I just received a notification email telling me that University of Toronto Press is offering free shipping, in Canada and the United States, on all its orders between now and the end of this Sunday, November 29. Since UTP has published a number of books by or about L.M. Montgomery over the years, and given that these books are substantially discounted on their website, this is the perfect time for readers to complete their collections!
Among the books available are the first two volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Library and the three volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, which are still available in hardcover as well as the paperback editions released earlier this year. I was also pleased to see that paperback copies of Mary Quayle Innis’s The Clear Spirit: Twenty Canadian Women and Their Times (1966), which includes Elizabeth Waterston’s chapter on Montgomery that is widely acknowledged as the starting point of L.M. Montgomery studies, are still available.
I decided to take advantage of this sale myself, and I ordered two books that will certainly come in handy as I continue my work of preparing all of L.M. Montgomery’s short stories and poems for book publication: T.K. Pratt’s Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English (1996) and T.K. Pratt and Scott Burke’s Prince Edward Island Sayings (1998). I look forward to reading these!
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 Worldreview 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
The recent 100-year anniversary of the first publication of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables has inspired renewed interest in one of Canada’s most beloved fictional icons. The international appeal of the red-haired orphan has not diminished over the past century, and the cultural meaning of her story continues to grow and change. The original essays in Anne’s World offer fresh and timely approaches to issues of culture, identity, health, and globalization as they apply to Montgomery’s famous character and to today’s readers.
Elizabeth Glenn at the University of Toronto Press website recently blogged on “Anne of the World,” mentioning both Anne’s World and the LMMI conference L.M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature.
Here are extracts from a press release for a conference called “Green Gables to Globalization: Crossover, Canada and Children’s Books”:
iBbY Ireland announces a one-day conference to be held on Saturday October 18th 2008 in The Church of Ireland College of Education, Upper Rathmines Road, Dublin 6.
The main theme of the conference will examine ways in which children’s literature transcend boundaries of all kinds, focusing in particular on crossover fiction and a sense of belonging in books from Canada, a post-colonial, multiethnic society.
Irene Gammel of Ryerson University will be speaking on “Looking for Anne of Green Gables: A Literary Icon at 100,” as part of the conference. For more information and for the complete program, visit the iBby Ireland website.