Goudge, Elizabeth 1900-1984

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Elizabeth Goudge 1900-1984


(Full name Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge) English poet, short story writer, playwright, novelist, biographer, children's writer, and editor.


Goudge secured tremendous readership throughout her career and was particularly known for her romantic imagination, proficiency with prose, and idealism during World War II and postwar years.


Goudge was born in Wells, Somerset, England, on April 24, 1900, the only child of Henry Leighton, a Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, and Ida de Beauchamp (Collenette) Goudge. She died April 1, 1984, near Henley-on-Thames, England, at the age of eighty-three. She annually visited her maternal grandparents, a prominent French family on the island of Guernsey. At eleven years of age, her family moved to Ely after her father was appointed a canon at the cathedral. When World War I broke out, Goudge was sent to Grassendale School, South-bourne, Hampshire. She attended Reading University School of Art for two years where she wrote her first published children's book The Fairies' Baby and Other Stories (1919), which was a commercial failure. From 1922 to 1932 Goudge wrote part-time and taught design and applied art in Ely and then Oxford when her father was promoted to Professor of Divinity. In 1932 she moved to a seaside bungalow at Barton, in Hampshire, with her ailing mother and began to write full-time. At the age of thirty-four, her first novel, Island Magic (1934), was met with success. Goudge was commissioned by literary agent Nancy Pearn to write short stories for Strand magazine. The Woman's Home Companion, Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and McCall's featured her stories for more than thirty years.

In the late 1930s Goudge suffered a nervous breakdown induced by anxiety over the illnesses of her mother and father; she found it impossible to write for some time after her father's death in the spring of 1939. She confined herself to her bedroom in Providence Cottage and endeavored to complete the novel she had abandoned after her father's death. The Bird in the Tree (1940) was the first of three novels to portray the Eliot family during World War I. In a more lighthearted approach, Goudge then wrote Smoky-House (1940), a children's novel; both books earned enough to pay for Providence Cottage. The Devonshire countryside and the necessity of funds effected a prolific period for Goudge. She published a collection of short stories, a children's book, her first best-seller in the United States, her sixth novel, The Castle on the Hill (1942), and Henrietta's House (1942), a sequel to A City of Bells (1936). By the time Green Dolphin Country (1944) was completed, Goudge was warned it might not be published due to a paper shortage. She sent it to her American publisher and was stunned to hear she had won an MGM Literary Award for $125,000. An MGM movie titled Green Dolphin Street was released in October 1947 and grossed more than $5 million at the box office; the film gained an Academy Award for special effects and a nomination for cinematography. Goudge's novel The Little White Horse (1946) won the 1947 Carnegie Medal for outstanding children's fiction in the United Kingdom.


Goudge's first novel, Island Magic (1934), set on the Channel Island of Guernsey in the nineteenth century, examines the emotional upheavals of Andre and Rachel du Frocq through impending bankruptcy, five children, and the presence of a foreigner who ultimately reveals he is Andre's lost brother. What is known as The Torminister Trilogy—A City of Bells, Sister of the Angels: A Christmas Story (1939) and Henrietta's House—gives a romantic sense of Goudge's historical era. In the setting of a small cathedral town at the end of the Boer War, readers are introduced to Canon Fordyce, a saintly grandfather; Jocelyn Fordyce, grandson back from war; Gabriel Ferranti, an impoverished writer; and orphaned Henrietta, adopted into the family. Gabriel discovers Henrietta is the lost child of his own dead love. In the second installment, Henrietta urges a forgery artist to return to painting and he awakens her artistic abilities. Goudge focuses on the themes of second chances, re-birth, and love. In Henrietta's House, Hugh Anthony has a birthday celebration picnic; traveling to the picnic site, the guests have unexpected adventures. Goudge's best-known novel, Green Dolphin Country, involves the mistaken identity of two sisters in love with the same man. Forty years after the marriage of William and Marianne, they return from New Zealand. An unhappy Marianne reveals to William his true love—the jilted sister Marguerite who is now a nun; the three accept their life choices and reconcile.

While Goudge was at her pinnacle of recognition, The Little White Horse was published. The thirteen-year-old heroine, Maria Merryweather, returns to her ancestral home in an enchanted village and discovers her destiny to become the next Moon Princess. Discovering the mystic white horse helps her strengthen her own character and resolve the mysteries of the kingdom. The Bird in the Tree (1940), The Herb of Grace (1948; also known as Pilgrim's Inn) and The Heart of the Family (1953) are young adult novels known as the Damerosehay Trilogy dealing with the Eliot family who live in the marshy Hampshire Coast. The family and close community occupants unite against the love affair of David and Nadine, his uncle George's divorced wife, and they are forced to renounce their love. Six years later in the second novel, Nadine and George buy an old rural inn close to Damerosehay. A discontented Nadine spends her time refurbishing the inn; her love for David is rekindled when he comes to visit. However, she again releases David and comes to peace in a personal identity revelation. In the final novel, Nadine is a well-integrated, happy woman, and the focus shifts to the four generations of Eliots and their individual revelations into their own lives.

Set in 1912 England, Linnets and Valerians (1964), tells the story of four Linnet children who run away from their strict grandmother. Through their adventures, the Linnet children help in solving the mystery of the missing Valerian family members. A Booklist reviewer described the novel as "a story which blends fantasy with realism and has a sensitively depicted setting, unique characters, a romantic plot, and a satisfying ending." I Saw Three Ships (1969) is a story set in an eighteenth-century English seaport village. Polly, an orphan living with her Aunt Constantia, is eagerly awaiting Christmas. Three visitors are introduced who represent the Three Wise Men to Polly: Uncle Tom who comes home suddenly bearing gold, a French refugee who brings a jeweled rosary, and the town beggar who offers up his life. Goudge's autobiography The Joy of the Snow (1974) is popular with her devoted readership. Goudge recaptures happy childhood memories, her years with her companion Jessie, the love of the English countryside, and examines the philosophy in her writings. Goudge's final novel The Child from the Sea (1970) is a retelling of the life of Lucy Walter and her disastrous love affair with Charles II. Betrayed by her maid, she loses her husband's loyalty, is arrested, and forbidden access to her children. Publishers Weekly classified it as "strictly for the ladies," but the novel was on the best-seller list from October 1970 until February 1971.


Goudge's works include forty-six titles, some of which have been translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish. Most had dual publications—in Great Britain and the United States—and many remain in print. Madonna Marsden in Images of Women in Fiction examined Goudge's literary reception: "What is intriguing, however, is that reviewers accord Ms. Goudge less than enthusiastic praise and academicians have totally ignored her, despite her impact on the reading habits of a substantial number of women all over the world." In The Lion and the Unicorn, reviewer Megan Lynn Isaac acknowledged that "In her day, however, her books for both young and old were greeted with enthusiasm and accolades." Reviewer Aileen Pippett for Books for Younger Readers characterized Goudge as an author who "writes with the gentleness and good humor that have long endeared her to adult readers."


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Literary Award, 1944, and Literary Guild Award, 1944, both for Green Dolphin Street ; Carnegie Medal for outstanding children's book published in the United Kingdom, 1947, for The Little White Horse.


The Fairies' Baby and Other Stories (children's book) 1919

Island Magic (young adult novel) 1934

The Middle Window (young adult novel) 1935

A City of Bells (young adult novel) 1936

Towers in the Mist (young adult novel) 1938

Sister of the Angels: A Christmas Story (juvenile novel) 1939

Smoky-House (children's novel) 1940

The Bird in the Tree (young adult novel) 1940

The Well of the Star (children's book) 1941

The Castle on the Hill (novel) 1942

Henrietta's House (juvenile novel) 1942; revised as The Blue Hills, 1942

Green Dolphin Country (young adult novel) 1944; published in the United States as Green Dolphin Street

The Little White Horse (children's novel) 1946

Songs and Verses (poetry) 1947

The Herb of Grace (young adult novel) 1948; revised as Pilgrim's Inn, 1948

Make-Believe (short stories) 1949

Gentian Hill (novel) 1949

The Valley of Song (children's novel) 1951

The Heart of the Family (young adult novel) (1953)

The White Witch (novel) 1958

The Dean's Watch (young adult novel) 1960

Linnets and Valerians (children's novel) 1964

A Christmas Book (children's book) 1967

I Saw Three Ships (children's book) 1969

The Child from the Sea (novel) 1970

The Lost Angel: Stories (short stories) 1971

The Joy of the Snow (autobiography) 1974


Madonna Marsden (essay date 1972)

SOURCE: Marsden, Madonna. "Gentle Truths for Gentle Readers: The Fiction of Elizabeth Goudge." In Images of Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives, edited by Susan Koppelman Cornillon, pp. 68-78. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1972.

[In the following essay, Marsden examines the role of women as portrayed in Goudge's various works.]

Elizabeth Goudge is a kind of phenomenon among contemporary British writers. She began writing in 1934 and presently has about forty-six titles to her credit, many of which have appeared on best-seller lists. Almost every book has had dual publication in both Great Britain and America, and many have appeared in foreign translations. She has been published in regular editions, gift editions, book club editions, and paperbacks. One of her novels was made into a film. Her short stories have appeared in periodicals ranging from Senior Scholastic to Ladies Home Journal. Selections from her works have been anthologized into "The Best of …" kinds of volumes. What is intriguing, however, is that reviewers accord Ms. Goudge less than enthusiastic praise and academicians have totally ignored her, despite her impact on the reading habits of a substantial number of women all over the world.

Obviously any conclusions drawn about the appeal of Elizabeth Goudge would have to include a statement that what she writes must be what a large segment of the public, unconcerned with aesthetic value, wants to hear. Her own estimate of her work is that it is escapist, not true to life, and therefore perhaps inartistic.

I know that happy endings are sometimes inartistic, and certainly, not always true to life, but I can't write any other kind. I am not a serious chronicler of the very terrible contemporary scene, but just a story-teller, and there is so much tragedy about us everywhere today that we surely don't want it in the story books to which we turn when we are ill or unhappy, or can't go to sleep at night. We must escape somewhere.1

Ms. Goudge has further assessed her own appeal as largely palliative and visceral.

I prefer writing about children, dogs, and ordinary men and women in surroundings of natural beauty. My work appeals mostly to the old and the young and those who are ill. The sick tell me my books help them to forget their aches and pains.2

A substantial portion of the fiction of Elizabeth Goudge is devoted to the escapist and the medicinal. As noted, Ms. Goudge finds herself incapable of writing a novel with an unhappy ending. Because she integrates into this plot structure elements such as distant and remote settings and romanticized historical characters, it is perhaps too easy to dismiss her as simply a huckster of nostalgia, and ignore the paradoxical fact that war, changing ideologies, and breakdowns in myth structures provide the dramatic spine of her work. Almost all of Ms. Goudge's fiction is based on a dialectic between a self-constructed imaginative form which demands a happy ending and a content drawn from a world which does not provide that kind of well-ordered material. And it seems to be her talent for creating character images who illustrate the sacrifice of truth which must be made in exchange for order which captures her audience even more than the romance and the comfort which her novels bring. Particularly the women in Ms. Goudge's novels, then, find themselves pulled between the paradigm which models their happiness around their biology, and their own experiences which indicate that the paradigm may be false. The central problem of the fiction, then, is to reconcile the truth of the individual experience to the truth of the behavioral model—in short, to gently expand the old paradigm to absorb threats to the old truths rather than to invent a new paradigm to handle a new truth.

The cosmos posited by Elizabeth Goudge is one in which there is a definite and hierarchical as well as interconnected order of things. She sees the universe as governed by a plan, and nothing happens which is not a part of that plan. Each person, plant and rock has a definite role to fulfill, and even apparent evil works towards the creation of good. Perhaps the most succinct description of Ms. Goudge's vision of the order of the universe is the following passage from The Castle on the Hill. Mr. Birley, an elderly and wise historian, tells the confused and weary heroine of the novel:

Personal experience and the study of history have taught me to believe in a pattern.… And in spite of all that has befallen the world I still believe that the threads of it, ourselves, are held securely in the scheme of things by some great unconquerable spiritual power. Call it what you will—destiny, fate, the first cause, the life stream, God—it does not lose hold of a single thread. In wanton wickedness we may tangle the pattern into what looks like hopeless confusion, but in unwearied patience the power unravels the tangle, reforms the pattern, keeps it moving along to some great goal of order whose nature we cannot even guess at yet. If the threads are not lost, there can be no lasting chaos.3

The directing force of this universe, then, allows humanity freedom of will, but it can also direct that freedom to meet its own ends, which always prove to be positive. Confusion is only apparent, rarely real. Chaos, meaninglessness and alienation can occur only when the individual fights the natural order of the paradigm. Ms. Goudge's vision, then is in direct opposition to that of those who would posit that order is the illusion and chaos the reality. In fact, it comes close to the eighteenth-century model of the rationally ordered Great Chain of Being.

But Ms. Goudge expands the rational to also include a tinge of the mystical. The pattern metaphor indicates that the thread which breaks away from the tapestry not only mars the beauty of the tapestry, but also loses its individual meaning. The thread alone simply has no function. In the chain metaphor the link which breaks the chain has simply created two chains. For Ms. Goudge, this metaphor and the happy ending are not possible. Two incomplete paradigms pose, rather than resolve, threats to the established myths.

Within the broad paradigm, there are implications which present a model for the role of woman. This orderly, mystical, purposeful view sees woman's particular biology as the particular governor of her destiny. Therefore, her role is to marry and to produce children. This is what gives a woman her meaning. There is a range of choice for the female character, however, and it is this range which either creates a dialectic and therefore provides the basis for a kind of imaginative literature in which the female can be a central character, or which relegates the female to secondary importance because a larger issue of the paradigm is at stake.

Generally, Ms. Goudge sees the woman in Western culture as faced with five possible choices within this pattern: 1) she can accept the demands of femininity, marry, and live happily ever after; 2) marry, question the demands of femininity and become a rebel who is eventually absorbed back into the value system; 3) reject or be rejected by the demands of femininity, not marry, and be reasonably happy if she finds family surrogates; 4) reject the demands of femininity, not marry, and find happiness through a creative career; 5) reject the system entirely and be damned by her choice. For the purposes of this article, the second kind of heroine provides the most interesting focus for demonstrating the neutralizing and absorbent function of Ms. Goudge's fiction, yet all of these types provide an interesting insight into the very limited role which a woman can play in the literary imagination.

The simple heroine is of little fictional use, since though she may recognize that the female's lot in life is not as interesting or as exciting as the male's, she accepts without question the notion that because her biology governs her destiny, marriage constitutes the whole of her existence, while it is only part of a much broader concept of life for a man. In Gentian Hill, for example, Stella, the heroine, knows

… by instinct that men do not want women with them all the time; they keep certain compartments in their lives for them, and do not want them overflowing into the wrong ones.4

As a result of their attitudes, Stella and the heroines like her are not the center of interest in the novels or short stories in which they appear. The cultural conventions of femininity which they embody offer no paradigmatic conflict upon which the artistic imagination can act. Their basic structure offers no antithesis to the accepted thesis. Their function is subordinated to some larger issue.

The heroine who marries and then finds that wifehood and motherhood do not bring the kind of satisfaction which the paradigm has promised, provides a much more interesting fictional subject, since this type can offer material for a sensitively drawn portrait of the sacrifices which the order and rigidity of the paradigm demand. The truth of her experience vs. the truth of the paradigm offers a dramatic spine which can give this type of character a place of central rather than subordinate purpose in the novel.

Although Ms. Goudge has used this type of heroine in many of her novels, her most interesting creation is Nadine Eliot, a character who appears in the trilogy of the Eliot family, The Bird in the Tree (1940), Pilgrim's Inn (1948) and The Heart of the Family (1953). But this type of heroine is too prevalent in women's fiction to ascribe the creation of her image to the psychic structure of a single author. She has appeared in literature almost from its beginning under such various guises as the "castrating woman," the "unfaithful wife," or just simply "the bitch." Basically, what this type has always represented is a kind of hermaphroditic and therefore taboo blend of male spirit with female body. Intellectually and spiritually, the hermaphrodite heroine has a penis, though physically she is a woman, and should therefore be a receptor rather than an actor. Her tragedy is that she does act, and that that action makes her ugly somehow.

The Bird in the Tree was not originally conceived as the opening novel of a trilogy. The story, however, met with such success that readers demanded to hear more about Nadine; an indication that perhaps this type of heroine is the perfect image of the weaknesses of the myth structure in which she operates, and therefore a creation who has an archetypal appeal despite the critical pronouncements. There is something archetypal about Nadine's quest for a self, a quest which unlike that of the male adventure hero, is somehow turned in on itself.

The Bird in the Tree opens as Nadine's three children are in the care of their grandmother, while their father is stationed in India on assignment for the Foreign Office. Nadine has taken advantage of the freedom which her husband's absence offers her and has moved from the Eliot country estate to London, where she has opened a small antique shop. This taste of freedom has convinced her that she no longer needs George.

Nadine is an embarrassment to her mother-in-law, Lucilla, because she has blotted the family honor through her willing estrangement from George, her open indifference to her children, and her desire to be economically independent. This embarrassment is intensified when Lucilla discovers that Nadine is in love with George's young nephew, David. In an attempt to break up what she considers a highly immoral and almost incestuous affair, Lucilla admits to Nadine that as a young wife she had experienced a similar rebellion against the constraints of her role. In an effort to assert some kind of active control over her life, Lucilla had an affair with a man who seemed to offer her more freedom and excitement than her husband. As they were about to run off together, however, the man realized that his duty to his vocation took precedence over his love for her. Lucilla was angered and shamed, but the experience aided her to perceive her role on a new level of awareness.

A doctor's work is splendidly creative, I thought; building strong bodies and healthy minds; it is more creative even than the work of painter and sculptor, for he deals in flesh and blood and thought, materials that are living. It seemed to me appalling, as I thought it over, that all this should be sacrificed to his passion for a pretty woman. It was every bit as bad as that my work for my husband and children should be sacrificed to my passion for a charming man. The love of a man and woman, I saw, should never be allowed to be an end in itself; it should be the helpmate of their work.5

And a bit later, she tells Nadine how she came to be able to put this new awareness to work in her life:

Love at its highest, I thought, like truth at its highest, is a creative thing. Perhaps it is action, not feeling. I was playing the part of a good wife and mother quite successfully in the outward ways, but that, I saw now, was not enough. That was not love. Creative love meant building up by quantities of small actions a habit of service that might become at last a habit of mind and feeling as well as of body. I tried, and I found it did work like that. Feeling can be compelled by action not quite as easily as action by feeling, but far more lastingly.6

Lucilla's advice is ludicrous on one plane and yet quite valid on another. In many ways, it resembles a formula for breakthrough to mystical awareness. Buddhists repeat common words until they become meaningless and a new level of consciousness opens up to them. Magicians use the incantation of words to evoke the real substances which they represent. Lucilla has advised Nadine to repeat common acts to achieve the same end.

The novel Pilgrim's Inn opens some six years or so after this. George and Nadine have been reconciled, and Nadine has apparently taken Lucilla's advice to heart, for she is now the mother of five-year-old twins. But her actions do not seem to have improved her feelings. The twins are aggressive, exuberant children who compel little but exhaustion from their mother. Realizing that Nadine is still unhappy, Lucilla contrives that George and his family should move to the country where she can keep a watchful eye over the situation. Against Nadine's wishes, they move to an old estate which had once been an inn for pilgrims who were journeying to the nearby monastery. Nadine becomes immersed in refurbishing the inn, finds a nurse to care for the twins, and is leading a fairly happy life until David returns to the country for a visit. Once again Nadine becomes discontented with her life and the flame of her old love for David is rekindled.

An artist who is painting Nadine's portrait notes that something impairs her real beauty from emerging. Some struggle within has, he notes, hardened her mouth and tightened her eyes.

You know or should know, what needs cutting out of your own life. Some quite trivial thing, probably, perhaps no more than some reservation of thought. But it's enough … to keep you stewing in your own juice, pulled both ways and getting nowhere. Cut it out, that thought or whatever, and you're free, and probably others, too. We're so bound together in this complicated world that the spiritual condition of each one of us is as catching as the measles.7

Nadine has still not reconciled herself spiritually to being a woman. She still is the divided, taboo, and therefore ugly hermaphrodite.

Nadine lets go of David, repeats the outward acts which her femininity demands, and finds that acting like a woman does indeed make her content to be one. She is at peace when she realizes

What a ridiculous fuss she was making about doing what everyone was always doing every day, every hour, every moment of their lives almost: gathering in the divided allegiance, denying it to the one thing, giving it to the other; the choice never really in doubt when to the inner beseeching of the spirit the motive is revealed. It was a process that could not end while the eventual salvation of one's soul was still a possibility, the pain of the effort merely a question of degree, but not differing moment by moment in essence. One lived, and it was so. Accept it and have done.8

The situation reaches a happy ending, but the dialectic has really reached no synthesis. The antithesis is simply shown to be false because it has created chaos. The original thesis is preferable apparently because it makes life more orderly. In The Heart of the Family, of course, Nadine is no longer a prominent character. She can't be because she no longer offers any imaginative possibilities. She is now a well-integrated, happy woman.

The fiction of Elizabeth Goudge finds another way to give a female character a prominent position in a novel or short story through the use of another familiar type, the spinster heroine. Once again, this type offers the promise of sustained artistic possibilities because she offers a dialectic between what the paradigm posits as her meaning and her refusal or her inability to embrace it.

Both Dolores Brown of The Castle on the Hill and Ada Gillespie, the central character in the story "A Shepherd and A Shepherdess," have found meaning in their lives by finding surrogate ways of fulfilling what the paradigm posits as their functions. Dolores devotes her life to the care of aged parents, and when they die, opens the home she has inherited from them to lonely boarders. Ada, the only girl in a large family, mothers her brothers and then their children. Both of these characters, however, find that when their functions are gone, so are their identities. Dolores is forced to evacuate her English coastal home because it is threatened by wartime invasion. Ada's nieces and nephews grow up and can take care of themselves. And both are lost until they find new substitute families in which their female biology automatically ascribes to them the nurturing function of mothers.

All of the Elizabeth Goudge heroines who find happiness without marriage are historical figures whose talents clearly indicate that they are exceptions to the rule. "Escape for Jane" is based on a true incident in the life of Jane Austen. It focuses on her rejection of marriage and the subsequent nurturance of children in favor of the nurturance of the "dreams" inside her instead. It is interesting to note that her historical reality is what allows her to do this. Her rejection of the conventional feminine road to happiness does not threaten the paradigm, because the reader retrospectively knows that her career was a part of the pattern after all. The decisions of such a heroine do not come into conflict with the truth of the paradigm because they are always retrospective and therefore no threat.

The most tragic of Ms. Goudge's heroines is Mother Skipton, the black witch in the novel The White Witch, because she has chosen to reject the paradigm and has no historical truth to mediate her decision. Her unhappiness and her failure as a woman are the results of her urge to gain power over the lives of others. As she herself admits, however, what she thought to be the truth of her own experience was not truth at all. Her failure to perceive this until it is too late is Ms. Goudge's negative variation on the presentation of that larger positive truth.

If souls in Hell were incapable of longing they would not be in Hell. That is Hell—longing for what you've thrown away and can never get back. I was a woman who wanted power. Through what stages I passed from white to black witchcraft I need not tell you but they were governed by the passion to possess power over the bodies and souls of men. At last, I liked to kill. But power is a devil who turns round on you at last. You possess it, then it turns and possesses you. Then power becomes powerlessness. I am far too tired now to change my way of life.9

What the fiction of Elizabeth Goudge does, then, is to establish that although many women are unhappy in the roles which Western culture demands of them, the fault lies not with the paradigm, but with the individual. The threat which is posed to the social fabric by the fact of woman's discontent with the roles of wifehood and motherhood is absorbed by demonstrating that discontent carries with it the seeds of chaos and destruction. Traditional cultural paradigms, when used as a framework for this type of fiction, serve to reaffirm and reassure us of the truth of our public vision of life as objectively meaningful. Private, threatening visions which contradict this notion are neutralized by their absorption into what is publicly and conventionally considered the larger scheme of things. The fiction of Ms. Goudge absorbs and neutralizes threats to conventional femininity by neutralizing the validity of her heroines' primal, but conventionally masculine urges for quest. Activity, aggression, intellectual curiosity, lead, in almost all cases, to an intensification of unhappiness. Passive persistence in an assigned role, on the other hand, leads to the ability to accept and transcend its limitations.

Finally, then, the appeal of the novels of Elizabeth Goudge seems to rest in their ability to affirm the rightness of humanity's artificial constructs. To have them creates the necessity for sublimation, an exchange of what Freud has called "a threatened external happiness … for a permanent internal unhappiness, for the tension of the sense of guilt."10 But Ms. Goudge can create a dialectic which eliminates even the guilt as a threat. Basically, her novels save us from the embarrassment of having to admit that honest anarchy may be more personally fulfilling than the organized lie. But the organized lie has always managed to find room, through popular culture, for the threats which would expose it. Bloody cultural revolutions are prevented through the bloodless ones which are gradually fought in our mass media every day.


  1. This quotation can be found on the book jackets of various novels. I first saw it on the jacket of the American edition of The Heart of the Family.
  2. James Leasor, Author By Profession (London: Cleaver-Hume, 1952), p. 147.
  3. Elizabeth Goudge, The Castle on the Hill (New York: Coward-McCann, 1941), p. 128.
  4. Elizabeth Goudge, Gentian Hill (New York: Coward-McCann, 1949), pp. 60-61.
  5. Elizabeth Goudge, The Bird in the Tree (New York: Coward-McCann, 1940), p. 246.
  6. The Bird in the Tree, pp. 247-248.
  7. Elizabeth Goudge, Pilgrim's Inn (New York: Coward-McCann, 1948), pp. 153-154.
  8. Pilgrim's Inn, p. 146.
  9. Elizabeth Goudge, The White Witch (New York: Coward-McCann, 1958), p. 309.
  10. Sigmund Freud, Civilization And Its Discontents, translated and edited by James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton, 1962), p. 75.





Times Literary Supplement (review date 3 April 1969)

SOURCE: "Half-Magic." Times Literary Supplement, no. 3501 (3 April 1969): 352.

Looked at historically, Henrietta's House by Elizabeth Goudge, published in 1945 and now appearing in a new edition, is a fragile link between the full-blooded Edwardian fantasy of E. Nesbit and the mid-twentieth-century blossoming of the giants of the landscape-fantasy school. How weak the link, how great the development a rereading of Miss Goudge's book will show. The children in the story, Henrietta and Hugh Anthony, are real enough when the focus happens to be on them but the author all too often allows her interest to be riveted by the eccentric Edwardian adults who are invited to Hugh Anthony's birthday picnic because one feels she is really more attracted to adults and suffers children only as a necessary adjunct to her story. It is an uneasy book for this reason and its pious and mincing overtones will do little to encourage a modern readership which can gorge itself on Mayne and Garner.


Terri Schmitz (review date July-August 2002)

SOURCE: Schmitz, Terri. "Safety in Numbers." Horn Book Magazine 78, no. 4 (July-August 2002): 425-36.

The power of a celebrity endorsement is responsible for the republication of Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse (1946) and Linnets and Valerians (1964). J. K. Rowling is quoted as saying, "I absolutely adored The Little White Horse "—so back into print it trots after lying for years in well-deserved oblivion. The impossibly convoluted plot involves the return of young orphan Maria Merry-weather to her ancestral home Moonacre Manor in an enchanted village in the English West Country. There she discovers that it is her destiny to become the next Moon Princess who will repair the rift that has plagued the family for centuries and brought discord and danger to the valley. Nothing makes sense in this novel, and time and again I found myself wanting to hurl it across the room—so much merry laughter, so many grins spreading from ear to ear, such a plethora of twinkling black eyes. There are mistaken identities, evil men lurking in the woods, characters who mysteriously appear and disappear, and a hidden treasure to boot. And what is there to say about a thirteen-year-old heroine who takes more than two hundred pages to realize that the large animal watching over her is not a dog but a lion (nicely paired with the horse that is really a unicorn)? To be fair, I tried to picture my ten-year-old self enjoying this book, but sincerely hope that even at that age I would have known tripe when I saw it. Imagine my relief, then, when I reluctantly picked up Linnets and Valerians to find that it's a perfectly lovely book reminiscent of E. Nesbit's family stories, with lively, appealing characters and a plot touched with just a hint of witchcraft and magic. My irritation with Rowling subsided a little, but I hope that she sticks to her own writing from now on.


Leonard Unger (review date 1949)

SOURCE: Unger, Leonard. "Poets: Non-Modern, Neo-Modern, and Modern." Sewanee Review 57 (1949): 509-20.

Elizabeth Goudge, another Englishwoman, brings together children's poems and inspirational pieces in Songs and Verses. Miss Goudge's publishers say that her book "makes a perfect gift for any occasion," and there is a sense in which I would like to appear serious and respectful in saying that this is quite true.


Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (review date January 1965)

SOURCE: Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 18, no. 5 (January 1965): 74-5.

5-6 A long and elaborate story [Linnets and Valerians ], romantic and fanciful, set in England in 1912. Four motherless children, whose father is in the Orient, are living with a stern grandmother and run away; they stumble into the home of an elderly uncle who seems gruff but has a loving heart. Nearby lives Lady Alicia; a recluse since she lost her little son and her husband, Lady Alicia warms to the four Linnet children. Predictably, the kindly "Daft Davie," who lives alone on a hill, turns out to be Lady Alicia's long-lost boy; the man that the children's father has met in Egypt turns out to be Lady Alicia's long-lost husband. Mixed with this Victorian plot are a few adult characters, quaint in Dickensian style, and a heavy dollop of fantasy. Not a smooth blending of family

Booklist (review date 15 February 1965)

SOURCE: Booklist 61, no. 12 (15 February 1965): 578.

Escaping from a strict grandmother in whose care they have been left while their father is in Egypt [Linnets and Valerians ], the four Linnet children are taken in by unknown Uncle Ambrose, a vicar and retired schoolmaster who professes to abominate children. Their happy association with seemingly stern but understanding Uncle Ambrose and their involvement in the mystery surrounding the Valerian family are told with inimitable Goudge charm in a story which blends fantasy with realism and has a sensitively depicted setting, unique characters, a romantic plot, and a satisfying ending. Grades 5-7.


Publishers Weekly (review date 22 September 1969)

SOURCE: Publishers Weekly 196, no. 12 (22 September 1969): 85.

If you have a small girl in your house, a small girl you love, you will see to it that she will have I Saw Three Ships to read this Christmas time. Elizabeth Goudge, who has already given young readers a rare and lovely story to remember, Linnets and Valerians, has now given them a Christmas story set in an old English seaport town that they will never forget. And Margot Tomes' delicious illustrations which reflect so perfectly the mood of this magical mystery, will keep it forever green in their memories.

Kirkus Reviews (review date 1 October 1969)

SOURCE: Kirkus Reviews 37, no. 9 (1 October 1969): 1063.

Polly is the orphaned daughter of her elderly aunts' elder brother [I Saw Three Ships ], so perhaps it's not surprising that sometimes "they suffered from the sensation that she was older than they were." Polly however is a winsome child, "looking very demure in the long skirts of a hundred and sixty years ago," but underneath (the awkward way of dressing up the date) she is a persistent little body, as eager that the door be left open for the Three Wise Men on Christmas Eve as Aunt Constantia is that her long-gone "brother Tom should suddenly come home." Therein lies the tale, or at least the outline of it; to fill it in—i.e. represent the two other Wise Men—we have a "mad" French refugee from "something called the Terror" and one-legged Rag-and-Bones, the venerable town beggar. Uncle Tom returns bearing gold, the Frenchman brings Polly a jeweled rosary (frankincense) and the old beggar offers up his life (myrrh), while "on Christmas day in the morning … three ships come sailing in," carrying the Frenchman's feared-lost family and occasioning all-round rejoicing. Shaped like a picture book and laced with references to Popish Latin prayers, to decanters and chiffoniers, this wouldn't be much good for American children even if it were better. 9-11

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (review date November 1969)

SOURCE: Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 23, no. 3 (November 1969): 44.

5-6 An unabashedly sentimental Christmas story [I Saw Three Ships ], set in an English coastal village at the close of the eighteenth century, the illustrations having a period flavor in their style as well as in their architectural or costume details. A small orphaned girl living with her aunts, Polly is convinced that three ships will, indeed, come sailing in on Christmas Day and that the door should be left open all night on Christmas Eve. Her aunts lock the doors, but there are three visitors in the night: a long-lost brother of the aunts, who leaves a purse of gold, a Frenchman who brings a rosary for Polly, and an old man near death. Next morning, three ships sail into the harbor, one of them carrying the wife and child the Frenchman had thought killed in the Terror. The writing style is polished, the plot patterned; although the protagonist is a child, this is not a childlike story.

Times Literary Supplement (review date 4 December 1969)

SOURCE: "Continuations and Beginnings." Times Literary Supplement, no. 3536 (4 December 1969): 1369.

Elizabeth Goudge almost pulls off a Christmas parable in I Saw Three Ships, a story which shows how Polly, a wilful orphan, opens up the constricted lives of her spinster aunts Dorcas and Constantia when she goes to live with them in their harbourside cottage. Polly believes that doors should be left unlatched on Christmas Eve to let in the three Wise Men—and that three ships will sail in to port on Christmas Day in the morning. They do, one bearing the long lost wife (in a blue cloak) and (golden-haired) son of a lonely Frenchman. But readers whose critical faculties are not borne away on the heady Christmas morning breeze will wish that Miss Goudge had been sterner with herself: for surely it is a let-down that there are only two strange men in the parlour when Polly awakes? (The third, a beggar, has stolen his food and fled.) Austen-ish setting, sweet, carefree and a little careless. Though decorously illustrated by Richard Kennedy (who has a fine line in spinsters of character) this slight book looks even slighter when set against the unblushing praise lavished on author ("gem-like touches of description") and artist ("marvellously illustrated") by its publisher.


Publishers Weekly (review date 29 April 1974)

SOURCE: Publishers Weekly 205, no. 17 (29 April 1974): 47.

Readers who have been faithful fans of this British novelist during her 40-year career will revel in her autobiography [The Joy of the Snow ]. It is, as she says, an "attempt to recapture happy memories … to joy in people and places I have known." She begins with early memories of her childhood (what fun to find how ladies coped with washing long hair, using a bowl and pitcher), her unsatisfactory education and the faltering beginnings of her career after World War I. In this delightful account, we mingle with Ms. Goudge's family and friends, are invited to examine her philosophy and discover what writing means to her. One entertaining episode tells of the effects on her small village when her novel Green Dolphin Street was bought by an American movie company (during World War II) for what seemed to the towns-people and the author an outrageous sum.

Kirkus Reviews (review date 1 May 1974)

SOURCE: Kirkus Reviews 42, no. 9 (1 May 1974): 516.

Early on Miss Goudge states "The only people who will read this book [The Joy of the Snow ] are the people who read my stories"—a characteristically unassuming and forthrightly realistic remark—it will be for them that The City of Bells still tolls. This is a partial autobiography—dealing primarily with "the rainbow days" of her childhood in Wells and later Ely where her father was offered the canonry; with her parents (a remarkable, charming and complex mother with psychic powers she declined to use) and her grandparents on the Channel Islands; with her schooling, her writing, the war and the last years lived with her good friend Jessie. Occasionally there are higher, not too much higher, reflections of a social and religious nature and on the contemporary world which she tolerates with more "compassion" and forbearance than one might have imagined. There is of course a certain jampot sweetness (we flinch at the number of times words like "tender" and "poignancies" are applied to her—cf. the publisher's release), but it would be unwise to overlook the uplift she will exert for the consciousness which has never been raised. In her case it would seem serenity has been acquired more effortlessly.

Booklist (review date 1 June 1974)

SOURCE: Booklist 70, no. 19 (1 June 1974): 1076.

Goudge's fans will enjoy this autobiography [The Joy of the Snow ] which reveals her love for the beauty of English countryside and search for a purpose in life and an understanding of God. Although she has written admirable portraits of her parents and maternal grandparents, she pictures herself more clearly as a child with her fears, joys, and problems than as an adult. A chapter on ghosts and extrasensory perception will interest some readers; the author tells where ideas for some of her books originated.

Marion Amdursky (essay date July 1974)

SOURCE: Amdursky, Marion. Library Journal 99, no. 13 (July 1974): 1802.

A charming potpourri of reminiscences of places and people Goudge has loved, comments on being a writer, discussions of her religious beliefs (including some intriguing anecdotes and theories about ghosts and ESP), and descriptions of her Edwardian childhood. While not strictly an autobiography, the narrative [The Joy of the Snow ] does give a clear picture of the influence of her parents and grandparents, of her homes throughout the years, and her schooling on her writing. Readers of her novels will particularly enjoy discovering the real people and places she adapted for her stories.



Booklist 70, no. 19 (1 June 1974): 1099.

A brief reference to Goudge's autobiography The Joy of the Snow as limited in appeal.

Library Journal 94, no. 18 (15 October 1969): 3851.

A brief listing of Goudge's I Saw Three Ships evaluating reading level.

Locus 28, no. 375 (April 1992): 46.

A brief summary of the children's novel Linnets and Valerians.

Publishers Weekly (30 March 1992): 106.

A succinct description of Linnets and Valerians supplying the reading level.

Wagenknecht, Edward. "The Little Prince Rides the White Deer: Fantasy and Symbolism in Recent Literature." College English 7, no. 8 (May 1946): 431-37.

A reference to fantasy in Goudge's The Blue Hills.

Additional coverage of Goudge's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8R, 112; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 191; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; St. James Guide to Children's Writers, Vol. 5; Something about the Author, Vols. 2, 38; and Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers.

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Goudge, Elizabeth 1900-1984

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