GOUDGE, Elizabeth

(1900 - 1984)
“In times of storm and tempest, of indecision and desolation, a book already known and loved makes better reading than something new and untried ..nothing is so warming and companionable.” 

Born at the turn of the 20th century, Elizabeth Goudge was heavily influenced by her 19th century upbringing. At a young age she immersed herself in reading the great works of literature so enjoyed by her clergyman father and writers such as Jane Austen, Andrew Lang and Dickens were to have a lasting impact on her imagination. There were few genteel occupations open to women at that time, so she began writing during her late twenties, initially submitting plays for publication until an insightful editor recommended her to write novels instead, and Island Magic was published by Duckworth’s in 1934.  The novel was the first of a string of best sellers from the 1930s through the 1970s. Her oevre includes short stories and novels both for adults, notably Green Dolphin Street, and children, with The Little White Horse winning the Carnegie prize for children’s literature in 1946.  Despite the difficulties in her own life her stories are eternally optimistic and she used her gift for character observation and a love for the English countryside to create charming stories – always with happy endings.  She wrote of her style “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… We must escape somewhere. ”

A natural shyness, and the need to care for her invalid mother, meant she did not find it easy to socialise and never married.  After her mother’s death she moved to Peppard Common with a young friend, Jessie Munro, who took care of her until she died just short of her 84th birthday.  The Times, in its obituary, wrote of her “Few novelists have had comparable knowledge and faith in the goodness of human nature, the beauty of childhood, and the pursuit of things lovely and of good report. As with Jane Austen, she “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery” 


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 Elizabeth GOUDGE

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