Happy book birthday to the Penguin Modern Classics Edition of L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted! Completed by Montgomery shortly before her death in 1942 as a final sequel to Anne of Green Gables and first published in its entirety in 2009, this book features a blend of short fiction, poetry, and vignettes that shows the contrast between the dynamics between Anne and her family members and how they’re perceived by outsiders. Divided in two parts, one set before and one after the Great War of 1914–1918, the book consists of Montgomery’s final word about a number of preoccupations in her earlier books, including war, family, romance, and childhood.
This edition includes the full text of the 2009 edition, along with an updated introduction and suggestions for further reading by me and an updated afterword by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly. It is available primarily across Canada, but it can be ordered through Amazon.ca and Chapters.Indigo.ca, both of which ship worldwide.
“[T]his re-acquaintance with the voice of L.M. Montgomery is marvellously satisfying … Lefebvre’s patient and meticulous scholarship has resulted in this fascinating volume, a gift to insatiable followers of Anne Shirley’s story.”
—Aritha van Herk, The Globe and Mail
Today has been, as Anne herself would say, “an epoch in my life.” My book came today, fresh from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was for me a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment! There in my hand lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of my whole conscious existence – my first book! Not a great book at all – but mine, mine, mine, – something to which I had given birth – something which, but for me, would never have existed.
This morning, one hundred and ten years later, at a desk several hundred kilometres away from Montgomery’s home in Cavendish, I began correcting the proofs of my next Montgomery book, A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, due out in September. What I like best about this stage of a book’s production is that the manuscript that I’ve watched evolve through several stages of compilation, drafting, editing, annotating, and revising is finally starting to look like a book. Proofreading Montgomery’s work one last time against the original copy-texts also allows me to immerse myself in the text again. And while there are still some adjustments to be made to ensure that everything fits on the page, for the most part, the book is done.
The reason I’m especially drawn today to this quotation from her journal entry dated 20 June 1908 is because of how it appears in Montgomery’s 25,000-word celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path,” first published in 1917 and included in my volume. Although Montgomery makes reference to a journal entry with that date, the entry she quotes reads slightly differently:
To-day has been, as Anne herself would say, “an epoch in my life.” My book came to-day, “spleet-new” from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was to me a proud and wonderful and thrilling moment. There, in my hand, lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of my whole conscious existence – my first book. Not a great book, but mine, mine, mine, something which I had created.
In a sense, the two versions are more or less identical – the most noticeable difference is the term “spleet-new,” which she places within quotation marks (it’s basically an archaic form of “brand new” or “perfectly new”). But now that I’m at this late stage in the editorial process for a new edition of “The Alpine Path,” I see these discrepancies differently than I used to. One of the aspects of “The Alpine Path” that I discuss in the book is the source of all this material. Montgomery quotes self-consciously from her journals on a number of occasions, complete with dates, but, to quote my headnote in the book, “a closer comparison of this text and her private life writing reveals that she mined her journal for far more material than she let on, changing only details that would contradict the public myth of her life that she aimed to construct for public consumption.”
In other words, most of the text of “The Alpine Path” is cobbled together from journal entries dated 1892 to 1912. I identify all of these borrowings in my notes, but what I want to say for now is that, except for details she wanted to keep private, most of the changes between her journals and “The Alpine Path” are fairly minor. This means that, with some exceptions, the differences between the journal entries dated 20 June 1908 are more noticeable than those between her journals and the rest of the “Alpine Path” text.
The other question, of course, is this: which of these is the “true” entry of 20 June 1908?
Starting in the winter of 1919 – two years after she wrote “The Alpine Path” – Montgomery announced her plan to transcribe all of her journals from a variety of notebooks into a uniform set of ledgers because she saw her journals as having significant cultural value. It’s these ten ledgers that survive as the “official” journals that form the basis of five volumes of Selected Journals and six volumes to date of Complete Journals. When she finished this transcription a few years later, she left explicit instructions to her heirs about both conserving the ledgers and publishing their contents after her death. Because she destroyed the original notebooks, we have to take her at her word that she transcribed the full text without alteration – even though she frequently uses the beginning or the ending of a ledger volume as an opportunity to reflect on her life. (Vanessa Brown and I talk about this and other archival mysteries in a chapter that’s reprinted in Volume 2 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader.)
So again – which is the “true” entry of 20 June 1908, given that the version that was actually written that day was subsequently destroyed? Did she add the term “spleet-new” when rewriting the entry for “The Alpine Path,” or did she delete it when she “transcribed” her early journals into uniform ledgers? There’s no way to answer this question, and for that reason I don’t know what to make of the fact that the terms “spleet-new” and “The Alpine Path” return in chapter 21 of Emily’s Quest, at which point Emily receives copies of her first book, The Moral of the Rose:
There lay her book. Her book, spleet-new from the publishers. It was a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment. The crest of the Alpine Path at last? Emily lifted her shining eyes to the deep blue November sky and saw peak after peak of sunlit azure still towering beyond. Always new heights of aspiration. One could never reach the top really. But what a moment when one reached a plateau and outlook like this! What a reward for the long years of toil and endeavour and disappointment and discouragement.
I’ve always enjoyed this kind of detective work, even when – especially when – burning questions aren’t followed by concrete, plausible answers. But I should get back to proofreading, since I have a fair bit of work left to do before I can receive “spleet-new” copies of A Name for Herself from my own publisher.
I am enormously pleased to announce an exciting new series forthcoming from University of Toronto Press: The L.M. Montgomery Library, which will collect Montgomery’s extensive periodical output of short stories, poems, essays, columns, and miscellaneous pieces, first published between 1890 and 1942. Most of this material has never been collected in book form, so these volumes will add tremendously to our understanding and appreciation of Montgomery’s evolution as a professional writer.
The first two volumes will be published in fall 2018:
A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917—This volume contains the full text of Montgomery’s so-called “miscellaneous pieces”: personal and travel essays, a playlet, contributions to student magazines, as well as texts that blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction. It includes for the first time the full text of Montgomery’s “Around the Table” column that she published in the Halifax Daily Echo over a nine-month period in 1901–1902 as well as a new edition of her celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path.” (This volume was previously announced as Becoming L.M. Montgomery.)
A World of Songs: Selected Poems, 1894–1921—This volume contains a new selection of fifty poems published between 1894 and 1921, focusing on landscape, lamentation, death, war, and love. It was designed to be a companion to Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, since most of the forty-one poems in that book were published between 1919 and 1942.
Each volume contains a preface, an afterword, and annotations that provide context for all readers: the afterword to A Name for Herself discusses Montgomery’s use of gender-neutral double initials (“L.M.”) as well as a range of other pseudonyms (including “Maud Cavendish” and “Belinda Bluegrass”) within the context of strategies used by English-speaking women writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whereas the afterword to A World of Songs identifies points of connection between Montgomery’s poetry and her book-length fiction and places the work within post-Confederation poetry in Canada.
Additional volumes showcasing Montgomery’s short stories and poems in chronological order are in progress.
I will post details about cover art, pre-ordering information, launches, and readings once they’ve been finalized, as well as sneak previews, so please subscribe to this blog (at the very bottom of the page) to ensure you get every update.
I’ve been gathering copies of this material for over a decade with the ambition of making this work available in book form to Montgomery’s international community of readers, so it’s humbling and gratifying to see this series finally going ahead. I look forward to continuing the discussion with you all in the years to come.
CBC and Netflix released today nearly identical trailers for the second season of Anne with an “E” (now apparently called Anne with an “E” on CBC as well). Differences between them? Besides the background music, the release date: in a reverse of the first season, which aired weekly on the CBC in March and April 2017 before being released the rest of the world on Netflix that May (it then appeared on Netflix in Canada this past January), the second season of ten episodes will appear on Netflix on July 6 but won’t be available in Canada until the CBC begins airing them starting on September 23.
Three exciting new L.M. Montgomery-related books have been published throughout the month of May, with three more appearing shortly. Together, these six books showcase the wide reach of Montgomery’s literary and cultural legacy more than seventy-five years after her death.
sneak preview of what next LMM cover will look like. (PS Be prepared for some hair-raising reading about husband's mental illness: "A dreadful night followed by a hellish day. Undoubtedly the worst day I have ever had in my life …") pic.twitter.com/oV6hPn78E1
Also releasing today is a Heritage Minute video devoted to L.M. Montgomery, created by Historica Canada. The script features words straight out Montgomery’s journals and provides a moving and accurate portrait of the author, who struggled with depression as she sought to live out her literary ambitions. Renowned Montgomery scholars Elizabeth R. Epperly, Laura M. Robinson, and Mary Henley Rubio acted as consultants on the project. For more details, see today’s CBC News story.
I’m thrilled to announce the forthcoming publication of my next book, Becoming L.M. Montgomery, by University of Toronto Press in September 2018! This book has been several years in the making and has involved extensive research in archives and rare periodicals, including three trips to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. It is the first of several volumes to gather Montgomery’s extensive periodical publications and make them available to twenty-first-century readers. So looking forward to sharing this new material with L.M. Montgomery’s readers!
Years before she published her internationally celebrated first novel, Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery started contributing short works to periodicals across North America. While these works consisted primarily of poems and short stories, she also experimented with a wider range of forms, particularly during the early years of her career, at which point she experimented with several authorial identities before settling on the professional moniker “L.M. Montgomery.”
In Becoming L.M. Montgomery, leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre collects the majority of these so-called “miscellaneous” pieces and discusses them in relation to the English-speaking women writers who preceded her and the strategies they used to succeed, including the decision to publish under a gender-neutral signature. Among the highlights of the volume are Montgomery’s contributions to student periodicals, a weekly newspaper column entitled “Around the Table,” a long-lost story narrated first by a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage and then by the man she wishes she had married instead, as well as a new edition of her 1917 celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path.” Drawing fascinating links to Montgomery’s life writing, career, and fiction, this volume will offer scholars and readers alike an intriguing new look at the work of Canada’s most enduringly popular author.
A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness.
Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.
In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.
Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.