The Lost Staircase/Little White Horse
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#1: The Lost Staircase/Little White Horse Author: LollyLocation: Back in London PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:37 am
I re-read The Lost Staircase yesterday and it suddenly struck me how much of it appears to have been 'borrowed' from Elizabeth Goudge's Little White Horse.

I can't help thinking it is more than just coincidence...

The two stories open with a recently orphaned teenage girl arriving at the family estate which she has never seen before but which she is to inherit.

In both books the girl is initially sad to be torn away from her earlier home, but almost immediately feels a strange connection to her new home. Both girls realise that they will never be happy anywhere else.

Animals feature in both books, both heroines being presented as animal-lovers, surrounded by pets who play a large part in their adventures. Both are constantly accompanied by their own dogs.

In both books her new guardian is an elderly man - a distant cousin - who at first appears eccentric and stern but is soon revealed to be kindly and devoted to his new ward. Both of these cousins are hearty country squire type men devoted to animals and particularly riding and hunting.

A large and ferocious looking dog is prominent in both books - difficult with strangers but a formidable guardian to his family.

There is a secret connected with both the great houses in which they live which only the young girl can discover.

There is a huge emphasis on strange family traits in both books...I can't count the number of Sir Ambrose's speeches in the Lost Staircase that begin 'Gellibrands always....'. In The Little White Horse a great deal of Sir Benjamin's time is spent in instructing Maria in the characteristics of the Merryweather family - all of which are displayed by Maria herself. One of these traits common to both books is an enormous appetite!

The name 'Loveday' is a family name in both books - understandably in The Little White Horse as the family is from the West Country, and the bearer of the name is herself Cornish, but slightly unusually in The Lost Staircase where the family is described as originating from Kent.

Also, having noticed all this, I couldn't help but notice that the characterisation of The Lost Staircase was markedly different to many of EBDs other books.

Has anyone else noticed any of this? And assuming (as I now do) that EBD had been influenced by her reading of Elizabeth Goudge in writing this novel, has anyone noticed the influence of other authors in any of her other books?

(Mods if this is in the wrong place....... Very Happy )

#2:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:47 am
I haven't read The Little White Horse, but I do think that the influence of various other authors is clear in EBD's books - although possibly no more so than anything anyone writes is influenced by what they've read, especially within a particular "genre" (hope that that makes sense!).

EJO's books, many of which precede the first CS books, include references to schools in the Alps which are linked with sanatoria where TB patients are being treated. Not to mention the inordinate number of sets of twins who are born to the main characters! Mary-Lou is very reminiscent of Dorita Fairlie Bruce's Dimsie, and didn't EBD herself say that Jo Bettany's character was partly based on L M Alcott's Jo March? Plus there are shades of Angela Brazil in most GO school stories.

I don't mean that EBD was copying anyone else's ideas - some of the themes are generic ones which crop up in a lot of GO authors' works - just that some of the themes are very similar.

#3:  Author: JayBLocation: SE England PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:14 pm
The Little White Horse and The Lost Staircase were both published in 1946 (info from Elizabeth Goudge Society's website). And we meeet Jesanne and Lois before then at the CS, don't we? EBD must have had the story in her head for a while.

I think it's more likely EBD and EG both took their ideas from an earlier source which we can't now identify - or, as Alison suggested, the schoolgirl heiress was a popular theme which they both happened to write about at the same time.

#4:  Author: LexiLocation: Liverpool PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:20 pm
I've only just read The Little White Horse for the first time and hadn't made the connection at all but reading through that list, what a lot of similarities! They're both lovely books.

I'm not 100% sure about dates though. I've done a quick Google and the date of publication for both seems to be 1946 so the likelihood of EBD being influenced by Elizabeth Goudge doesn't seem too high. Doesn't EBD mention the vague plot of The Lost Staircase in an earlier book (I think either Gay or Lavender)? That would suggest to me that she had the idea of the plot a few years before it was written and published.

ETA - bah, beaten to it!

#5:  Author: LollyLocation: Back in London PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:37 pm
That's interesting...I thought the Lost Staircase was published a bit later than that. But while it's true that the young heiress theme was quite prevalent at the time there's something about the way EBD wrote the book which strikes me as being different to the others I've read. Not only her characterisation, but her characters' situations and her descriptive style. It's hard to explain but for me the similarities go a lot deeper than just the storyline.

And while it's clear that Lois and Jesanne as characters predate the Little White Horse and that EBD clearly had been planning the Lost Staircase, I still can't help wondering whether she had read and been influenced The Little White Horse. Let's not forget how quickly she could turn a book around. And I'm not trying to suggest the plots are identical - they aren't at all. But so many of the themes surrounding the two plots are & that is what I find strange.

It would be interesting to know which book was published first - obviously if EBD got hers out earlier in the year then the similarities are down to coincidence. On the other hand if Elizabeth Goudge published at the beginning of the year and the Lost Staircase came out at the end I can't help thinking that it gained considerably from the former!

On the other hand, I don't think that Elizabeth Goudge was in any way influenced by EBD - for one thing, she took longer to write her books and I believe that The Little White Horse was several years in the writing, and for another her writing style stayed pretty consistent throughout her career.

I don't know if it's because I read the two books almost back to back ( I know the Little White Horse almost off by heart anyway it is my favourite book) but the similarities really did strike me as being extraordinary.

#6:  Author: JackiePLocation: Kingston upon Hull PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 1:24 pm
If both books came out at the same time, had perhaps something happened IRL (either recently, or had happened in the past and the story had got out) that could have inspired both books...


#7:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:39 pm
I sort of think that should EBD have wanted to plagiarise that she probably would have waited rather than rushing her book out in the same year..? But I haven't read the Goudge book so can't really comment.

The heiress plot is very common to Victoria-era melodramatic stories.

#8:  Author: LollyLocation: Back in London PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:47 pm
I'm not really suggesting actual plagiarism - rather a kind of unconcious absorption. The Little White Horse won a Carnegie prize so would probably have had quite a lot of publicitiy in that year.

Obviously the idea of having an heiress as central figure to a novel is very common indeed. What I'm really wondering is if anyone who has read both of the two books finds the similarities as striking as I do?

#9:  Author: RóisínLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:48 pm
I haven't read either book, but I'm very interested to do so now! Very Happy

#10:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 4:06 pm
Lolly wrote:
I'm not really suggesting actual plagiarism - rather a kind of unconcious absorption. The Little White Horse won a Carnegie prize so would probably have had quite a lot of publicitiy in that year.

OK. I have to say though I don't think your original posting is that clear?

Lolly wrote:
I re-read The Lost Staircase yesterday and it suddenly struck me how much of it appears to have been 'borrowed' from Elizabeth Goudge's Little White Horse.

I can't help thinking it is more than just coincidence...

Who are the individual publishers?

It may be worth contacting Helen McLelland who has all of EBD's manuscripts and notes. You can contact her c/o the NCC.

#11:  Author: andiLocation: London PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:49 pm
The Lost Staircase always reminds me a bit of Little Lord Fauntleroy, with the heir(ess) being sent for from another country to come and learn to be worthy of their heritage, the aristocratic relative who expects the worst of their heir but learns to love them, the mother/aunt who is banned from the premises but becomes reconciled (sorry, bad grammar!) by the end of the story.

#12:  Author: AnjaliLocation: Sydney, Australia PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2008 12:59 am
I haven't read either book, so can't really comment, but reading through the list of similarities, I immediately thought of LM Montgomery's Emily of New Moon - the orphaned heroine comes to live with her old-fashioned aunts and uncle, will eventually inherit the estate, initially does not get along with said aunt/uncle but they soon find she displays all characteristic family traits, is very attached to her pet(cat in this case), Aunt Elizabeth says,'Murrays always', etc, etc...

So I think this might have been a popular theme at the time....

#13:  Author: ElaLocation: London Village PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 7:30 pm
The synopsis of both books (I haven't read The Lost Staircase) reminded me of Gwendoline Courtney's A Coronet For Cathie, so I guess it's a common trope. Courtney's book does have it's differences, of course: it's one I'm very fond of.

I've not been tempted to re-read The Little White Horse - I thought it a little too consciously pretty, especially since Goudge's other books are much more realistic.

#14:  Author: RosalinLocation: Swansea PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:06 pm
There are quite a lot of similarities, which had never struck me before, but I find the feel of the two books very different. Lost Staircase is still recognisably a GO-type story and other than the Dragon House's shape only being recognisable to a Gellibrand it's all quite rational.
The Little White Horse I find much more mystical and not something I would class as the same genre exactly.

#15:  Author: abbeybufoLocation: in a world of her own PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 11:54 pm
Ela wrote:
The synopsis of both books (I haven't read The Lost Staircase) reminded me of Gwendoline Courtney's A Coronet For Cathie, so I guess it's a common trope. Courtney's book does have it's differences, of course: it's one I'm very fond of.
And just to add to the confusion Confused . . . many EJO devotees reckon Coronet for Cathy was as good as 'lifted' from EJO's Girls of the Hamlet Club [somewhere in the Abbey Chronicle archives is a comparison of the two plots]Laughing

#16:  Author: RóisínLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:30 am
abbeybufo wrote:
. . . many EJO devotees reckon Coronet for Cathy was as good as 'lifted' from EJO's Girls of the Hamlet Club [somewhere in the Abbey Chronicle archives is a comparison of the two plots]Laughing

Ooh that sounds interesting. As I *have* read one of those books (GOTHC) would you mind summarising the plot of the other, if you have time, pretty please Very Happy

#17:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:22 am
In A Coronet for Cathie, recovering 15-year-old invalid Cathie unexpectedly inherits a title, and comes to live at the castle with her cousins. When she's well enough to study again, she and the female cousins (who hate leaving their school) spend a while with an unsatisfactory governess before being sent to a local select seminary at which snobs keep the lower classes out of societies via high subscription fees. Cathie attends incognito (assumed to be a "poor relation" by the worst offenders) until forced to reveal herself, as she's already had dealings with unpleasant social climbers. She is helped through math by the blacksmith's daughter, helps her in turn, and is able to keep the friendship even when her identity comes out. Moreover, with her friends and cousins, she starts a rival society that ultimately defeats the villains at their own game (tennis), and in the end next year's Head Girl declares herself in favor of the outsiders. In the last chapter, Cathie reluctantly agrees to move into the duchess' suite and start learning more about the estate, the better to help those around her.

So, no sign of folk dancing or May queens, but there are alternative meetings in a barn on Cathie's estate, and the snobs and their societies are overcome.

I don't think it was a matter of lifting a story from the Abbey Girls in particular, but that the snobs and their societies were stock figures. Certainly in my collection of early Girl Scout/Guide novels, some predating the Abbey Girls, the movement causes the demise of elite or secret societies, to the benefit of the school.

#18:  Author: RóisínLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:03 pm
Thanks Kathy. I must hunt up a transcript or a copy and read it. Certainly are a lot of similarities there.

#19:  Author: abbeybufoLocation: in a world of her own PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 3:00 pm
Kathy_S wrote:

I don't think it was a matter of lifting a story from the Abbey Girls in particular, but that the snobs and their societies were stock figures.

Thanks Kathy_S - I hadn't ever read Coronet and there are certainly many differences you point out, compared to the comparison table I was remembering - posting the whole article, by Mabel Esther Allan, and a short comment by Lyn Smith that preceded it, below - sorry, mods, that it makes this so long - the comments in the middle section of direct comparisons were originally in 2 columns, but can't seem to do that here:
From Abbey Chronicle No. 12, Sept 1992
Hamlet Club/Coronet For Cathie - Lyn Smith
May I offer another book with strong similarities to Girls of the Hamlet ClubA Coronet for Cathie by Gwendoline Courtney. In the second half of the book the heroine, who has unexpectedly become a duchess, goes (incognito of course!) to a school split by snobbery into rich and poor. The bossy head girl keeps the club subscriptions high, Cathie forms a club for the outsiders and they meet in a barn, but there is no folk dancing or may queens.
Actually it’s an enjoyable book without the added entertainment of spotting all the points of similarity to Hamlet Club.
From Broadway End To An Exmoor Castle - Mabel Esther Allan
Or, of course, from The Girls of the Hamlet Club by Elsie J.Oxenham (1914) to A Coronet for Cathie by Gwendoline Courtney (1950).
When I decided to write some articles about old girls’ books this was the first one I thought of but it seemed so tricky that I wrote seven others first! However, here goes.
I know that many people have noticed the rather startling similarities between the two books and I must say at once that soon after the publication of Cathie, I wrote to Gwendoline Courtney and commented on the extraordinary similarities between her book and The Girls of the Hamlet Club. It was cheek, even though I was by then starting to be an established author, but I was curious. It is a pity that I didn’t keep the letter she wrote back, but I can assure collectors that she said most emphatically that she had never read The Girls of the Hamlet Club. At that point the matter dropped out of my mind. I was too busy establishing myself as an author, and travelling, to bother I never thought of it again until I started to collect and, probably in the late ‘70s a copy of A Coronet for Cathie turned up and I read it more carefully. In 1950, because it seemed that I was going to write for children and not for adults as I had really wished, I simply read a very few current books to see what was happening.
I have said in more than one place that I think Hamlet Club should have become a minor classic, like Anne of Green Gables. It is a good book, a long book with some depth, and it is quite vividly written and never dull for a moment. It gives a wonderfully detailed picture of the Chiltern country before the first World War, and most of the characters are very well drawn. The book seems to have always been with me. I gave up reading girls’ books around 1931 but I kept some EJOs for a long time. When I finally got rid of most of them I kept Hamlet Club and it became a kind of bedside book until every page fell loose. The copy I have now, possibly a first edition, I got in the ‘70s when I started collecting, but I never forgot it and its lovely colour plates and of course, because of that and the early Abbey Girls, I not only found folk dancing but went to live at Hampden in 1945.
Though it was so many years since Hamlet Club had been written, in many ways the Chilterns weren’t much changed. There were of course no carriages or pony traps, but because the war had only been over about a month, there was little traffic. No petrol. So I cycled all over the hills and bottoms with as much joy as Cicely Hobart. I suppose the main difference was in the great houses. Hampden House was a school, Chequers the Prime Minister’s country residence, houses like Shardiloes empty and looking as if the end had come. Happily it hadn’t, in most cases.
Cicely’s father, home from Ceylon takes her to the inn in the village of Whiteleaf below the hills, and, incidentally, just below Hampden lands and the great chalk cross. In the book the ancient inn is thatched and called The Old Beech Tree. In 1945 it certainly wasn’t thatched and it was called, I think, The Red Lion. I was in Whiteleaf constantly for years, but I never went to that inn much because it didn’t “do” food, while The Plough at Cadsden, just north around the hill, did. It may have been thatched once, there were a few thatched cottages on the same side just north of it. I think there was a fire, so they may not be there now. Thatch was never common actually on the hills, it was mainly those lovely russet tiles, but Whiteleaf is more or less below the hills, and there are, or were, plenty of thatched cottages in the Vale.
Cicely lives in London and is very happy there with her friends, but she now finds that she has to make a choice. She learns that both her father and her dead mother came from that Chiltern country, and her mother, Cicely Broadway was the only daughter of a great house nearby called Broadway End. When their daughter insisted on marrying Cicely’s father and going to live in Ceylon they were very upset and when she died they did not want her child, fearing she might remind them too much of their lost daughter. But now Mrs Broadway is very ill at Broadway End, and she might, at some point left vague, ask for her granddaughter. So the suggestion is that Cicely could live in Whiteleaf with Mrs Ramage, an old family servant, and go to Miss Macey’s big school in High Wycombe … or rather Wycombe Moor, which doesn’t exist. Cicely is left at Mrs Ramage’s for a few days alone to make up her mind if she will do this thing to please her father, who would be glad to have old family troubles resolved.
Cicely hates the very idea of staying in the country all alone, but decides to do “the right thing” after meeting Margia Lane, an artist, in Great Hampden Wood. Margia talks about “choice” and tells her the story of John Hampden, who made a painful choice in the Civil War. Incidentally, EJO is one of the few authors who was on the side of the Parliamentarians. And it’s true that Hampden did make a terrible choice, as he could well afford to pay the Ship Money.
At all events, Cicely decides to stay in Whiteleaf, waiting a call (that may never come) to Broadway End. From then on the book is really a school story, while the school part of Cathie comes about 2/3 through the book.
I can fault little in Hamlet Club for it is perfect within its period, except of course for the incredibly easy way Cicely teaches the country and morris dances when she forms the Hamlet Club. “After half an hour they were clamouring for something more difficult”! And this was a morris dance that most of us took years to learn. The dancing is, in a way, absurd throughout, but somehow it doesn’t really matter. EJO herself learned how very wrong she had been when she went to Schools, and she did her best to put it right in one of the early Abbey Girls. Hamlet Club is, of course, really the first book in that long (much too long!) series.
When Cicely finds that Miss Macey’s school is snobbishly divided, because a lot of scholarship and cheaper paying girls were admitted a year or two before, she decides to keep her connection with Broadway End dark, and she starts the Hamlet Club for the country girls who can’t afford the deliberately high fees of the school clubs. It is clear from her clothes and “her jolly bike” that she is not poor, and really might belong to the other set, but she does live in a cottage in Whiteleaf. Only her great friend Miriam from Green Hailey knows, through Mrs Ramage. In this Cathie is not quite the same, as most people believe her to be a poor relation when she goes to school. Why, one wonders, did that story stick for so long? The Duchess must have had good clothes, too. Except that St Agatha’s had a uniform. Cicely ignored the vague suggestion of one at Miss Macey’ s.
When I first got a copy of A Coronet for Cathie as a collector, probably in the late’70s I disliked it, yet found it fascinating. But now let me say, before I start criticising it, that, very curiously, I learned to love it for all its faults. In fact it is the one book I didn’t read as a child that has become quite important. And for its own sake. Not for the very curious resemblances to The Girls of the Hamlet Club.
However, let us get on. To start with the two heroines are not in the least alike. Cicely is extremely healthy … all that cycling, And I know what that means in the Chilterns, having done it myself. Cathie is an invalid for more than half the book; I found that a bore at first, and the chapters about the awful governess. But now we come to the similarities, mainly in the school part of Cathie. There are really too many for sheer coincidence. Gwendoline just must have read EJO when she was young, and somehow the book slipped into her subconscious. I am not sure of her age, but she is, I think, maybe a little older than I am. I was actually in touch with her in very recent years, but she was ill or saw badly, and I certainly couldn’t have written or talked about the subject.

Cicely arrives at a country inn in the dark, and the book starts when she sees the Chilterns the next morning. She learns that her parents belonged in that area and that her mother (dead) was Cicely Broadway of Broadway End, one of the largest houses in the neighbourhood. Married Cicely’s father against her parents wishes. No contact since. Cicely eventually goes to live at Broadway End.
Cathie arrives with her aunt who has brought her up, at an Exmoor inn in the dark, and wakes to see the new scene. She learns her father came from Montford Castle near by but married against family wishes and dropped his title. The difference here is that Cathie goes to live in the castle at once and becomes a Duchess almost at once. -

Then, for a time, there are no resemblances. Finally Cathie and her two Rushton cousins, Penelope and Dorothea, go to school, and the strange thing starts.

Cicely goes to school incognito, posing as a village girl. Only Miriam knows the truth.
Cathie goes to school posing as a poor relation. Only Joy, met the previous summer knows the truth. Though a senior Marie suspects it.

Miss Macey’s school, once exclusive now had a larger number of poor girls, mainly from the villages or hamlets.
St Agatha’s ditto but a much smaller school. Too small! Only 40 girls.

The rich, snobbish girls set the subscriptions so high that the poor ones are left out.
St Agatha’s Ditto

When Georgie explains the position to Cicely she calls them the Outsiders. Later they are the Hamlets

Cicely makes friends with Miriam Honor, poor but clever. Miriam has a thin time, but is proud. She lives in a cottage and has a little sister called Babs.

Cathy makes friends with Ruth (another Biblical name), poor, clever and proud. Lives in a cottage and has a little sister called Babs.

Cicely forms the Hamlet Club to unite the outsiders. They meet in the woods, and in a barn.
Cathie plans a club and they call themselves The Outsiders. They meet in a wood, and a barn

Joy Shirley. In The Abbey Girls.
There are a Joy and a Shirley

Mary Devine. In Abbey Girls Again & later.
There is a Julia Devine

Marguerite Verity, a leading Hamlet.
There is a Marguerite as a leading member of the Outsiders

There is a rich girl, Madeleine who sympathises with the Hamlets but does nothing.
There is a rich girl Marie who sympathises with the Outsiders but does nothing.

Cicely is summoned by the arch snob Hilary and told to choose her company better. Cicely defies her.
Cathie is summoned by Helena and told ditto. Cathie defies her. The two interviews are almost identical.

Cicely succeeds in uniting the school before her identity is discovered.

So does Cathie, and it is stated that she has done it as “plain Cathie Sidney.” Not wholly true. Cathie does admit to herself that it is just like acting in a play. One always doubts that if she hadn’t been a Duchess she would have had the character to pull it off.

Both girls have united their schools.

It’s true that there are only a limited number of plots but this is more than plot. The only thing that is missing in the second book is folk dancing.
I would only like to add one thing about Hamlet Club, and this is for those people who like to know exactly on what, and where, an author based her ideas. I have saved people a lot of trouble, and possibly spoilt the pleasure of speculation in years to come, by writing my two The Background Came First books. Someone may have said this before – so much research has been done it’s possible. But regarding Broadway End, it seems to me that EJO may have been thinking of Chequers, now, and for many years, the Prime Minister’s country residence, a beautiful Tudor house in a huge park; in my day riddled with footpaths. Some of them were very eerie; one through an ancient wood of amazingly tall box. And there is Cymbeline’s Mount; hard to find, but strange when found, with its small crown of deadly nightshade. I knew it all intimately. In my day the main entrance was on the Hampden and London side, with a side entrance and lodge opposite to the road to Lodge Hill. All on top of the hills, and to get there from Whiteleaf and Kimble, you had to go all the way to Kimble and take the road up the hills. But we always thought there had once been a drive straight down the hill to the Whiteleaf, Kimble, Ellesborough roads. And Broadway End was three miles from Whiteleaf. It would have been right if there was a drive on that road in 1914. This is just for interest.
I have said that I love A Coronet for Cathie now, in spite of its faults, and there are many. So maybe I will write a second article about that book allowing it to stand on its own feet.

end of article
ETA the above line to make it clear that the precediing isn't me but Mabel Rolling Eyes

Last edited by abbeybufo on Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:41 pm; edited 1 time in total

#20:  Author: JBLocation: Cumbria PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:34 pm
Thanks. This was fascinating. I hadn't realised just how similar they were. A Coronet for Cathie is one of my favourite comfort reads and i'm less familiar with Hamlet Club.

#21:  Author: ElaLocation: London Village PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:14 pm
Another vote of thanks from me too. Interesting to see how much the two are similar. I suppose that the borrowings were unconscious, though some of Courtney's other books also have a similar sort of plot (Denehurst Secret Service, for example, with its warring houses).

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