Benjamin Lefebvre

April Fool’s Day from Cynthia

In light of the fact that today is the first of April, I thought I’d share with you “Cynthia’s” account of being April fooled, appearing in “Around the Table,” L.M. Montgomery’s newspaper column, which she published in the Halifax Daily Echo from September 1901 to May 1902.

Did you get April fooled last week? At our house we all arose on April’s birth morning with a grim determination not to believe a word that our best friends said to us or tamper with anything that looked suspicious the whole day through. And yet, the sorrowful fact remains that – I blush to admit it – I fell into the very first trap with grace and agility. 

When I went downstairs Ted was in the hall looking over a morning paper with a very shocked face. 

“Cynthia,” he said, with a shudder – oh, it was very well done. In justice to myself I must say that – “this is frightful. There has been a terrible accident up at the north end – nine lives lost.” 

“Oh,” I gasped, feeling a dozen thrills of horror. “Oh, Ted, what happened?” 

“A street car ran over a cat,” said Ted solemnly. 

And there I was! If it had even been a new joke there would have been some excuse for me. But it is old – so old! Why, it has been going the rounds of the funny columns for years. 

Well, I tried to take it meekly and all through breakfast I brooded over my revenge. When Ted started to go down town I called to him and asked him if he would mind doing an errand for me. He said no, of course not. So I wrote out a memorandum and told him to get me three yards of sparrowbill purple ribbon. 

“Be very careful to get sparrowbill,” I said. “No other shade of purple will do. I want it to match my new suit. I daresay they won’t have it at all the stores. It’s a new shade.”

“I’ll hunt around until I get it,” said Ted so obligingly that I felt a slight pang of remorse – until I remembered that hideous joke. 

When Ted came home at night he looked as if he were suffering from that tired feeling. 

“I couldn’t get that fiendish shade of ribbon you wanted, Cynthia,” he said wearily. “I’ve been to every dry goods store in Halifax and the clerks all looked at me as if they thought I was crazy. Said they’d never heard of sparrowbill purple.” 

“No more did I,” I said maliciously. “You shouldn’t go gunning for new shades on the first of April, Teddy-boy.” 

Ted, not being dull of comprehension, understood. He grinned. 

“Guess we are square,” he said frankly.

The full text of “Around the Table” appears in A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, available from the publisher or from your favourite bookseller.

March Madness Sale at UTP!

Cover art for three volumes of THE L.M. MONTGOMERY READER, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre

UPDATE: This sale has been extended until April 7!

I’ve fallen woefully behind on my blog posts, but here’s one that simply can’t wait any longer. I found out earlier this week that University of Toronto Press is having a March Madness Sale, which means that several L.M. Montgomery books are 50% off for the rest of the month!

My three-volume collection The L.M. Montgomery Reader, which won the 2016 PROSE Award for Literature from the Association of American Publishers, is available for $60 for the entire set, whereas Volume 1: A Life in Print, Volume 2: A Critical Heritage, and Volume 3: A Legacy in Review are available individually for $29, which is a 50% discount. Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables, a collection of essays I edited in collaboration with Irene Gammel, is also available at a 50% discount.

Additional books are also available at discounts of 40% to 60%: Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s book-length studies The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery’s Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance and Through Lover’s Lane: L.M. Montgomery’s Photography and Visual Imagination, Gammel’s collections of essays Making Avonlea: L.M. Montgomery and Popular Culture and The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery, Gammel and Epperly’s collection of essays L.M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture, and Hildi Froese Tiessen and Paul Gerard Tiessen’s After Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery’s Letters to Ephraim Weber, 1916–1941.

This sale runs till the end of March, and University of Toronto Press ships worldwide. Complete your Montgomery collection today!

And while you’re at it, you can also pick up copies of my latest books: A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 and A World of Songs: Selected Poems, 1894–1921.

The Blythes Are Quoted on Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! card, with all-caps white text against a royal blue background. The text reads: "This character gets one last story in 'The Blythes Are Quoted', published after Lucy Maud Montgomery Died."
Title card from episode of Jeopardy! airing on 11 December 2018

A few weeks ago, I was thrilled when someone alerted me to the fact that L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, had been featured on a recent episode of Jeopardy!. It made my day, especially since neither the original 2009 edition or the 2018 Penguin Modern Classics Edition has been available outside Canada. The episode was posted to YouTube shortly after it aired, but unfortunately, it’s no longer available.

Christmas in Halifax, 1901

Heading for "Christmas Shopping in Halifax Stores," showing the title, a large bough of holly, and two figures dressed in winter clothing.
Header for “Christmas Shopping in Halifax Stores,” Halifax Daily Echo, 9 December 1901

When L.M. Montgomery worked for the Halifax Daily Echo in 1901–1902, she was given a wide range of occasional writing assignments, most of which she never discussed, let alone saved in her scrapbooks, meaning that they cannot be identified now. One writing assignment she did mention in her journals and in her celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path,” consisted of writing up the holiday specials of Halifax stores that were regular advertisers in the paper, but what she never revealed was the sheer scope of the assignment: she wrote advertising copy for ninety stores, for a total of 13,000 words (more than half the length of “The Alpine Path”). Although Montgomery found these pieces tedious to write, they make for fascinating reading because of how much they reveal about advertising practices more than a century ago.

I include in A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 some highlights from this assignment, called “Christmas Shopping in Halifax Stores.” Here, as an online exclusive, are Montgomery’s opening paragraph and one of my favourite write-ups from this assignment.

Again Christmas tide approaches and the wide-awake shopkeepers have made preparations for a good season’s trade. All branches of trade feel the effect of Christmas buying, and the consumer feels it perhaps most than all, but he grows reckless with his money in preparing for the season of peace and goodwill. At times he is bothered in the selection of goods and articles which he may deem suitable and worthy of the occasion, and in order to assist readers who might possibly find themselves in such a dilemma the Echo will take the liberty of calling attention to stores and shops where Christmas purchases may be made to advantage.

S. Cunard & Co. 

Stoves are little use without fuel, so when one orders a stove coal is brought to mind. S. Cunard & Co.’s is one of the oldest coal dealing firms in Halifax, and their reputation is built on a solid foundation. They deal in all kinds of coals, hard and soft, and having North and South end depots are in a position to supply all parts of the city at short notice. Much coal is given at Christmas to the poor, and it is a thoughtful and in most cases exceedingly welcome gift. With such arrangements as S. Cunard & Co. are equipped with there is little trouble occasioned by one who wishes coal sent to a poor acquaintance. He simply rings up one of the firm’s telephones and gives his order, and the firm does the rest, even to putting the coal in the cellar, if he desires it. Cunard & Co. say that the hard coal with which they supplied their customers the past season turned out to be the best they ever handled. The firm has still a lot of this coal on hand now, and can supply it promptly. 

And on 23 December 1901, Montgomery – or, rather, “Cynthia” – wrote in her column “Around the Table” about a late snowfall that was apparently a rarity in Halifax at the time:

I believe we are going to have a white Christmas after all. I’m so glad. I hate a “green” Christmas. You know, when a Christmas is a dirty-grayey-browney affair, looking as if it had been left over about a hundred years ago, and had been in soak ever since it is called a green Christmas. Don’t ask me why! As Lord Dundreary says, “There are thome thingth no fellow can underthtand.”

We don’t get a white Christmas oftener than once in a blue moon, so it is something to be duly thankful for. It is the only real, guaranteed Christmas. Any other kind is a fraud and imitation. Always ask your dealer for a white Christmas and insist on having it.

Lots of snow, making the world look like a magnified Christmas card, crisp, exhilarating air and jingles of sleigh bells everywhere – that’s as it should be. No “green” Christmas for me, an it please ye.

It’s an apt sentiment, since this year, here in Kitchener, Ontario, it also looked like it was going to be a “green” Christmas. But then it snowed overnight – just enough of a dusting to cover the dead lawn but not nearly enough to warrant a lot of shovelling, which is a bonus.

I wish everyone who reads this website a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to continuing the conversation about L.M. Montgomery’s life, work, and legacy in 2019.

A Name for Herself Currently an Amazon Bestseller!

I am so pleased to report that A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, the first volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, is currently an Amazon.ca bestseller! In addition to being ranked 6,670 in terms of overall Amazon.ca bestsellers, it’s currently #1 in two categories – “Books > Literature & Fiction > Canadian > History & Criticism” and “Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Women’s Studies > Women Writers” – as well as #3 in “Books > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Women Writers & Feminist Theory.” Bestseller rankings on Amazon tend to change pretty quickly, so I’m going to enjoy this while I can!

The odd thing is that I looked up the book on Amazon.ca while taking a break from proofreading one of L.M. Montgomery’s earliest short stories, part of a subset of school stories that she published in the Philadelphia Times. That will appear in a future volume in the series.

After spending so many years gathering this material together, it’s really gratifying to know that fellow Montgomery readers now have the opportunity to read this periodical work too.

Amazon.ca listing for A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, 8 December 2018

A Name for Herself: 50% Off Today Only!

Cover art for A NAME FOR HERSELF: SELECTED WRITINGS, 1891–1917, by L.M. Montgomery, edited by Benjamin LefebvreI cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author. To write has always been my central purpose around which every effort and hope and ambition of my life has grouped itself. – “The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career

I was very pleased to receive an email this morning from University of Toronto Press announcing that A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, the first volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, had been selected as the first book in its 12 Days of Reading campaign. This means that, today only, both the paperback edition and the hardcover edition are 50% off. Order your copy today!

I was also happy to discover yesterday, on the occasion of the 144th anniversary of Montgomery’s birth, that A Name for Herself had been included in the 2018 Book and Gift Guide from Canada’s History.

In the days and weeks ahead, I’ll share with you some exclusive extracts from the book. Today’s extract is from Montgomery’s newspaper column, “Around the Table,” which is collected in its entirety for the first time in my volume. Her column for 2 December 1901 begins with a rumination on the changing seasons:

We have had some forewarnings of winter this last week, haven’t we? The air grew cold and crisp and the poor little sparrows twittered and fluffed out their feathers; and one morning the good folks of Halifax wakened up to see a filmy scarf of white over their city – not much of a snowfall, but just enough to pick the roofs out in dark lines and make the streets for a few brief moments into avenues of marble and invest the glimpses of distant hills with an unreal, fairy-like beauty. The first snowfall of every year has a perennial novelty. There is always a certain suggestion of miracle or magic about it. We go to bed some night, looking out on a dull, gray, lifeless world from which all zest and sparkle seem to have departed. Next morning, presto, change!

Somebody – something – has been at work in the hours of darkness and the sad old world is transformed. And we look upon it with as much delight as if we had never seen it before – this wonderful white loveliness that came while we slept and vanishes again before the morning is far spent.

A Name for Herself will be followed by A World of Songs, a selection of fifty poems originally published between 1894 and 1921, available from University of Toronto Press in January 2019. Volumes of Montgomery’s complete short stories and complete poems are currently in progress.

A Name for Herself Now Available!


I’m very pleased to announce the publication of A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, from University of Toronto Press. This book, which is the first volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, collects for the first time the majority of the non-fiction and miscellaneous pieces that Montgomery published starting as a teenager and ending at the height of her career as an internationally bestselling author. Among the highlights of the volume is the full text of “Around the Table,” a newspaper column she published in Halifax over a nine-month period, and a new edition of her celebrity memoir “The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career” with fascinating new links to her journals and letters. Montgomery’s text is supplemented by a preface, headnotes, an afterword, and notes that provide historical and biographical context and that place Montgomery in conversation with English-speaking women writers who preceded her (particularly George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë) and the strategies they used to succeed, including opting for initials or for male or androgynous pen names in order to help their work circulate in the marketplace.

The book can be ordered at a discount through the University of Toronto Press website and can also be purchased through your favourite bookseller. The second volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, A World of Songs: Selected Poems, 1894–1921 (January 2019), is available for pre-order.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog for future updates on volumes in this series, including sneak previews, cover art, and notices about book signings and readings!

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L.M. Montgomery at Home in Leaskdale

Photograph of a statue of L.M. Montgomery
Statue of L.M. Montgomery, located on the property of Leaskdale Presbyterian Church.

It’s almost that time of year again! The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario will be holding its annual L.M. Montgomery day on Saturday, October 27, 2018. Several presenters will give papers on this year’s theme, L.M. Montgomery at Home in Leaskdale:

“Leaskdale Beginnings and Becomings: L.M. Montgomery and Motherhood” —Rita Bode, Lesley D. Clement, and Margaret Steffler

“‘Pangs and Passions’: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on Her Adolescence While Living in Leaskdale” —Melanie J. Fishbane

“The Town of Leaskdale during Montgomery’s Era: 1911 to 1926” —Alan MacGillivray

“Business Woman and Poet: L.M. Montgomery during the Leaskdale Years” —Benjamin Lefebvre

“Growing Independence: L.M. Montgomery in Leaskdale” —Caroline E. Jones

The day will conclude with a book signing featuring me and Melanie J. Fishbane. For more information and to register, see the calendar of events on the LMMSO website. Hope to see you there!

Two Anne Premieres Tonight

Although many Canadian viewers were disappointed to learn that the second season of Anne with an “E” would drop on Netflix months before it would air in Canada, tonight that wait is over, since the first episode of the second season, “Youth Is the Season of Hope,” airs tonight on the CBC, with the remaining nine episodes airing throughout the fall on Sunday nights. As I mentioned in a blog post last year, adaptations of Montgomery’s books have been a Sunday-night tradition for the CBC, since it was on Sunday evenings that the CBC aired the first halves of Sullivan Entertainment’s Anne of Green Gables (1985) and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987) as well as nearly the entire run of the episodic series Road to Avonlea (1990–1996) and Emily of New Moon (1998–1999, 2002–2003).

By coincidence, the third Anne movie from Breakthrough Entertainment, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: Fire and Dew, which aired on YTV on 1 July 2017 and which was released on DVD just this week, has its U.S. premiere on PBS this evening. So it looks as though both American and Canadian viewers finally get the chance to see a much-anticipated follow-up production that their neighbours across the border have already been talking about!

Melanie J. Fishbane’s Maud Shortlisted for 2018 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature

Maud, by Melanie J. FishbaneHeartiest congratulations to Melanie J. Fishbane, whose YA novel Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery has been shortlisted for a 2018 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature, under its Children’s/Young Adult category!

For more on this announcement, see the website for the Koffler Centre of the Arts. The winners of the 2018 Vine Awards will be announced on 11 October 2018, shortly after the publication of the paperback edition of Maud on 2 October 2018.