Curtin Memorial Library

The Elizabeth Goudge Special Collection


 The Elizabeth Goudge Collection collects all material written by and about Elizabeth Goudge. Books, articles, letters, and manuscripts, as well as photographs and video recordings, are acquired with the aim of becoming a leading repository of information about the writer and her work. Housed in the Curtin Memorial Library at Mount Saint Mary College, the collection is protected, preserved, and made accessible by the library staff. We are currently accepting donations and contributions.     

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Brief biography of Elizabeth Goudge

     This popular British author was born in Wells, England on April 24, 1900. She was the first and only child of Ida Collenette    
  Goudge and Henry Leighton Goudge.

    Of her childhood, Elizabeth wrote, "No child can have lived in lovelier homes than my first two homes, or in a more enchanted city
  than Wells at the beginning of the century." Her first two homes in Wells are called the Tower House and The Rib. The latter is just
  across the road from the Tower House.

  Elizabeth Goudge set three of her novels in Wells:

  • City of Bells
  • Sister of the Angels and
  • Henrietta's House (published in the United States as, The Blue Hills)
   In these novels Goudge calls the city Torminster - but clearly Torminster is a fictionalized Wells.

      As a child Elizabeth's summers were spent on Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, with her maternal grandparents. In these 
  years, Elizabeth's mother did not make the trip which was rather daunting in rough seas because her poor health. Still Elizabeth liked
  Guernsey and in her autobiography, Joy in the Snow, she speaks of the people, especially her Grandfather, with great affection.

      In 1911 her father, Henry Leighton Goudge, was transferred from Wells to Ely in North Eastern England. Naturally the family moved
  with him to this Cathedral city on the hill amidst the fens. Elizabeth loved Ely and its Cathedral. The city became the setting for The
  Dean's Watch

    When her father was appointed Regius Professor at Christ Church in Oxford, Elizabeth was sorry to leave Ely. [It should be noted
  that Henry Leighton Goudge was a scholar and his works on scripture are still sought by divinity students today].


  Goudge, the writer

      Elizabeth was always drawn to writing but her parents wanted to ensure the she had some marketable skills so she attended
  Reading University Art School for two years to study handicraft arts. She was not very good at drawing although some years later
  one of teacher's who read her work said that she put in words what the artist saw of nature.

     Her first book, The Fairy Babies and Other Stories, was a dismal failure. Goudge abandoned writing for some years and earned
  income by teaching design and applied arts (weaving, leather work and embroidery) from home when she lived in Ely and in Oxford.
  She really did not become a full time writer until 1938 when Island Magic, a story woven out of some of the Guernsey tales her mother
  told, was published by Duckworth. This book opened a flood gate and many successful novels and short stories followed.

      In 1944 she received the MGM Literary Award and the Literary Guild Award for Green Dolphin Country (published in the United States
  as Green Dolphin Street) and in 1947 she received the Carnegie Medal for The Little White Horse. (This book is the one which J.K.
  Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, said was her favorite as a child.)

     In Goudge's last years she edited a series of anthologies. These reveal the depth and breadth of her own reading and study.
  Her Joy of the Snow is an autobiography. It reveals some of the sources of her inspiration and work.


   -Kate Lindeman, Ph.D.