Personal Memories

Personal Memories

I am an ardent fan of the writings of Miss Goudge and owe her much in the way of the joy it has given me to read her books.  I have collected many (though not all)  of her books, and I have read them over and over since I was a young girl in the 60’s I am English by ancestry, and I love the way Miss Goudge describes the England of long ago.

Unfortunately a short trip to London in ’88 did not allow me to explore those places in her books  to see if they were how I pictured them.  One of these days I want to travel to Pembrokeshire to see Roch Castle, and St. David’s in Wales. My favourite book is Child from the Sea, and I would like to believe that Lucy was not the amoral creature her attackers have portrayed in other publications. I find it very interesting that Diana, Princess of Wales, has a connection to Lucy through common ancestors.  Maybe royal people named Charles just can’t be trusted! The very first time I was reading Child from the Sea, I was with a boyfriend who I just discovered was unfaithful, and I was reading the part where Lucy  “realized that Charles had been unfaithful to her, and that Anne was cruel to tell her so”  and I cried more for Lucy’s hurt than for mine. Every time I read that book I hope things will turn out differently (I know, of course it doesn’t)

Another favourite book I love is the Scent of Water, which was the first book Goudge book I read, and it has always remained so magical for me. I ,too,  have a collection of “little (precious) things”  largely due to the idea in the book of having beautiful tiny precious objects.  I will be leaving them to nieces someday. t has disturbed me to read criticisms of Elizabeth Goudge’s work.  I think she was a wonderful writer, and  she had a way of making the surroundings and events in her stories so real that they became real in my mind, and also she was dead-on in her descriptions of  human issues and feelings, which, of course, are not  bound to the confines of a book.

Her books had beautiful truth in them, which is why I read them over and over. I also love The White Witch, for a different view of the Civil War. I am so glad Miss Goudge lived at Froniga’s house. I would love to visit it someday, and see if the village and surroundings have any of the same feel today as in the story.  The Dean’s Watch, City of Bells, Green Dolphin Street, and Pilgrim’s Inn are also wonderful stories. Thank goodness there are people born to be writers like Elizabeth Goudge. I am sad she is gone and hope that her books continue to be read and appreciated.

Mary Caddell

Diary of Prayer

From Tangled Thoughts to Tranquillity

Twisted Boughs

One of my constant companions, a book that I dip into almost daily, is Elizabeth Goudge’s Diary of Prayer. Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1966 it is set out in diary form with a prayer or two for each day of the year. The prayers are taken from different faiths and pertain roughly to the Church’s calendar, although as Christmas is the only static festival of the Christian year they do not always correspond to the relevant date, this does not detract from the anthology in any way.

People sent Elizabeth prayers and poems knowing that they would always delight her. One person, a lady called Adelaide Makower, sent her all the Jewish prayers that she uses and Elizabeth also credits her with sending or finding others for her too. The whole anthology took many years to put together, and there is no doubt that Elizabeth used them on a daily basis herself. They were not collected with the intention of being put together as a book at first, but to help Elizabeth learn to pray in an organised and methodical manner. One of the Jewish prayers that speaks to me in particular is the entry for September 3rd which starts “Though our mouths were full of song as the sea, our tongues of exultation as the fullness of its waves,”

Each “chapter” or month starts with a verse that sets the tone. For example, April’s begins with a poem by the Welsh writer David of Gwylym. In it the poet is describing the dawn chorus in a cwm in Wales and attributing clerical roles for all the birds he can hear. “The Chief Priest was the nightingale: the lark and thrush assisted him: and some small bird (I do not weet his name) acted as Clerk.” Both Elizabeth and her Father were enthusiastic Ornithologists so the poem appeals directly to her as it is full of detail about birds, their calls and habits.

April is also the month most likely to contain the celebration of Easter, so the poem is echoing the most important Mass of the Christian Year. In fact the year the Diary was put together, Easter fell on April 1st.

The depth of Elizabeth’s reading is obvious throughout the work; she doesn’t use the trite or overworked. David of Gwylym was a 14th century medieval poet little known outside of Wales. Maybe she discovered him through Jessie who had extensive Welsh connections. She transposed this love for obscure writers to Hilary in the Eliots; he you will remember was always being accused of quoting from them at the slightest provocation.

There are sections for various afflictions and all conditions of humanity, as in June’s section for the poor, and homeless, the refugees, the lonely and the unemployed. Refugees from the Second World War were a common sight in the London of the 40’s and 50’s and later on in that decade the migration of thousands of Commonwealth immigrants occurred. June’s entries portray the range of faiths that Elizabeth used to touch the heart of the matter; from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali No X

“Here is Thy footstool and there rest Thy feet where live the poorest, the lowliest, and the lost.”

to Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury’s

“O God, the Father of the forsaken, the Help of the weak, the Supplier of the needy, who teachest us that love towards the race of man is the bond of perfection….”

Elizabeth had a vast compassion for the dispossessed, born perhaps out of her deep love and connection to place. Maybe it was akin to her secret fear of the shapeless darkness that waited for her in her depression, that fear of becoming nothing. She kept the extent of her charity private, but it was large, personal and at times took intensely practical forms, such as continuing to pay past employees when they retired.

Elizabeth quotes extensively in all her works, which adds another dimension to her writing. I’m always being sent off on literary adventures, discovering writers and poets that have helped to enrich my life. One of my favourite finds from this book was”The Prayers from the Ark “by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold, a poet and Benedictine nun who lived at the Abbaye Saint Louis de Temple at Limon-par-Igny, France. Most of the prayers/poems had been written during the war when she was forced to do uncongenial work in the laboratory of a silk factory near Paris. This took place under the Nazi occupation, when life was hard, cruel and she was often cold and hungry. She takes the animals and our attitude towards them and turns it around so that we can learn from them the virtues of their strengths of patience, hard work, and the putting to use of talents and abilities to the greater good.

The Bee

Lord,
I am not one to despise your gifts,
May you be blessed
who spread the riches of your sweetness
for my zeal………..
let my small span of ardent life
melt into our great communal task;
to lift up to your glory
this temple of sweetness,
a citadel of incense,
a holy candle myriad-celled,
moulded to your graces
and of the hidden work.

The book is dedicated to Sonia Harwood, and her son Andrew Harwood explained the reasons behind this.

“My mother so liked Elizabeth’s book “The White Witch” that, in January 1960, she wrote congratulating her and enquiring about the location of the cottage featured therein. Elizabeth replied on January 28th stating that she actually lived in the cottage! From this small beginning a regular swapping of correspondence was started, and eventually the shy Elizabeth said she would like them to talk on the phone and so they did in 1965. Finally Elizabeth decided she wanted to meet my mother in person and so in 1967 she travelled up to Rose Cottage. Their friendship flourished and they would meet in the spring and autumn of each year.

 

In one of her letters Elizabeth said she wanted to dedicate a book to my mother and offered her a choice of two – “Linnets and Valerians” or “An Anthology of Prayer”- she chose what turned out to be called “A Diary of Prayer”. But when the “Linnets and Valerians” was published Elizabeth sent my mother a copy inscribed as follows -“Dear Sonia, This is the book that would have been dedicated to you had you not preferred to wait for the prayer anthology, and so its half yours. Love and best wishes from Elizabeth Goudge”

Elizabeth strikes me as being the sort of person who needed to make the best of each moment of her day, especially in the important task of prayer. Setting out the prayers in a structured manner, gave her a focus and helped to resolve her tangled thoughts into tranquillity. Whatever the reason for the book’s conception, this collection was undoubtedly put together by someone who loved poetry and the way that words can be made to sing on the page.

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Deborah Gaudin

With thanks to Andrew Harwood.

Goudge Elizabeth 1966 Dairy of Prayer Hodder & Stoughton
Carmen Bernos De Gasztold 1963 The Prayers from the Ark MacMillan & Co

 

Dream Team

Dream Team
A Japanese perspective on a Elizabeth Goudge classic

I’d like to make a comment regarding the article “Dream Team” for a remake of Little White Horse.  What I would like to see is an animated version.  Not Disney, or any of the other American animators, but the best of the Japanese studios Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli.

One only has to look at his work on Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away to see that he is at home in the world of fantasy and magic. The artwork of his films is always superb, and would be able to do justice to the descriptions penned by Elizabeth Goudge.  He would be able to handle the characters of Maria and Robin without making them too saccharin (unlike Disney) and would be highly unlikely to turn Robin into a bandit.

Wiggins would probably end up being a bit of a comedic character, but then he is in the book anyways. The Little White Horse is probably the only Goudge book that would be suitable as an animation. The live action versions that have been produced so far have been horrible, so why not try something different?

Fiona Williams

 

 

 

Voices from the Ether

A chance to hear Elizabeth speak about her home in Hampshire

I have recently discovered your Elizabeth Goudge website and thought I ought to add my ‘pen’orth’.

I first met Elizabeth and Jessie in 1957 when Elizabeth Goudge invited me to Rose Cottage. I had come across her books as a teenager and admired the intricate webs she wove, all loose ends so propitiously tied up at the end, and the strong Christian moral basis albeit somewhat mystical to most of her fiction and non-fiction.

I got to know her as an impecunious student in London who applied to the World University Service for a tide over grant, and when trying to repay what I thought was a loan they told me that the donor did not wish to be repaid. I nagged them till they revealed the donor’s name, and yes you guessed it

I wrote to thank her, and there followed many years of friendship, many visits to Rose Cottage, later with my wife Sally and four boys. She and Jessie gave us much support when our second son Richard contracted Leukaemia and died aged 8 in 1976, we have never forgotten their concern. She put us in touch with Sister Mary Agnes of the Poor Clare’s Order, who became our spiritual mentor. Jessie insisted we use her cottage ‘Bryn Alban’ in Pembrokeshire several times as it “would do Richard good”. So, you see, Elizabeth Goudge was not just a unique literary figure (a genius I would say) but a deeply caring and practical friend.

She told my boys stories of her years in Oxford to prepare our eldest son David just before he went up to Lincoln College.  She showed us her treasured ‘little things’ in the display case which featured in one of her books, I can’t recall which one.  We were treated to exquisite teas at Rose Cottage, the damson cheese being a speciality, and sat on the sofa stroking Tikki or Froda (I am a bit hazy about the dogs now). The well in her garden and the many herbs grown by Jessie were a source of more stories (The White Witch?), I just wish I could remember them. We visited when she was bed bound and still found her cheerful and welcoming and full of faith. I have a recording of Elizabeth Goudge and Jessie being interviewed for a BBC programme, and somewhere I am sure we have some photos, I must dig them out. I also have many of her autographed books and a splendid photo of Elizabeth Goudge in pride-of-place on our bookshelf. It has been a privilege having the friendship of these two lovely women

My granddaughters are avidly borrowing her books and boasting in school that their family were friends with the author, their favourites – Henrietta’s House and the Little White Horse.

Peter.

City of Bells

When Elizabeth embarked on this book, Britain was a place on the edge of darkness. War was bubbling under the surface of an old establishment Britain. The government announced that it would triple the size of the R. A. F. The first steel rolled out of the Corby mills and Britain protested on an international level over Germany’s introduction of conscription.

It was a country of new ideas and a change in government, Stanley Baldwin was elected as the head of a national government, still led by the Conservatives but with a reduced majority, and Clement Atley became the leader of the Labour party. Robert Watson-Watt demonstrated the use of radar, an invention that would play a large part in the War to come,

We have no way of knowing how much of this Elizabeth assimilated, although her father Henry must have been a socialist at heart, with his liberal values and interest in the conditions of the working man.

But in the face of change Elizabeth did what she always did and retreated into an unthreatening past. She set her new novel in the small city of Wells in Somerset amid the blue Mendip hills during the opening of the Edwardian age. It was the same era that Elizabeth had grown up in, passing her formative years in the cathedral close, in a secure and privileged background.

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The story opens with Jocelyn going to visit his Grandparents after fighting in the Boer War. He has returned damaged in body, mind and spirit, rudderless until he is washed up on the steps of the empty shop in the market square. His journey and the relationships he forms in this quiet little city shape the rest of his life.

The pivotal point of the book takes place at Christmas and gives us some wonderful insights into the way Elizabeth spent her own Christmas and the way she felt about this festival.

Jocelyn has been living in the market house, which he turns into a bookshop, for some months. During the clear out he has come across the manuscript of a poem/play that the previous occupant had written then discarded. As he begins to piece it together he becomes aware that it “was amazingly beautiful poetry, but though the plot was mapped out to the end, the actual writing was only a little more than half finished” (Goudge p 169)

The poet’s name is Ferranti, a friend of Jocelyn’s grandfather until he disappears one night. Jocelyn feels a strange connection with this unknown poet, who is going through a period of self-doubt and worth much as Jocelyn is. He is compelled to wrestle with the same problems and decides that the work is of such merit that it deserves to be completed. The problems of finishing someone else’s work are finally overcome and he finishes on Christmas Eve. He has promised to read the story to Henrietta and the family and Christmas morning sets off to do so, gloomy with the prospect of a boring day.
From here the story takes off, leaving for a while the idyll of Wells and journeying into the “real” world, the mean streets of London with their evil-smelling gas lighting up only poverty and hopelessness.

We also glean information about how Elizabeth herself viewed Christmas. Like Jocelyn, she was invariably gloomy about the whole charade.
“I have a very gloomy friend who continually remarks a quotation from Homer I think “My friends, even this will pass and I am afraid I feel that way about Christmas.” She once wrote to a very good friend

“For years Christmas day had been for him a day when one ate too much so as not to disappoint cook, stifled a great many yawns and made a lot of silly jokes to hide an inner sadness that was both a lament for romance and belief that had faded and a vague sense of unsatisfied expectations”
(Goudge City of Bells p171 )

Not the sort of remark you expected her to make. But of cause, she was referring the material layer of the season not the reason or ritual of it.

Elizabeth did see the “starlit sky full of wings and a manger with a baby in it….”
(Goudge City of Bells p171) She still also loved the small fairy tales and customs of the day, such as the stirring of the Christmas pudding and the wishes that were made, the leaping flames when it was set alight the manifestation that they would be granted, Father Christmas bringing the “noble” turkey on his sledge, and the gathering around the fire to listen to stories.

Jocelyn meditates much as Elizabeth must at some time have done on the fact that if people who were far superior to them in intelligence and intellect could believe in the gift of God then they would be stupid to dismiss it. This is the start of his journey, the “toys of religion” put aside for a more considered approach.

Did the deepening of Elizabeth’s faith start as a child with the beauty and pageantry of Christmas in the cathedral? It must have influenced her.

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I was watching a fascinating programme called “How To Build a Cathedral” back in June and one of the cathedrals featured was Wells. During the Middle Ages, the statues on the west front of the cathedral came to life on special days and sang to the people, made possible by secret galleries which connected them and were accessible to the choir. I find it strange that Elizabeth didn’t know this. What a wonderful image. For a few brief moments, architecture, sculpture and a kind of sacred theatre fused, and this small cathedral in the English West Country became Jerusalem itself. The Reformation of the church would have discontinued all such practices, as smacking of idolatry and popish artefacts. But it seems to have been totally airbrushed out of the Edwardian times when Elizabeth and her family lived there.

It is an image that Elizabeth would surely have woven into her story if she had known about it. She writes in loving detail about the commemoration of Wells patron saint and benefactors and All Saints’ Day, “when the choir at evensong sang “Who are whose like stars appearing?” and the figures on the west front surely swelled a little to find themselves so appreciated.” (Goudge p 141/142). A perfect opportunity to allude to the statues singing.

Henrietta often wishes that the statues could laugh and talk, and it is the practicable Hugh Anthony that reminds her they are made of stone.

For Elizabeth, this very special birthday was always the start of her religious year, marking it out, reaffirming her faith as Christ was reborn. She wrote to the same friend,  “As I am writing I send my Christmas card for you and Jay. Frank (the American boy) took it when he was in the Holy Land with Freddy last April, and I loved it so much that I borrowed the negative from him and had some copies enlarged and mounted. The Garden of Gethsemane is over the wall to the left (the trees are growing in the garden) and as Frank was just going to take the photo a shepherd came by leading his sheep. It doesn’t look as though the scene had changed much in 2000 years does it?”

This was the gift Elizabeth possessed, the art of bringing into people’s lives something incredible that happen 2000 years ago and making it relevant and meaningful today.

 

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The Spirituality of Elizabeth Goudge

The Spirituality of Elizabeth Goudge
By Elspeth Parris, who wrote it as part of a ‘certificate in theology’ course at St Michael’s College, Cardiff. She says of the piece; “my last module was on spirituality. We were asked to write about someone who had inspired our own spirituality – the assumption was that we would choose one of the spiritual ‘greats’ such as Augustine, St John of the Cross or St Julian of Norwich. I chose to write about Elizabeth Goudge because she has been such a strong influence in my own life.    Summer2012

The principal of embedding spiritual guidance within fiction is a very old one: the books of Job and Ruth for instance appear not to be recounting facts but telling stories which suggest to us how we should be relating to God. We tend however to look for our spiritual guidance to the great writers of the church, and they tend to embed their spirituality into their theology or into accounts of their lives which were usually monastic. The spirituality of Augustine, St John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich or Brother Lawrence can all be hard to read to many people today, with language which is archaic, embedded within lifestyles far from our own or utilising theological concepts which many don’t understand.

We have modern examples of authors who express their Christian understanding in fiction: recently, the Shack expressed a particular understanding of the Trinity and the Atonement and, being fiction, was able to reach an enormous audience which a theological tome would have missed; C.S. Lewis wrote many books of Christian apologetics but he also wrote the Narnia stories which are still popular with children today, and in those stories he embeds concepts of Christianity which, written as a textbook, would be rejected by many of the same children. One of the great authors who expressed her spirituality in fiction was Elizabeth Goudge and her writing was one of the factors which led me, eventually, to become Christian, and still has an influence on the style of my Christianity today.

Elizabeth Goudge was born in 1900 in Wells, Somerset. Her father was an Anglican priest and principal of the Theological College and they lived in the “liberty” of the Cathedral. In 1911, Elizabeth’s family moved to Ely where her father became principal of the Theological college there and a canon of the Cathedral. When she was 23, they moved again, to Oxford where her father became Regius Professor of Divinity and they were provided with a house in the University. Because her mother found Oxford too busy and noisy they found a bungalow at Barton in Hampshire where her mother could live for most of the year. She had an education suited to the life of a gentlewoman but the world was changing and she was going to need to earn her living.

When Elizabeth finished school it was unclear what she was going to do, there was a deficit of young men after the war and marriage was only an option for those who were outstandingly attractive, which Elizabeth wasn’t, either in looks or social graces. She would have liked to be an actress but she had a stammer and was shy and nervous, since she wasn’t sufficiently educated to become a teacher that left only nursing and for that her health was too poor. It was decided that she should go to art college to study crafts and could then find a post teaching disabled children. She seems to have enjoyed the crafts and did set up a studio in the house in Ely where she had a few students but no employment resulted and even the home teaching failed when the family moved to Oxford where the house was too dark for the work and students were sadly lacking.

It was after her mother had gone to live for most of the year in Barton that Elizabeth, on her visits there, started to write. Her first book was published in 1934 and she eventually became a success when, in 1947, Green Dolphin Country was accepted by a film company. By that time her father had died and she was effectively the sole supporter of herself and her mother until her mother’s death. She and her mother had settled in Devon but after her mother’s death she moved to rural Oxfordshire, where she lived with a close companion until her death in 1984.

Elizabeth never kept her faith separate from her writing. Her characters faith (or sometimes lack of it) was always an important part of the workings of the plot. More than that, her own deep spirituality shows through in the many lyrical passages describing the places and people among whom her plot operates. Her characters work their way through often difficult circumstances, always in the end to be redeemed by love, and often by faith. This matches with the faith she describes in her autobiography, where she describes hell as being an experience we have here on earth and redemption as an experience we can know in our daily lives.

The biggest influence on Elizabeth’s spiritual development was clearly her father; luckily he published books so knowledge of the nature of that influence is not limited to her own description. He had rebelled against his own Anglican Evangelical upbringing and appears to have developed a tendency toward the Oxford Movement.

The best picture of her father’s attitudes is given from Elizabeth’s autobiography where she quotes a friend’s description of her father “He was a fast, light walker but he had slowed his steps to match those of the old tramp walking beside him. They were deep in conversation and my father was carrying the tramp’s bundle. They were on their way to our house so that my father might get the old man a meal.” In a domestic setting, her parents had always brought her up to be aware of the needs of the poor, taking toys to poor children when she was young and joining her father on parish visiting during the war when the theological college was closed and he was taking on the work of the various priests who had gone to be army chaplains.

There was a period when Elizabeth’s faith failed her, her mother’s constant ill health had shaken it, when she became ill herself she simply could not believe that a loving God would permit such suffering. As a result, she concluded that God could not really be Almighty; she could “love a God who was weak” and who wanted to prevent suffering but was unable to do so. This led her to the realisation of a God who suffered with us through the life and death of Jesus.

Among authors she mentions who have contributed to her spiritual journey are C.S. Lewis, who was contemporaneous and who she clearly looked up to, Teillard Chardin and Tomas Traherne. There is also evidence from her fiction that she had read Brother Lawrence, St John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich.

Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955) was very aware humanity was being split in two by the need to turn to God and move forward with the world. There was at the time (and still is in some circles) a perceived conflict between science and religion, since science underpins the technology, that even more since his time, we rely on in our everyday lives, this apparent conflict presents our faith with a real dilemma. Do we, in general, believe every word of the Bible to be true, even when it contradicts science? Do we, in particular, believe the Creation story in Genesis, or the evolutionary story from modern Biology? Teillard de Chardin looked for a resolution of the problem producing a theology which enabled religion and science to be reconciled in Christ. For him, “the cross is no longer a sign simply of expiation, but the symbol of growth and progress accomplished in pain and through suffering.” We are to follow Christ, in the World. This seems to fit quite naturally with Brother Lawrence’s depiction of living all our daily activities from within our loving relationship with God.

De Chardin’s influence is very clear in Goudge’s work, her work is very much of the world, her characters are ordinary people, not monks or nuns and their concerns are the ordinary daily concerns that any of us might have, their work, their family, their marriage, their house. She is following Christ in the world by imagining how each of these people can change under the influence of a love which lives in Christ.

Tomas (or Thomas) Traherne (1637 – 1674) was an Anglican priest whose work seems not to have received much attention until 1908 when his Centuries of Meditation was discovered and published. Many of his works were then re-published in the 1960s and it is these that Goudge is likely to have read. Although the Anglican Church was much influenced by Calvinism in his own time he himself is deeply optimistic of man’s redemption. He sees mankind as being in need of restoration to spiritual wholeness. He is clearly influenced by Augustine who perceived sinful humanity as suffering from a “spiritual sickness” which needed to be healed. Goudge’s books all show her characters as suffering from a spiritual sickness which results in disruption to their ability to relate to God and man, the redemption they receive is a healing of that sickness.

What Elizabeth Goudge has in common with C.S. Lewis is her capacity for observation of the quirks and oddities of humanity, an observation seen through a love of man which is inspired by her love of God. C.S.Lewis once observed that next to the Eucharist our neighbour was the most holy thing we should ever encounter. That is precisely how she treats the characters in her books, they are examples of all the ordinary people she has met, all the ordinary people her reader has met  and she loves them all, with all their faults and weaknesses. The difference between these two authors is that, while Lewis’ characters are often redeemed at their death, Goudge’s characters are always redeemed in their lives. Individuals are healed, marriages are renewed, conflicts are resolved, communities are healed and all by a love which is deeply rooted in faith. Such sweetness might seem unlikely, books which always have a happy ending can be facile, and might be expected to be cheap romances, but these happy endings can be bitter. Joy can be found in watching the renewal of a marriage which permanently denies the love of the central heroine of the book, or the re-instatement within the community of a family where the husband will spend years in prison for a fraud just discovered, or a young man wander off into a series of dead-end jobs with no future and no home. And yet the circumstances of each of these people has been so filled with love that their lives are changed. They have found the ability to forgive themselves and others, they have made a new beginning to the relationships which are most important to them and which were, previously damaged. Where Lewis warns us, in Screwtape, of the small evils to which we can so easily fall prey in our ordinary, daily lives; Goudge shows us how to create goodness and fill the lives around us with love.

 

“..her endearing capacity to [empathise] with others and to find the comic in the darkest of situations helped her through. “This is the wonderful light she shed in her books, her characters finding salvation and redemption through living for the greater good, of friends and family, rather than selfishly for themselves.

Themes in her work

Overall, her theme is Redemption, how it can actually work in our lives, change us, heal us. There are a number of themes relating to how people act in her books, not in order to receive redemption since that is in the hands of God, but to align themselves with God so that they can be redeemed by him.

Adherence

In her biography Goudge talks about adherence as a vital Christian quality:

“To love God subtly alters a human being. If the simile is not too homely the lover of God has glue in his veins and tends to be more adherent than other men, The more he loves God the more, for God’s sake, he sticks to his woman, his job or his faith.”

This is a quality she often demonstrates in her books. In Green Dolphin Country a man, long exiled from his home country, writes home to ask if the woman he had loved ten years before would join him in his exile. To his delight she agrees, but when she arrives, he has given the name of the wrong sister. The situation echoes the story of Jacob but there is no option to wait to have the right sister as well. He has to choose, there and then as he meets her from the boat. Overwhelmed by pity, he feels that he can’t send her home shamed and unwanted after her long journey. The marriage which results comes to be filled with hatred: his for her; her for his friends and his lifestyle. She loves him, as she understands love, but her understanding of love is faulty: she thinks that in loving him she is to be ambitious for him, to make him change to become an aristocrat of the new country. He, however, is happy with his life as a working man, he has built a nice cottage with a garden and has a sufficient income to keep himself, his wife and any children there might be. His mistake in asking in marriage the wrong sister is his only regret. He has only a vague belief in God but respect for the parson and it is the parson who convinces him to live his life in the memory of that moment when he met his wife from the boat. He gets his drinking under control by himself, and learns the humility of allowing his wife to think it is her scolding which has achieved it although it is her scolding which makes him want to drink. He lives his life as an act of obedience to his own choice and thus he is able to adhere to his marriage and while love for some time is only a pretence in time, it becomes real. In the end, it is his love for her which rescues her when her false belief structure, based on pride and self-importance collapses around her. Again, love redeems.

Obedience, humility and trust in God.

In her biography, Goudge reveals her nervousness, her lack of social graces, her fear of new people. These qualities she built into the character of Jean Anderson in The Scent of Water. Here she demonstrates how, by giving up her troubles in obedience to, and trust in God she is able to overcome her fear:

 

“She had stopped struggling, her hands sticky with fear and anxiety, and taking her shoes right off had turned back with blind trust to the beginning again, to the beginning of the action of obedience that always had a wholesome sweetness in it, though it was hard, a foretaste of the end with its humble thankfulness. After that the knots had come out of the laces quite easily, she had put on her hat and gone. The fear had gone with her of course, but it had become bearable. And now look how easy it had all been and how he had helped her.”

(my emphasis, it is clear in the context that it is God she means by “he”)

God as seen in nature

This is a very basic element of Goudge’s spirituality, not just every book, but probably every chapter, possibly every page of every book gives examples of the way she sees God in the natural world around her:

“It was in a world of sunshine and birdsong that I had my first conviction of sin. ..It overwhelmed me. I know the exact spot on a field path where I first knew the vileness of sin in myself; and can recapture the misery I felt because it has been repeated so many times since. .A little later I was alone in the garden, at a spot where hyacinths and deep red wallflowers were in bloom against a grey stone wall, and God revealed himself in a shining world.”

When, in Green Dolphin Country, Marguerite’s whole personality seems to be disintegrating in response to the distresses and traumas of her life, she loses everything of herself that matters to her, that provides her sense of identity:

Except one thing. It had only been at the blackest hour of that dark night that she had ceased to believe that God is. When he had given back to her night and morning, birdsong and the scent of the earth, she had believed in Him again; with no joy, no adoration, just a blind reliance upon the fact of Him, that same blind reliance that was hers when she got out of bed in the morning and knew that some solid surface would support her feet. That was all. For the rest, her own life and the universe seemed just a tumbling chaos.”

God as seen in “the other”.

This is discussed in comparison with C.S. Lewis above as is her tendency to see Redemption as an event which can occur during our lives rather than something to await after death.

A presentation for the Mother’s Union in Merthyr Tydfil on the  Spiritual Aspects of the writings of Elizabeth Goudge.

Preparing this presentation, I wanted to demonstrate that this is “easy reading”. Elizabeth Goudge presents her spirituality in a format which does not require the ability to read heavy tomes of theological musings in archaic language. As a result, it is more

accessible to people who think of themselves as being “not academic, or intellectual”.

What the reader is reading about is the story of a man, woman or child as they encounter whatever set of circumstances makes up the plot of the book. The spirituality of Goudge’s Christian faith is absorbed along the way as easily as the vitamin C included in a glass of fruit juice it’s simply an integral part of some very fine fiction writing.

There is a problem with availability of the books themselves, although some of them are in print, they are not usually stocked in bookshops; there may be many of them in the library, but they’re not kept on the shelves. I have suggested to our Rector that we could provide a “parish library” by each of us putting some books out that members of the congregation could borrow. If we do that, then I am happy to put my own books there and could include all my Elizabeth Goudge books at the time of this talk.

A further option is that the local library may be willing to co-operate by getting all their Goudge books out of storage and making a display of them timed with my talk. The library is next door to the church so this could work well. Advertising the talk in the library could draw in people who don’t normally come to the church. Having recently been to a diocesan training session on “parishes and the media”, I realise that such a cooperative event could also make a good newspaper article, which could again draw in people who wouldn’t normally come to church. Offering such a talk in a way which operates as mission as well as an opportunity to enable people to deepen their spirituality appeals to me.

I wanted to give a general “feel” of what her books are like. Why I consider them to be both a “good read” and spiritually uplifting. I notice that this descriptive paragraph which I wrote as part of the presentation is written in a style reminiscent of Goudge herself:

 

There is a sort of “light” in all of Elizabeth Goudge’s books, it’s like the light of a sunny day just before the sun has properly risen. A light that catches on dew drops on the roses or icicles hanging from the gutters; a light that shines into people’s lives, a light that can shine into the dark places of the reader’s life.

I picked out one book in particular to give a flavour of what the writing is like and used “The Scent of Water” for this purpose. I gave a brief summary of the plot, illustrated by some quoted passages demonstrating how her characters come to be redeemed from hatred, fear, and pain by love, faith and obedience to God.

A love which holds the whole community together to rest safe in God’s hands. Along the way, and through Cousin Mary’s diary, Jean’s fear, the humility of the elderly couple, the striving of the blind author, the despair of a young man “up to no good” and the disaster of the squire’s business enterprises the reader is carried within the safety which is achieved by obedience to, and trust in, God to a glory of redemption achieved in their ordinary lives rather than in some hard to imagine heaven.

It was while preparing the presentation that I realised the usefulness of a comparison with C.S.Lewis. They had in many ways a similar attitude which makes the comparison of their differences easy to understand illuminating both authors. An additional advantage is that while modern readers may not have heard of Elizabeth Goudge, most people have heard of C.S.Lewis, even if only as the author of the Narnia stories which are still very popular.

This comparison really helped me to bring out the compassionate interest Goudge has in the little problems of people’s lives. Most of us are unlikely to have to face major ethical issues more than once or twice in our lives, but little ethical problems face us every day. For both authors, how we react to those problems is the stuff of which Christian living is made, but they treat the issue very differently in their books.

The difference between them is that Goudge looks upon those small evils with eyes that know redemption, not just as being saved after our death but as a great power that changes our lives for the better; knew it, because had changed her own life over and over again in her times of despair and her experience of depression.

I considered including prayers which reflect Goudge’s spirituality but decided that if I want this to appeal to members of the general public, not just members of the Church then I might be better to limit this to the prayer from Tomos Traherne with which she finished her autobiography. I am aware that many people are attracted to spirituality without being comfortable with Christian prayer. Goudge’s books include many references to Christianity but, held within the context of the story, and recognising that she emphasis the importance of the love and compassion felt by those characters who are not Christian I feel that her books would be attractive, and have something to offer even to non-Christians. I consider that satisfying the longing among non-Christians for spirituality is an important part of mission so I don’t want to put such people off with a lot of Christian prayer.

I am aware that many people can’t cope with listening to someone talk for 20 minutes which is the length of time this presentation would take. I need to break it up somehow. Our parish has applied for funding for a projector to operate from a lap-top. That would enable me to add some relevant images and music to give breaks in the talking. Appropriate images would be of scenes from nature, scenes of country life and scenes of people in very ordinary situations. If we have obtained the projector by the time the presentation is to be given then that would be very helpful. It would make the presentation longer, but easier for people to remain attentive.

Theological Reflection on Quotes from Goudge

From her autobiography  The Joy of the Snow:

If our own small intuition, upheld by the experience of the saints and the mystics of all religions through all the centuries, persists in murmuring that God exists then there is nothing left for us except the humble acceptance of paradox and mystery. If it is true that God is Almighty, it is also true that he needs us, since he chose that his son should be true man as well as true God, by this choice making Christ and man inseparable. Apart from Christ we have no life; we are merely a dead leaf fallen from the tree. Apart from us he has no body in the world, no hands and no feet and heart and voice to bring God’s mercy to a suffering world.

God and the suffering caused by sin are inseparably united, and will be so until sin ends. The mind boggles but there is enormous comfort here. For one thing it is hard to doubt the love of a God who is ready to suffer and die for us. For another thing, when we suffer we must be as close to God as we are to the pain.” (p 202)

And so having let go of the horror of eternal punishment what do I think about hell now? I believe that in the old sense of the word there is no hell, but that we can use the word in a new way. We can say that all that is contrary to the will of God is dreadful enough to be called hell, in the sense in which most people still use the word. Those who know what it is like to be in such darkness of mind that they feel God has forsaken them think they know what hell is. Those who have been in concentration camps, and have had the whole power of evil concentrated upon them, and those who have endured pain so bad that it is practically beyond human endurance say “it was hell”. And they are right, since these things are contrary to the will of God and their origin is not in his creative love. In Christ though, God allowed himself to experience the hell we live in and thus can redeem us. (P. 264/5)

In the early twentieth century Christian thinking was reacting rather than striking out in new directions. The Enlightenment of the 18th century was still very much an issue, putting God at a distance as if he had done his work and gone. This had arisen from the new scientific way of thinking and the issues of science, as if in conflict with religion was still very much alive too. And then two major wars, and the horrors of the trenches and the concentration camps had a theological effect. How, people were asking, could a loving God allow these horrors to happen? Writers even began to question if God was still alive. At the same time, the divergence between the Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement within Anglicanism was producing big questions about the Atonement, and the nature of hell. Does the penal substitution theory favoured by the Evangelicals deny God’s love for all mankind that the Oxford Movement priests were enthusiastically preaching to the people of the slums? The quotes I have chosen from Goudge’s biography show where she stands on these issues.

Goudge had come to the point of deciding that hell, as she had previously understood it, did not exist after pondering the possibility that if God existed at all, then he could not be Almighty. While her father quashed that idea she was in fact toying with ideas which many had considered. She resolved that by concluding, as others had before her, that the problem of suffering is resolved by free will, permitting him only to persuade us rather than over-ride our will as suggested by Whitehead. The issue of God’s attitude to our suffering becomes vastly importance when considering the concept of hell. There are still arguments against the penal substitution theory because it implies a willingness of God to permit, indeed, engineer, human suffering. Although these are modern arguments, the concept develops naturally for someone who has almost discarded God himself in her unwillingness to accept his apparent tolerance of our pain. And so, rather than discarding God, or the concept of his power, she came to the conclusion of a God who suffers with us, and in particular, who suffers with us through the life and death of Jesus. Here she seems to be following Barth:

 

For Barth, the notion of the omnipotence of God must always be understood in the light of Gods self-revelation in Christ. [which leads to a] belief in the triumph of Gods grace over unbelief, evil and suffering.

 

So, having discarded Hell, she began to think about what “hell” might be. Again, she seems to have come to the same conclusion as Barth in this, and may indeed have been reading his work. His concept of “nothingness” refers to anything which God did not will in creation, anything which goes against God.

Why Elizabeth Goudge is important to my own spirituality.

I started reading Elizabeth Goudge long before I became a Christian. I read the books simply as stories and although I would have been extremely irritated by anyone preaching at me I didn’t have a problem with the constant reference to God in her books, it was simply the faith of the character concerned, that was OK, no-one was expecting me to agree with that faith, just to understand the character and how they were shaped by their faith. It somehow seemed that I came across one of her books by chance at times when I was in great distress or had a major ethical decision to make. Each time I was able to somehow find relief and clarity in the clear light that she generates in her books. I might find a new determination to stand by what I perceived as right, or comfort for my pain. Whatever I found, it felt good and right.

Having been a Christian for some years now it has been interesting to re-read her books, not in any particular situation requiring her clarity, simply to discover them from a new point of view and to look for the influence they have had upon me.

Thinking about this the last few days a phrase kept coming to mind and I’ve finally identified it, apparently from Macbeth: “But screw your courage to the sticking place,
And we’ll not fail.” This is something I definitely got from Elizabeth Goudge. In all the years when I was struggling with the memories of pain and trauma of my early life there was a quality she was telling me about nowadays we’d simply say “hang in there” but it doesn’t have quite the same impact. It’s a quality she calls in her biography, “stickability” or adherence, the willingness to hold on to what we have committed ourselves to. In all my troubles, it was a quality I was quite incapable of but her requirement of it was embedded in the wonderful sense of light that fills her books. The more I tried and failed to support my commitment, even my commitment to simply being me, the more I felt the need of that light.

I think the next point I saw, was that my commitment to being me could only be supported by obedience to God. I had a vague sense of God at the time, none of Christ. But I desperately needed there to exist something greater than me to which I could be obedient so that I could rest. It seemed that I always had to be in control or my entire world would collapse around me. By giving my obedience to God I could let go, allow him to be in charge. I didn’t understand the concepts I was dealing with, but somehow, Elizabeth Goudge led me to be able to do it, at least some of the time.

And then slowly, the concept of hope began to get through to me. In a time of despair I found one of her books in a charity shop. I don’t remember which one. I can see how the pattern of thinking which allows that people can be redeemed by the healing of their relatedness to the world around them began to become real to me.

This is love expressed in little things, acting to heal relationships. It is this living out of the command to “love one another” which is real to me about Elizabeth Goudge. To me, a “command” to love is a contradiction in terms. Love by definition can only be given freely. God has given us free will and we assume that he does so precisely because, although being Almighty he has the power to command us, if he did then our love would be worthless. In a recent incident in my community, I had to deal with a problem of a girl who was telling others (incorrectly) that I had a dangerous dog. If I had been commanded to love her, I would have felt rebellious and annoyed, arguing that I was in the right and she in the wrong. Instead, being steeped at present in reading for this essay it seemed natural to take an interest in the girl, to care about her fear, to join myself to groups of friends around her if I had previously chatted with at least one of them. My normal fear of being unwelcome among groups of people who don’t know me seemed to have disappeared, I was there for a reason even though I didn’t yet know it. In Green Dolphin Country one of the characters advises, “act as if you love her, even though you hate her”. Once the recipient of that advice tries to live by it, he finds himself having to find qualities in his wife to love and from then on, although their relationship is never easy it does at least function, resulting in a child who he finds easy to love. I found myself acting as if I loved this girl, and as a result I am in fact growing fond of her, she seems a bit bewildered by it why should I, to whom she has addressed some quite unpleasant comments, take an interest in her? If Elizabeth Goudge was writing this story then some angle of the plot would turn upon my refusal to return anger for anger. In the meantime, somewhat to my surprise since it was none of it planned, I am learning how it feels like to live Jesus’ request that we love one another and it feels rather good!

While writing the section (above) on Goudge’s theology, I found the closeness of her thinking to Barth in her consideration of the nature of hell. I also found, in my own college notes on Barth an aside from myself describing my own understanding of hell, simply an absence of God’s presence which I noticed was very close to his thoughts on it. It seems likely that in my pre-Christian reading of Goudge I was working through my own difficulty with accepting the apparent conflict of a loving God who sends people to eternal torment. I certainly wouldn’t have read Barth, but reading Goudge’s novels I seem to have picked up the idea which she only expresses formally in her biography. This is the nature of her influence upon me, an influence which only leaves me saying I love her novels, and they help me when I am distressed or confused,  but which has in fact imparted to me a depth of understanding of some difficult theological points expressed within a spirituality which shows how we can live our lives within God’s love. And so I have learnt to do.

 Bibliography

Elizabeth Goudge – Many of her books are in book club editions which don’t show publication details properly. I rely on the Elizabeth Goudge Society for dates of publication.

The Joy of the Snow (autobiography) Hodder & Stoughton 1974

The Scent of Water

Green Dolphin Country

 

Reaching Out

Reaching Out

My chief joy in running the Elizabeth Goudge site is the interesting correspondence that I receive from around the world. Many of those who contact me wrote to Elizabeth, and the letters and the writers feelings on her replies flesh out the knowledge of the woman Elizabeth grew into. They contain a universal message of hope in adversity and love for her fellow man, all say how inspiring she was, and the positive effect she had on their lives. What a wonderful legacy to leave.

But back in March of this year I was contacted by Javier V’zquez from Spain with a short email which touched me deeply.

“My family has letters to my mother, Lucila Alvarez. My mother was the wife of a victimized during the Franco era. If they were of interest, I think that would be fine to send copies of most of these letters.”
Javier Vazquez

It is well documented that Elizabeth felt keenly for those who suffered persecution and imprisonment. I don’t know how she found out about the sad plight of this family from so far away. But their circumstances and tragic story touched her so much that she wrote to them for many years, giving them her support and friendship.

There is a prayer in her Diary of Prayer which is headed “For Prisoners’ Families” and starts,

We pray to you, O Lord, for the broken homes of prisoners, wives left without their husbands and children fatherless, whole families in fear as they face the loneliness and hardship that lie before them. Help us, O Lord, to help them. Show us how to bring to them all the love and aid in our power, in whatever way is possible for us.”
(Diary of Prayer. Goudge 1966)

As the prayer is not attributed to anyone it seems fairly certain that it was one Elizabeth wrote herself as part of her private devotions. It was written not long after she got in touch with the Vazquez family. We can only imagine the lift the gift of friendship would have been, the practicable support offered would have been a life line.

Lucila’s husband Miguel was an artist and an out spoken critic of the Franco regime, and was someone with whom Elizabeth would have found it easy to empathize with. We know from her letters that she considered him an artist of some merit, congratulating him on an exhibition he was staging.
Elizabeth always felt compassion for prisoners, her books are full of them, from Thomas More to Michael in The Rosemary Tree, her concern for their well being shines out. It seems to me more than a coincidence that The Eliot’s matriarch was named Lucilla.

We do not have Lucila and Miguel’s letters to Elizabeth as her correspondence was destroyed after her death, but the letters she wrote to them have been a treasured part of the Vazquez’s life ever since and I feel privileged to be able to share them with you.

Thank you Mrs Vazquez and Javier.

Spanish Letters 1

Spanish Letters page 2Spanish letters 3Spanish letter 4

 

The White Witch

She awoke to darkness and unfamiliar sounds. It took a few moments to remember that she was not in her bedroom at Providence Cottage, but in her new home tucked into a Chiltern lane. Her roots had been torn out of the red, fertile soil of Devon and roughly transplanted to this chalky, Oxfordshire pasture land. She would never be happy again and as for writing,,,,,,,, that had been left behind in Devon too.

Bedrooms were important to Elizabeth, a place of retreat when the pressures of life made her long for the solitude of a nun’s cell. She could always refresh herself in the shell of her room. It was an intensely personal space where all pretence could be laid aside, a place of prayer and meditation. How long would it take for this slope ceilinged room to become as dear as the one left behind?

All her life Elizabeth had been prone to bouts of depression, and the fatigue bought on by the move and the total rearrangement of her life must have been overwhelming. She was still grieving over her Mother’s death; the loss of her gentle tyranny must have seemed like a hand being taken off the tiller of her life. She had to make her own decisions now and live with the consequences. The first of them had been good, her companion and help mate Jessie had been suggested by her family who had worried about her ability to live alone and cope with the stresses and strains of life. Jessie was the answer to her prayers; she gave her independence and the time to write. The second change, that of leaving Devon had also been her family’s idea, and about this she was much less certain. Elizabeth needed the familiar to feel safe and she was not good at making friends or meeting new people. Society, even the literary one she was forced to occasionally inhabit for the sake of her work was anathema to her.

Rose Cottage from Dog Lane

Devon had been the place where she had found “roots” even though she had been born over the border in Somerset. She loved the places and the people that surrounded her, the small rural community of Marldon that had sheltered her and her Mother for so many years. First in the sad stricken days after her Fathers’ sudden death, then throughout the uncertainty and fear of the war and finally supporting her through her Mothers difficult last illness and demise. She had achieved a measure of success here, her work becoming known worldwide. Green Dolphin Country was made into a film during her Devon years and many of her bestselling novels such as Gentian Hill, Smokey House and of cause the award winning Little White Horse were written here. What would she do, how would she feel in the park like tamed Chilterns so far from the sea?

The darkness outside her window was beginning to lighten and from some tree top a blackbird began to tune up for the dawn chorus. She had always loved the moments of transition, a pause for contemplation and renewal. Getting out of bed she went to the window and drew back the curtains.

She was met by a vision of light. An old apple tree, part of the hedge of trees around her new home was strung with raindrops and the rising sun had set a diamond in the heart of every one of them, the whole tree was cloaked in light. Framed in the branches, resting in the field behind the house was a gaily painted gipsy caravan, an old white horse cropping the turf nearby. Elizabeth was transfixed, here it was happening again, and something she had feared and dreaded had been transformed into something of wonder and joy. Life here was going to be alright. She would get to know and love the countryside and history of this place, just as she had in Devon.

Later on after they had been at Rose Cottage a while and begun to settle into the local community, she had her second vision of Froniga walking through the hedge and up to the well where she sat on the rim with her basket of herbs.

Jessie took her on long countryside drives round the hamlets, villages and towns in their locality. They walked the beech woods, joined the local church which they could walk to across the fields from the cottage and they began to make friends with the other inhabitants of Dog lane.

IMG_7685

She discovered the story of the capture and hanging of the Catholic priest in the market square of Henley, caught and convicted of being a Royalist spy, as Yoben is in the book. King Charles really did spend the night at a local Inn nearby, so that Will and Jenny could go and get Will cured of “The King’s Evil” as scrofula was called. Her own cottage as well as others in the area was built partly from old ships timbers. She vowed that on hot summer days the scent of old spices permeated the house.

Jessie herself was a knowledgeable gardener those love of herbs helped form Froniga’s character. I’d love Elizabeth’s description of Froniga’s garden to be her own, but with two small dogs to accommodate this seems unlikely! The well however is well documented, as we have a picture of Elizabeth sitting on its rim as Froniga had done. The hedges around the cottage contained old roses and the small wild dog rose, and Jessie grew herbs in the garden borders.

All these revelations fed her imagination and formed the bones of her new book The White Witch, published in 1958.

This book is about how civil war rips families apart, opening rifts and fostering miss-understandings that last for generations. But the war was fought on religious grounds not just over earth and dust, but over human minds, hearts and ultimately souls, becoming more bloody and obdurate as a consequence. The belief of divine right invested on both sides, gave an added dimension to the fight.

Set in an Oxfordshire village the story centres on the Haslewood family and those who are connected to it. Robert the local squire lives in his small manor house with his wife Margaret and their twin children Will and Jenny. Their cousin and Robert’s childhood sweetheart Froniga lives just across the common from them and is the white witch of the title. This family and the small community with the local parson, tribe of gipsies, and an itinerant painter are the characters we follow through the years of unrest and upheaval the civil war brings to their lives. To Elizabeth’s characters the spiritual battles are as hard to overcome as the physical and it is not just the politically awakening Robert who undergoes a radical transformation.

It turned out to be a pivotal novel for Elizabeth too, a “coming of age” of sorts, because after she wrote it, she seems to have put away “childish things” The spiritual struggles of the civil war mirrored her own quest for enlightenment and understanding. While never losing her love for the old tales of folklore and legend that had surrounded her from her cradle, from now on her novels take on a maturity and depth of spiritual conviction.

Elizabeth had grown up surrounded by the beauty of the church, its celebrations marking the turn of year. Now she whole heartedly embraced the Anglican faith which satisfied her love of ritual and answered for her the fundamental questions of life and death. She had found purpose and meaning in her life. Her father’s example of charity and good works was perpetuated by the increased income her success as an author gave her.

Her books, never preachy, became manuals on life, holding out the hope of understanding, compassion accompanied by the gift of the storyteller held between their pages. No longer did “a little knowledge go a long way” (Goudge Joy of the Snow)

Her life at Rose Cottage was strictly regulated, with a routine of prayer, work and study. While her health permitted she still walked the countryside with her dogs and played an active part in the church. Later she became reclusive and Jessie guarded her privacy fiercely, enabling her to write six of her best novels during the next fifteen years. Elizabeth also compiled and edited six Poetry anthologies, and wrote a biography of St Francis as well as her auto-biography before she died. But she still found the time to personally attend to a correspondence which grew over the years from family and friends to an ever widening circle of fans, extended family and petitions from all over the world. She maintained the literary contacts with her publishers and wrote promotional pieces for other writers, as well as short stories.

Elizabeth Goudge

The themes of the White Witch let Elizabeth explore the different paths of faith and the way people from different sects love, revere and follow the disciples of God. It solidified her faith while it opened her to a respect for the faith of others. Someone who knew Elizabeth well in her later years once told me, that she was the most tolerate and compassionate person she knew. She felt that the present Middle Eastern conflicts would have saddened her, not with their radical views and intolerance, but because of our own

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Goudge Series

Hi.

I discovered the Elizabeth Goudge society today, much to my delight.  I read my first of her wonderful novels about 17 years ago, and every time I enter a used book store, I head immediately to the G section to see if I can find new books I have not read.

I saw the chronological list of books written by Miss Goudge on the website, but was wondering if you have a listing that puts together the books in a series.  Some of the titles I have come upon on the internet today do not indicate whether they are part of a series, and I am left to my own imagination.

Thanks for your kind care of Miss Goudge’s legacy.

Kathy
Hello Kathy,

Glad you enjoyed the site, it’s been up and running for nearly two years now.

The series of books that E.G. wrote are in correct order,

The Bird In The Tree
The Herb of Grace (Pilgrim’s Inn)
The Heart of the Family
which are her Eliot novels, you can get them in one volume called The Eliots of Damerosehay

and then,

City of Bells
Henrietta’s House
Sister of Angels

all about Wells in Somerset and the same family.

Her children’s book “Make Believe” sort of follows on from her first novel “Island Magic”, at least its about the same family, based on her Mother’s, but they can be read alone, hope this answers your query, thanks for getting in touch

Deborah

Visit to Ely

Date: 12 Nov 20th 2006

Ely Cathedral was nothing like I remembered. All I could feel last time we came, was a dark brooding presence, who was not at all welcoming. But this time, no threat, no looming gloom, just light, that’s what I remember first, light. From the car park The Cathedral looked so insubstantial as if about to take flight. Inside the highly painted ceiling demanded attention, followed by awe as one’s eye took off up and up into that wonderful lantern, high above the aisle and alter. The first tier had flowers and leaves climbing up towards Royalty, then the saints in their beatitude, then angels, then Christ in glory right in the middle at the apex, one of the great lights of the Western World.

Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral

Something I hadn’t known about Ely, and Elizabeth doesn’t mention either, was that it was founded in the 5th century by a woman St Ethelred. She established a nunnery and monastery combined which lasted until the 10th century. The city’s history begins in “The Dean’s Watch” with Duke Rollo and his castle, which must have ousted poor St Ethelred and her nuns. I lit a candle and said a quiet prayer at her shrine. A statute had been erected at the spot where Her shrine used to be. In her autobiography “Joy of the Snow” however she does tell us about her favourite saint’s day at Ely, which is the Feast of St Ethelred. Elizabeth writes that the city gave thanks that day, to” not only St Ethelred, herself, queen, Abbess, and Patron Saint, but for all benefactors of the Cathedral. Every one stripped their gardens of their loveliest blooms, and then decorated the Cathedral with, armfuls of Michaelmas daisies, dahlias, Japanese anemones, and the first chrysanthemums, and the treasures of the last roses” After all the tombs, chantrys and aisles had been decorated with flowers, there was a festival service and the choir then proceeded around the Cathedral singing “For All The Saints”. Afterwards in splendid Edwardian fashion, they all trooped off to High tea at The Deanery.

I can only think that Elizabeth must have taken part in these parties with reluctance. Not only was she shy in company, but her figure was always so slender! Elizabeth grew up in this sheltered city in the Fens. She and her family spent twelve very happy years here. Even being send away to school was muted by the glory of the homecoming. Her father was a canon at the cathedral and a principle of the theosophical college here, and for her mother it was a light airy place, with sea like views over the Fens. Here, in the hard heart of the fens her creative mind expanded and took flight. The austerity of the sweeping winds, the vast expanses of sky and cloud, the small, secure social rounds that build up a community were all vastly appealing to Elizabeth.

I went and sat outside Bishop West’s Chantry Chapel. Inside I could hear the hum of women talking and holding a prayer meeting. Eventually, two ladies came out. One, who was quite elderly but very smartly dressed, helped the other even older woman into a wheelchair. They both set off down the aisle twittering softly to each other like small brown birds! Very Goudgian! When the rest of the ladies had left, all of whom smiled or greeted me in passing, I went inside. The stone had been carved and fretted until it resembled a giant wedding cake, a wedding of the Soul and mind. From the windows obscure saints stared down at me. The dominant colour was dark blue, very striking. All the hassocks have been embroidered with a Tudor Rose. The ceiling has ornate angels, blowing trumpets, praying, all in a very elaborate Italianate manner. The sun came and went on the page and I felt an affinity with Elizabeth Goudge I had not looked for last time I came.

Author Bathed in Light Ely

Psalm 84:10 arrested my attention as I was leaving the chapel. “I would rather be a Doorkeeper in the house of My God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Although the tents of wickedness sound quite fun, the sentiment is one I concur with.

Our last port of call was The Lady Chapel. Again the first impression was one of light. It had been the brunt of Parliamentarian anger, as it was dedicated to Mary, an idol, as they saw it. All the statues and frescos portraying the life of Jesus and Mary had had all their heads smashed off. No carving was left intact. The windows were smashed, which lost all the medieval glass, but did let the light in. A new statue of the Virgin Mary has been commissioned for the millennium. She is large, very blue, and has Her arms held aloft and empty. Her son has already been taken from Her. But She still has more left to give. Although She looked a little Disneyeque, She was very striking. The whole place appeared to be scoured out. It reminded me of a woman after her menopause, not ready for death, with life still in her, children of her body gone, ready for children of the mind to take their place. Again, I don’t know why, Elizabeth seems to miss out all mention of the Lady Chapel. I know that she wasn’t anti catholic, and indeed writes movingly about their faith. Like all truly spiritual people, she does not differentiate between faiths. It is the love of God and the striving for right motive which she depicts. Work men were renovating the Processional Way to the chapel and had already completed the chapel ceiling. With the aid of a wonderful mirror on wheels, we were able to see all the bosses. There were two dragons curled up asleep, like cats. The Way had been repaired using lovely wood and gold headed angels, putti, as in Henrietta’s bedroom in Wells.

 

Re: Visit to Ely

From: Paul Gray
Category: Category 1
Date: 12 Nov 2006
Time: 11:53:30 -0000
Remote Name: 62.252.64.33

Comments

Thank you for the lovely description of Ely. Have visited several times. Did you see the simple statue of Jesus meeting Mary in the garden at His resurrection? So touching and so simplistic. I would think that Elizabeth Goudge would have loved it.

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