This week on the L.M. Montgomery Readathon (which Andrea McKenzie and I run on Facebook), we are concluding our group discussion of Emily Climbs. As such, I thought this would be a good time to share (both on the Readathon and on this blog) a newspaper clipping I came across several years ago in one of L.M. Montgomery’s scrapbooks, in which she’s quoted talking about the difficulties she’d later face when trying to write the next volume about Emily, which would be published as Emily’s Quest in 1927. The clipping, entitled “L.M. Montgomery Is Undecided,” is unidentified and there’s no indication of to whom she has written these words (let alone if she intended them for publication), but it reads as follows:
L.M. Montgomery, whose charming story of love in an elysian Canadian summer, “Blue Castle,” has just been published by Stokes, writes that she is busy now on the third Emily book and a “dreadful time I am having, too, with all her beaux. Her love affairs won’t run straight. Then, too, I’m bombarded with letters from girls who implore me to let her marry Dean, not Teddy. But she is set on Teddy herself so what am I to do? One letter recently was quite unique. All previous letters have implored me to write ‘more about Emily, no matter whom she marries,’ but the writer of this begged me not to write another Emily book because she felt sure if I did she would marry Teddy and she (the writer) just couldn’t bear it. . . . So between these contradictory pleas, I’m in a regular mess!”
We won’t be reading Emily’s Quest next on the Readathon, but I wanted to bring this up as a way to raise three topics of conversation.
First, the clipping consists of a rare instance of Montgomery revealing that sometimes she feels as though the character truth of her characters and the input she receives from readers sometimes make her lose control of her own material. What does this reveal about Montgomery as a writer, especially as a writer of fiction released in instalments?
Second, it indicates that her readers felt differently (and yet adamantly) about Emily’s choice of husband, although of course there’s no way to indicate how evenly they were divided between Team Teddy and Team Dean. But there’s no indication here of any of the creepy subtext about Dean that many Readathon participants commented on as we read through this book. If our growing awareness of this subtext now is in part a byproduct of the #MeToo movement and of an increased societal awareness of toxic masculinity, what does this suggest about the way people read (or reread) and interpret (or reinterpret) a work of fiction?
Third, the only plot element mentioned in this clipping is Emily’s “beaux,” as though Emily’s sole quest in this novel-in-progress is to find a husband. What do you make of the fact that, at least as far as this article reports, Montgomery’s readers seem to be more interested in reading more about Emily’s love life than about her writing life? (Note that it refers to The Blue Castle as a “charming story of love in an elysian Canadian summer,” which really simplifies this complex novel.) Or is the emphasis here on Emily’s love life simply because her writing career is comparatively much more straightforward to write about?
If you’d like to join the L.M. Montgomery Readathon, we are always looking for new members! Andrea and I will soon announce the next book we’ll be reading together, starting in mid-January 2022.
UPDATE: Thanks to Simon Lloyd, university archivist and special collections librarian at the University of Prince Edward Island Library, this “unidentified” clipping is unidentified no more! He responded to my tweet about this blog post with a scan of a newspaper page that matches the clipping, and it shows that it appeared in the Salt Lake Telegram of Salt Lake City, Utah, on 10 October 1926, p. 4. Quite possibly this story was picked up by a number of other newspapers across the continent, but this particular clipping is most definitely from this newspaper. Thanks so much, Simon!
Our next Conversations about L.M. Montgomery event will be held over Zoom on Saturday, December 4, at 2:00 p.m. (EST). It will feature Mary Beth Cavert, whose extensive contributions to L.M. Montgomery studies include co-editing The Shining Scroll (the newsletter of the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society of Minnesota) and researching the family members and friends to whom Montgomery dedicated her books.
Beth’s presentation is entitled “L.M. Montgomery’s Kindred Spirits: The One in Scotland,” and in it she will share parts of her most recent project, which involves preparing a complete edition of Montgomery’s forty-year correspondence with G.B. MacMillan of Alloa, Scotland.
Registration is required; all interested persons are welcome to join us for this presentation, and a video of the presentation will be posted on YouTube at a later date. If you have any questions about the event, please contact me. Hope to see you there!
Today came the official announcement of the signing of the armistice! The Great War is over—the world’s agony has ended. What has been born? The next generation may be able to answer that. We can never know fully.
—L.M. Montgomery, journal entry dated 11 November 1918
Given that not only is today Remembrance Day but also this year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of L.M. Montgomery’s Great War novel Rilla of Ingleside, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share with you some findings about an aspect of Montgomery’s work that I’ve long found fascinating, since it has to do with her attempts to engage with the work of fellow Canadian writers.
As her journals and letters show, Montgomery’s reading interests overall were quite broad, but she had a particular fondness for the work of canonical nineteenth-century poets (mostly male) who were located in England, Scotland, and the United States. And so, since her books are filled with allusions to and quotations from a vast array of literary works, it’s not surprising that the same names recur several times.
If we look specifically at her books’ epigraphs—short quotations that appear near the beginning of a book as a way to offer readers a hint about its contents (particularly for readers who recognize the quotation and can place it in the context of the overall work)—we can see a clear pattern in terms of what texts and what authors Montgomery chose to highlight. Of the ten books by Montgomery that begin with an epigraph from someone else’s work, all but one quote the work of a male poet from outside Canada: Robert Browning (Anne of Green Gables), John Greenleaf Whittier (Anne of Avonlea and Chronicles of Avonlea), James Hogg (Kilmeny of the Orchard), George Gordon, Lord Byron (The Story Girl), Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Anne of the Island), Rupert Brooke (Anne’s House of Dreams), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Rainbow Valley), and Rudyard Kipling (Pat of Silver Bush).
The epigraph to Rilla of Ingleside is thus unique in two particular ways: first, its author, Virna Sheard, is the only Canadian as well as the only woman whose work appears in one of Montgomery’s epigraphs; and second, Sheard is so relatively unknown that when Rea Wilmshurst published her list of literary allusions in the Anne books in Canadian Children’s Literature / Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse in 1989, she was unable to identify the poem by Sheard in question. In the years then, as more and more print materials have been digitized and made text searchable, it’s been far easier to determine that these lines are from Sheard’s poem “The Young Knights,” which appeared in her 1917 collection Carry On! and which was reprinted in John W. Garvin’s anthology Canadian Poems of the Great War (1918). Montgomery’s poem “Our Women” also appears in that anthology, so it would seem plausible that she had come across Sheard’s poem in that anthology and used it when she started writing Rilla of Ingleside in mid-March 1919.
The problem, though, is that the lines from Sheard’s poem as they appear on the title page of Rilla of Ingleside don’t quite match the way they appear in Carry On! or in Canadian Poems of the Great War. Here is a detail from the title page of Rilla of Ingleside.
Note the preference here for the Canadian spelling of “splendour” and the line break just before “youth away.” In the versions appearing in Sheard’s and Garvin’s books, these elements appear slightly differently:
In Carry On!, the first of the two images, the text opts for the American spelling of “splendor,” and in both versions there’s no line break before “youth away” as there is on the title page of Rilla of Ingleside. There seemed to be a mystery here and I knew it would continue to bug me until I figured it out.
And so, when Andrea McKenzie and I started discussing Rilla of Ingleside at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic on the L.M. Montgomery Readathon, I decided to take another look at the surviving files. I found a digital copy of Carry On! on the website of the Canadiana digital project, so I combed through the rest of the book and noticed that Sheard mentions in the acknowledgements section that “The Young Knights” was one of several poems in the collection that was first published in the Toronto Globe (now the Globe and Mail). Lo and behold, a quick search through the digital archives of the Globe showed that the poem appeared in that newspaper on 23 May 1916:
Because this poem appeared in a newspaper with narrow columns, longer lines of poetry needed to broken in two and indented, as happens three times in this stanza. So even though this Globe version uses the U.S. spelling of “splendor,” it seems more likely that Montgomery drew on this newspaper version when writing her book. Not to mention that, on the title of her handwritten manuscript, she writes “splendor” instead of “splendour,” so presumably the change to Canadian spelling was made at the typescript stage or at the typesetting stage.
These are obviously minor differences between texts, and devoting an entire blog post to them may seem somewhat excessive. To close, then, here is the full text of Virna Sheard’s poem “The Young Knights,” as it appeared in her book Carry On!, published in 1917:
Now they remain to us forever young Who with such splendor gave their youth away; Perpetual Spring is their inheritance, Though they have lived in Flanders and in France A round of years, in one remembered day.
They drained life’s goblet as a joyous draught And left within the cup no bitter lees. Sweetly they answered to the King’s behest, And gallantly fared forth upon a quest, Beset by foes on land and on the seas.
So in the ancient world hath bloomed again The rose of old romance—red as of yore; The flower of high emprise hath whitely blown Above the graves of those we call our own, And we will know its fragrance evermore.
Now if their deeds were written with the stars, In golden letters on the midnight sky They would not care. They were so young, and dear, They loved the best the things that were most near, And gave no thought to glory far and high.
They need no shafts of marble pure and cold— No painted windows radiantly bright; Across our hearts their names are carven deep— In waking dreams, and in the dreams of sleep, They bring us still ineffable delight.
Methinks heaven’s gates swing open very wide To welcome in a host so fair and strong; Perchance the unharmed angels as they sing, May envy these the battle-scars they bring, And sigh e’er they take up the triumph song!
Cover of the original edition of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart (Toronto) and Frederick A. Stokes Company (New York) in 1921. Courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Title page of the original edition of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1921. Courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Detail from the title page of the original edition of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1921. Courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Detail from Virna Sheard’s poem “The Young Knights,” appearing in her book Carry On!, published by Warwick Bros. & Rutter in 1917. Courtesy of Canadiana.
Detail from Virna Sheard’s poem “The Young Knights,” appearing in Canadian Poems of the Great War, edited by John W. Garvin and published by McClelland and Stewart in 1918. Courtesy of the Internet Archive.
Detail from Virna Sheard’s poem “The Young Knights,” appearing in the Globe (Toronto) on 23 May 1916. Courtesy of the Globe and Mail digital archives.
Detail from the title page of the handwritten manuscript of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside, written in 1919 and 1920. Courtesy of Archival and Special Collections, University of Guelph Library.
I’m pleased to announce that our next Conversations about L.M. Montgomery event will be held this Saturday, November 6, at 2:00 p.m. (EST): a round table on three Ontario locations that were central to L.M. Montgomery’s life and writing and that are now heritage sites of significant historical significance. Joining us will be Kathy Wasylenky of Leaskdale (where Montgomery lived between 1911 and 1926), Linda Jackson-Hutton and Jack Hutton of Bala (where Montgomery vacationed in 1922), and Kathy Gastle of Norval (where Montgomery lived between 1926 and 1935), all of whom have devoted their time and their energy to preserving these places for the benefit of their communities and of Montgomery’s worldwide readership.
This event will occur live over Zoom (registration is required) and will be archived on YouTube. This event is free, and all readers of Montgomery’s books are warmly invited to join us. Hope to see you there!
It is with great pleasure that I share with you today the cover of Twice upon a Time: Selected Stories, 1898–1939, which will be published in spring 2022 as the third volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library. Because the book collects twenty-five stories that include early incarnations of well-known characters, storylines, conversations, and settings from Montgomery’s novels, I am thrilled that the cover art repurposes details from the first-edition covers of Anne of Avonlea and Chronicles of Avonlea (both of which were drawn by George Gibbs, whose work is featured on the cover of the original edition of Anne of Green Gables as well), especially since the placement of the framed images gives the impression that the Anne on the left is looking over her shoulder at the Anne on the right.
Twice upon a Time can now be pre-ordered from a number of vendors, including at a substantial discount from University of Toronto Press, or from your favourite bookseller.
I’m thrilled to share with you the news that my edition of The Blythes Are Quoted, L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final sequel to Anne of Green Gables (first published in 2009), is now available in a two-volume Italian translation entitled Racconti dall’isola (literally “Stories from the Island”), translated by Angela Ricci and published by Gallucci Editore, located in Rome. The subtitles of each volume reflect the way Montgomery divided the book into two parts: Prima della guerra (literally “Before the War”) and Dopo la guerra (literally “After the War”). This press has already published Italian translations of the eight earlier Anne books and Emily of New Moon, and I hope it will go on to translate Montgomery’s remaining books as well.
This is the fifth translation of The Blythes Are Quoted. It has appeared already in Finnish (Annan jäähyväiset, meaning “Anne’s Farewell”), translated by Marja Helanen-Ahtola; Polish (Ania z Wyspy Księcia Edwarda, meaning “Anne of Prince Edward Island”), translated by Paweł Ciemniewski; Japanese (An no Omoide no Hibi, meaning “Anne’s Days of Remembrance”), translated in two volumes by Mie Muraoka; and Brazilian Portuguese (Os Contos dos Blythes, meaning “The Tales of the Blythes,” and Os Poemas dos Blythes, meaning “The Poems of the Blythes”), translated in three volumes by Thalita Uba.
Because The Blythes Are Quoted was published after L.M. Montgomery’s death, the published edition is still protected by international copyright, and world rights (including translation rights) are controlled by Penguin Random House Canada. For any inquiries about translation rights to this title, please contact me.
Since today is Thanksgiving here in Canada, I wanted to take this opportunity not only to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving but also to share the words of L.M. Montgomery’s alter ego Cynthia, who wrote the following in the 23 November 1901 instalment of Montgomery’s “Around the Table” column in the Halifax Daily Echo:
Thanksgiving comes next week, so if I want to do any moralizing about it now is my chance. Yesterday Polly said in a dismal voice that she really didn’t know what she had to be thankful for. But she has lots of things, and so we all have, if we would only count them up. The trouble is, we would rather count up our troubles and groan and growl about them. That is human nature!
Thanksgiving ought to be celebrated royally, not only in the letter, but in the spirit. At least, as some historic character has remarked, we can all be thankful “that things ain’t no wuss.”
Thanksgiving can, of course, be well and truly celebrated everywhere, but I think the Thanksgiving par excellence is one that is held in an old homestead. Thanksgiving in a new or rented house can’t have the same flavor as it has in a home where the very walls are permeated with the joys and sorrows of three or four generations. When the grown-up children come home to spend the day under the old roof, with perhaps a vacant chair to remind them of one who has gone to “a far country”—too far to even turn his footsteps back for that reunion—Thanksgiving is or ought to be all that its name implies.
Aunt Janet is making mince meat for Thanksgiving up at our house already. Mince meat needs to be mellowed by age, you know. What would Thanksgiving be without mince pie? This is not a conundrum, but a serious, sober question. Well, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving, that’s all. When folks leave mince pie out of the day it will be time for the Government to interfere.
In case you’re wondering why Cynthia is writing about Thanksgiving in late November given that Canada celebrates this holiday the second Monday in October, that’s because the holiday was celebrated in Canada at different points in October and November until 1957. For more information about the history of this holiday in Canada, see the entry on “Thanksgiving in Canada” by David Mills, Laura Neilson Bonikowsky, and Andrew McIntosh in The Canadian Encyclopedia.
I’m pleased to announce that Conversations about L.M. Montgomery will be returning for several events this fall! Coming up first on Saturday, September 25 at 2:00 p.m. (EST) is a round table on Montgomery’s 1923 novel Emily of New Moon: Brenton Dickieson, E. Holly Pike, and Kate Sutherland will discuss aspects of this celebrated book as a way to generate discussion among participants. This event will occur live over Zoom (registration is required) and will be archived on YouTube. This event is free, and all readers of Montgomery’s books are warmly invited to join us. Hope to see you there!
I am pleased to report that our discussion of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Emily of New Moon on the L.M. Montgomery Readathon concluded a few weeks ago and was a great success. Once again, Andrea McKenzie and I have been blown away by the level of enthusiasm and engagement from participants and by the number of new Montgomery friends we’ve made since we started this project in the early weeks of the pandemic. When Andrea and I talked about which book we’d like to cover next, we were immediately in agreement that we wanted to carry on with this book’s sequel, Emily Climbs. This we’ll begin tomorrow, September 20, discussing two chapters a week until the middle of December. In addition to discussion questions for each chapter, posts will cover historical context, links to Montgomery’s life and body of work, differences between editions, book covers, and the way the book was advertised and reviewed when it was published in 1925, and participants will take turns reading chapters aloud. All L.M. Montgomery readers are welcome to join us, including those who are reading this book for the first time.
I’m very proud to announce the forthcoming publication, in spring 2022, of Twice upon a Time: Selected Stories, 1898–1939, the third volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, a collection of L.M. Montgomery’s short stories that reveals how she revised her periodical fiction for her books, including Anne of Green Gables and its ever-popular sequels.
Although L.M. Montgomery (1874–1942) is best remembered for the twenty-two book-length works of fiction that she published in her lifetime, from Anne of Green Gables (1908) to Anne of Ingleside (1939), she also contributed some five hundred short stories and serials to a wide range of North American and British periodicals from 1895 to 1940. While most of these stories demonstrate her ability to produce material that would fit the mainstream periodical fiction market as it evolved across almost half a century, many of them also contain early incarnations of characters, storylines, conversations, and settings that she would rework for inclusion in her novels and collections of linked short stories.
In Twice upon a Time, the third volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, Benjamin Lefebvre collects and discusses over two dozen stories from across Montgomery’s career as a short fiction writer, many of them available in book form for the first time. The volume offers a rare glimpse into Montgomery’s creative process in adapting her periodical work for her books, which continue to fascinate readers all over the world.