Anne of Green Gables

“‘Spleet-New’ from the Publishers”: Anne of Green Gables at 110

Cover art for Anne of Green Gables, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1908.

In a journal entry dated 20 June 1908, L.M. Montgomery wrote:

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.

Animation of Recent Anne of Green Gables Cover Art

An animated version of Siobhán Gallagher’s cover art for the recent Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Anne of Green Gables (whose text I prepared and introduced) appeared on Twitter earlier this week, showing that not even Anne is immune to all this cold!

Anne of Green Gables: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition

Cover art for Anne of Green Gables (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2017)

I’m pleased to announce the release yesterday of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Anne of Green Gables, a new edition of L.M. Montgomery’s best-selling novel with a foreword by J. Courtney Sullivan, an introduction and additional contributions by me, and a bonus essay by Montgomery. Although there are innumerable editions of this book currently on the market, most trade editions in North America reprint a version of the text that was modernized in the mid-twentieth century and that Americanizes spelling, updates hyphenation and punctuation, and makes a number of additional small changes to the text. The Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition is one of the few that includes the full text of the original 1908 edition, with fourteen corrections that are listed in the section entitled “A Note on the Text.”

Odd Trend in Public Domain Editions of L.M. Montgomery Texts

Those of you who follow this site on social media (specifically on Facebook or on Pinterest) have a sense already of how fascinated I’ve become with a phenomenon that has involved not only Montgomery but also any other still-popular author whose work is in the public domain: cheap reprint editions, either in print or in ebook form. Sometimes it seems as though new cheap editions of Montgomery’s books become available on Amazon every day, many of them offering numerous titles for 99 cents, most of them with cover art that is completely random and, as such, entirely unsuitable, with this recent cover of an edition of Rilla of Ingleside as just one example:

"Wake up, Rilla—it's war time!" A random and utterly unsuitable image for the cover of a recent cheap ebook reprint of <em>Rilla of Ingleside</em>.
“Wake up, Rilla—it’s war time!” A random and utterly unsuitable image for the cover of a recent cheap ebook reprint of Rilla of Ingleside.

In other cases, creators of these cheap ebooks take art from existing editions, which could mislead readers about what edition they are buying. A couple of months ago, one such edition of Rilla of Ingleside appeared with the cover art from the restored and annotated edition that Andrea McKenzie and I edited for Penguin Canada in 2010. Because most of the editions do not identify any creators or publishers and simply have the line “Sold by Amazon Digital Services LLC,” it is impossible for consumers to know who is behind these editions. Thankfully, though, when we reported this edition to Amazon, it was soon taken down all its platforms.

But now a new twist has occurred, evident in the following screen caps taken yesterday:




While it is true that these books are in the public domain and that anyone anywhere can reprint them or make ebook versions of them, these editions are most definitely not Norton Critical Editions or part of the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics series (which is now called Penguin Modern Classics) or the Oxford World’s Classics series. These are all existing covers, although the cover for The Story Girl is actually from one of eight abridgements done for Zonderkids over a decade ago. Although one would have to buy these Kindle editions to assess the extent that they are “annotated,” my sense is that, if these editions were sufficiently annotated for publication by Norton, Penguin, or Oxford, they would not be retailing for $3.73. Not to mention that the editor of a critical or annotated edition is always identified, since it is that editor’s expertise in the subject matter that is of paramount importance.

And then, of course, is this recent ebook, which appears to be an L.M. Montgomery title no one has ever heard of: Bev’s Childhood. It is actually The Story Girl.

So what do you make of this new trend? What should be most important in terms of the book market?

Cover Art for Three Anne Reissues from Virago Modern Classics

Virago Press, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group (London), has released the covers of its reissues of Anne of Green GablesAnne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island, scheduled for publication in March 2017 as part of the Virago Modern Classics series!

Anne of Green Gables (Virago Press, 2017) Anne of Avonlea (Virago Press, 2017) Anne of the Island (Virago Press, 2017)

These will be followed by reissues of Anne of Windy Willows (the UK version of Anne of Windy Poplars), Anne’s House of DreamsAnne of Ingleside, and Rainbow Valley later in spring 2017.

A number of Montgomery books have appeared within this imprint already: Emily of New MoonEmily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest in 2013, followed by Rilla of Ingleside and Jane of Lantern Hill in 2014. UK-based artist Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini contributed the artwork for all these titles.

Emily of New Moon (Virago Press, 2013) Emily Climbs (Virago Press, 2013) Emily's Quest (Virago Press, 2013) Rilla of Ingleside (Virago Press, 2014) Jane of Lantern Hill (Virago Press, 2014)

Breakthrough’s Anne to Air on 15 February 2016

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

An article in the Charlottetown Guardian announced today that Breakthrough Entertainment’s telefilm L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables will premiere on the YTV network in Canada on 15 February 2015, to coincide with Islander Day in Prince Edward Island. No news yet on broadcast details outside Canada or plans for a DVD release.

This news coincides with the announcement that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has ordered an eight-episode series based on Anne of Green Gables from writer/producer Moira Walley-Beckett—an announcement that has prompted a wide range of responses from commentators. Also published today is an interview with Miranda de Pencier, who is one of Walley-Beckett’s collaborators on the project and who played Josie Pye in three Anne of Green Gables television miniseries from Sullivan Entertainment: in her view, given how highly popular remakes are in Britain, there is definitely room for an ongoing Anne of Green Gables series alongside existing adaptations of the book for stage and screen: “They can all exist alongside one another.”

To see the trailer for Breakthrough’s highly anticipated telefilm, visit the website for Breakthrough Entertainment.

Responses to New Anne Television Series

Anne of Green Gables Meets Breaking Bad?
Anne of Green Gables Meets Breaking Bad? Source: Unknown.

As I reported yesterday, news broke this week that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had ordered an eight-episode limited series based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables from producer Moira Walley-Beckett, whose past writing credits include the television series Breaking Bad. The news received rather mixed comments, judging by the comments left on various news sites and even on the Facebook page for L.M. Montgomery Online: for some commentators, Sullivan Entertainment’s 1985 miniseries is of such high quality that any attempt to remake it is pointless (for several fans, no one but Megan Follows can ever play Anne), whereas others voiced concern about the decision to hire Walley-Beckett to helm the project, given not only her past writing credits but also the statement that the series would “chart new territory” by depicting “new adventures reflecting timeless issues, including themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.”

In the midst of this mixed reaction, several additional articles were released in the last few days, emphasizing why a new take on L.M. Montgomery’s 108-year-old novel is not only understandable but absolutely necessary:

As for me, I’m thrilled that a talented writer/producer wants to interpret Montgomery’s best-known novel and ever-appealing protagonist for the twenty-first century, just as I am always fascinated by adaptations of Anne of Green Gables and its sequels for stage and screen, from a 1934 Hollywood “talkie” and Kevin Sullivan’s work to the recent hit play Anne and Gilbert and Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming telefilm. Given how meaningful the character Anne Shirley is to so many readers worldwide, surely there is room for a new take on this ever-popular character.

New Anne Television Series Greenlit by CBC

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced yesterday that it had greenlit a new, eight-episode television series based on Anne of Green Gables. Entitled Anne, the project is expected to go into production this spring for release sometime in 2017. The project will be created and written by Moira Walley-Beckett, who received an Emmy Award for her work as a writer on the television series Breaking Bad and who will serve as executive producer alongside Miranda de Pencier, Alison Owen, and Debra Hayward.

At its heart, ANNE is a coming-of-age story about an outsider who, against all odds and numerous challenges, fights for acceptance, for her place in the world and for love. The drama series centres on a young orphaned girl who, after an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and the homes of strangers, is mistakenly sent to live with an elderly spinster and her aging brother. Over time, 13-year-old Anne will transform their lives and eventually the small town in which they live, with her unique spirit, fierce intellect and brilliant imagination. While the new series will follow a similar storyline to the book that millions of readers around the world know and love, it will also chart new territory. Anne and the rest of the characters in and around Green Gables will experience new adventures reflecting timeless issues, including themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.

This story has been reported widely, in venues including The Hollywood Reporter, The Toronto StarVariety, Entertainment Weekly, Entertainment Tonight Canada, The Guardian, the National PostQuill and Quire, and Jezebel. The satiric website The Beaverton has also commented on this development, in a news story entitled “CBC Courts Younger Viewers with Another Reboot of 100 Year Old Novel”:

“Kids these days are done with stories where things happen,” said CBC consultant and world’s oldest child psychologist Obadiah Sugarman. “We’ll finally be giving them the stiff Victorian morality that I assume is in vogue. Not to mention, doing a period piece is a great way to make sure white people are adequately represented on television.”

“I can’t wait for yet more Anne,” enthused 22 year-old Alexandra Lewis, who has only been alive for 7 of Anne’s over two dozen adaptations. “Honestly there’s no better use of public funds than promoting the work of a long-dead, already immensely popular author.”

Jokes aside, what few if any of these reports has mentioned is that a new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables by Toronto company Breakthrough Productions is already in post-production and is expected to air on YTV in the months to come, or that a film version of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical was announced as in development in September 2013. And what none of the sites reporting on this story has noted, as far as I know, is that producer Miranda de Pencier portrayed Josie Pye in three Anne of Green Gables miniseries by Sullivan Entertainment.

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.

The Business of Anne on CBC Radio Archives

Cover art from Anne of Green Gables, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1908.
Cover art from Anne of Green Gables, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1908.

The website for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation posted earlier today a link to a CBC Radio segment that aired twenty-seven years ago today, on 14 August 1988, on the growing tension between Montgomery’s heirs and the makers of Anne-related commodities on Prince Edward Island—a tension that would lead to the creation of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority (operated jointly by Montgomery’s heirs and by the Province of Prince Edward Island) in 1992.

The article claims that 14 August 1988 marked the eightieth anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, but this is incorrect: the book was published on 13 June 1908.