“Lefebvre, one of the top Montgomery scholars in the world, has painstakingly collected these scattered publications from throughout Montgomery’s career to provide a valuable resource … By including Montgomery’s contributions to these publications, many of which were fleeting, Lefebvre enriches our knowledge of the periodical landscape in North America and demonstrates how these magazines and newspapers were important vehicles for women authors in Canada and the United States.”
Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways, With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember, Some crimson poppy of a late delight Atoning in its splendour for the flight Of summer blooms and joys – This is September.
“Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” Anne Shirley declares at the start of Anne of the Island (1915) – a statement that, as Rea Wilmshurst notes in her 1989 article “L.M. Montgomery’s Use of Quotations and Allusions in the ‘Anne’ Books,” is in fact a misquotation of Jeremiah 8:20 (“The harvest is past, the summer is ended”). For me as an academic, September also means the start of a new school year after a summer busy with research and writing projects – which this year included steady work on the next four volumes in The L.M. Montgomery Library. It doesn’t always make sense to work on four books at once, but in this case I became like the little boy in Anne of the Island (and originally in one of Montgomery’s “Around the Table” columns) who went to see a biograph: “I have to look for what’s coming next before I know what went last.”
In order to make this website more manageable, I decided to eliminate individual pages for periodicals except for those in which Montgomery published her hundreds of short stories, poems, and miscellaneous pieces between 1890 and 1942. As more and more newspapers have been digitized and made text searchable, I’ve noticed some of these items being reprinted again and again, sometimes anonymously. Her 1898 poem “Irrevocable,” for instance, appeared in The Congregationalist, a Boston periodical, before being reprinted in several newspapers between 1899 and 1901, including once, without Montgomery’s signature and under the title “Beyond Recall,” in the Brown County World of Hiawatha, Kansas. I haven’t yet found any more publications of that poem in the few years after that, but another burst of citations of this poem as “Beyond Recall” starts in 1905, usually unsigned, and sometimes attributed to Ewing Herbert, who owned the Brown County World. I’ve decided to list all these newspaper reprints but not create pages for each periodical given that Montgomery in all likelihood had no knowledge of how widely her work was recirculating, and given that more and more newspapers are being digitized all the time, there will always be more instances of reprinting to discover.
I’ve also created a page for the alternate signatures Montgomery used, particularly early in her career, including “Maud Cavendish,” “Joyce Cavendish,” “Cynthia,” and “J.C. Neville” – a form of authorship that I talk about in my afterword to A Name for Herself.
September is meaningful for another reason, too: the critically acclaimed television series Anne with an “E” is returning on CBC starting on Sunday night for a third season of ten episodes (it will appear on Netflix around the world, except Canada, on 3 January 2020). As I wrote in a blog post last year, the titles of all first-season episodes are quotations from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, whereas the titles of all second-season episodes are quotations from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Brontë and Eliot were prominent models of nineteenth-century women’s authorship for Montgomery, so it was fitting that the episode titles for the first two seasons referred to their work. For the third season, the episode titles that I’ve seen so far all allude to another prominent book by a British woman – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I find quite intriguing. And based on what I’ve read about the storylines for this season, I do look forward to seeing what lies ahead for Anne, her friends, and the community of Avonlea in this most recent incarnation of Montgomery’s story.
In light of the fact that today is the first of April, I thought I’d share with you “Cynthia’s” account of being April fooled, appearing in “Around the Table,” L.M. Montgomery’s newspaper column, which she published in the Halifax Daily Echo from September 1901 to May 1902.
Did you get April fooled last week? At our house we all arose on April’s birth morning with a grim determination not to believe a word that our best friends said to us or tamper with anything that looked suspicious the whole day through. And yet, the sorrowful fact remains that – I blush to admit it – I fell into the very first trap with grace and agility.
When I went downstairs Ted was in the hall looking over a morning paper with a very shocked face.
“Cynthia,” he said, with a shudder – oh, it was very well done. In justice to myself I must say that – “this is frightful. There has been a terrible accident up at the north end – nine lives lost.”
“Oh,” I gasped, feeling a dozen thrills of horror. “Oh, Ted, what happened?”
“A street car ran over a cat,” said Ted solemnly.
And there I was! If it had even been a new joke there would have been some excuse for me. But it is old – so old! Why, it has been going the rounds of the funny columns for years.
Well, I tried to take it meekly and all through breakfast I brooded over my revenge. When Ted started to go down town I called to him and asked him if he would mind doing an errand for me. He said no, of course not. So I wrote out a memorandum and told him to get me three yards of sparrowbill purple ribbon.
“Be very careful to get sparrowbill,” I said. “No other shade of purple will do. I want it to match my new suit. I daresay they won’t have it at all the stores. It’s a new shade.”
“I’ll hunt around until I get it,” said Ted so obligingly that I felt a slight pang of remorse – until I remembered that hideous joke.
When Ted came home at night he looked as if he were suffering from that tired feeling.
“I couldn’t get that fiendish shade of ribbon you wanted, Cynthia,” he said wearily. “I’ve been to every dry goods store in Halifax and the clerks all looked at me as if they thought I was crazy. Said they’d never heard of sparrowbill purple.”
“No more did I,” I said maliciously. “You shouldn’t go gunning for new shades on the first of April, Teddy-boy.”
Ted, not being dull of comprehension, understood. He grinned.
When L.M. Montgomery worked for the Halifax Daily Echo in 1901–1902, she was given a wide range of occasional writing assignments, most of which she never discussed, let alone saved in her scrapbooks, meaning that they cannot be identified now. One writing assignment she did mention in her journals and in her celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path,” consisted of writing up the holiday specials of Halifax stores that were regular advertisers in the paper, but what she never revealed was the sheer scope of the assignment: she wrote advertising copy for ninety stores, for a total of 13,000 words (more than half the length of “The Alpine Path”). Although Montgomery found these pieces tedious to write, they make for fascinating reading because of how much they reveal about advertising practices more than a century ago.
I include in A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917 some highlights from this assignment, called “Christmas Shopping in Halifax Stores.” Here, as an online exclusive, are Montgomery’s opening paragraph and one of my favourite write-ups from this assignment.
Again Christmas tide approaches and the wide-awake shopkeepers have made preparations for a good season’s trade. All branches of trade feel the effect of Christmas buying, and the consumer feels it perhaps most than all, but he grows reckless with his money in preparing for the season of peace and goodwill. At times he is bothered in the selection of goods and articles which he may deem suitable and worthy of the occasion, and in order to assist readers who might possibly find themselves in such a dilemma the Echo will take the liberty of calling attention to stores and shops where Christmas purchases may be made to advantage.
S. Cunard & Co.
Stoves are little use without fuel, so when one orders a stove coal is brought to mind. S. Cunard & Co.’s is one of the oldest coal dealing firms in Halifax, and their reputation is built on a solid foundation. They deal in all kinds of coals, hard and soft, and having North and South end depots are in a position to supply all parts of the city at short notice. Much coal is given at Christmas to the poor, and it is a thoughtful and in most cases exceedingly welcome gift. With such arrangements as S. Cunard & Co. are equipped with there is little trouble occasioned by one who wishes coal sent to a poor acquaintance. He simply rings up one of the firm’s telephones and gives his order, and the firm does the rest, even to putting the coal in the cellar, if he desires it. Cunard & Co. say that the hard coal with which they supplied their customers the past season turned out to be the best they ever handled. The firm has still a lot of this coal on hand now, and can supply it promptly.
And on 23 December 1901, Montgomery – or, rather, “Cynthia” – wrote in her column “Around the Table” about a late snowfall that was apparently a rarity in Halifax at the time:
I believe we are going to have a white Christmas after all. I’m so glad. I hate a “green” Christmas. You know, when a Christmas is a dirty-grayey-browney affair, looking as if it had been left over about a hundred years ago, and had been in soak ever since it is called a green Christmas. Don’t ask me why! As Lord Dundreary says, “There are thome thingth no fellow can underthtand.”
We don’t get a white Christmas oftener than once in a blue moon, so it is something to be duly thankful for. It is the only real, guaranteed Christmas. Any other kind is a fraud and imitation. Always ask your dealer for a white Christmas and insist on having it.
Lots of snow, making the world look like a magnified Christmas card, crisp, exhilarating air and jingles of sleigh bells everywhere – that’s as it should be. No “green” Christmas for me, an it please ye.
It’s an apt sentiment, since this year, here in Kitchener, Ontario, it also looked like it was going to be a “green” Christmas. But then it snowed overnight – just enough of a dusting to cover the dead lawn but not nearly enough to warrant a lot of shovelling, which is a bonus.
I wish everyone who reads this website a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to continuing the conversation about L.M. Montgomery’s life, work, and legacy in 2019.
I am so pleased to report that A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, the first volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, is currently an Amazon.ca bestseller! In addition to being ranked 6,670 in terms of overall Amazon.ca bestsellers, it’s currently #1 in two categories – “Books > Literature & Fiction > Canadian > History & Criticism” and “Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Women’s Studies > Women Writers” – as well as #3 in “Books > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Women Writers & Feminist Theory.” Bestseller rankings on Amazon tend to change pretty quickly, so I’m going to enjoy this while I can!
The odd thing is that I looked up the book on Amazon.ca while taking a break from proofreading one of L.M. Montgomery’s earliest short stories, part of a subset of school stories that she published in the Philadelphia Times. That will appear in a future volume in the series.
After spending so many years gathering this material together, it’s really gratifying to know that fellow Montgomery readers now have the opportunity to read this periodical work too.
I cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author. To write has always been my central purpose around which every effort and hope and ambition of my life has grouped itself. – “The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career”
In the days and weeks ahead, I’ll share with you some exclusive extracts from the book. Today’s extract is from Montgomery’s newspaper column, “Around the Table,” which is collected in its entirety for the first time in my volume. Her column for 2 December 1901 begins with a rumination on the changing seasons:
We have had some forewarnings of winter this last week, haven’t we? The air grew cold and crisp and the poor little sparrows twittered and fluffed out their feathers; and one morning the good folks of Halifax wakened up to see a filmy scarf of white over their city – not much of a snowfall, but just enough to pick the roofs out in dark lines and make the streets for a few brief moments into avenues of marble and invest the glimpses of distant hills with an unreal, fairy-like beauty. The first snowfall of every year has a perennial novelty. There is always a certain suggestion of miracle or magic about it. We go to bed some night, looking out on a dull, gray, lifeless world from which all zest and sparkle seem to have departed. Next morning, presto, change!
Somebody – something – has been at work in the hours of darkness and the sad old world is transformed. And we look upon it with as much delight as if we had never seen it before – this wonderful white loveliness that came while we slept and vanishes again before the morning is far spent.
I’m very pleased to announce the publication of A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917, from University of Toronto Press. This book, which is the first volume in The L.M. Montgomery Library, collects for the first time the majority of the non-fiction and miscellaneous pieces that Montgomery published starting as a teenager and ending at the height of her career as an internationally bestselling author. Among the highlights of the volume is the full text of “Around the Table,” a newspaper column she published in Halifax over a nine-month period, and a new edition of her celebrity memoir “The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career” with fascinating new links to her journals and letters. Montgomery’s text is supplemented by a preface, headnotes, an afterword, and notes that provide historical and biographical context and that place Montgomery in conversation with English-speaking women writers who preceded her (particularly George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë) and the strategies they used to succeed, including opting for initials or for male or androgynous pen names in order to help their work circulate in the marketplace.
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.)
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.
One hundred and seven years ago today – on 5 July 1911 – L.M. Montgomery married the Reverend Ewan Macdonald, in Park Corner, Prince Edward Island, at the home of her maternal relatives, the Campbells (the location is now known as the Anne of Green Gables Museum and is a delightful place to visit).
One aspect that has always amazed me about Montgomery’s journals is the murkiness of her overall portrait of Ewan Macdonald. Montgomery’s first mention of him in her journals is when she announces their engagement, in an entry dated October 1906 in which she devotes far more space outlining why marrying him would be a bad idea before revealing that she’d indeed accepted his proposal, ending with a lukewarm statement: “I feel content.”
The engagement wasn’t exactly promising: Macdonald proposed to her just as he was about to embark on further studies in Scotland, although Mary Henley Rubio notes in her biography of Montgomery that there’s no evidence that he completed any work there, whereas Montgomery would not be free to marry for as long as her elderly maternal grandmother was still living, hence the five-year engagement. Scholars who have tried to establish the composition and submission timeline of Anne of Green Gables based on Montgomery’s few (and conflicting) clues have pointed out that, if the novel was accepted in April 1907 after being refused by four other publishers – as well as an unspecified amount of time in which the typescript sat in a hat box, something the recent Heritage Minute on Montgomery captured very well – then quite possibly Macdonald’s proposal coincided with a particularly discouraging point in her attempt to launch herself from freelance writer of short stories and poems to novelist.
Not only that, but two major changes happened after the 1906 engagement: the publication of Anne of Green Gables in June 1908 changed the trajectory of Montgomery’s career completely, and Macdonald being called to a parish in Leaskdale, Ontario, in early 1910 – something Montgomery does not mention in her journals – meant that she would have to leave Prince Edward Island in order to marry him. In short, marriage would not resemble what either of them had had in mind in 1906. But there’s no record that indicates that Montgomery contemplated breaking off the engagement at any point.
Macdonald proved in many ways to be a difficult husband, according to Montgomery’s account. Not only did he express no interest in Montgomery’s career, but also, he resented her success as an author as well as any tribute she received for her work as a minister’s wife. What’s most noticeable about Montgomery’s record of him in her journals, however, is how often he disappears from the journal for pages at a time, almost as though it often didn’t occur to Montgomery to write about him unless something was wrong. Still, he made a mistake in underestimating the power of her pen. Although Macdonald spelled his name “Ewen,” Montgomery consistently wrote it as “Ewan” in her journals – consequently, everyone now follows her lead. Not only did they name their second surviving son “Ewan Stuart Macdonald,” but also, both spellings appear on their tombstone in Cavendish. Every time I go to the Cavendish cemetery to pay my respects, I ponder this.
I also frequently wonder about the fact that no photograph of the wedding or of Montgomery wearing her wedding dress survives. (The dress itself is on display at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace in Clifton, PEI.) Instead, we have nine trousseau photographs depicting Montgomery, standing in roughly the same spot, wearing elaborate dresses and hats. Two different combinations of six of these images appear in cropped form in Montgomery’s Selected Journals and Complete Journals, but to me, the uncropped versions are even more fascinating. She must have been aware of the laundry flapping on the clothesline behind her, but if so, I can’t imagine what point she was trying to make. (Actually, on second thought, maybe I can.)
All images courtesy of L.M. Montgomery Collection, Archival and Special Collections, University of Guelph Library.
When she wrote about her wedding day in a retrospective journal entry in 1912, she records feeling “contented” the night before her wedding and again the morning of the wedding, repeating the term she used in her journal the day of her engagement. After the ceremony was over, however, her emotions took a decidedly different turn:
I had been feeling contented all the morning. I had gone through the ceremony and the congratulations unflustered and unregretful. And now, when it was all over and I found myself sitting there by my husband’s side – my husband! – I felt a sudden horrible inrush of rebellion and despair. I wanted to be free! … At that moment if I could have torn the wedding ring from my finger and so freed myself I would have done it! But it was too late – and the realization that it was too late fell over me like a black cloud of wretchedness.
The mood passed, and she does not record expressing these feelings to anyone else at the time. But she immortalized this moment in the pages of her journal, which she wanted to be published after her death, as though she wanted future readers to understand why, at that wedding feast, “I was as unhappy as I had ever been in my life.”
What Montgomery omits from her journals, however, is that she’d done whatever she could to keep the media away from the event, as revealed in an unsigned piece appearing in The Boston Herald three weeks later and reprinted in Volume 1 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader:
Well, of course, a time came when she had to share her secret with a few intimate friends outside of her own family. Her publisher, Mr. L.C. Page of Boston, was one of the earliest of these, and naturally he wished to share it with the public. But straightway he received a letter, part of which ran as follows: “As for the ’embargo’ – no, it must not be lifted until after the event. I am resolved that no hint of the matter shall get into the ‘paper news’ until it is over, and I shall be much annoyed if anything of the sort occurs.”
It is unclear how the Boston Herald had obtained a copy of this letter or whether Montgomery was aware they had published this piece, but it seems a safe bet that she did not consent for it to be published. After all, when she wrote about her marriage in “The Alpine Path,” she was brief and to the point: “As my husband was pastor of an Ontario congregation, I had now to leave Prince Edward Island and move to Ontario.” Not only did she not identify her husband by name or disclose either the denomination they belonged to or the Ontario location they lived in, but also, Montgomery’s wording emphasizes that her departure from Prince Edward Island had not been her choice. I have a new theory about why she chose to say so little about her husband in this public memoir, thanks to a new piece of evidence given to me by a longtime friend of mine, which I talk about in the afterword to A Name for Herself, coming this fall from University of Toronto Press.
UPDATE, 5 JULY 2018: I’ve just been reminded by someone in the Montgomery community that the dress on display at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace is a replica of Montgomery’s wedding dress, not the original.