Catholic Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Mary R. Reichardt | Go to book overview

RUMER GODDEN (1907–1998)

BIOGRAPHY

Rumer Godden’s life was marked by the peripatetic activity and search for a stable home that figures thematically in much of her fiction. Born Margaret Rumer Godden in Sussex on December 10, 1907, she was the second daughter of Arthur Leigh and Katherine Hingley Godden. While she was yet an infant, her parents moved to India where her father worked as a shipping agent. In 1913, the five-year-old Godden and her older sister Jon were briefly returned to England to live with relatives, but the advent of World War I with the threat of air raids over London necessitated their return to India the following year. The next six years of Godden’s childhood were, as she later stated, a “halcyon” time. As British colonists in Narayangunj, the Godden family lived a gracious, upper-class “Raj” lifestyle. The Godden children received no formal schooling although they were tutored in a haphazard way by their aunt. Godden looked back on this unrestrained period of childhood as one that liberated her imagination and fostered her literary creativity: “All of us wrote: poems and stories poured out of us,” she recalled in her autobiography, Two Under the Indian Sun (p. 195).

In 1920, the halcyon days came to an abrupt end as Godden, now aged twelve, and Jon were sent back to England to attend boarding school. By contrast to the freedom of life in India, Godden’s next few years proved confining and miserable. She attended five schools in five years, leaving each because of her inability to adjust to the rote drills and strict discipline. By far her worst experience was at an Anglican convent boarding school in London; she detested the rigid and formal High Anglicanism she experienced both there and while summering with relatives. Finally, at a school named Moira House, Godden met an inspirational English teacher who nurtured the teenager’s writing abilities. The creative Godden, however, also had a passion for dance. After graduation, she trained herself to become a children’s ballet teacher. In her early

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