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
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
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, PhD