosts of Lucy and Charles meeting there at the beginning of his stay with her. The grounds seemed timeless, set apart from the concourse of people in a way that the buildings couldn’t be.

The cathedral is rock like, grey and a little forbidding at first, even in the bright sunlight. Unsound foundations or an earth tremor have made one end subside a little, so that it really looks from one angle as if its about to spring.

The inside is plain, a cave hewn out of the rock, with the usual tree trunk pillars soaring to the carved and painted ceiling. To the left a Lady Chapel, to the right one dedicated to St Nicholas. The walls are lined with recumbent figures of Bishops, Knights and men of renown. The Lady Chapel had its quota of dragons and a simple, effective sculpture of a slate dove, wings spread ascending, between two upheld hands.

I couldn’t find the pilgrims way that Lucy and Old Parson had walked, but behind the alter is the medieval casket which contains the bones of St David and St Justine. It is a wooden box bound with ornate iron work and sits in a niche, flanked by prayers in English and Welsh. The casket and original shrine were stripped of gold and jewels during the reformation to dissuade people from the cult of idolatry. Even at this time of year the place was crowded, and I got very little impression of the quiet peace that Lucy and Old Parson received. The clergy were moving around in packs avoiding eye contact, seemingly to absorbed in church matters to notice the laity.

It is easier overall to slip back in time in Pembrokeshire than it had been in Hampshire, because so much has been preserved. The country lanes are still the main roads linking small hamlets, villages and towns. The intrusion of the motor car is inevitable, but kept to a minimum. Horses clip clop everywhere, and the fields are smaller with mixed farming as were most places even in my childhood in the fifties.

Yet, the area is not a museum, rural life goes on the same way it always has, even if tractors and other farm machinery make it less back breaking work. The churches ring their Sunday bells, the children pour out of their local schools, the post office and the Bakers still occupy the heart of the community. It would be one of the few places that Elizabeth would be comfortable revisiting. As she so eloquently says:




Here in the country’s heart
Where the grass is green,
Life is the same sweet life
As it e’er hath been.

Trust in a God still lives
And the bell at morn,
Floats with a thought of God
O’er the rising corn.

God comes down in the rain
And the crop grows tall~
This is the country faith,
And the best of all.

Deborah Gaudin



The Middle Window

The Middle Window

Whenever I start to read a Goudge novel, it always sets me off on a journey of discovery, and I rarely end up where I anticipate. The book begins with this quote: ‘To those who cry out against romance I would say—You are romance. You are the lost prince herding obscurely among the swine. The romance of your spirit is the most wonderful of stories.’
A.E. The Candle of Vision.

Who was A.E.? George William Russell was an Irish poet, painter and author, a mystic who contributed to the early 19th century Celtic Renaissance. A.E. was short for Aeon, the pen name he had chosen for himself. He was a friend of Stevens and W.B.Yeats, producing a series of essays on journeys he had undertaken in the ‘inner realms’, a thesis on his perception of spirituality and the way it permeates the physical and mental planes of our lives.

It may seem strange to many of Goudge’s most avid readers that Elizabeth was influenced and inspired by some one who today would be called ‘New Age’, so maybe we need to put the book in context with what was happening in the larger world in 1935. What was the current mind set of the generation?

Elizabeth had grown up in the Edwardian era, a time when scientific thought was taking flight, literally and metaphorically. Every thing had to be compartmentalized and labelled, including God and the after life.
Conan Doyle and the Spiritualist movement were in vogue, with such intellectual advocates as J.B.Priestly, one of his best known works “English Journey” had come out the previous year. A book in which he had set out to define the English and their working landscape at that time perched precariously on the brink of War and foreign revolution.
The first Eco-warrior of the 20th century, a charismatic “Red Indian” called Grey Owl was touring the country to packed audiences in 1935, informing us of his observations on the inter connectedness of all life. He was even invited to Buckingham Palace, received by the King himself.
Dion Fortune published The Winged Bull, a book about obsession. She was a truly remarkable woman, a writer, lecturer, and founding member of the Inner Light.(1)  A new edition of the Works of Mary Webb was brought out by Jonathan Cape and a Surrey housewife and writer called Enid Bagnold stormed the hearts of young horse mad girls everywhere with the tale of National Velvet, all in the same year. Hope was “springing eternal”, and how they needed it.

The First World War had left its sad legacy of depletion, grief and anger behind, but people were by this time well aware that it hadn’t been, “the war to end all wars”, and needed the panacea of “proof” that life itself was not the sum total of their existence.
The old Myths and legends were taken out and dusted down, refurbished to aid a new generation, their worth reaffirmed, the struggle, the fight, was life.

It was against this back ground that Elizabeth wrote and published her novel, “The Middle Window”, one of her most under rated and least valued works.

The book is about a young socialite called Judith Cameron, and her search for meaning and depth to her, so far shallow life.
In the window of a shop, she sees a painting, a triptych of pictures in fact, which show her three differing aspects of life. One is of a glittering ballroom such as she has visited the previous evening, the other a comfortable cottage interior. But it is the Middle picture that draws her, a painting of a Scottish mountain and loch.
”A world of stark and terrible beauty, of sorrow and failure, shorn of wealth and comfort but yet ablaze with joy, the world of the heights of the human spirit. It seemed to Judy that her little shivering self was flitting from side to side, unwilling to chose either of the worlds to left or right, yet cowering back in fear from that terrible middle window. And yet——– she had to chose it” (Goudge 1934 p 19).

Her quest takes her to the Highlands of Scotland and the ancestral home of Ian MacDonald. What follows is more of a home coming than a holiday as places and people she knows she hasn’t met before seem achingly familiar.
”I’m quite sure we’ve come the wrong way “complained poor Lady Cameron, “and James has gone to sleep again and Judy isn’t even looking at that route the R.A.C. gave us. She hasn’t looked at it for hours…….. Judy!” Judy did not answer and Lady Cameron prodded her in the back “Look at the route dear, I’m sure we’re all wrong” Judy stirred and sighed. “No” she said “we shall be there in twenty minutes.” Her voice seemed to come from very far away.” We’re just climbing up Ben Caorach. In ten minutes we shall be at the top. Then we shall drop down into Glen Suilag.”
”Judy exclaimed Charles, “how on earth do you know?” ( Goudge 1934 p 29)

Then when they arrive, the house itself, the people who live in it, the very rooms themselves are known to her.
There always appears in Elizabeth’s books a Goudgian room, one that you know the author is remembering and describing, probably one from her past. We meet them with subtle variations in Gentian Hill, The Rosemary Tree, City of Bells, The Dean’s Watch, The Eliot books, etc, etc. it will contain; spindly legged Sheraton chairs with tapestry covers, wood panelling, miniature paintings, shabby brocade curtains, china on the mantelpiece, and an old bureau or oak chest. There might be an Adams fireplace, or a moulded cornice, or as is the case in The Little White Horse and The Middle Window, a harpsichord. Whose house is she remembering?

As with rooms, so with times of the day and a Goudge book would not be complete without at least one spectacular dawn, a very important part of her day.
”The cold air was like fingers of snow creeping over her body and stinging her awake to vivid consciousness of the loveliness in front of her. The shadow of night still lay over the garden and the larch wood and the loch and the lower slopes of the mountains, but up on the summits day had come. There were no clouds now to hide the top of Judy’s mountain; it was outlines in indigo and violet against a golden sky that melted through apricot and primrose yellow to deep blue over head. Far up the sun’s fingers just touched the bog myrtle and bracken to green flame. “
(Goudge, 1934. pp 69/70)

As always Elizabeth draws on her personal physical response to place. She visited the Highlands and Islands on a walking holiday with a friend, after the success of her first novel and short stories, this passage describing an experience she had while on the Isle of Skye.
”Suddenly she flung up her head, her eyes dilating with terror. There was a curious, crackling, thudding, sound behind her, as though a galloping horseman cracked a whip as he rode at her to drive her away. She jumped to her feet and looked behind her, but there was nothing there, and no sound but the burn. She took to her feet and ran, not stopping until she was down among the crofts again and sitting on a stone by the roadside.” (Goudge 1934 p131).
Both the character and Elizabeth herself put it down to intrusion of place by a stranger, “I tired to be to intimate and It resented it” (Goudge.1934 p 131)
Joy of the Snow deals with the experience on pages 135 to 136.

The story is placed in three parts, The Search, in which Judith arrives at Glen Suilag and meets Ian MacDonald, Union, which takes us back to Jacobean times, and The Finding which brings us back up to the present.

Each part starts with its corresponding quote, The Search we discussed at the begin of the piece, Union starts with a quote by Jami,
All that is not One must ever
Suffer with the wound of Absence,
And whoever in Love’s city
Enters, finds but room for one
And but in Oneness, Union.
Jami was the name of a Sufi poet and philosopher who was born in the village of Jam, Ghor Province, Afghanistan in 1414. He studied Peripateticism,( the teaching method of Aristotle, who, like the troubadours of the Middle Ages walked from place to place to teach) Maths, Arabic literature, Natural Sciences and Islamic Philosophy at Nizamiyyah University. He was one of the last great Sufi poets, and a teacher of renown. He wrote 87 books on Mysticism, Poetry and History, he was on the cutting edge of thought in the 15th century.

So what drew Elizabeth to a writer from such a different background? I think it was that in his view, LOVE was the fundamental stepping stone for starting on the spiritual journey.
”Love is the Lord by whom we escape Death “(Goudge 1960. p.346)
Also the fact that Judith and Ranald’s love is unrequited doesn’t make it a negative event, but a sowing of love that will be reaped in the future. Are we being told that this is how she viewed the lost of her love, her Ely love, only mentioned in passing, and that she to used the experience to enrich her life? Was Ranald the idealist and social reformer modelled on some one she knew?

The Finding, the final part of the story is headed with a quote from Samuel Butler.
”Yet for the great bitterness of this grief,
We three, you and he and I,
May pass into the hearts of like true comrades hereafter,
In whom we may weep anew and yet comfort them,
As they too pass out, out, out into the night.
So guide them and guard them Heaven and fare them well.

He came from a Victorian clerical background like Elizabeth’s father Henry Goudge. He attended Shrewsbury School where his Grandfather, also called Samuel, the former Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry had been the headmaster. Afterwards he went to Cambridge and after graduation lived in a low income parish in London to prepare for his Ordination into the Anglican Church. Here he discovered that Baptism made no apparent difference to the morals or behaviour of his peers which led him to question his faith. His father was so angry with him that it led to him emigrating to New Zealand where he made his fortune Sheep Farming before returning home to pursue his literary career.

Nine years and five books later, is the character of William Ozanne and the country he ended up making his fortune in, in part inspired by the tale of Samuel Butler? It is one of the few books Elizabeth wrote about a country she had never been to.
The quote certainly encapsulates her thoughts on reincarnation and the legacy left behind by people we consider to be our spiritual families. She was always uneasy about the theory, seeing it as a form of possession.

”They don’t “she whispered “the dead are dead.”
Ian was looking at her his eyes burning her, and she turned her head away. She could not meet his eyes.
”They’re not” he said” they are alive. They possess the living”
Possession! That fear that had been lying at the back of her mind, haunting her, through all her time at Glen Suilag, leapt out now and seized her, just as the first flash of lightning shone out over the garden, showing up Ian’s figure black and frightening.”
(Goudge, 1934. p. 155)

Jesus after all had only needed one life, so why should we be any different? Except of cause that we are not fully realized spiritual beings.
She was much happier with the inheritance of ideas and values contained in the Butler quote and used it too good effect in many of her later works.

This is a book about a Spiritual Journey, a dedicating of a life to values inherent in the life of Jesus and the gospels that she read every day. But I believe Elizabeth realised early on in her life that all spiritual striving was valid.
The research she under took into the works of A.E. and Evelyn Underhill, (ii) were the equivalent of Henry reading the Catholic Missal that so distressed his parents. She wanted to know what others thought about the nature of God and the way of spiritual growth, and then make up her own mind.
The principals and disciplines that Judy undertakes in her daily life, were the ones Elizabeth adopted, those of daily learning, contemplation, prayer and Service Work, which are the same whichever doctrine or creed one chooses to follow.


Almighty God, who enlightened your Church
by the teaching of your servant Evelyn Underhill:
enrich it evermore with your heavenly grace
and raise up faithful witnesses who,
by their life and teaching,
may proclaim the truth of your salvation;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

From Common Worship (Church of England.)

Elizabeth was one of the faithful witnesses who tried to live her life by the principals laid down by in the gospels. She was however, never afraid to enhance her study by thinking outside of the Anglican Church. But like Evelyn Underhill, felt most at home with the religion and creed she had assimilated and grown up with.

Goudge Elizabeth 1934 The Middle Window
Goudge Elizabeth 1960 The Dean’s Watch.


1 An organisation set up to teach and study esoteric subjects, and the New Testament, especially the Gospels and the teacher Jesus. She was even approached by the M.O.D to carry out physic defence of Great Britain during the II World War against the Black Arts employed by the Nazis.

ii Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875, the daughter of a wealthy barrister. She became a committed worshipper in the Church of England in which she was raised, and wrote a number of books on mystics, mysticism as well as reviews, lectures and leading retreats. Her book Worship is still recommended reading in theological colleges. She died on 15th June 1941, and is remembered in the Calendar of the Church in a special collect on that day.

Written by Deborah Gaudin. Summer 2007