Last of the Summer Sun

This wonderful old photograph of Keyhaven with the boats at low tide was sent to me by Marion Sheath, a long time supporter of the website. It shows the river Beaulieu at low tide with all the sail boats at rest, the white wings of their sails furled. When we visited Buckler’s Hard and the surrounding area I looked for the precise site of Damerosehay, but was unable to locate it. Harewood House, the inspiration for Damerosehay had been knocked down and redeveloped many years before.

We took a trip on the river, on a boat we had all to ourselves in the wet grey morning and we passed many a house covered with wisteria and vines who’s gardens ran down to the river. But inland the woods hid any house that might have been. Perhaps it is as well that the house is ephemeral, a place of the spirit and imagination, where anyone can find healing and rest. The Bird in The Tree is a favourite autumnal read.

Photograph of Harewood House, Elizabeth’s spiritual retreat and the inspiration for The Eliot Trilogy.

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.

I have grown tired of rapture and love’s desire;
love is a flaming heart, and it’s flames aspire
Till they cloud the soul in the smoke of a windy fire…..

Arthur Symons

As the sun slips further down the sky and autumn begins its run through the woods, which of Elizabeth’s books do you chose for company?

 

 

 

Being Inspired

One of the many gifts that Elizabeth has bequeathed to us is the desire to make a collection of “little things” such as cousin Mary makes in The Scent of Water.

I have a collection myself, some inherited, some given as gifts, others found by browsing second hand and junk shops. They don’t live together, but have found their own niches in our home.

This little cat came from my husband’s childhood home, and is currently, like most cats , enjoying a patch of sunshine. A bronze boxing hare stands on the frame of an ink drawing of a Hare caught hiding in a Welsh cwm. An owl blinks down from a beam.

After my last post, Jana Jopson got in touch with a selection of photos and stories about her own collection, so that she could share them with other readers and collectors.

The following is taken from her email to the group:

“The collection is a work in progress, some arrive as gifts and some I find.  I imagine it will continue to evolve.  It lives in a glass-fronted bookcase on the shelf with all of my Elizabeth Goudge books and warms my heart whenever I see it.

The top shelf holds small rabbits, the smallest being made of brass and only 3/4 of an inch in length.  I appreciate rabbits of all sorts, in nature, story, and myth.

  • Second shelf includes a handmade clay squirrel (winsome and devious creatures!), a bluebird of happiness, and a sea turtle (another animal that has my admiration).
  • The bottom shelf has a figure of collie dog because I couldn’t find a Shetland Sheepdog (I’ve been companion to three), and a wild duck figure purchased for me by my father at an outdoor fair decades ago
My kindred spirit friend and I once saw a tiny coach-and-six with an elegant woman inside in a display cabinet at an antiques shop.  When we went back the next time, it was gone and we still say one of us should have purchased it.  I have had tiny tea sets but they have gone into shadow box creations rather than my tiny things collection, but I do watch for one made of blue glass.”
I wonder if we will be able to see some of her intriguing “shadow box creations” they sound wonderful.
I know very little about Elizabeth’s collection, beyond knowing that they still exist. Some pieces may have come from Guernsey where her Mother lived, like this exquisite silver writing desk, which currently belongs to the family of the late poet Anne Lewis-Smith who was Elizabeth’s neighbour in Dog Lane.
The value of any collection for me and I suspect for others who collect too, is the connections and tales the objects tell.
If you too collect and would like to share, we would love to know about your favourite “little things.”

 

 

 

 

Charms for lost Serenity

“Never have we longed for peace as we do now, when war has become an obscene horror worse than any imaginable storm, and noise and confusion so invade cities and homes that we are in danger of having our very minds and souls battered to a uniform pulp.”
( Book of Peace 1968)

So wrote Elizabeth Goudge in the preface to her collection of poetry “A Book of Peace.” published in 1968. They apply to the world we inhabit today. I had turned to my collection of Elizabeth’s anthologies, because of an email I had received about them.

There are books in any personal collection which speak to the owner and this is one of my great books. It is a 1st edition American copy, published by Coward McCann and signed by the author. The dedication is to Mary McMaster of the Community of St Luke dated February 1975. The cover is beautifully unstated, a blue background with a sunflower.

Inside was this slip offering a protection for the book on its journey from America to my bookshelf in England. It also contains a letter written to me by Sylvia Gower, the author of “The World of Elizabeth Goudge” and a photograph of Elizabeth sitting on Froinga’s well in her garden at Rose Cottage. It has thick creamy pages which appear to have been hand cut. All perfectly valid reasons for it being an important book to me. But the real and most compelling reasons are the poems it contains, the writers and poets she introduces me to and the voice of Elizabeth, gentle, lucid, speaking to me through her choices.

 

 

 

May Day

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

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

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

Castle on the Hill

My copy is a 1st edition printed in 1942, by Duckworth during the second world war, a time when paper like everything else was in short supply. Although a hard back, it has not stood the tests of time well, warping and stained along its outer leaves. The cover is slightly torn and missing a piece from the back, a “bombed” book reflecting the subject matter.

As a tale it is stark, verging in places in outright propaganda, one of the reasons it was probably published at all, as the paper shortage caused by the war was by this time acute. The metaphor is obvious, England, besieged, frightened, as embattled as the castle.

The themes of the story are huge; those of grief, loss, anger, pride, patriotism, courage. But under pinning them all is the perpetual theme of all of Elizabeth’s books, her central core, that good homes, secure homes, house families.

Elizabeth had thought and prayed a great deal about the war. She was dedicated in her research and depth of reading. She understood the political and economic situations better than most people, certainly most people in her strata of society. She empathised with the plight of refugees, the disposed, a personification of which are found in the characters of Miss Brown and Mr Isaacson.

You can still visit the castle, Berry Pomeroy in Devon, high on its crag in the woods. It is reputedly one of the most haunted places in England. Elizabeth loved it so much she moved to write one of her rare poems about the place after visiting it often.

The Castle

Hid deep in the heart of the woods, haunted and old,
The shell of a Castle stills stands, a story told,
Built high on a rock in the woods, frozen and cold.

Deep are the night-dark shadows under the wall,
Breathlessly whispering downwards the snowflakes fall,
Shrouding the desolate towers in a stainless pall.

Fearful within me my own heart, failing, has died,
I too in the woods am frozen, bereaved, sore tried.
Alone here…… There in the shadows, who was it sighed?

There, in the bastioned walls where the gateway stands,
Are there shadows within its shadows, weaving the strands
Back through the loom of past sorrow with pain worn hands?

Shadows weeping a world grown cold and stark with pain,
Mourning once more the lights put out, put out again,
The loveliness broken and lost, the young men slain.

Has sorrow alone lived here for a hundred years?
Is only hatred immortsl, men’s craven fears?
Only the weeping of women, their uesless tears?

Not winter only reigns here in this haunted place,
As the cold clouds part, defeated, the sunbeams lace
The dark trees with their diamond light, touch the worn face

Of the frozen stone with colour, with azure fire
Of spring-times long past,yet alive, the hot desire
Of summers never forgotten, hopes that aspire

For ever, courage unbeaten, valour aflame,
The unshaken victory of the men who name
Holy things to their strength…….Nor fear, nor hate nor shame

Is theirs…. I see the flashing of arms on the wall,
Hear the deep roar of the conflict, the thrilling call,
Of the silver trumpet sounding high on the tall

Towers of God’s immortal fortress, that he made
Against the evil out of the love of men laid
At his feet, their sweat, their blood to the last drop paid.

For this is the rock that for all time man defends,
The rock of his soul against which all evil spends
Its fury in vain in the warfare that never ends.

And these the embattled walls that the heroes trod,
Swift winged with flame, their feet with the gospel shod,
For this is the house of all life, the house of God.

Lift up, lift up ypur constant hearts, the trumpet cries,
Lift them up to the shining walls, the sun drenched skies,
For beyond the night for ever the sun will rise.

Elizabeth Goudge

 

 

Quality Reprints

Hodder & Stoughton have reprinted the best selling of Elizabeth Goudge’s novels, including the Eliot Triology.

Well worth a look.

 

 

Smokey House

If this had been the book that I first picked up and read by Elizabeth Goudge, I doubt I would have looked for another. Which would have been a pity, as it would have deprived me of a lifelong friend and the pleasure of all the other books she wrote.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pleasant enough read. It has plenty of vivid descriptions of the west country she so loved, evocative in the way that only Elizabeth manages to accomplish.

“A network of lovely lanes wound about the village and in and out of the round green hills. They were very beautiful. Their steep banks were cool with shining ferns and bright and fragrant with flowers; primroses and white violets, periwinkles and pink campion, foxgloves, roses and honeysuckle, with in autumn the scarlet berries of parson-in-the-pulpit and the silver froth of traveller’s joy. Nut trees arched overhead, giving grateful shade in summer weather and down the side of each lane ran a twinkling silver stream…” (Smokey House p 15)

It is a book dedicated to “Nannie” that stalwart of the Edwardian era.

“The door which shut off the nursery wing from the rest of the house made a very real dividing line between the life of the child and the adult.” (page 22 from the introduction of A Child’s Garden of Verses)

However, if you part the fronds of her words you will find hidden as the flowers in the hedgerows, glimpses of her thoughts and life.
“Because music never forgets anything. It is the voice of eternity speaking in time and it gathers the past and the present and the future all together, making past happiness eternal and pulling future happiness into the here and now.” (Smokey House p 231)

Music played an important part in Elizabeth’s life, from concerts she attended with her father to church services and carols. I would have loved to have known her Desert Island Discs.

The book is full of songs and verses, written by Elizabeth, though she never considered herself a poet, but did publish a slim volume of Songs and Verses, some of which appear in this book.

But the biggest revelation for me comes when Spot the dog goes underground to escape from the red coats.

Don’t know if Elizabeth read the Apocrypha, with her love of myth and legend, I would be surprised if she hadn’t, but

“Gentlemen, said the Squire, “The Unknown!”

if she had she would have remembered that dogs are our guardians and guides on our journey to heaven. Not scratting outside the door of paradise like the loyal little dog of Sir Murgatroyd in City of Bells, but as a helpmate, and protector.

Spots journey, (p 255 – 256) gives Elizabeth the chance to explain to us how she interpreted the worlds. It is a rare insight into the fundamentals of her belief, the creed she lived her life by. Perhaps she felt safer exposing these to non-judgemental children, more comfortable with their questions than the scepticism of her contemporaries.

It lifts a pleasant, often predictable children’s story into the realms of the esoteric, effortlessly.

A Fresh Perspective on Green Dolphin Street

This is a great article, accessible from the link below by Stephen Foote, which he wrote for the Guernsey Literary Festival to celebrate the fact that Sebastian Faulks is the headline guest in May.

It traces the connection between his novel “On Green Dolphin Street” back to Guernsey via Elizabeth Goudge’s novel.

Editors Letter March 2017

The heavenly beauty of the spring day sent her mercurial spirits soaring upwards, and she sang softly as she walked along the street, swinging her basket. The beautiful old houses about her seemed lovely as the houses in a fairy-tale…….”
(Herb of Grace p 16)

The book’s opening is fresh, vivid, all life’s possibilities lie ahead and the world is a stage set for adventure and romance An aspect of Spring we all long for at the end of a long grey winter. Sally in The Herb of Grace is the personification of all that we find attractive in youth and fresh beginnings. Our hearts go out to her.

“For Lucilla was not without hope for the future. She had lived long enough to know that the spring always comes back. Also, she knew that if it was to be a flowering spring one must make one’s preparations.”
(Herb of Grace p 64)

The book balances this with the knowledge and depth that Lucilla has found and puts into practise, when those cruel winds of March bluster around, gaining entrance from any small crack in our defences, telling the conflicting tales of spring.

The Herb of Grace is my favorite of the Eliot trilogy a book full of optimism and charm which could so easily have been the last written of the Eliots. Elizabeth always maintained that she had only produced Heart of the Family due to the pressure of fans asking for more about them.

Trouble is, I find I can never start a trilogy in the middle.

Green Dolphin Country

“Though this book is fiction, and the characters, not portraits, it is based on fact. That a man who had emigrated to the New World should after a lapse of years write home for a bride, and then get the wrong one because he had confused her name with that of her sister, may seem to the reader highly improbable; yet it happened. And in real life also the man held his tongue about his mistake and made a good job of his marriage.”

Preface to Green Dolphin Country

The book is based on the life experiences of Elizbeth’s Great Uncle William, who left the island to join the British Navy, went on shore leave at an eastern port, missed his ship after “getting into a scrape” and found a ship bound for Australia. His story is William’s in most particulars.

Elizabeth herself said she “made it New Zealand because my ignorance of Australia was, even more, total than my ignorance of New Zealand.”
(Joy of the Snow)

It took her a long time to write, a project that she took up and laid aside during the early days of the Second World War. Elizabeth and her Mother were living at that time in Marldon, a small village on the flight path to Plymouth, and endured many nights of sleepless listening as the German planes roared overhead on their way to bomb Plymouth. As the planes returned there was always the worry that they would jettison their bombs over their village.

Her Mother and Elizabeth shared a bed while this was taking place, determined to be together should the worse occur. Her Mother’s jewelry box and Elizabeth’s manuscript of Green Dolphin Country was with them.
“Perhaps, like the Egyptians of old, we subconsciously thought that what was close to our bodies in death would accompany our spirits as they entered a new life”
(Joy of the Snow)

Green Dolphin Country is arguably one of the most famous adult novels that Elizabeth wrote. It’s a blockbuster of a book and was made into a film in the 1940’s. It caused Elizabeth all sorts of problems as people wanted to visit her and the tax man became interested in her earnings for the first time.

Elizabeth always researched her work meticulously and for this epic, she found a work by F.E. Maning entitled “ Old New Zealand.” It was a chronicle of the author’s experiences in the New Zealand of the late 1800s and his relationship with the Maoris. With the benefit of the internet, I was able to find out that the character of Tai Harura is based on that of Maning himself. They both made their money from timber, both took part in the wars between the indigenous people and the settlers and both had a love-hate relationship with the Maoris. Maning was over six foot tall, had great physical presence and strength as well as a good sense of humor.He was known as a “Pakeha Maori”, the term given to white settlers who became immersed in the Maori culture, a “white Maori.”

Into the book’s opening chapters, she pours all her love for the island that was the home of her Mother’s family. It is lyrical in its descriptions describing minute details and broad vistas as only Elizabeth can. It was the last time she used Gurnsey as the setting for a novel, and she paints a vivid picture of the isolation and beauty of the place and time into which her Mother was born.

 

Modern photo of St Peter’s Port Guernsey

Elizabeth’s books always contain quotes which I like to imagine are the starting point for the moral content of her story, and Green Dolphin Country begins with one by Evelyn Underhill.

“Three deep cravings of the self, three great expressions of man’s restlessness, which only mystic truth can fully satisfy. The first is the craving which makes him a pilgrim and a wanderer. It is the longing to go out from his normal world in search of a lost home, a “better country”; an Eldorado, a Sarras, a Heavenly Syon.”

New Zealand is all these things. Even today with our ease of world travel, it is still the other side of the world, Middle Earth where Lord Of The Rings holds sway. How much more exotic and unimaginably far away it would have been in the 1940s.

 

Marianne and Marguerite

Elizabeth, always a homebody, would shortly be making her own way in the world, and unknown to herself was at this time forging the tools to do so.

It was the springboard that gave her the recognition and financial space to become a professional writer. At first, it all seemed unlikely, as she was told that the book was too long, and with the war on there was just not enough paper to justify printing it. But thanks to an American Publisher, it was sent in as a candidate for a Metro Goldwyn Mayer film prize and won. The film sadly does not live up to the book but is a better rendition of the story than the film version of The little White Horse.

As Elizabeth, so often does she uses the local legends to give depth to her characters, such as the footprints of the Abbess in the “bay of fairies.” She uses her family home as the home of the Le Patourels, in Le Paradis, “built high up in the rock citadel of St-Pierre.”

The book deals with the themes of class, the upper-class Patourels and the “trade” Ozannes. The material wealth that one has and the noble calling of the doctor. Yet another doctor who has chosen his work over the love of his life, this time in the person of Dr. Ozanne. The same device which was used in “Bird in the Tree.” Are these echoes of a love that Elizabeth once knew? Was there an unsuitable boy who went away to study to become a Doctor, who promised to return but didn’t?

The book charts the growth of the inner as well as the outer life, the person who stays at home and the one who goes as far from the cradle of her birth as is possible. Yet who changes the most and where and when it takes place is unexpected.
“ They were alike only in their mutual realisation that whatever one expects to feel in this life one will probably feel the opposite.”
(Green Dolphin Country p481)

Moving from one set of small islands to another, both isolated from the changing modern world that was rapidly developing, it is a tale of adventure, both of the natural world and the inner world of the spirit.