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.

A Note Found on Montgomery’s Deathbed

An article on the front page of this morning’s Globe and Mail“Is this Lucy Maud’s suicide note?”-reproduces the following scrap of paper found on Montgomery’s bedside the afternoon she died:

This copy is unfinished and never will be. It is in a terrible state because I made it when I had begun to suffer my terrible breakdown of 1940. It must end here. If any publishers wish to publish extracts from it under the terms of my will they must stop here. The tenth volume can never be copied and must not be made public during my lifetime. Parts of it are too terrible and would hurt people. I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best.

It is accompanied by a follow-up article by James Adams, “Lucy Maud suffered ‘unbearable psychological pain,'” which includes extracts from an e-mail interview with Mary Henley Rubio, whose biography of Montgomery, Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, will be published next month by Doubleday Canada.

Thanks to Joshua Ginter of the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures, University of Winnipeg, for bringing this article to my attention.

The Globe and Mail: “The Heartbreaking Truth”

An article titled “The Heartbreaking Truth about Anne’s Creator,” written by Kate Macdonald Butler (Montgomery’s granddaughter), appears in today’s Globe and Mail (pp. F1, F6):

Despite her great success, it is known that she suffered from depression, that she was isolated, sad and filled with worry and dread for much of her life. But our family has never spoken publicly about the extent of her illness.

What has never been revealed is that L.M. Montgomery took her own life at the age of 67 through a drug overdose.

UPDATE: The full text of the article has been archived here.