Saturday, September 05, 2009

Elizabeth Goudge's Green Country








Elizabeth Goudge spent only eleven years in Devon, having come down to Marldon in 1939 with her mother after her father’s death. You can find more about their move on the Goudge web-site here. Once in the county – just south of Dartmoor’s southern boundary – she took to her new surroundings like a duck to water. For her, places meant more than people. Years later, writing her autobiography Joy in the Snow, in Oxfordshire, she declared her roots still to be “in the earth of Devonshire”.

In the corner of the orchard in which Elizabeth lived with her mother, at Providence Cottage, Marldon, there were “three giant pines, old and tough and strong. Just where they stood the valley opened out to a view of Dartmoor…”. Her daily life was shaped by that vista. At the heart of her response to the moor was a deep affinity coupled with inner serenity. Sitting and staring at the view from her favourite stile in Westerland “looking across the blue distance to Dartmoor” she felt “peace … forever in that field”. This deep sense of tranquillity must have given her the impetus to begin writing in Devon after her Father’s death, for write and publish she did. Prolifically. Several of the books written at this time were based on the Devonshire landscape in which she lived; they include Gentian Hill and Castle on the Hill (for children). Another of the manuscripts she was writing was Green Dolphin Country, the novel that made her famous. It became a best seller and an MGM film. The story is set in Guernsey, rather than on the moor or even in Devon, yet the plot and setting seems to have been influenced by its author’s place of writing. It’s as though through the peace and serenity of her under moor home she’s been able to explore the country of her inner world through Marianne, the heroine of Green Dolphin Country:


 
(near Marldon & 'the crest of the hill')
“Only in those moments of vivid experience that made her come alive was she at home in her own country. She was avid of experience, always wanting to explore a little further to see over the crest of the hill.” 
 
The preface to the book suggests:“it is the longing to go out from his normal world in search of a lost home …”
This writer is exploring the joy of travelling in the mind, whilst knowing the security of a home base.