Benjamin Lefebvre

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.

Cover Art for First Two Titles in the L.M. Montgomery Library

Cover art for A NAME FOR HERSELF: SELECTED WRITINGS, 1891–1917, by L.M. Montgomery, edited by Benjamin LefebvreCover art for A WORLD OF SONGS: SELECTED POEMS, 1894–1921, by L.M. Montgomery, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre

I’m happy to share with you the cover art for the first two volumes in The L.M. Montgomery Library. The first volume, A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, is now up for pre-order on the publisher’s website, where there’s also now a dedicated page for the series, or through your favourite bookseller; it will be released later this fall. The second volume, A World of Songs: Selected Poems, 1894–1921, will be available in February 2019.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog for future updates on these volumes, including sneak previews, full tables of contents, and notices about book signings and readings!

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Brontë, Eliot, Montgomery, and Anne with an “E”

A Name for Herself: Selected Writings 1891–1917 (temporary cover)Yesterday, I took a hard copy of the proofs of my afterword to A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 with me when I went to get an oil change, because when a deadline looms, every spare minute counts. Because the goal of the volumes in The L.M. Montgomery Library is not simply to reprint Montgomery’s work but also to provide some original content that’ll place that work within its historical and literary contexts, the afterword of this first volume discusses Montgomery’s career and her choice of an androgynous signature (“L.M. Montgomery”) in the context of British women writers who preceded her, especially Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot. There are numerous parallels between these three authors, particularly between Montgomery and Brontë, to the point that Carole Gerson, in her contribution to Storm and Dissonance: L.M. Montgomery and Conflict (2006), declares that “at one level, Montgomery is always rewriting Jane Eyre.” I’m going a bit further with this, speculating that Montgomery may have named her two major book protagonists Anne and Emily after two of the Brontë sisters but refrained from naming a third one Charlotte in order to make the point of connection less definite. (Not to mention that Charlotte Brontë’s second novel is entitled Shirley.)

Although I was somewhat distracted from my proofreading by the soccer game between Brazil and Belgium, I reached the endnote in which I mentioned another point of connection between Montgomery and Brontë – the fact that the titles of all seven episodes of the first season of the CBC/Netflix series Anne with an “E” are quotations from Jane Eyre: “Your Will Shall Decide Your Destiny,” “I Am No Bird, and No Net Ensnares Me,” “But What Is So Headstrong as Youth?,” “An Inward Treasure Born,” “Tightly Knotted to a Similar String,” “Remorse Is the Poison of Life,” and “Wherever You Are Is My Home.”

Then I remembered that the second season of Anne with an “E” was released that day on Netflix everywhere in the world (except Canada, meaning that I’ll have to wait until late September, when it starts airing on the CBC, to watch it), so I posted on Facebook a request from my non-Canadian friends with access to Netflix to share the episode titles from the second season, to see if they, too, were quotations from Jane Eyre.

A friend who’s on holiday outside Canada posted the list shortly thereafter:

S2E10: The Growing Good of the World
S2E09: What We Have Been Makes Us What We Are
S2E08: Struggling against the Perception of Facts
S2E07: Memory Has as Many Moods as the Temper
S2E06: I Protest against Any Absolute Conclusion
S2E05: The Determining Acts of Her Life
S2E04: The Painful Eagerness of Unfed Hope
S2E03: The True Seeing Is Within
S2E02: Signs Are Small Measurable Things, but Interpretations Are Illimitable
S2E01: Youth Is the Season of Hope

They sound familiar, right? But they’re not from Jane Eyre. They’re from Middlemarch. By George Eliot.

Looks like I’m going to need another endnote. And maybe I should make the time to read Middlemarch before the new season of Anne with an “E” starts on the CBC.