Menu Close

Category: Life Writing

An Author Speaks (1939 essay)

Dalhousie Gazette (Halifax), 24 February 1939, 2.

Editorial Note: When I was putting together volume 1 of my three-volume critical anthology, The L.M. Montgomery Reader—which included essays by Montgomery, interviews with her, and commentary on her work that had appeared between 1908 (the year that Anne of Green Gables was published) and 1944 (two years after her death)—I ended up having to make some difficult decisions about what to include and what to leave out. Montgomery claimed, in a 1929 piece entitled “An Autobiographical Sketch,” to have become “so tired of writing the same old facts over and over,” but although she published numerous iterations of what I ultimately termed “her ‘how I began’ narrative” (Introduction, 8), a comparative reading of these showed that even when she appeared to be telling the same story twice (or more than twice), each version had a unique scope and set of details.

This year, in honour of the anniversary of L.M. Montgomery’s birth 149 years ago and almost ten years to the day since I received my first copy of volume 1 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, I am pleased to share with you an “outtake” from that book, an essay entitled “An Author Speaks” that to the best of my knowledge has not been reprinted since its appearance in the Dalhousie Gazette in February 1939. It appeared in an issue of this student newspaper that was published by a collective that consisted entirely of women, led by editors Mary Hayman and Barbara Murray, and that was referred to as “the annual Co-ed edition of the Gazette,” according to an editorial commenting on gains and continued roadblocks in terms of gender equity on the Dalhousie campus (“We Have Equality”).

Montgomery’s contribution to this issue, which draws somewhat on her earlier essay “The Way to Make a Book,” published in Everywoman’s World in 1915, opens with an unsigned editor’s note:

We are pleased to present in this issue an editorial which discusses the problems of writing by a person who is excellently qualified to do so—Miss L.M. Montgomery (Mrs. Macdonald). She is one of Dalhousie’s best known women alumnae. Every Canadian girl has read and enjoyed Anne of Green Gables. It is a delightful habit that will continue, a childhood classic that we thank Miss Montgomery for as sincerely as we thank her for sending to us this delightful editorial.

Montgomery’s advice about authenticity, hard work, skill development, and the importance of purpose shows just why her approach to writing, much like her writing itself, continues to be relevant today. (B.L.)

Probably the two questions oftenest asked a writer who has won some measure of success are: “Would you advise me to take up writing as a career?” and “How do you go about writing a book?” The first question is reasonable and sensible. The second is utterly unreasonable and nonsensical. Yet it is the more frequent of the two.

I always answer the first by telling of an old lady I once knew who used to say to girls, “Don’t marry as long as you can help it because when the right man comes along you can’t help it.” So to aspiring young people, “Don’t write if you can help it. Authorship is a hard, exacting profession. But if you are a born writer you won’t be able to help it and advice will have not the least effect on you.”

Before attempting to write a book be sure you have something to say. It need not be a very great or lofty or profound something. It is not given to many of us to utter

“Jewels five words long
That on the stretched forefinger of all time
Sparkle forever.”

But if we have something to say that will bring a whiff of fragrance to a tired soul or a weary heart, or a glint of sunshine to a clouded life, then that something is worth saying and it is our duty to try to say it as well as in us lies.

One should not try to write a book impulsively or accidentally as it were. The idea may come by impulse or accident but it must be worked out with care and skill, or its embodiment will never partake of the essence of true art. Write . . . and put what you have written away: read it over weeks later: cut, prune and re-write. Repeat this process until your work seems to you as good as you can make it. Never mind what outside critics say. They will all differ from each other in their opinions so there is really not a great deal to be learned from them. Be your own severest critic. Never let a paragraph in your work get by you until you are convinced that it is as good as you can make it. Somebody else may be able to improve it vastly. Somebody will be sure to think he can. Never mind. Do your best . . . and do it sincerely. Don’t try to write like some other author. Don’t try to “hit the public taste.” The public taste doesn’t really like being hit. It prefers to be allured into some fresh pasture, surprised with some unexpected tid-bit.

An accusation is commonly made against us novelists that we paint our characters . . . especially our ridiculous or unpleasant characters “from life.” The public seems determined not to allow the smallest particle of creative talent to an author. If you write a book you must have drawn your characters “from life.” You, yourself, are of course the hero or heroine: your unfortunate neighbors supply the other portraits. People will cheerfully tell you that they know this or that character of your books intimately. This will infuriate you at first but you will learn to laugh at it. It is in reality a subtle compliment . . . though it is not meant to be. It is a tribute to the “life-likeness” of your book people.

Write only of the life you know. This is the only safe rule for most of us. A great genius may, by dint of adding study and research to his genius, be able to write of other ages and other environments than his own. But the chances are that you are not a Scott or a Kipling. So stick to what you know. It is not a narrow field. Human life is thick around us everywhere. Tragedy is being enacted in the next yard; comedy is playing across the street. Plot and incident and colouring are ready to our hands. The country lad at his plough can be made just as interesting as a knight in shining armour: the bent old woman we pass on the road may have been as beautiful in her youth as the daughters of Vere de Vere and the cause of as many heart-aches. The darkest tragedy I ever heard of was enacted by people who lived on a backwoods farm: and funnier than anything I ever read was a dialogue between two old fishermen who were gravely discussing a subject of which they knew absolutely nothing. Unless you are living alone on a desert island you can find plenty of material all around you: and even there you could find it in your own heart and soul. For it is surprising how much we all are like other people. Jerome K. Jerome says, “Life tastes just the same whether you drink it out of a stone mug or a golden goblet.” There you are! So don’t make the mistake of trying to furnish your stories with golden goblets when stone mugs are what your characters are accustomed to use. The public isn’t much concerned with your external nothings . . . your mugs or your goblets. What they want is the fresh, spicy brew that Nature pours for us everywhere.

Write, I beseech you, of things cheerful, of things lovely, of things of good report. Don’t write about pig-styes because they are “real.” Rose gardens and pine woods and mountain peaks towering to the stars are just as real and just as plentiful. Write tragedy if you will, for there must be shadow as well as sunlight in any broad presentment of human life: but don’t write of vileness, of filth, of unsavory deeds and thoughts. There is no justification for such writing. The big majority of the reading public doesn’t want it: it serves not one good end.

Don’t spin your book out too long . . . Gone With The Wind to the contrary notwithstanding. Don’t make anybody too bad or too good. Most people are mixed. Don’t make vice attractive and goodness stupid. It’s nearly always the other way in real life. Cultivate a sense of dramatic and humourous values: feel what you write: love your characters and live with them: and KEEP ON TRYING.


one of Dalhousie’s best known women alumnae: Montgomery completed two semesters of courses in English literature during the 1895–1896 academic year at Dalhousie University, but due to insufficient funding she was unable to complete her degree.

when the right man comes along: Montgomery offered similar advice in an interview with Phoebe Dwight, published in the Boston Traveler in 1910.

“Jewels five words long . . . Sparkle forever”: From The Princess: A Medley (1847), a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

“life-likeness”: I have corrected the original, which reads “like-likeness.”

a Scott or a Kipling: Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), Scottish novelist and poet whose novels included Waverley (1814) and Anne of Geierstein (1829); Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), English poet and novelist whose books included The Jungle Book (1894) and Just So Stories (1902). A similar sentence in “The Way to Make a Book” refers to Scott and to James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851), American author best known for Last of the Mohicans (1826).

the daughters of Vere de Vere: An allusion to the poem “Lady Clara Vere de Vere,” part of The Lady of Shalott, and Other Poems (1842), by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

“Life tastes just the same . . . a golden goblet”: Properly, “Life tastes much the same, whether we quaff it from a golden goblet or drink it out of a stone mug.” From The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886), by Jerome K. Jerome (1859–1927), English writer and humorist.

Gone with the Wind: Novel by Margaret Mitchell (1900–1949), American author, whose first edition ran over one thousand pages; Montgomery read it in 1936, the year it was published (Montgomery, 29 November 1936, in SJLMM, 5: 114). The film adaptation starring Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh would be released in December 1939, less than a year after the publication of this essay. Incidentally, the actor who had been known as Anne Shirley after playing the lead role in the 1934 film adaptation of Anne of Green Gables had been in serious consideration for the supporting role of Melanie Hamilton, which ultimately was played in the film by Olivia de Havilland (Lefebvre, “What’s in a Name?,” 205).


Dalhousie Gazette (Halifax). “We Have Equality.” 24 February 1939, 2.

Dwight, Phoebe. “Want to Know How to Write Books? Well Here’s a Real Recipe.” In Lefebvre, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, 1: 53–56.

Gone with the Wind. Directed by Victor Fleming. Screen play by Sidney Howard. Selznick International Pictures, 1939. Internet Movie Database,

Lefebvre, Benjamin. “Introduction: A Life in Print.” In Lefebvre, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, 1: 8.

—, ed. The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

—. “What’s in a Name? Toward a Theory of the Anne Brand.” In Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables, edited by Irene Gammel and Benjamin Lefebvre, 192–210. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.

Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936. Internet Archive,

Montgomery, L.M. “An Autobiographical Sketch.” In Lefebvre, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, 1: 254–59.

—. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume 5: 1935–1942. Edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2004.

—. “The Way to Make a Book.” In Lefebvre, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, 1: 137–43.

Revisiting Anne and Montgomery

Three new books released this month invite readers to revisit the story of Anne of Green Gables and the life story L.M. Montgomery prepared for posthumous publication in the form of ten handwritten volumes of journals. All three books are the result of careful dedication on the part of volume editors whose painstaking attention to detail has made rare archival material come alive for Montgomery’s worldwide readership.


First, Halifax publisher Nimbus Publishing has released Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript, edited by Carolyn Strom Collins. This book consists of a transcription of the handwritten manuscript of Anne of Green Gables that showcases for the first time Montgomery’s creative process and elaborate revision system. It also includes, as an appendix, a gallery of rare covers of translated editions of the novel. Past scholarship has turned to the manuscript of Anne of Green Gables to study part of the writing process of the novel—revealing such details as the fact that Montgomery considered “Laura” and “Gertrude” as the names of Anne’s bosom friend before settling on “Diana”—but this book marks the first time readers will be able to see that creative process for themselves.

Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript will be launched at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown on 1 August 2019.

Cover art for Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery

Also from Nimbus Publishing is a paperback edition of Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery, first published in hardcover in 2008 as part of Penguin Canada’s 100 Years of Anne celebration. This book features beautiful reproductions of key pages from two of Montgomery’s PEI scrapbooks on which she pasted a wide range of ephemera in order to create a visual archive for her creative process. In her commentary, Epperly suggests linkages between the individual items, the stories they tell in Montgomery’s arrangement of them on the page, and the way that they inspired key moments in Anne of Green Gables. As the back cover rightly proclaims, this book offers readers “a revealing look inside the mind of one of the most cherished writers of the twentieth century.”

The new edition of Imagining Anne will be launched at UPEI’s Robertson Library in Charlottetown on 25 July 2019.

Cover art for L.M. Montgomery's Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1930-1933

Finally, Rock’s Mills Press has published L.M. Montgomery’s Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1930–1933, the fifth volume of Montgomery’s unabridged Ontario journals prepared by Jen Rubio. This volume contains all diary entries dated 1930 to 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, at which point Montgomery and her family were living in Norval, Ontario. These were difficult years for her, especially due to a revelation made by one of her sons that distressed her so much that she was unable to write full diary entries for almost three years. Like Epperly’s Imagining Anne, this book offers readers “a revealing look inside the mind of one of the most cherished writers of the twentieth century,” but for very different reasons—it showcases the private anguish of a woman who, acutely aware of societal expectations, turned to her journal as a safe outlet for her worries and secrets, but her increased awareness of these journals as a document that she wanted to be published after her death also constrained her ability to be completely honest in this record of her life.

In addition to these three books, a number of recent journal articles and book chapters have been pushing the conversation about Montgomery’s life, work, and legacy in exciting new ways:

  • Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, “Reading Time: L.M. Montgomery and the ‘Alembic of Fiction’” (in Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies)
  • Irene Gammel, “‘We Are the Dead’: Rhetoric, Community and the Making of John McCrae’s Iconic War Poem” (in First World War Studies)
  • Caroline E. Jones, “Idylls of Play: L.M. Montgomery’s Child-Worlds” (in Children’s Play in Literature: Investigating the Strengths and the Subversions of the Playing Child)
  • Vappu Kannas, “‘Emily Equals Childhood and Youth and First Love’: Finnish Readers and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne and Emily Books” (in Reading Today)
  • Laura Leden, “Girls’ Classics and Constraints in Translation: A Case Study of Purifying Adaptation in the Swedish Translation of L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon” (in Barnboken)
  • Jane Nicholas, “The Children’s Séance: Child Death, the Body, and Grief in Interwar Ontario” (in The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth)
  • Christopher Parkes, “Anne Is Angry: Female Beauty and the Transformative Power of Cruelty in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables” (in Cruel Children in Popular Texts and Cultures)
  • Julie A. Sellers, “‘A Good Imagination Gone Wrong’: Reading Anne of Green Gables as a Quixotic Novel” (in Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies)
  • Rob Shields, “Lifelong Sorrow: Settler Affect, State and Trauma at Anne of Green Gables” (in Settler Colonial Studies)
  • Emily Stokes-Rees, “Re-thinking Anne: Representing Japanese Culture at a Quintessentially Canadian Site” (in Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change)
  • Janet Wesselius, “Anne’s Body Has a Mind (and Soul) of Its Own: Embodiment and the Cartesian Legacy in Anne of Green Gables” (in The Embodied Child: Readings in Children’s Literature and Culture)

“‘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.

Three New Books This Month and Three More Coming Soon

Three exciting new L.M. Montgomery-related books have been published throughout the month of May, with three more appearing shortly. Together, these six books showcase the wide reach of Montgomery’s literary and cultural legacy more than seventy-five years after her death.
Cover art for L.M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature(s)L.M. Montgomery's Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1922-1925

Cover art for House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Liz RosenbergCover art for The Diary of Charles Macneill, Farmer, 1892–1896Cover art for The Blythes Are Quoted: Penguin Modern Classics Edition
Coming up in June is Liz Rosenberg’s middle-grade biography, House of Dreams: The L.M. Montgomery (Candlewick Press), as well as The Diary of Charles Macneill, Farmer, 1892–1896 (Rock’s Mills Press), the full text of a diary by a distant relative of L.M. Montgomery that she transcribed in full and commented on extensively in her own journal in 1925, with a preface by Jen Rubio. Finally, in early July, Penguin Canada will publish a new Penguin Modern Classics Edition of Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, with a revised introduction by Benjamin Lefebvre and a revised afterword by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly.

“This Hideous War”

L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside is justly celebrated as one of the only contemporaneous Canadian novels to depict the experiences of women and children at the homefront. It is important to remember, though, that while Montgomery had planned to write about Anne’s children during the war as early as 1917, it was only early in 1919, after the war had ended that she began drafting this book, meaning that the book’s depiction of characters waiting and working at home was written only after the waiting had stopped.

Yet the novel was not the first time that Montgomery’s perspective on the war made it into print. In a letter to an unidentified friend published as part of the “Writers and Books” column in the Boston Evening Transcript in November 1915, Montgomery offered a spontaneous and uncensored account of her experience at home, one that neither relied on hindsight nor was definitively intended for publication, for the benefit of a recipient living in the United States, which would not join the war effort until 1917.

“As for ‘the boys’ keeping me from literary work—alas it is not the boys. I could manage so far as they are concerned. It is this hideous war. . . . We are at war—at close grips with a deadly and determined enemy. We live and breathe in its shadows. Never for one moment is the strain lifted. . . . This horrible waiting—waiting—waiting every day for the war news—the dreadful uncertainty—the casualty lists—it all seems to me as if I were crushed under an ever-increasing weight. . . . Amid all this think you I can sit me down to calm creation of imaginary people and their imaginary joys and sorrows? No, I cannot. Literature for a while must wait on life and death.”

The full letter is available exclusively in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, available now.

Complete Journals 1901–1911 Available in March 2013

The next volume of Montgomery’s unabridged journals, The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1901–1911, edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2013! It is available for pre-order on and on, and more information can be found on the website for Oxford University Press Canada.

Lucy Maud of Macneill Farm

Note: My review of The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900, edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, appears in today’s issue of the Globe and Mail.

THE COMPLETE JOURNALS OF L.M. MONTGOMERY. The PEI Years, 1889–1900. Edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston. Oxford University Press, 484 pages, $39.95.

When the first volume of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery was published, in 1985, readers all over the world were surprised and intrigued by the narrative voice revealed in its pages: Instead of the person they had imagined, the author of Anne of Green Gables could be passionate and tortured, effusive and spiteful; she clung to the traditions of the Presbyterian church even as she rejected many basic Christian teachings, and she suffered keenly from mental health issues and from the societal mores of rural communities in Prince Edward Island. That volume shortened Montgomery’s text by 50 per cent to make it maintain a steady pace, with the rest of the narrative available only in Montgomery’s handwritten originals at the University of Guelph archives—until now.

Edited and introduced once again by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, this volume not only restores the full text of Montgomery’s journals from 1889 to 1900 but includes a selection of photographs, clippings and captions that she used to supplement her narrative. Among the sections that appear here for the first time are descriptions of Montgomery’s interactions with the natural world (including several mentions of Lover’s Lane, her favourite spot in nature), her reflections on novels and sermons, as well as the more mundane and repetitive entries that make the unabridged edition more believable as a diary.

This volume not only supplements the five-volume Selected Journals, it is an opportunity to revisit Montgomery’s earliest self-portrait now that we know so much more about her life: her disastrous marriage, her often tense relationship with sons and other family members, the gap between her cheerful public persona and her private, proud self, the periods of profound depression.

With this knowledge in mind, returning to Montgomery’s self-portrait of the artist as a young woman is a fascinating reading experience. In contrast to the world-weary woman she would later become, the young Montgomery was a merry creature who peppered her journal entries with phrases like “lots of fun” and “a lovely time” to describe her busy social life. Montgomery is a born storyteller, and the humour and wit that would become her trademark in fiction are already much in evidence.

And yet her life was not entirely without shadow: Her Grandfather Macneill bitterly opposed her quest for higher education and impeded her career as a schoolteacher, and due to her limited mobility she had to rely on neighbouring young men (most of whom bored her) to drive her around to social functions. These men inevitably got the wrong impression and fell in love with her, and because Montgomery lived in a society in which being direct was not an option, she could do nothing except wait until they proposed marriage and then decline them as gently as she could. When they reacted badly or expressed any kind of emotion, she tried to be courteous but commented privately about their “lack of birth and breeding.”

At the same time, even as an adolescent, she seemed already to be living in the past, frequently engaging friends in discussions of what she called “lang syne days.” This tendency toward nostalgia took over some of her journal entries as well. Wherever she went, she recorded being homesick for the place she just left. And the tone starts to shift drastically as she recovers from two disastrous relationships, four significant deaths and a falling-out with her closest girl friend from adolescence. Yet through it all she keenly recorded her impressions of literature, schooling, religion, relationships and nature: She saw her journal partly as a safe place in which to express unorthodox feelings and observations, and partly as a tool for self-analysis.

By the time this volume ends, Montgomery is looking toward an uncertain future in Cavendish, caring for her aged grandmother. The monotony is already starting to oppress her, but she is determined to persevere as a writer, having published poems, essays and short stories in North American periodicals since 1890. This volume, a welcome addition to our knowledge of Montgomery’s life and legacy, captures the thoughts and observations of a highly articulate woman, one whose bestselling Anne of Green Gables was several years away, but who would eventually become one of Canada’s most enduring authors.

Complete Journals 1889–1900 Forthcoming in September 2012

The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900, edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston, will be published by Oxford University Press in September 2012!

From the Oxford University Press website:

The first edition of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery was published in the 1980s, with fifty percent of the material removed to save space, as well as to reflect a quaint, marketable vision of small-town Canada. The editors were instructed to excise anything that was not upbeat or did not “move the story along.” The resulting account of Montgomery’s youthful life in Prince Edward Island depicts a fun-loving, simple country girl. The unabridged journal, however, reveals something quite different.

We now know that Montgomery was anything but simple. She was often anxious, bitter, dark, and political, although always able to see herself and her surroundings with a deep ironic—and often comical—twist. The unabridged version shows her using writing as a means of managing her own mood swings, as well as her increasing dependency on journal keeping, and her ambition as a writer. She was also exceedingly interested in men. We see here a more developed portrait of what she herself described as a “very uncomfortable blend” between “the passionate Montgomery blood and the Puritan Macneill conscience.” Full details describe the impassioned events during which she describes becoming a “new creature,” “born of sorrow . . . and hopeless longing.”

In addition, this unedited account is a striking visual record, containing hundreds of her own photographs placed as she placed them in her journals, as well as newspaper clippings, postcards, and professional portraits, all with her own original captions. New notes and a new introduction give key context to the history, the people, and the culture in the text. A new preface by Michael Bliss draws some unexpected connections.

The full PEI journals tells a fascinating tale of a young woman coming of age in a bygone rural Canada, a tale far thornier and far more compelling than the first selected edition could disclose.

The book is available for pre-order on