30 November 1874

L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917
L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917

Today, on what would have been L.M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday (she was born on 30 November 1874), I would like to share with you an extract from a journal entry dated exactly 101 years ago, on the occasion of Montgomery’s fortieth birthday:

Once I thought forty must be the end of everything. But it isn’t! I don’t feel any older today than yesterday—when I was only 39! Or the day before yesterday when I was—19! Thank God we don’t feel old. Life is much richer, fuller, happier, more comfortable for me now than it was when I was twenty. I have won the success I resolved to win twenty years ago. It is worth the struggle—but I would not wish to be twenty again with the struggle still before me.

Poster for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment
Poster for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment

Montgomery is trending on the Internet as I write this, due in large part to several Google Doodles paying tribute to Anne of Green Gables. And as Melanie J. Fishbane has pointed out in a blog post published earlier this afternoon, this is an exciting time for Montgomery and especially for Anne, thanks to the upcoming new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables, a shout-out about the novel in a recent episode of The Simpsons, and numerous celebrity mentions. A list of “Five Fast Facts You Need to Know” about Montgomery was also published today, on the website Heavy, and mentions her rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.

I’m glad, because all this media attention reflects the continued relevance and the persistent quality of Montgomery’s writing, not only as works of literature but also as the basis for an enduring popular culture icon and a set of new Anne texts for stage and screen. I’m looking forward to delving back into the novel Anne of Green Gables next term, when I  teach the book in an undergraduate children’s literature course at Wilfrid Laurier University, as an example of a crossover text that continues to appeal to both adults and children.

24 April 1942

Source: "Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here," The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), 25 April 1942, 5.
Source: “Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), 25 April 1942, 5.

Seventy-two years ago today, L.M. Montgomery died at her home in Toronto, at the age of sixty-seven. Her death was interpreted by her family and by her physician as a suicide—a belief not revealed to the public until an article appeared in The Globe and Mail in September 2008. But in 1942, the circumstances of her death were omitted from the many obituaries that appeared in newspapers across the country, including one from the Calgary Daily Herald. Instead, these obituaries celebrated her life as well as her work, namely twenty-two book-length works of fiction, from Anne of Green Gables (1908) to Anne of Ingleside (1939), and one volume of poetry, The Watchman and Other Poems (1916). Moreover, the obituary appearing in The Globe and Mail, entitled “Noted Author Dies Suddenly at Home Here,” noted that “for the past two years she had been in ill health, but during the past winter Mrs. Macdonald compiled a collection of magazine stories she had written many years ago, and these were placed in the hands of a publishing firm only yesterday.” That book was The Blythes Are Quoted, and it was published in its entirety only in 2009.

In addition to obituaries and coverage of her burial in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, a number of tribute pieces appeared in daily newspapers in the days and weeks following Montgomery’s death, including two unsigned editorials appearing on the same day in the Windsor Daily Star:

When L.M. Montgomery (Mrs. Ewan Macdonald) died in Toronto at the age of 67, a literary career that was built upon an appreciation of the simpler things of Canadian life was brought to a close. No cold realist, no pseudo-sophisticate, she wrote of life as she knew and lived it in her girlhood in Prince Edward Island, and the homely truth and honesty of those works brought her international renown. […]

It was not only a flair for plot and facility of expression that made Mrs. Macdonald a great writer. Her understanding of human nature was deep and thorough, and her interest in the loves, joys and sorrows of everyday folk transcended professional curiosity. It was from all these gifts that she wove her stories, and it was from them that her novels drew their wide-ranging appeal.

Source: “L.M. Montgomery,” The Windsor Daily Star (Windsor, ON), 27 April 1942, 4.

Another tribute, appearing two pages earlier, is a reminder of the fact that Montgomery’s death occurred in the midst of the Second World War:

People were beginning to discover the delights of Cavendish and other parts of Prince Edward Island. The war and the consequent curtailment of travel have meant many journeys to the island will have to be postponed. But, after the war has been won, people will be going in ever-increasing numbers of Prince Edward Island, a province which Lucy Maud Montgomery helped to make famous.

Source: “‘Anne of Green Gables,’” The Windsor Daily Star (Windsor, ON), 27 April 1942, 2.

As these and several more tribute pieces demonstrate, L.M. Montgomery’s work touched a chord with many readers during her lifetime, and part of its uniqueness is that her readership has only grown in the seven decades since her death, especially since volumes of journals, letters, and periodical pieces began to appear in the 1970s and 1980s, alongside popular television adaptations of her books. Her work continues to gather an international community of readers and researchers whose interest in all things L.M. Montgomery shows no signs of slowing down.

Montgomery’s Globe and Mail obituary, several tributes, and extensive coverage of her funeral all appear in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, available now.