Menu Close

Tag: Anne of Avonlea

L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, and Self-Repetition

By the strangest of coincidences, a few evenings ago I took a break from writing some contextual material for an item in my next volume of Montgomery’s periodical work, specifically a headnote that mentions that four extracts from Anne’s House of Dreams had appeared in Donald Graham French’s anthology Standard Canadian Reciter: A Book of the Best Readings and Recitations from Canadian Literature, published in 1921 (something I had already mentioned in my overview of Montgomery’s career in my introduction to Volume 1 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader). Donald G. French (1873–1945) was co-author, with J.D. Logan (1869–1929), of Highways of Canadian Literature (1924), the first of six book-length surveys of Canadian literature published in the 1920s. In that volume, which includes a biographical sketch of Montgomery and a summary of her books published up to that point, Logan and French place Anne of Green Gables in a list of Canadian novels “of the Community type,” alongside Marian Keith’s Duncan Polite and Nellie L. McClung’s Sowing Seeds in Danny.

While searching for something else Montgomery-related on the open-access website Early Canadiana Online, I came across for the first time a much earlier article by French – entitled “Canada’s Jane Austen” and appearing in the December 1914 issue of The School, a Toronto publication – from which the bulk of Logan and French’s remarks about Montgomery in Highways would be lifted. The full text of this earlier article is as follows:

No history of English literature is considered complete unless it gives due place to the work done by Jane Austen in her portrayal of rural English domestic life; and no history of Canadian literature, when such comes to be written, should fail to recognize that L.M. Montgomery has done for Canada what Jane Austen did for England.

L.M. Montgomery (now Mrs. (Rev.) Evan [sic] Macdonald) was born at Clifton, Prince Edward Island, and spent her childhood in Cavendish – a seashore farming settlement which figures as “Avonlea” in her stories. Like many another young Canadian she has to the credit of her experiences a few years as teacher in the schools of her province. That her life so far has been spent chiefly within the limits of the little island province and the bounds of an Ontario country parish does not narrow her outlook although it necessarily confines her to themes bounded by rural experiences, for her forte is the portrayal of what she has seen and knows. She has the imaginative and creative gifts, but she uses these in enabling us to see the beauty, the humour, and the pathos that lies about our daily paths.

Anne of Green Gables,” which was Miss Montgomery’s first novel, has an interesting literary history. She tells us that upon being asked for a short serial story for a Sunday school weekly, she cast about for a plot idea. A faded note book entry suggested: “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy; a girl is sent to them.” The writing of a serial was started, but time did not allow the author to complete it for the purpose intended. As she brooded over the theme it began to expand and the result was a book which may already be confidently labelled a “Canadian Classic.”

In Anne we have an entirely new character in fiction, a high-spirited, sensitive girl, with a wonderfully vivid imagination; wise beyond her years, outspoken and daring; not always good but always lovable. The basis of the story is already explained; its working out is somewhat different from the original suggestion. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an elderly bachelor and his sister, living alone on the farm of Green Gables, send a message to an orphan asylum asking that a boy be sent them. Through some mistake a girl comes – the girl Anne. At first Marilla wants to send her back, but sympathy with the child’s longing for a real home, and an interest in her very quaintness, ends in establishing her as a member of the Green Gables family – and then the story has only begun. It is Anne who dominates the whole book. There are other characters, quaint too, and well-drawn, but the introduction of Anne into the community – Anne, so unconventional, so imaginative, and so altogether different from the staid, prosaic, general attitude of the neighbourhood proves to be the introduction of a peculiar ferment, and the incidents which discover to us the process of fermentation are most delightfully odd and mirth-provoking.

In “Anne of Avonlea” we follow the career of our orphan heroine. When we said goodbye to her she was fitting herself to become a teacher and it is with two eventful years of school teaching that this book deals. The writer understands children thoroughly and makes her child characters of all types perfectly natural and life-like. The same creative faculty which gave us in Anne an entirely new shadow-child shows itself in the portrayal of the mischievous but lovable Davy Keith, his demure twin sister Dora, the imaginative Paul Irving, and the many individualities of the pupils of Avonlea School.

Plot interest is not a strong feature of this or of any of L.M. Montgomery’s books. There are, nevertheless, several threads of action which bind together the series of incidents. Her novels are novels of incident rather than of plot; they do not, however, lack in continuity and unity. Frequent passages of nature description reveal at once the author’s intimacy with nature and her poetic attitude of mind.

Here is a typical descriptive passage: “A September day on Prince Edward Island hills; a crisp wind blowing up over the sand dunes from the sea; a long, red road, winding through fields and woods, now looping itself about a corner of thick set spruce, now threading a plantation of young maples with great feathery sheets of ferns beneath them, now dipping down into a hollow where a brook flashed out of the woods and into them again, now basking in the open sunshine between ribbons of goldenrod and of myriads of crickets.”

Chronicles of Avonlea” is a volume of short stories, which contains some of the most finished work of this author. The perfect art that conceals all art is shown in many of these short stories. There is a strong vein of simple humour in this as in all Miss Montgomery’s work; there is also a very keen personal sympathy of the author towards her characters.

Two other books by this author, “The Story Girl” and “The Golden Road,” are written with even less attention to a central plot than either of the two “Anne” books. They are somewhat loosely connected series of incidents in which the same characters take part. But they have none the less a high value when viewed from our standpoint; we are to remember that our Canadian Jane Austen need not invent for us thrilling plots. Other writers can do that, but other writers cannot or at least do not hold before us the mirror of Canadian country life.

Kilmeny of the Orchard” is in a sense but an expanded short story. It is a prose idyll and does not, perhaps, bulk very large when compared with the other books. It is really one of the extended “chronicles” of Avonlea.

In characterizing L.M. Montgomery the Jane Austen of Canada, let it be understood that we are not regardless of the difference in the scope of the work of the two writers. Jane Austen’s canvas is immensely broader, yet L.M. Montgomery’s portrayal of her fellowmen and fellowwomen shows a much keener personal sympathy; her work has more heart to it.

This is not the first time Montgomery had been referred to as the Canadian counterpart to Jane Austen; the earliest instance of this that I’ve found (so far) is a Toronto World review of Chronicles of Avonlea (included in Volume 3 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader) that suggests that “we might perhaps call L.M. Montgomery the Jane Austen of Canadian literature.” And it is also not the first time French would recycle some of his own work. Take a look at an article (signed “D.F.”) entitled “Rilla, Daughter of Anne” that French published in the Toronto Globe in 1921, shortly after the publication of Rilla of Ingleside:

The creation of the character “Anne” was a literary achievement which won enthusiastic commendation from writers of the highest rank – Bliss Carman and Mark Twain. Since then L.M. Montgomery has definitely fixed her place as the Jane Austen of Canadian literature and she has gone on employing her wonderful imaginative and creative gifts in portraying the beauty, the humor and the pathos that lies about our daily paths.

Possessed of a keen personal sympathy, a close intimacy with nature, a poetic attitude of mind, she captivates an ever widening circle of readers with the lightness, spontaneity, quaintness and humor of her stories.

“Rilla of Ingleside,” her latest book, follows up the career of the daughter of “Anne” of “Anne of Green Gables.” Rilla is impetuous, fun-loving, like Anne Shirley, and yet different. Anne herself and the doctor have important parts; Susan, Miss Cornelia and many other old friends reappear.

Canada’s tiny sea-girt Province, Prince Edward Island, was her birthplace. Her childhood was spent at Cavendish – a seashore farming settlement, which forms the background of many of her stories. She attended the country school and Prince of Wales College, Charlottetown, afterwards teaching for three years.

“As far back as my memory runs I was writing stories for my own amusement,” she says. In 1909 [sic], with the publication of her first book, she found the true field for her talents, although she is equally successful as a writer of verse and short stories.

In 1911 she married Rev. Ewan Macdonald, a Presbyterian minister, and came to Ontario to live, her husband’s charge being not far from the city of Toronto.

Although the bulk of this article is original, notice the echo between the 1914 piece (“She has the imaginative and creative gifts, but she uses these in enabling us to see the beauty, the humour, and the pathos that lies about our daily paths”) and the 1921 piece (“she has gone on employing her wonderful imaginative and creative gifts in portraying the beauty, the humor and the pathos that lies about our daily paths”) in addition to the connection in both pieces between Montgomery and Austen.

With only minor changes, the text of the 1914 article would be reused for Logan and French’s Highways ten years later – but without the connection between Montgomery and Austen. Instead, they add a paragraph to discuss the novels that Montgomery had published in the intervening time:

The story of Anne Shirley continues through several volumes – Anne of the Island pictures her college days; Anne’s House of Dreams sees her established as mistress of her own home; while Rilla of Ingleside carries over the history into the second generation, Rilla being the daughter of Anne. There is no new development of method or treatment in these. In Emily of New Moon (1923) Miss Montgomery created a new child character, with a new environment, new conditions, and a new group of minor personages, yet in effect it is of the same type and in the same literary field as her previous novels. The chief difference to be observed is that she employs a more analytic psychological method in depicting her heroine – a method that tends to produce an adult’s story of youth. In a way it marks an advance in literary technique but is not as yet entirely divorced from that minute objective observation which makes equal appeal to the young in years and the young in heart.

Given the amount of repetition between these 1914, 1921, and 1924 pieces on Montgomery by French, how to account for the mysterious disappearance of Austen? Could it be that French’s co-author, J.D. Logan, didn’t share French’s enthusiasm for the literary merit of Montgomery’s work? That seems unlikely, given that, according to Montgomery’s journal entry dated 30 April 1923, Logan had approached her at a recent social function and exclaimed, “Hail, Queen of Canadian Novelists.” Might this be due to a decreased enthusiasm for women’s writing generally? Maybe, yet in Highways Logan and French claim that 1908 marked “the real beginning of the Second Renaissance in Canadian fiction” due to the publication of Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, McClung’s Sowing Seeds in Danny, and Keith’s Duncan Polite (even though Keith’s book had actually appeared in 1905). Might Logan and French have preferred to keep the focus on Canadian authors? Possibly, and yet their discussion of Keith’s novels a few paragraphs later links them to the Thrums books of Scottish author J.M. Barrie, best known as the author of Peter Pan.

So while I can’t guess what’s behind French’s decision (or possibly Logan and French’s decision) to drop the connection between Montgomery and Austen, it’s fortuitous that I came across this instance of repetition when I did. The next phase of my research on Montgomery’s periodical work focuses on periodical short stories in which Montgomery tested out characters, situations, and settings that she would rework – sometimes decades later – in her book-length fiction. Individually, these stories have been referred to as “practice exercises” by Elizabeth Waterston, as “prequels” by Irene Gammel, as “brief periodical warm-ups” by Wendy Roy, as an “early working-out in narrative” by Cecily Devereux, and as “recycled” and “replanted” by Claire E. Campbell. My earlier volumes in The L.M. Montgomery Library highlighted several instances of self-repetition in her non-fiction and her poetry – in A Name for Herself, for instance, I noted that parts of her essay “A Half-Hour in an Old Cemetery” and of her newspaper column “Around the Table” had been woven into Anne of the Island, whereas in my afterword to A World of Songs I noted that the fourteen extracts from the poems Emily shares with Mr. Carpenter in the last chapter of Emily of New Moon had been taken from Montgomery’s own poems. But when it comes to short fiction, the self-repetition becomes more strategic, more nuanced, and more complex. And so, discovering Donald French’s 1914 essay when I did was especially fortuitous, because it reminded me that Montgomery was hardly the only author who repurposed and revised their own work for new audiences, and there are multiple possible reasons for doing so.

Bibliography

Campbell, Claire E. “‘A Window Looking Seaward’: Finding Environmental History in the Writing of L.M. Montgomery.” In The Greater Gulf: Essays on the Environmental History of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, edited by Claire E. Campbell, Edward MacDonald, and Brian Payne, 283–318. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019.

Chronicles of Avonlea.” In The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre, 115–38. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015.

Devereux, Cecily. Headnote to “Our Uncle Wheeler,” by L.M. Montgomery. In Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, edited by Cecily Devereux, 335. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Editions, 2004.

D.F. [Donald G. French]. “Rilla, Daughter of Anne.” Globe (Toronto), 8 October 1921, 19.

French, Donald G. “Canada’s Jane Austen.” The School (Toronto), December 1914, 268–70. Online at https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.8_06954_28/.

Gammel, Irene. Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2008.

Lefebvre, Benjamin. Afterword to Montgomery, A World of Songs, 105–20.

—. Introduction to The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre, 3–28. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

Logan, J.D., and Donald G. French. Highways of Canadian Literature. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1924. Online at https://archive.org/details/highwaysofcanadi0000unse/.

Montgomery, L.M. A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917. Edited by Benjamin Lefebvre. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018. The L.M. Montgomery Library.

—. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume 3: 1921–1929. Edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992.

—. A World of Songs: Selected Poems, 1894–1921. Edited by Benjamin Lefebvre. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019. The L.M. Montgomery Library.

Roy, Wendy. The Next Instalment: Serials, Sequels, and Adaptations of Nellie L. McClung, L.M. Montgomery, and Mazo de la Roche. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2019.

Waterston, Elizabeth. Magic Island: The Fictions of L.M. Montgomery. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Cover Reveal: The L.M. Montgomery Reader in Paperback!

Cover art for The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print Cover art for The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 2: A Critical Heritage Cover of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review

I’m very pleased to announce the forthcoming publication, in paperback, of all three volumes of my award-winning critical anthology, The L.M. Montgomery Reader (Volume 1: A Life in Print; Volume 2: A Critical Heritage; Volume 3: A Legacy in Review) from University of Toronto Press. This project took up the bulk of my professional life over a five-year period, so I’m thrilled that all three volumes will be available in paperback soon.

Once again, the best way to order these books is from the University of Toronto Press website. Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 are also available in hardcover and ebook formats.

The cover art features the covers of the first Canadian editions of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Chronicles of Avonlea published by the Ryerson Press (Toronto) in 1942 and 1943; these copies are part of my personal collection.

Odd Trend in Public Domain Editions of L.M. Montgomery Texts

Those of you who follow this site on social media (specifically on Facebook or on Pinterest) have a sense already of how fascinated I’ve become with a phenomenon that has involved not only Montgomery but also any other still-popular author whose work is in the public domain: cheap reprint editions, either in print or in ebook form. Sometimes it seems as though new cheap editions of Montgomery’s books become available on Amazon every day, many of them offering numerous titles for 99 cents, most of them with cover art that is completely random and, as such, entirely unsuitable, with this recent cover of an edition of Rilla of Ingleside as just one example:

"Wake up, Rilla—it's war time!" A random and utterly unsuitable image for the cover of a recent cheap ebook reprint of <em>Rilla of Ingleside</em>.
“Wake up, Rilla—it’s war time!” A random and utterly unsuitable image for the cover of a recent cheap ebook reprint of Rilla of Ingleside.

In other cases, creators of these cheap ebooks take art from existing editions, which could mislead readers about what edition they are buying. A couple of months ago, one such edition of Rilla of Ingleside appeared with the cover art from the restored and annotated edition that Andrea McKenzie and I edited for Penguin Canada in 2010. Because most of the editions do not identify any creators or publishers and simply have the line “Sold by Amazon Digital Services LLC,” it is impossible for consumers to know who is behind these editions. Thankfully, though, when we reported this edition to Amazon, it was soon taken down all its platforms.

But now a new twist has occurred, evident in the following screen caps taken yesterday:




While it is true that these books are in the public domain and that anyone anywhere can reprint them or make ebook versions of them, these editions are most definitely not Norton Critical Editions or part of the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics series (which is now called Penguin Modern Classics) or the Oxford World’s Classics series. These are all existing covers, although the cover for The Story Girl is actually from one of eight abridgements done for Zonderkids over a decade ago. Although one would have to buy these Kindle editions to assess the extent that they are “annotated,” my sense is that, if these editions were sufficiently annotated for publication by Norton, Penguin, or Oxford, they would not be retailing for $3.73. Not to mention that the editor of a critical or annotated edition is always identified, since it is that editor’s expertise in the subject matter that is of paramount importance.

And then, of course, is this recent ebook, which appears to be an L.M. Montgomery title no one has ever heard of: Bev’s Childhood. It is actually The Story Girl.

So what do you make of this new trend? What should be most important in terms of the book market?

Cover Art for Three Anne Reissues from Virago Modern Classics

Virago Press, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group (London), has released the covers of its reissues of Anne of Green GablesAnne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island, scheduled for publication in March 2017 as part of the Virago Modern Classics series!

Anne of Green Gables (Virago Press, 2017) Anne of Avonlea (Virago Press, 2017) Anne of the Island (Virago Press, 2017)

These will be followed by reissues of Anne of Windy Willows (the UK version of Anne of Windy Poplars), Anne’s House of DreamsAnne of Ingleside, and Rainbow Valley later in spring 2017.

A number of Montgomery books have appeared within this imprint already: Emily of New MoonEmily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest in 2013, followed by Rilla of Ingleside and Jane of Lantern Hill in 2014. UK-based artist Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini contributed the artwork for all these titles.

Emily of New Moon (Virago Press, 2013) Emily Climbs (Virago Press, 2013) Emily's Quest (Virago Press, 2013) Rilla of Ingleside (Virago Press, 2014) Jane of Lantern Hill (Virago Press, 2014)

“The Cleverest Book of the Year”

Recently, while searching for L.M. Montgomery’s long-lost short stories on a variety of digital archives, I came across an ad for Anne of Green Gables in The Nation, a New York magazine:

The Cleverest Book of the Year: Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
Ad for Anne of Green Gables. The Nation, 2 September 1909, 22.

This ad is unique for several reasons:

First, it makes no mention of the type of book it refers to (fiction? non-fiction?), let alone what the book might be about or what readership it targets. There’s also no mention of the book’s publisher, which is highly unusual, given that in most early ads for Montgomery’s early books, the “From Page’s List” logo appears prominently almost always.

Second, the first appearance of this ad that I’ve found is in the 9 July 1908 issue, which is less than a month after the book was published (on 13 June). That means that the designation “cleverest book of the year” seems a bit premature.

Third, this ad appeared again and again in the months to follow: on 20 August 1908, 17 September 1908, 8 October 1908, and 15 October 1908, and then again on 15 July 1909, 5 August 1909, 2 September 1909, 16 September 1909, and 7 October 1909. Not only does it seem odd for this ad to be deemed the “cleverest book of the year” in two separate years, but the later ads show no awareness of the publication of Anne of Avonlea, early in September 1909.

In short, while this ad campaign breaks from a number of advertising conventions, clearly it was deemed to be effective, or else it wouldn’t have run for a minimum of nine times over a fifteen-month period. These ads may not have given anything away in terms of the book’s contents or form, but by using the term “clever,” thus commenting on the book’s literary quality, this ad campaign would have appealed to readers searching for “clever” fiction who may have turned away from ads proclaiming the book’s staggering popularity.

Anne of Avonlea Reviewed in The Congregationalist and Christian World

Cover art for Anne of Avonlea, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1909.
Cover art for Anne of Avonlea, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1909.

Although my work on the last volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader is done, I still on occasion come across reviews of Montgomery’s books that I might have wanted to include in the volume. Just today I found the following review of Anne of Avonlea in the 16 October 1909 issue of The Congregationalist and Christian World, a Boston church magazine.

Would it be possible to follow a successful story for girls, extending over the period of school life, with a love novel of the heroine’s after experience? Miss Montgomery evidently does not think so, for she has declined the task in her Anne of Avonlea (Page, $1.50), which carries on the life of her delightful “Anne of Green Gables” only to the first glimmering dawn of her recognition of the day of quiet love. The new book cannot bring us the happy surprise of its predecessor, nor does it move in so well-marked a sphere of experience. From the dramatic unities it slips easily, however, into the pleasant task of chronicling the progress of a happy girl’s life. Anne is well worth knowing as schoolmarm of seventeen and village improver.

The touch is neither so unconscious nor so sure as in the charming earlier story, but the book is well worth reading by all Anne’s lovers, if it were only for her delightful bits of moral philosophy—her’s [sic] and the mischievous twin’s. It is the latter who says, after an escapade of compelling his prim and proper sister to walk the pigpen fence, “I feel sorry now myself, but the trouble is, I never feel sorry for doing things till after I’ve did them.” But it is Anne who counters on the man who believes in “telling the truth to everybody,” by saying: “But you don’t tell the whole truth, you only tell the disagreeable part of the truth. Now you’ve told me a dozen times that my hair was red, but you’ve never once told me that I had a nice nose.” The story is rich in such material of wise and humorous casuistry. It belongs both on the shelf for girls’ reading and among the books with which sagacious grown-ups refresh their souls.

What do you think of this assessment of Montgomery’s second book as good but not so good as Anne of Green Gables, as evidence of Montgomery finding it impossible to write the love story of the heroine of a story for girls? (This reviewer didn’t know that Anne of the Island would follow six years later.) Would this second novel have been more successful had the plot been anchored around resolving the love story of Anne and Gilbert?

Review 16: Anne of Avonlea

Cover art for Anne of Avonlea, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1909.

Although reviewers were pretty much in agreement that L.M. Montgomery’s second book, Anne of Avonlea, was not quite to the standard set by the first, overall they were filled with praise for this second novel about Anne. For J.B. Kerfoot of Life magazine, however, the lessening of this quality had less to do with the fact that this novel was a sequel to the first but with the stage of life that it portrayed:

Any one who has to do with dogs knows that between their irresistible puppyhood, when humans of all ages love them, and their comradely maturity, when human grown-ups chum with them, there is an interval during which children avoid them, grown-ups lose patience with them and they would be quite neglected, did not idealistic youth lead them about with a string around their necks. So, at times, with books. Last year, we met “Anne of Green Gables,” an irresistible child-woman, and loved her. Some day – who knows? – we may meet her full grown and chum with her. But Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery, is Anne betwixt and between – a book for girls.

Montgomery Review 2: Anne of Avonlea

Cover art for Anne of Avonlea, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1909.
Cover art for Anne of Avonlea, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1909.

“Such delightful stories are much to be desired, both for their clean, wholesome influence and the fact that they are in utter contrast to the many silly, sentimental love stories of the day and the tiresome mystery and problem stories of exceedingly doubtful literary value. The reading public is surfeited with such stories. Let us hope to hear more of Anne in the not too far distant future – to say nothing of Gilbert.” —Robert A. Turner, The Des Moines News (Des Moines, IA)