Elizabeth Goudge

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Elizabeth Goudge
Elizabeth Goudge c1975.jpg
BornElizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge
(1900-04-24)24 April 1900
Wells, England
Died1 April 1984(1984-04-01) (aged 83)
Rotherfield Peppard, Oxfordshire
Pen nameElizabeth Goudge
GenreChildren's literature, romance
Notable works
Notable awardsCarnegie Medal

Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge FRSL (24 April 1900 – 1 April 1984) was a British author of novels, short stories and children's books. She won the Carnegie Medal for British children's books in 1946 for The Little White Horse.[1] She was a best-selling author in both the UK and the US from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Goudge gained renewed attention decades later. In 1993 one of her books was plagiarised by Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen; the "new" novel set in India garnered rave reviews in both The New York Times and The Washington Post before its source was discovered.[2] In 2001 or 2002 J. K. Rowling identified The Little White Horse as one of her favourite books and one of few with direct influence on the Harry Potter series.[3][4]


Personal life[edit]

Goudge was born on 24 April 1900 in Tower House in The Liberty of the cathedral city of Wells, where her father, Henry Leighton Goudge, was vice-principal of the Theological College. Her mother (born Ida de Beauchamp Collenette 1874: died 4 May 1951, aged seventy-seven) was initially a native of Guernsey. Ida met Henry while on holiday from her home in the Channel Isles. The family moved to Ely when he became principal of the Theological College there and then to Christ Church, Oxford when he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at the University. Elizabeth was educated at Grassendale School, Southbourne (1914–18), and at the art school at University College Reading, then an extension college of Christ Church. She went on to teach design and handicrafts in Ely and Oxford.[5]

After her father's death in 1939, Goudge and her mother moved into a bungalow in Marldon, Devon, planning to vacation there. However, the Second World War broke out while they were there, and they decided to stay. A local contractor built them a new bungalow on Westerland Lane, now known as Providence Cottage, where they lived for 12 years. She wrote several of her books there, using Marldon based as a setting: Smoky House (1940), The Castle on the Hill (1941), Green Dolphin Country (1944), The Little White Horse (1946), and Gentian Hill (1949).[6] After her mother's death in 1951, she moved to Oxfordshire, spending the last 30 years of her life living at a cottage on Peppard Common, just outside Henley-on-Thames, where a blue plaque was unveiled in 2008.[7]

She died on 1 April 1984.[8]

Writing career[edit]

Goudge's first book, The Fairies' Baby and Other Stories (1919), was a failure and it was several years before she wrote her first novel, Island Magic (1934), which was an immediate success. It was based on Channel Island stories, many of which she had learned from her mother, a native of Guernsey. Elizabeth herself regularly visited Guernsey as a child, and recalled in her autobiography The Joy of the Snow spending many of her summers with her maternal grandparents and relatives.[9]

For The Little White Horse, published by the University of London Press in 1946, Goudge won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.[1] It was her own favourite among her works.[10]

Goudge was a founding member of the Romantic Novelists' Association in 1960 and later its vice president.[11]

As this world becomes increasingly ugly, callous and materialistic it needs to be reminded that the old fairy stories are rooted in truth, that imagination is of value, that happy endings do, in fact, occur, and that the blue spring mist that makes an ugly street look beautiful is just as real a thing as the street itself.

— Elizabeth Goudge[12]


Goudge's books are notably Christian in outlook, containing such themes as sacrifice, conversion, discipline, healing, and growth through suffering. Her novels, whether realistic, fantasy, or historical, interweave legend and myth and reflect her spirituality and her deep love of England. Whether written for adults or children, the same qualities pervade Goudge's work and are the source of its appeal to readers.

She said there were only three of her books that she loved: The Valley of Song, The Dean's Watch and The Child from the Sea, her final novel.[13] Of The Child from the Sea she said:

I doubt if it is a good book, nevertheless I love it because its theme is forgiveness, the grace that seems to me divine above all others, and the most desperate need of all us tormented and tormenting human beings, and also because I seemed to give to it all I have to give; very little, heaven knows. And so I know I can never write another novel, for I do not think there is anything else to say.[14]

Plagiarism of Goudge's work[edit]

Early in 1993, Cranes' Morning by Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen was published by Penguin Books in India, the author's second novel.[2] In the U.S. it was published by Ballantine Books, and enthusiastically reviewed for The New York Times and The Washington Post. For the Post, Paul Kafka called it "at once achingly familiar and breathtakingly new. [The author] believes we all live in one borderless culture." In February, the Times called it "magic" and "full of humour and insight", although it conceded that the "deliberately old-fashioned" style "sometimes verges on the sentimental."[2]

One month later, a reader from Ontario informed Hodder and Stoughton, publisher of Goudge's book The Rosemary Tree in 1956, that it had been "taken over without any acknowledgment whatsoever". Soon another reader informed a newspaper reporter and there was a scandal.[2]

The Rosemary Tree, once labeled "pop fiction, meant to be consumed and forgotten,"[2] is a story of hope, rescue, and redemption where God and the devil are subtly and surprisingly rendered as two elderly shut-in ladies. It portrays a Devonshire vicarage landscape in transition, upsetting its people's grasp of the past while working out their presents, surely defying such shallow dismissals.

When it was first published in 1956, The New York Times Book Review criticized its "slight plot" and "sentimentally ecstatic" approach. After Aikath-Gyaltsen recast the setting to an Indian village, changing the names and switching the religion to Hindu but often keeping the story word-for-word the same, it received better notices.[2]

Kafka later remarked about his Post review: "there's a phrase 'aesthetic affirmative action.' If something comes from exotic parts, it's read very differently than if it's domestically grown...Maybe Elizabeth Goudge is a writer who hasn't gotten her due."[2]

Several months later, Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen was dead, perhaps a suicide, but there were suspicious circumstances and requests for investigation.[2]


J. K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, has recalled that The Little White Horse was her favourite book as a child. She has also identified it as one of very few with "direct influence on the Harry Potter books. The author always included details of what her characters were eating and I remember liking that. You may have noticed that I always list the food being eaten at Hogwarts."[3][4]


Green Dolphin Country (1944) was adapted as a film under its U.S. title, Green Dolphin Street, and the movie won the Academy Award for Special Effects in 1948. (The special effects involved the depiction of a major earthquake.)

The television mini-series Moonacre and the 2009 film The Secret of Moonacre were based on The Little White Horse.

Awards and honours[edit]

  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Annual Novel Award, 1944, Green Dolphin Country.[15]
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, 1945.
  • Carnegie Medal, 1946, The Little White Horse.[1]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c (Carnegie Winner 1946). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Molly Moore, "Plagiarism and mystery" Archived 12 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Washington Post Foreign Service, 27 April 1994. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b Conversations with J.K. Rowling, Linda Fraser, Scholastic, 2001, ISBN 978-0439314558. p. 24.
  4. ^ a b "Harry Potter – Harry and me" Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Lindsay Fraser's interview with J. K. Rowling from The Scotsman, November 2002.
    . Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  5. ^ D. L. Kirkpatrick (ed.), Twentieth-Century Children's Writers (2nd ed., London, 1983), pp. 324–325. ISBN 0-912289-45-7
  6. ^ "Elizabeth Goudge, her time in Marldon". Marldon Local History Group: Life in a Devon Parish. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Elizabeth GOUDGE (1900–1984)". Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Scheme.
  8. ^ Obituaries in The Times, 3 April 1984; in The New York Times 27 April 1984.
  9. ^ Goudge, Elizabeth (1974). The Joy of the Snow. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. ISBN 978-0-698-10605-5.
  10. ^ John Attenborough, "Goudge, Elizabeth de Beauchamp (1900–1984)", revised by Victoria Millar, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Online edition retrieved 17 September 2009.
  11. ^ "Our story" Archived 22 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Romantic Novelists' Association. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  12. ^ Romantic Novelists' Association's Story, archived from the original on 22 October 2012, retrieved 11 November 2012
  13. ^ Elizabeth Goudge, The Joy of the Snow, Coronet, Sevenoaks, 1977, pp. 256–59.
  14. ^ Elizabeth Goudge, The Joy of the Snow, p. 259.
  15. ^ The New York Times, 10 September 1944.

External links[edit]