Anne of Green Gables

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.

Anne of Green Gables Movie in Production at Breakthrough Entertainment

Major news has been released concerning Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming movie Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. According to a press release dated today, the production will air on Corus Entertainment–owned YTV early in 2016 and will star thirteen-year-old Ella Ballentine as Anne Shirley. More news will be posted here as it becomes available.

Ella Ballentine and Kate Macdonald Butler on the set of Breakthrough Entertainment's upcoming movie <em>Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables</em>. Photo by Steve Wilkie.
Ella Ballentine and Kate Macdonald Butler on the set of Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming movie Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Photo by Steve Wilkie.

Anne of Green Gables Ad with Celebrity Endorsements

This early ad for Anne of Green Gables appeared in the New York Sun in November 1908, five months after the publication of the book. It includes major endorsements by celebrity authors of the period, two of whom remain widely known today: American author and humorist Samuel Clemens (1835–1910), who, as Mark Twain, was the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), among many other titles; Bliss Carman (1861–1929), a Canadian poet who achieved international fame while living in the U.S. and one of the Confederation Poets; and Temple Scott, biographer and bibliographer whose works include The Friendship of Books (1911).

Ad for Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. The Sun (New York, NY), 21 November 1908.
Ad for Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. The Sun (New York, NY), 21 November 1908.

The endorsement by Twain is frequently misquoted, and even this version is not entirely accurate. Montgomery had received a letter from Clemens’s secretary in which “Mr. Clemens directs me to thank you for your charming book + says I may quote to you from his letter to Francis Wilson about it: ‘In “Anne of Green Gables” you will find the dearest + most moving + delightful child since the immortal Alice.’” This ad appears in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, as does the full letter by Bliss Carman from which his endorsement is excerpted.

Anne of Green Gables: New Reviews!

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.

Recently, while searching through online databases for L.M. Montgomery’s periodical pieces, I was able to add several more reviews of Anne of Green Gables to my collection. One of them, from The Journal of Education (Boston), actually predates a rather infamous review that appeared in The New York Times Saturday Review and that I claimed in the introduction to The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review to be “the first known review of Anne of Green Gables.” Of course, it mistakenly calls the book Anne of Gray Gables and gets some plot details wrong, but it is nevertheless of interest as now being the first known review of Montgomery’s first novel—at least until something earlier turns up!

Young and old will be interested in Anne and in her charming, livable manners. In spite of her uncongenial surroundings, the harshness of her unsympathetic sister, the heroism stands forth in marked contrast and forms a central figure about which the thread of the story is spun. The author evidently understands girls, and her appreciation of their nature has fitted her to write of the conditions and qualities which surround them. The story is beautifully illustrated.

In addition, two reviews that I came across only yesterday emphasize the book as appealing particularly to girls, as opposed to most of the early reviews, which saw the book as being targeted to adults or else to young and old alike.

The Times–Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia recommends it on the basis of the qualities it offers readers:

A charming story told in a charming way, full to the brim of imagination and the poetical outlook which transforms all living with beauty and grace. A story in which a little waif is rescued from dependence and being made the recipient of kindness and love, repays it “with good measure, pressed down and running over.”

A book which all girls ought to read and enjoy for the sake of its wholesome spirit and its bright, sparkling humor.

The phrase “with good measure, pressed down and running over” alludes to Luke 6.38 in the Christian Bible: “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (New International Version).

The Philadelphia Inquirer does likewise, but it tends to have a rather narrow-minded view of female readers:

In these days it is difficult to get stories that are just what every mother wants for a girl of from fourteen to seventeen years old. There never has been a successor to Louise M. Alcott, but it is to be hoped that she will appear soon. It is with full knowledge of conditions as they exist both from the point of view of the publishers and the parents, that we recommend “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery to all young girls who want some inspiration in life, and who do not find exactly what they want on the bookshelves because of their own ignorance.

Mothers are not very astute in the matter of literature or they would not complain that they are afraid to let their daughters read any of the current literature. There is plenty of the best.

Anne was a young orphan who was adopted by a Canadian family and lived the simple life for a while under conditions which were a little disturbing, but which in the end made a woman of her. It is a wholesome and stimulating book that will help all and hurt none. Published by L.C. Page & Co.

So far I have added to this website lists of reviews of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Kilmeny of the Orchard, and The Story Girl, with reviews of the remaining novels to follow.

Major Update: Anne of Green Gables Adaptation by Breakthrough Entertainment

A few weeks ago, Toronto production company Breakthrough Entertainment added to its website a page for its upcoming adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. Initially announced as a thirteen-episode series, this ninety-minute telefilm will be directed by John Kent Harrison from a script by Susan Coyne:

Based on the globally beloved classic children’s novel that was first published in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables is the story of a fiercely imaginative little girl who, with her irrepressible spirit, touches the lives of everyone that she meets. In particular, it is the story of Anne’s stormy relationship with the strait-laced Marilla Cuthbert who discovers through Anne a capacity for love that she never knew she had.

Details about casting, filming locations, and possible release dates are not yet available but will be posted here once they are confirmed.

“The Cleverest Book of the Year”

Recently, while searching for L.M. Montgomery’s long-lost short stories on a variety of digital archives, I came across an ad for Anne of Green Gables in The Nation, a New York magazine:

The Cleverest Book of the Year: Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
Ad for Anne of Green Gables. The Nation, 2 September 1909, 22.

This ad is unique for several reasons:

First, it makes no mention of the type of book it refers to (fiction? non-fiction?), let alone what the book might be about or what readership it targets. There’s also no mention of the book’s publisher, which is highly unusual, given that in most early ads for Montgomery’s early books, the “From Page’s List” logo appears prominently almost always.

Second, the first appearance of this ad that I’ve found is in the 9 July 1908 issue, which is less than a month after the book was published (on 13 June). That means that the designation “cleverest book of the year” seems a bit premature.

Third, this ad appeared again and again in the months to follow: on 20 August 1908, 17 September 1908, 8 October 1908, and 15 October 1908, and then again on 15 July 1909, 5 August 1909, 2 September 1909, 16 September 1909, and 7 October 1909. Not only does it seem odd for this ad to be deemed the “cleverest book of the year” in two separate years, but the later ads show no awareness of the publication of Anne of Avonlea, early in September 1909.

In short, while this ad campaign breaks from a number of advertising conventions, clearly it was deemed to be effective, or else it wouldn’t have run for a minimum of nine times over a fifteen-month period. These ads may not have given anything away in terms of the book’s contents or form, but by using the term “clever,” thus commenting on the book’s literary quality, this ad campaign would have appealed to readers searching for “clever” fiction who may have turned away from ads proclaiming the book’s staggering popularity.

Review 15: Anne of Green Gables

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

Although L.M. Montgomery received overwhelmingly positive reviews throughout her lifetime, reviewers were not always unanimous in their praise. In fact, in the first known review of Anne of Green Gables (appearing in The New York Times Saturday Review), the unsigned reviewer is more than a little taken aback by Anne, referred to here as “one of the most extraordinary girls that ever came out of an ink pot”:

The author undoubtedly meant her to be queer, but she is altogether too queer. She was only 11 years old when she reached the house in Prince Edward Island that was to be her home, but, in spite of her tender years, and in spite of the fact that, excepting for four months spent in the asylum, she had passed all her life with illiterate folks, and had had almost no schooling, she talked to the farmer and his sister as though she had borrowed Bernard Shaw’s vocabulary, Alfred Austin’s sentimentality, and the reasoning powers of a Justice of the Supreme Court. She knew so much that she spoiled the author’s plan at the very outset and greatly marred a story that had in it quaint and charming possibilities.

This approach to Montgomery’s first book hardly set the stage for the reviews that followed, however: as she explained in a letter to her pen pal Ephraim Weber (included in The Green Gables Letters from L.M. Montgomery to Ephraim Weber, 1905–1909, published in 1960) concerning the sixty reviews she had received within three months of the book’s publication, “two were harsh, one contemptuous, two mixed praise and blame and the remaining fifty-five were kind and flattering beyond my highest expectations. So I feel satisfied as far as that goes.” She then copied out some extracts, and while her list includes one for “N.Y. Times,” it reads somewhat differently in this version: “A mawkish, tiresome impossible heroine, combining the sentimentality of an Alfred Austin with the vocabulary of Bernard Shaw. Anne is a bore.”

Whether they were “kind and flattering” or “harsh” or anything in between, Montgomery kept copies of these reviews in a number of scrapbooks as a unique record of her career. Both positive and negative reviews reveal so much to twenty-first-century readers in terms of literary trends or what Montgomery referred to as “the public taste.” And that’s why this week we’ll be looking at a wider range of responses to her work in the mainstream press of her day.

Montgomery Review 7: Anne of Green Gables

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

Today’s L.M. Montgomery reviews: excerpts from two early reviews of Montgomery’s first novel, the one that established both her popularity and her critical reputation—Anne of Green Gables!

Anne of Green Gables is worth a thousand of the problem stories with which the bookshelves are crowded to-day, and we venture the opinion that this simple story of rural life in Canada will be read and reread when many of the more pretentious stories are all forgotten. There is not a dull page in the whole volume, and the comedy and tragedy are so deftly woven together that it is at times difficult to divide them. The story is told by an author who knows the Island of Prince Edward thoroughly, and who has carefully observed the human tide which flows through that Island, as it does over all places where human beings live. With the pen of an artiste she has painted that tide so that its deep tragedies are just lightly revealed, for she evidently prefers to show us the placid flow, with its steadiness, its sweetness, and witchery, until the reader stands still to watch the play of sunshine and shadow as it is deftly pictured by the hand of the author of Anne of Green Gables. —The Globe (Toronto, ON)

“We have much pleasure in drawing attention to this novel, not only because it is, in our opinion, the most fascinating book of the season, but because its author, Miss Montgomery, is a resident of Prince Edward Island, where the scene of the story is laid, and is evidently a keen student of both nature and human nature. The fact that the volume was published quite recently, and is now in its second large edition, is a sufficient guarantee of its unusual merit; but it is almost impossible for readers to guess even vaguely the treat that awaits them in its perusal.” —George Murray, The Montreal Daily Star

Coming Soon: Book Reviews

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in ReviewI’m pleased to let you all know that I’ve now returned to the publisher my corrected proofs of the third and final volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, subtitled A Legacy in Review. Proofreading this last volume took quite a bit of time, energy, and patience, partly because the manuscript was far too long (as was the case with the preceding volumes!), and so the published volume includes 370 reviews in their entirety, as opposed to 410 as originally planned (as well as extracts from several hundred more). But also, proofreading the volume gave me one last chance to go through all my files and make sure I hadn’t left out something crucial. And when I saw that some of the PDFs had been on my hard drive since early 2009—before even the publication of The Blythes Are Quoted—and that some of my hard copies are from even earlier, it finally dawned on me how many years this project has been keeping me busy.

I’m not quite ready to let go of this project, though. In fact, I’m going to post a teaser for it, every single day, until I receive my first author’s copy sometime in the second half of December: either an extract of a review included in the book, part of a review not included, or a digital image related to the coverage Montgomery’s books received in print media dedicated to supporting the book industry. Most of the material in the book has never been collected in book form before, so what it offers is a unique look at Montgomery’s critical reception during her lifetime and how that evolved thanks to twenty-four additional books published after her death.

To start off, here is an ad for Anne of Green Gables published in The Publishers’ Weekly shortly before the publication of the novel.

Ad for Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. The Publishers’ Weekly, 6 June 1908.

Be sure to subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss a post! The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review can be pre-ordered directly from University of Toronto Press at a 30% discount or from your favourite bookseller.

Announcing a New Television Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables

Breakthrough Entertainment has issued a press release announcing plans for an all-new, thirteen-episode television series based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables:

Leading Canadian production-distribution studio Breakthrough Entertainment and the heirs of beloved Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery have joined forces to develop and produce a 13-episode series for television based on one of Canada—and the world’s—most celebrated and eternal book series, Anne of Green Gables. Announcement of the all-new Anne of Green Gables television series was made jointly at the Banff World Media Festival by Breakthrough Entertainment principals Ira Levy and Peter Williamson, and Executive Producer Joan Lambur and Kate Macdonald Butler, granddaughter of author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Set for production in 2013 in the Canadian Maritimes, Breakthrough Entertainment’s Anne of Green Gables will be a contemporary retelling of the famed book series while capturing author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s original vision for her characters and stories.

First published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables remains an iconic work selling more than 50 million copies worldwide.  The eight classic Anne of Green Gables novels have attracted generations of readers inspired by the adventures of the spirited redhead Anne Shirley, who comes to stay at Green Gables and wins the hearts of everyone she meets.

For more on this contemporary retelling of Anne of Green Gables, see the article at The Hollywood Reporter.