Precisely, Miss Goudge!

Each and every one of Elizabeth Goudge’s books is crammed full for me of all-time favorite passages, and I never read one without a notebook or a piece of paper close at hand to jot down the page numbers of the most shining and stirring among them. Here’s an oft-revisited jewel from The City of Bells that still brings tears to my eyes:

Henrietta, at heart a contemplative person, enjoyed alarums and excursions for a short while only. For her a background of quiet was essential to happiness. It had been fun to stay with Felicity, to be petted and spoiled by all her friends…to have lovely things to eat and to go to the zoo whenever she liked, but it had completely upset her equilibrium and she felt as though she had been turned upside down so that everything that was worthwhile in her mind fell out. She, like everyone else, had to find out by experience in what mode of life she could best adjust herself to the twin facts of her own personality and the moment of time in which destiny had planted it, and she was lucky perhaps that she found out so early…

…she found herself listening only to the lovely silence and it seemed to her that in it she came right way up again and her dreams, that had deserted her in London, came flocking back, so that with joy she flung open the doors of her mind and welcomed them in. Never again, she vowed, would she live a noisy life that killed her dreams. They were her reason for living, the only thing that she had to give to the world, and she must live in the way that suited them best.

Elizabeth Goudge, A City of Bells

If, indeed, we ‘read to find we’re not alone’, then I salute you, friend-Henrietta!

The Cloister, Wells (Henrietta's 'Torminster')

The Cloister, Wells, Somerset, England (Henrietta's 'Torminster')

23 Responses to “Precisely, Miss Goudge!”

  1. Rebecca says:

    I’ve never read Elizabeth Goudge’s books, but another friend has recently recommended them to me, so I was delighted to get a taste of one in today’s post. Henrietta sounds like quite a kindred spirit, as certainly are you!

    Best wishes,

  2. Jodi says:

    Years ago a friend introduced me to Elizabeth Goudge. Since then, I’ve collected many of her books, and I read them again and again. I find as I get older that I enjoy them even more. One of my favorites is The Scent of Water.

  3. Jeanne says:

    Thanks for sharing this excerpt. Of course I hear about Elizabeth Goudge, here and there, but… I still haven’t read any of her books. (I know, there’s only way to set that right!) But I appreciate this passage because I’ve been thinking much lately in a similar vein. Learning to work with the way I am naturally, and not trying to be and live like people who are just wired differently. (I know and admire some wonderful, fun-loving, outgoing extraverts; I however just AM quieter, tend to take things more seriously… to a fault?… and intraverted.) Maybe God *meant* me to live differently, to show love differently, to enjoy differently and to serve differently. Somehow this has been something of an epiphany. πŸ™‚

    Apparently it is high time I acquire one of Goudge’s novels! Thanks again Lanier. I always enjoy stopping by.

  4. Nancy says:

    I have not read any of Elizabeth Goudge’s books but your references to them has made me want to start. She has quite the bibliography and I was wondering if there is a particular book(s) of hers that you would recommend as an introduction?

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Hi, Nancy! I am only too eager to spread the praise of my dear Elizabeth Goudge!! πŸ™‚ There are so many I’d like to recommend all at once…but I personally think that the best introduction is by way of the ‘Eliot trilogy’. These are three books about the same family: The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim’s Inn and Heart of the Family. My personal favorite of all her books is Pilgrim’s Inn, and even though it’s the second in that series you really don’t *have* to read them in order. Best probably, but not essential. And Lucilla Eliot is truly one of my favorite book friends of all time. πŸ˜‰ Hope that’s a start!

  5. Carolyn says:

    I was introduced to Elizabeth Goudge in Devon by my British aunt two-thirds of the way through a whirlwind trek through Europe at a point when I need nothing more than quiet, solitude, and a gentle book. Ahhh.

    Speaking of introductions, I am Carolyn. A friend introduced me to your blog about two months ago with the book club post, knowing it was the sort of thing that I would like to join as much as she would. Thank you for letting us glimpse the way you craft your life with beauty.

  6. Lanier,
    I really loved this post and could so readily identify with it.I have a deep need for times of quiet,solitude and reflection.I have my times of being out with the extroverts in my life but find my greatest joy comes from those times it is just me,a good book and my husband and cat here in our apartment.Thank you for blessing my world with your lovely blog.May I ask how your name is pronounced?Blessings~Sharon

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Hello, Sharon! My name is a family name and it’s pronounced ‘La-neer’. Just so you’ll have it right in your head. πŸ˜‰

  7. Sarah says:

    I have only recently discovered Elizabeth Goudge. A friend of mine sent me Herb of Grace (which I think is the English title for Pilgrim Inn). I am so looking forward to reading more.

  8. Nancy says:

    Thank you, Lanier! I checked out “The Bird in the Tree” from the library today . . .we are having a very wet weekend and I am looking forward to spending it by the fire with your recommendation! Have you read any of the books by Miss Read? If not, you should– I think you would like them very much.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      I’m so happy that you were able to find it, Nancy! And I hope that you had a lovely weekend of reading…
      My grandmother was a great fan of Miss Read and I have most of her collection now. But I regret to say that the only Miss Read book I have read to date (and *loved*) is Christmas at Fairacre, a failing which I hope to remedy in the New Year! πŸ™‚ Thank you for the recommendation!

  9. I am reading the Eliot trilogy again, as I have done every few years since “meeting” them in my teens. Although I revisit them for the comfort of the familiar, each time I notice some fresh jewel of description.
    I was thinking last evening that Miss Goudge, as an unmarried woman and without chidlren, had a deep understanding of both the relationships of men and women and the behavior of small children. she developed her characters so well.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      I completely agree, Sharon. There are few writers I have come across with insight as keen as hers. (And I have one of her descriptions of homemaking from Pilgrim’s Inn on a plaque above my kitchen sink! ;))

  10. Sarah Ann says:


    I’m so happy to find so many updates on your website! I’ve poked around your site before and very much enjoyed your “finding of beauty in everyday things.” I’m looking forward to checking it out more regularly.

    I’m adding you to my blog’s link list. Is that okay with you?

  11. gail says:

    I heartily agree that while reading a book of Miss G’s one must have a pen and notebook handy. Once I heard a comment that put forth the idea that one is especially drawn to a book in which the reader finds sentences she(as in my case) wishes she had written, or the reader comes across a paragraph and exclaims, “Yes, yes! That is exactly how I feel!” During the reading of ‘A Rosemary Tree’, my first exposure to Miss G, I found on the second page two sentences almost identical to some words I had expressed a week earlier; ‘Yet she liked these grey days. They had their own beauty.’ That was in December, since then I have read ‘Green Dolphn Street’ and ‘The Child from the Sea’ which are the only Goudge books our library carries. I will have to put out requests for others.

  12. Josie Ray says:

    That is precisely why I love January. It is the quietest time of year. If the quiet is destroyed in the first month, the rest of the year goes awry. Yet if the quiet is met and kept, indescribable strength and richness flows into the following months.

    Elizabeth Goudge is a beloved author. There are books by other authors that are next in line for an initial reading, but, in spite of myself, The Little White Horse and Island Magic are lurking ever nearer in my mind this month, pressing for a reread. When reading the first, I must always make “dainty biscuits” (as Maria had in her turret room in the blue wooden box) topped with pink sugar roses or green shamrocks, and warm sugar milk. The magic and charm are so welcome here.

    I’m about to print some photos of people I admire in order to frame them for a wall collage. Elizabeth Goudge is one of them. What a tremendous blessing she is!

  13. Sara says:

    That is one of my favorite quotes too. Elizabeth Goudge is my favorite author and I’ve been reading her since I was quite young (and this year I will be 60). I’ve managed to collect most of her books and they are special treasures that I go to over and over. It’s always wonderful to find someone else who knows her and loves her works. i often think she may have been describing herself in this passage that you have quoted. And…she is also describing me, although it’s taken me a very long time to be able to find the “quiet life”….

  14. hopeinbrazil says:

    I love Elizabeth Goudge! The book you quoted is one I’ve had on my shelves but haven’t read yet. Now I look forward to it more than ever.

  15. Oh thank you for the pronunciation of your most unique name!It is now”right”in my head!!:)Blessings Abundant~Sharon Goemaere(Go-Mare) πŸ™‚ LOL

  16. Teresa says:

    I FINALLY started reading my first book by Elizabeth Goudge – “The Bird in the Tree.” Why did I not pick up a book of hers sooner? It is beautiful! Thank you so much for the recommendation, Lanier πŸ˜€ !

  17. […] But it has been a long winter, literally and figuratively, and, in some lights, a hard one. Like our dear friend, Henrietta, I’ve felt rather turned on my head by too much lately, so that most (if not all) that is […]

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