Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge was born on 24 April 1900 in Wells, Somerset, in Tower House close by the cathedral in an area known as The Liberty. Elizabeth was the only child of the Reverend Henry Leighton Goudge, who was vice-principal of the Theological College and Ida de Beauchamp Collenette.
The family moved to Ely in 1911 when Reverend Goodge became principal of the Theological College and then to Christ Church, Oxford in 1923 when he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at the University.
Elizabeth was educated at Grassendale School, Southbourne during WWI and at the art school of University College Reading, then an extension college of Christ Church. She then went on to teach design and handicrafts in Ely and Oxford.
Goudge’s first book, The Fairies’ Baby and Other Stories (1919), was a failure and several years passed before she wrote her first novel, Island Magic (1934), which was an immediate success. Island Magic 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.
During her 12-year stay at Marldon in Devon, Elizabeth used it as a setting for several of her books including Smoky House (1940), The Castle on the Hill (1941), Green Dolphin Country (1944), The Little White Horse (1946), and Gentian Hill (1949).
For The Little White Horse, which was 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.
Goudge was a founding member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association in 1960 and later served as it’s vice president.
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 Goodge
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 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.
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.
Later Life & Death
After her father’s death in 1939, Goudge and her mother moved into a bungalow in Marldon, Devon. They had planned a vacation there, but the outbreak of the Second World War led to them remaining.
A local contractor built them a new bungalow in Westerland Lane, now known as Providence Cottage, where they lived for 12 years.
After her mother’s death in 1951, Goodge moved to Oxfordshire, spending the last 30 years of her life in a cottage on Peppard Common, outside Henley-on-Thames, where she died on 1 April 1984.