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