Menu Close

Brontë, Eliot, Montgomery, and Anne with an “E”

Yesterday, I took a hard copy of the proofs of my afterword to A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 with me when I went to get an oil change, because when a deadline looms, every spare minute counts. Because the goal of the volumes in The L.M. Montgomery Library is not simply to reprint Montgomery’s work but also to provide some original content that’ll place that work within its historical and literary contexts, the afterword of this first volume discusses Montgomery’s career and her choice of an androgynous signature (“L.M. Montgomery”) in the context of British women writers who preceded her, especially Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot. There are numerous parallels between these three authors, particularly between Montgomery and Brontë, to the point that Carole Gerson, in her contribution to Storm and Dissonance: L.M. Montgomery and Conflict (2006), declares that “at one level, Montgomery is always rewriting Jane Eyre.” I’m going a bit further with this, speculating that Montgomery may have named her two major book protagonists Anne and Emily after two of the Brontë sisters but refrained from naming a third one Charlotte in order to make the point of connection less definite. (Not to mention that Charlotte Brontë’s second novel is entitled Shirley.)

Although I was somewhat distracted from my proofreading by the soccer game between Brazil and Belgium, I reached the endnote in which I mentioned another point of connection between Montgomery and Brontë—the fact that the titles of all seven episodes of the first season of the CBC/Netflix series Anne with an “E” are quotations from Jane Eyre: “Your Will Shall Decide Your Destiny,” “I Am No Bird, and No Net Ensnares Me,” “But What Is So Headstrong as Youth?,” “An Inward Treasure Born,” “Tightly Knotted to a Similar String,” “Remorse Is the Poison of Life,” and “Wherever You Are Is My Home.”

Then I remembered that the second season of Anne with an “E” was released that day on Netflix everywhere in the world (except Canada, meaning that I’ll have to wait until late September, when it starts airing on the CBC, to watch it), so I posted on Facebook a request from my non-Canadian friends with access to Netflix to share the episode titles from the second season, to see if they, too, were quotations from Jane Eyre.

A friend who’s on holiday outside Canada posted the list shortly thereafter:

S2E10: The Growing Good of the World
S2E09: What We Have Been Makes Us What We Are
S2E08: Struggling against the Perception of Facts
S2E07: Memory Has as Many Moods as the Temper
S2E06: I Protest against Any Absolute Conclusion
S2E05: The Determining Acts of Her Life
S2E04: The Painful Eagerness of Unfed Hope
S2E03: The True Seeing Is Within
S2E02: Signs Are Small Measurable Things, but Interpretations Are Illimitable
S2E01: Youth Is the Season of Hope

They sound familiar, right? But they’re not from Jane Eyre. They’re from Middlemarch. By George Eliot.

Looks like I’m going to need another endnote. And maybe I should make the time to read Middlemarch before the new season of Anne with an “E” starts on the CBC.


  1. Anna Thow

    Hello Ben, enjoying your book A Live in Print. There is one area I feel a concern about; Maud’s and Ewan’s burial place. When I visited the site directly years ago in front was the Irvine Gas Station sign and thought how totally inappropriate that is. I wonder if any others felt the same way.

    • Benjamin Lefebvre

      Thanks very much, Anna! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying my book. As for the proximity of a gas station to the Cavendish cemetery, of course it would be more fitting for the cemetery to be in a more secluded place, but I don’t see how that could change, since the gas station also sits at the intersection of two major highways. The proximity of the gas station to the cemetery also means that patrons of the gas station will see the cemetery, reminding them, in a subtle way, of Montgomery’s legacy.

      Best wishes,

  2. Heather Thomson

    *Middlemarch* is one of my favourite books, one I have recently been thinking about again. Sounds to me like a good excuse for a re-reading of it!

      • Heather Thomson

        I like the Oxford World’s Classics 1998 edition, though admittedly it’s for aesthetic and practical (and not scholarly) reasons. I find it has an attractive cover, and a good enough spine to withstand a reading without cracking (its sheer volume of pages did cause it to inevitably crease a bit). That being said, this was the edition recommended in my undergrad when I studied it in about 2005. If I remember correctly, it is equipped with a solid intro, explanatory notes, note on the text, and other editorial apparatus that are standard for the series. I’ve unfortunately misplaced my copy (alas!) and so have been looking to replace it the past few weeks; I’ve not found an edition I like as much as the 1998 Oxford one, so I’m planning to purchase another copy of it. I guess that’s a true testament of recommendation! If you decide to read it, in which ever edition, I hope you enjoy the read! 🙂

        • Benjamin Lefebvre

          Thanks, Heather! I read the Oxford edition of Jane Eyre this spring and found the notes and background really helpful. I’m usually pretty baffled by the amount of detail in introductions for first-time readers, but I usually skip save these till the end.

  3. Michelle H

    I, like so many others am very much in love with L.M. Montgomery’s works yet I do not know much about her life (I’m just starting her diaries) the Bronte sisters are also a favorite of mine and I had no idea the connection with the two authors but now after I read your post I can think about the similarities..and how fascinating this is!!
    I look forward to your publication and I am sure that L.M is smiling from above that her clues are being discovered.

    • Benjamin Lefebvre

      Thanks very much for your comment, Michelle. I’m glad to know you’ve started reading her diaries—they can be a bit daunting at first, but they get really absorbing after a while. Montgomery and her husband stopped off at the Brontë home while on their honeymoon in England and Scotland, something that she omits from her celebrity memoir “The Alpine Path”—I’ve often wondered why she made that decision.

      Best wishes,

  4. Audrey Loiselle

    “Then I remembered that the second season of Anne with an “E” was released that day on Netflix everywhere in the world (except Canada, meaning that I’ll have to wait until late September, when it starts airing on the CBC, to watch it)…”

    Quoi???? Mais c’est un scandale! Dire que j’ai gardé Netflix cet été juste pour ça…! x_x

    • Benjamin Lefebvre

      Je présume que la CBC voulait un horaire plus traditionnel en diffusant les dix épisodes un à la fois, à l’automne, plutôt qu’à l’été. Je tente très fort d’éviter de lire tout commentaire sur la nouvelle saison avant de l’écouter!

Comments are closed.